Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Education is the Transmission of Civilization

I should tell you to start that I am the son of a school teacher. We, my brothers and sisters, grew up in a house with daily reinforcements on the importance of getting a good education and were mostly unaware that we were fortunate in that our parents could provide us with an environment in which we could excel.

I mention all of that because every year in Norwich we spar over the amount of money the Board of Education requests of the City Council (and by extension, you and I) for the education of our children.

My children are now adults but, of course, will always be my children. Unlike your children, perhaps, they had the good fortune to attend Norwich Public Schools when offerings included chorus, instrumental music, language, art, MoPeep and a dozen other programs that I can only dimly remember now because we slowly eliminated them in the last decade and a half to reduce overall budget increases and thus slow the rise in tax rates.

When you look at remedial programs offered by secondary schools to whom we are sending our children, designed as tutorials for subject matter the children never learned in Norwich Public Schools so that they can succeed in high school you have to wonder about that carney trick where the huckster takes a foot from the back of the blanket and sews it onto the front and cons the mug into buying a blanket that's now a foot longer.

We get what we pay for and we need to adjust how we view tax dollars that support public education and recognize them for the investment they become instead of the expense we perceive them as being. As has been often suggested, "if you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Trust me-none of us can afford to live in a city where we keep cutting corners on the skills and abilities for success in the 21st Century.

There's not a parent among us who doesn't remember how 'things were back in my day' and wonders why that's not still true. No one steps into the same river twice, because both the river and you have changed. Change is the only constant in the universe and it's how we grow. If standing still could rule the world, how much of what you and I take for granted, the machinery within the scenery, from electricity through automobiles to computers would exist? Would you want to live there and, in terms of education, how do you think we get to tomorrow?

If we intend to rebuild our city, state and nation as the Age of Applied Information begins to bloom, how will we cultivate the talents of our youngest generation and harness their energy and enthusiasm without the tools they and we need?

I've heard it said that every day is a child is born who will change the world. The challenge is we don't know which child it is. Where do we think the next Edward Land, Steve Jobs or Larry Page will come from if not from within our community?

What's the point of worrying about physical infrastructure, from pavement to police stations to gas and power lines, if we persist in the belief we can keep postponing investing in our children? Public education creates a shared cultural frame of reference and values that are a reflection of we are and why we are here.

What do our schools say about us? What should they?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Something Else Will Touch the Sand of a Foreign Land

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in USAF basic training we did physical training, PT ('so good, whiskey no good') in our combat boots or in the worst shoes ever made, chukka boots, to include the always-popular mile and a half run.

You can probably sense the warmth of the nostalgia with which I offer that recollection. Those crazy, hazy days of youth.

I didn't realize the military services, with the exception of the USMC who don't really care what your physical training footwear is, actually give recruits a cash-money-in-their-hand-allowance to buy sneakers (I realize the cool kids lunch table calls them 'sports shoes;' I don't care. They are sneakers) and the big news (I'm talking Big Bucks news) is that we may be guiding the young men and women who volunteer to defend us and the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic to buy American which is good news for the makers of the only sneakers I ever wear anymore.

No word on the socks or laces, or even if either (or both) are/will be optional and I, for one, wouldn't be surprised if, in pursuit of a multi-million dollar market, a few other folks jump into the game. Though in light of the logo on one of the brands, perhaps leap is a better term.

And I'm not talking 'bout no beat-up Ballys.
 -bill kenny

Monday, April 28, 2014

When the Hatred Within

Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was someone who, while living in Central Europe, strove to visit the various and far-flung KZ always attempting, but failing, to understand the evil genius which grafted pure hatred to the Industrial Revolution and produced the hellish horrors of mass murder on assembly lines utterly beyond comprehension.

If the term Yom Hashoah is not familiar to you, maybe you can take a moment and (I'd hope) find a source of solace in a visit here. It's hard some days for the child I once was to recall being told I was made in the image and likeness of God. Harder still, to look at today and everything it commemorates and wonder what happened and why.

לעולם לא עוד 
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Requiem Aeternam

I confess that I had almost forgotten. I only vaguely remembered we in Norwich honored the men and women who served in Vietnam on the last Saturday of April while on my way walking back from the Stop 'n' Shop as I passed by the Chelsea Parade. I hurried home, put away my purchase and returned to join a very small crowd.

The weather was less than kind to us who gathered which was somehow ironic when I recall how we as a nation once treated so many who traveled so far and sacrificed so much for so few of privilege and power. I have long since conceded those who served did so for one another as they saw next to nothing from anyone else.

It was nice to spend a few moments conversing beforehand with State Senator Cathy Osten, like me, a Vietnam-era veteran. I appreciate her sharing part of what we spoke about with those who came to the event but more especially how she chose to keep parts of our conversation private.

We are as a nation a half century separated from the start of our engagement in Vietnam and pardon my aged and ancient cynicism, but based on the hash we have all made of the Second Act in Afghanistan, we have learned nothing. I cannot tell if I am more saddened or angered at how we continue to fight and die for Standard Oil and Coca Cola while nitwits of all political stripes manipulate us into thinking we and they are a team working for the good of the world.

Standing in the drizzle yesterday, and I hate drizzle because the weather doesn't have the courage to be a full-blown storm, I thought about standing in pretty much the same space some years earlier after musing about what that day might have brought us. Turns out peace and acceptance weren't it.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Picture Comes with the Frame

Today is my birthday. That I have reached two and sixty, zwei und sechzig, kommt mir sehr komisch vor, strikes me as funny. Considering I am usually the punchline it's odd to have the last laugh, at least once a year. 

There's a small chance of cake and pony rides, I am a huge fan of BOTH, because originally the plan today was helping neighbors across town clean up a recreation area alongside an historic and breathtakingly beautiful Shetucket River dam. I am very much a believer that if you can't find someone who's making a difference in our world, then maybe you have to be one. Bad weather today has postponed our collective good deed but I'll let you know how that all works out.  

I should offer Natal acknowledgements because they are deserved as opposed to the ones I'll be getting all day long for really not doing anything but (unwittingly and unknowingly) allowing biology and gravity to have their say. My mom will call today because she always calls and we both know I should be calling her as she did all the work and yet she'll congratulate me on my birthday and I always but not quite want to congratulate her for starting with me. 

It was a very different world 62 years ago and she and her husband, my Dad, Bill Sr., set off on a New Frontier about a decade before JFK named it and told us all where we were going, and was murdered for his trouble. 

I suppose to my younger brothers and sisters, I am the practice child. Every family has one. That you got to stay up after seven PM on a school night was my doing, because I didn't. On the other hand, all of my clothes were mine and never somebody else's sometimes before, sometimes after and more often than not, both. Thank you not having tried to choke me out every moment of every day since we each became adults because you certainly had, and often still have, perfect justification for so doing.

That all said, since the last time I had an original idea it died of loneliness, I've dusted off some notes I offered a year ago because I liked the way they read then, and even more so, now. I might have been smarter at the time, especially if you remove the 'smarter' part.  

This is a new kind of birthday complete with my browser hovering over the Google Chrome logo and 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 25, 2014

Rupert, though Not the Bear

Behaviors and motivations are two different and observable entities. You could see me drive by you very quickly and conclude from what you saw that I'm a thoughtless asshat with no regard for others' safety without ever knowing I was actually rushing home because of a family emergency (we were all out of saltines; did I mention I moonlight for First World Problems? Don't get me started on cell phone charging cords that are too short. Oh, the humanity.).

In my fitness center (they haven't changed the sign yet to "Bill's Planet Fitness" though it seems to me, staring at it from the parking lot hanging over the entrance doors like there's plenty of room, a fellow in the guy's locker room was quoting some famous fitness (or do they use PH? I get confused) person to a newly-joined club member about 'you lose weight to fit into your clothes. You get into shape to look great naked.'

Those are the kinds of observations within conversations that usually cause me to consider getting changed in the car, while driving if I have to. I don't know what to do with stuff like that-it doesn't fit me. I'm of average height, hopefully about average weight for that height; older today than I was yesterday while knowing I shall never be this young again and wear a medical alert bracelet suggesting to EMS people, "some assembly required."

I roll with the dawn patrol and am usually on a treadmill or a cross trainer by about a quarter after four in the morning staring at the large panel TV's halfway across the room that silently assail us with pictures of just about every passion imaginable.

After I start perspiring profusely, the only way I ever sweat, and my glasses get foggy and wet and I take them off, I can see just about nothing on the other side of the room which matters not as I have my earbuds in while listening, most recently, to ABC News on Slacker Radio so I have some idea of what's going on in the world. If I take a break while at work and end up in the gym near my building, all they watch there is Fox News which means I have less than no clue about everything.

I was concentrating, sitting on the bench near my locker in trying to roll up the cord from my earbuds so as to not need ten minutes tomorrow morning to get it undone, knowing as I do this everyday, I also fail at it. The appeal of the ritual, regardless of the outcome, is something I find very reassuring.

So engrossed was I in my Promethean Undertaking that it was only by the ensuing silence that I realized I had missed a verbal cue. Looking up and around I met the gaze of the Physically Phit Philosopher who offered, "and you? I see you here all the time. What's your goal? Fitting Into or Looking Good?"

I was going to remind him it was God, Himself, who told us, or at least Adam and Eve, to wear clothes but I don't think #TBT was ever intended to include the Old Testament. As I pulled on my jacket and  jammed my now wadded up headset into my pocket I conceded I watch what I eat and lean more towards strenuous than tenuous in my gym activities but my goal differed from his. I told him I'm trying to escape.

And in the echo of those words off the locker room door, I made good on one.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Record Setting

Last Saturday was Record Store Day and I, having spent most of my life cultivating a vinyl jungle of  long players, singles and extended play pieces of plastic that now number into the many of thousands, needed little incentive to take a short car trip to a town at the mouth of the Thames River (we pronounce both the "t" and the "h" as in 'thame thit, different day'), New London (Connecticut), rather neatly bookending the one I live in at the river's headwaters, to shop at a local independent shop, The Telegraph.

Earlier in the week, based on pop-ups everywhere on line I had formed a vague plan to shop for a copy of Bruce Springsteen's American Beauty and my brother's notes gave me the rest, I suppose so shopping I went and returned home to wrestle with the turntable, the amplifier and the speakers.

The struggle was worth it. I had nearly forgotten what music sounded like in our living room, or any room for that matter. I tend to devour music through earbuds hooked into my phone while out walking or Planet Fitnessing* (*first use as a gerund in this hemisphere).

I'm not sure our neighbor upstairs was even home but had she been I'd have heard from her, I'm sure, as I had a reasonable amount of volume behind what is either truly a remarkable four song postcard of where Springsteen has been or a map of where he's heading.

Rock and roll does a body good-and when you play it loud enough your whole body can feel it, I suspect it's a work-out for your soul as well. I missed this at The Telegraph later in the day, but it makes me smile still and I admit I am ever so tempted to crank it up. But only to eleven, honest.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Days of W(h)ine in the Rose of New England

If one of your hobbies is complaining about how little there is to do in Norwich, in light of activities this weekend just about everywhere, if you're looking for sympathy from me you may have to check in the dictionary. Drop me a line. I'll tell you between which two words to look.

I'm sorry to be out of patience on that subject and its companion troll, 'there's no place to park downtown when there is something to do.' I suppose that means I won't see any unhappy folks, or their cars, anywhere near the Otis Library for the Friends of Otis Library Book Sale which starts Friday (with a private showing and a ten dollar admission that morning from nine to ten for those who want a head start on the weekend's steals and deals) and then continues on Saturday, starting at 10 before concluding on Sunday, from noon until three.

Our daughter, Michelle, and I always hit the book sale on Sunday and come home with bags of books, but you needn't wait and do not get fooled by that banner on Broadway near Washington Street trumpeting a "Book Sale."

To be both honest and accurate, it should really read "The Gently Used Book Sale, to include, Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs, all manner of Fiction as well as Mystery, Arts and Crafts, Classics, Cook Books, Non-Fiction, How-To books (though almost no why-are-we books), History, Gardening, Sports, pony rides (wanted to see if you were still reading), Science Fiction and Books for Children of All Ages. As Well as lots of audio cassettes, CD's, DVD's and Stuff You'd Have to See for Yourself." Of course, if the banner said all that, it would stretch all the way up to 395 North, Exit 93, or thereabouts.

Let's just say the selection and the prices are both terrific. Don't be surprised if you rub elbows with collectors from across the Northeast. That's why I wear hockey pads-libraries are the next contact sport-who are panning for undiscovered and unrecognized gold and who know great deals when they find them. And they do.

And because Otis is situated in just about the middle of downtown, as you pass all the restaurants that line or border Main Street on your way there, you can see all kinds of folks, clutching newly-purchased books, mingling with the regular patrons and eating a late breakfast, or having lunch, before returning to one of the municipal parking lots that ring downtown and head home. The Book Sale is the perfect excuse to table hop and finally stop into one of those restaurants you promised yourself to hit 'the next time I'm downtown.' Enjoy.

Doncha hate when all that downtown stuff to do gets in the way of complaining about the lack of downtown stuff to do? Yeah, me too. But wait, as those late night infomercials say, there's more.

The Leffingwell House Museum on Saturday, starting at noon, is hosting readings of some of the historic sermons written by the minsters of Olde Norwich Town, from the Revolutionary War and other eras. Even then, it seems we needed all the prayers we could get. It's a great way to renew your acquaintance with the Leffingwell House Museum which many regard as a critical component when talk turns to historic tourism in the region.

And, in honor of Earth Day, "rain or shine," the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Zone is cleaning up the Greeneville Dam Trail, starting at eight Saturday morning, as well as sections of the Village itself.

You know how you always intend to check out something new in the neighborhood over the weekend? Bring some work gloves and work boots-I've helped out on this before and these people are into serious clean-up and more helping hands are always welcome. Still complaining about nothing to do? Amazing what happens when we close our mouths and give our eyes a chance. See you out there?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"We Have a First-Time Caller on Line One...."

Somewhere, Roz would have smiled though I fear Dr. Frazier Crain, having already left the building, might still grimace.

In a piece of political theater I would have assumed was last practiced when NBA players wore Chuck Taylor high top sneakers, my favorite coward, "Are You Ready" Ed Snowden, popped up, like John Hartford on Glen Campbell's TV show, smack dab in the middle, metaphorically speaking of Vlad Putin's televised call-in show last week in Russia. Let's hear it for planned spontaneity.

I'm not being mean or jumping on (or off) a bandwagon. I admire Mr. Snowden for his role in revealing egregiously heinous behavior my (actually our) government was, and presumably still is, engaged in supposedly on my behalf and for my safety and security.

I find myself recalling Poor Richard's observation "(t)hey who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." I suspect that it's a good thing he's been dead for the last 225 years or so because that's really the only reason we haven't rounded him up, slapped him in an orange jump suit with a Spanish English dictionary jammed in his pocket as a cell-warming gift and deposited his seditious butt in GITMO.

As I understood Mr. Snowden in the early days of print media's disclosure of his offered information and then the revelation of his identity, he, too, was willing to go to jail for his beliefs. I was going to say, 'think of Joan of Arc' but Chelsea Manning's supporters have the trademark on that. Actually, I guess, he watched what happened to so many recent others who had the courage of their convictions, emphasis on the latter part of that phrase and reconsidered.

The stipend you earn from working in the prison laundry will not help you build a retirement account and so Eddie became peripatetic and heavily ambulatorily airborne. That he and Vlad found one another makes me smile as they fit together wie eine Faust auf ein Auge. Wait until Ed fully appreciates that when he negotiates with a shark. Eventually you run out of body parts with which to negotiate. Ask the Georgian Republic or the Ukraine.

 "And though (s)he feels as if (s)he's in a play, (s)he is anyway." When you sup with the devil, Eddie, you need a long spoon.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 21, 2014

All We Have to Decide Is...

Today is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts and also the traditional running of the Boston Marathon. That order of precedence, if you will, was altered last year and very probably forever for circumstances officially recalled last week on the one year anniversary of a day exactly a year previously, we all recall.

Last year at the Marathon, Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev those evil, ungrateful bastards whom we took in and who repaid that kindness by killing, broke hearts, destroyed lives and shattered our national illusion of insularity and insulation from the other horrors of the rest of the world altering forever anyone's memories and imaginings of the Boston Marathon.

Both brothers will be long faded from memory before what they did is forgotten, but better remembered, and hopefully always remembered, is what they failed to do. Just ask Jeff Baumann, who gets stronger every day and whom I fervently hope gets angry and powerful enough some day to kick the ass of Dzorkhar all the way to Boston Harbor and then hold him under until the bubble stops.

Yes. I understand American jurisprudence and the presumption of innocence. Enough of that was murdered a year ago, don't you agree? But being an angry old man will get me nothing but an even more premature grave and I should take my cue from those who not only survived but triumphed over the tragedy of that day. Perhaps I shall, starting tomorrow.

I have the good fortune to have a friend, in the Facebook sense of the word, a Fenway denizen and Grammy-nominee who spent a lot of years on the Jersey Shore and has now followed the advice of Horace Greeley and gone west, Linda Chorney, who molded her sorrow into a beautiful celebration of a life taken terribly, suddenly and far too soon. And a song perfectly suited for today and all those enjoying it.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard

These started out as some of my thoughts (or what passes for such) some years back. Some things like wine improve with age; others, like sweat socks, not so much. You decide.

I used to be a Catholic--actually that's less than accurate. It's like saying I used to be an alcoholic. Those two statements have no past tense, or pretense (literary joke)-they just are and in this case I am both. 

The jaded, faded imitation of a person I am looks at his faith as a child and finds it easy to mock the boy on his way to manhood, but also envies him the beliefs that he had. When I threw the faith of my fathers into the ocean of doubt, I had nothing to hold onto in its place as I never had the courage of my own convictions and could not trust those of any other.

Today is Easter Sunday the most important feast in the Christian liturgical calendar and (pardon my pseudo-theological seminary sermon) precipitant of the article of faith that makes us Christian, if that's indeed what we are. I, of course, didn't actually attend classes at any seminary His Holiness, Pope Francis I, would recognize but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express (and have the towel, and the drinking glass 'sealed for your protection' to prove it).

Christmas gets a lot of press and songs and cards and window dressing and don't look for a Macy's Day Parade to mark the start or end of Lent because that's not happening. In these parts, Christmas gets marketing help from every wholesaler and retailer imaginable and why not? Christmas is a lovely story, wonderfully symbolic and simply beautiful if you don't want to think too much about it.

Take a look a today in the New Testament of your choice and foreboding's afoot in every verse of every version about the events leading to Easter (those are the versions of my choice). And in one of the most ironic choices of terms associated with any aspect of Jesus Christ, is Good Friday, which marks His Crucifixion and Death (I went back and made the "h" a capital, not because there's hope for me but out of fear that there is no hope). And as you read the accounts, let's face it, the events of that day are absolutely horrible.

The crowd, the occupying forces, everyone, it seems has abandoned the Son of God who is sentenced to die (I'd say 'murdered' but some might argue the state does not murder) in an extraordinarily, excruciatingly manner. 

And it is both that death by Crucifixion but more importantly the belief in the Resurrection that so many commemorate today that is the defining event for every Christian, even the ones who seem more like Simon Peter than even they could ever admit in this life.  I want you to remember this. Come on, try to remember.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Not Even an Original Sin


James Tolgo, realizing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty may not apply to the same degree to knuckle-headedness and stupidity, what's the matter with you?

In the words of Howard R., the (late, I assume) athletic director at Carteret Academy for Boys, in reacting to boorish, bull-necked stupidity on a very long bus ride home after we got our buttocks beaten badly in varsity football by the Blair Academy Bozos (I have no idea of their mascot but Squirrel would be perfect, would it not?), and he berated a defensive lineman for trying to moon most of the Garden State Parkway with 'if they put your brain in a mosquito's a--, it would roll around and make a noise like a bee-bee in a box car.'

In my house, we go through six to nine pounds of peanuts a week, all for feeding squirrels. And here you are, Jimbo with an assault rifle (at the ready?)-kinda takes the sport out of it, especially since there wasn't any there to start with.

What's your take on badgers? Spoons at ten paces. Begin.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Faith of Our Fathers

This is Good Friday and if today there are rituals and obligations within your religious faith or value system, I hope you have a blessed day in their accomplishment and that their completion brings a measure of peace and a closer contact with The Sacred behind the scenery and machinery of our everyday lives to you and yours.

As W. H. Auden, with both feet on the earth but his gaze fixed on the heavens, observed, "Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith."

I leave you with the eloquence of Phil Ochs from (probably) before you were born, "And the night comes again to the circle studded sky. The stars settle slowly, in loneliness they lie. 'Till the universe explodes as a falling star is raised, planets are paralyzed, mountains are amazed, but they all glow brighter from the brilliance of the blaze. With the speed of insanity, then He died."
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Great Hairafter

Osmium is the densest naturally occurring element on this planet. If you could read that, thank a teacher and that it's here is thanks to me. You're welcome. And people tell you reading this is a waste of time-they have no clue.

Tying dense, waste of time, and no clue into one tidy, if slightly porcine and corpulent package (the difference between uniformed and UNinformed is barely noticeable. From space), here's the kind of story that saves me hours at the venomous vitriol factory because this stuff is so much better than anything you can make up.

Seriously. I almost admire the North Koreans. Heck, even the Chinese have a McDonald's at Tienanmen Square, where everything on the menu is "to go" and the Russians have Levi comfortable fit (= wide butt) jeans in their T-72 tanks rolling through Crimea.

Not Kim Jong-un's charges. They march to the beat of their own, but different, drummer. Their aim is true. Talk about keepers of the flame. The only thing missing might be "hair dyers mounted on a rifle rack with a barber chair in a Peterbilt." Of course, I would support that as well as the poster because "I run this church for loggers."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Clicks and Hisses

I wasn’t born in Norwich, Connecticut but you know that. Point in fact, as many have told me on more than occasion in the course of the last two decades, “you’re not from here.” Imp of the Perverse that I am, I wear that as a badge of honor.

Here’s a little secret, I’m not the only one. More and more often there are less and less of us ‘from here’ despite the continuing growth of our total population. Close to 40% of those who now call Norwich home, says the 2010 US Census, weren’t here ten years ago and there’s no reason to believe that trend won’t continue for the next ten years.

It’s not a surprise, it’s biology: we have legs and feet so we can move around rather than roots which serve better as anchors.

Being NFH, not from here, rather than an alumnus of NFA, Norwich Free Academy, allows me to see Norwich through new eyes (a term I’m borrowing with the blessing, I hope , of former Mayor Art Lathrop who had, and has, a great regard for our city’s history but also high expectations for its possibilities.)

We can certainly use more consciously planned celebrations of our city and regional history to better position ourselves to leverage our possibilities and prosperity which brings me to tomorrow, literally not figuratively.

Tomorrow afternoon starting at half past three and going until five in Slater Museum on the NFA campus is the “Norwich Heritage Partnership Hospitality Reception.” I know you’re fretting because you didn’t get to the store to buy a card. It’s okay. Cards aren’t necessary though presence, if not presents, should be.

If you don’t have it on your calendar, it’s not too late to pencil it in. It’s more or less come as you are- more casual and comfortable than business khaki but think about wearing pants with pockets so you have someplace to put all the knowledge and fun.

Though it has a fancy title, consider the Reception (did you see what I did there with the capitalization?) to be a sort of Open House, a potpourri of tips and tricks about points of interest , both recreational and occupational, throughout the City about which each of us knows something but that no one knows everything, at least not yet.

I’m starting a rumor that there will be pony rides and pudding pops (hopefully not at the same time) but attempted humor aside, there will be more than enough to see and do without equine and gelatinous diversions.

Leave your world-weariness at the door and be prepared to keep repeating the phrase “I did not know that” throughout the afternoon, because whether you did know it or not, and I don’t pretend to be anything resembling an expert (I’m not from here, remember?), we have some thoroughly cool and amazing stuff to see and do within this 9 Mile Square we call home.

The Norwich Heritage Partnership Hospitality Reception tomorrow afternoon can be a mirror we use to look at ourselves and a window to what the world could see when it looks to us. It can be crystal clear, or stuck between stations.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Declare the Pennies on Your Eyes

This is the nearly-universally dreaded "Tax Day" here in the Land of Unlimited Opportunities Where Seldom Is Heard a Discouraging Word and the Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day. How all of that gets reduced to USA always amazes me but I chalk it up to a triumph of marketing and branding.

Speaking of which, how'd you like to tell folks you work for the Internal Revenue Service? Don't be like that! Somebody has to! And tens of thousands of people do and despite our muttered imprecations and seriously intended aspersions cast without benefit of a net, they do what they are charged to do and what Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. succinctly summed up, though probably pre-audit.  

Point in fact, we pay taxes every day. And every year we file a return to see if we are to get back some of our own money. I remember my wife filing her taxes in Germany when we lived there and she rarely saw any money returned to her. I often thought because her husband was such a sonderangebot, her government saw no reason to bless her twice. Strangely I never got around to mentioning that theory to her when we lived in her country.

Like you, in all probability, I've filed my taxes already. Do I grumble? Of course I do and anyone who tells you s/he doesn't grumbling is a liar. And speaking of grumbling, I can only assume Jarod Kintz doesn't know my dulcet-toned friend from Palestine, Texas, David "Lips" Malone when he offers with some acerbity "Taxes and Texas, they have the same letters but only one can go to Hell."
-bill kenny

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ready, Aim.....

Yesterday was Palm Sunday but more immediately in my neighborhood it was an opportunity to again appreciate the people in public service about whom we rarely think until/unless we need them.

The house up the street and around the corner, at 218 Washington Street, caught on fire shortly after a quarter past eight and in moments there were seven different different fire companies responding to a blaze that licked and lapped up the exterior and interior walls of a classic old house, now a multi-family dwelling, turning into a ravaged ruin by the noon hour.

Everyone who lived in the house got out safely and no reports of injury were made. With temperatures in the low sixties on an overcast day, the protective clothing the fire fighters wear isn't the coolest of apparel on an early Spring Sunday.

We think of those in public safety as abstractions in terms of dollars spent for payroll and benefits and the annual cost of acquisition of the various devices they request in order to address their #1 priority: the preservation of life and protection of property. With all due respect to the credit card commercial, that is priceless.

-bill kenny

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Solitary Life

Even as the proverbial wee slip of a lad, I knew we were being distracted by the sleight of hand that went on in late December when it came to religion. Being born into the One Truth Faith didn't guarantee me a place in Catholic School but I was on the waiting list and me and Neil S from next door both ended up trading a walk down the block and up the hill to Pine Grove Manor School for a charter bus ride into New Brunswick and Saint Peter's (sic) School and Mrs. Hilge's third grade class on the top floor.

With the better of about five decades of hindsight that was a close to heaven as I will ever get. No regrets and if I had any I wouldn't voice them today, Palm Sunday, regarded by many, including those who've lapsed, as the start of Holy Week.

Probably because I'm related to someone who was almost Pope, I've found the stories of the life of Christ (and his death and resurrection), which underpins the establishment of Roman Catholicism (and all of Christianity), to always be compelling no matter the frame of mind or state of grace I'd been in while so doing.

I still lived at home when Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar was released. It became a topic all of us who lived under his roof knew, instinctively, to never bring up, ever, in conversations with our Dad who, for reasons I really first learned on the day of his funeral, seemed to know more about the Catholic Church and the body of faith that held it together than any priest or nun I have ever, or will ever know. He never seemed like a King Herod's Song kind of guy.

I never offered to loan him my copy of Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man, but I still have one, somewhere in our basement having placed it into I-don't-know-how-many cardboard boxes throughout the years as I took my act on the road and sometimes elsewhere. Along with Catch-22, Gravity's Rainbow and Trout Fishing in America it will always be one of my Desert Island books.

When I saw this report earlier in the week online, I flashed on a memory of Dad, having borrowed Mr. Fritsche's (a neighbor from down the street) New Testament, standing in our kitchen in Bloomfield Avenue with his tie and suit jacket off, sleeves rolled up, sight reading the Latin text and translating as he helped Bobby and me on a homework assignment a couple of years later for Sister Thomas Anne.

As I was typing that last line I remember his explanation about the actual meaning of the parable of the difficulties of a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven and a camel passing through the eye of a needle but that will be a story for another time.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On the way to the Port of No Return

I'm at that difficult age. Old enough to think I know it all but not yet old enough to believe I know it all better. That day will come I know (didja see what I did there?) though tomorrow, as I also know, is promised to no one.

I hope on this Saturday morning, folks gathering in a place I have been to but once (so far) in my life, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which is in both Portsmouth, Maine and Kittery, New Hampshire, have a brilliantly beautiful mid-April day for an annual sad and somber duty.

This is the weekend that surviving family members and friends, in an ever-dwindling number, gather to remember the USS Thresher (SSN- 593), a nuclear powered newly-constructed submarine whom the ocean took and kept, along with her crew and civilian technicians on April 10, 1963 another quiet casualty of the Cold War that the Soviet and American Empires waged with one another for nearly five decades.

Though officially no shots were fired during the decades, lives were lost and changed and the path and progress of history was re-routed innumerable times as 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' were transformed from intellectual conceits and abstractions to concrete and real values and goods.

As we have all learned in the course of our own time on this orb, if it doesn't cost anything, it's not worth anything and fifty-one years ago 129 men paid with their lives for us to have the luxury to be forgetful of their (and others') sacrifices if we so choose.

That so many take for granted what others died to pass to us is both the challenge and the curse of our democracy. There are hurts that never heal and memories of what might have been but wasn't that cannot rhyme and will not end. This is one of those days of trial and tears for a ring of remembrance that can never look up and never look away.

Lost Harbor by Leslie Nelson Jennings:
"There is a port of no return, where ships may ride at anchor for a little space
And then, some starless night, the cable slips, leaving an eddy at the mooring place . . . Gulls, veer no longer. Sailor, rest your oar.
No tangled wreckage will be washed ashore."
-bill kenny

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sugar, Sugar

I never lived in Riverdale or knew anyone named Reggie or Jughead and certainly didn't know girls as yummy as Veronica or Betty but thanks to Archie comics and for the price of one thin dime (at least at some point in my growing up) I could hang with all of them.

I was born in the Fifties and Archie was a comic book that seemed old timey even to me as a kid. I probably hadn't thought about it in at least four decades until walking down the hallway of my office building (they haven't gotten around to renaming it for me yet but all in due course) when someone played (from their computer I guess) this Moldy Oldie.

Someday I'll dazzle you with my artwork as I draw a line that connects Don Kirchner with Andy Kim to The Monkees and intersects with Jack Nicholson all the way to Milli Vanelli, but my crayon is still in the shop so that will have to wait for another time.

Cannot pretend to regret forgetting the cartoon band responsible for this earworm, but can't help wonder about fate and coincidence. I hadn't even yet told my wife my Everything's Archie story when I came across a very disturbing item on CNN, taking a break (no doubt) from interviewing psychic children who are helping search for missing airplanes.

I'd be even snarkier but this story is very strange-both in its subject and its treatment. Do you also detect a slight bit of pressure? Perhaps a tongue being applied to a cheek? Could this be the comic book version of A Mighty Wind meets This Is Spinal Tap?

I'm not sure if we're stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again but I do know this, Walter, my beautiful friend, this is The End.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Less Attractive Alternative to Lemming Leadership

People who meet me for the first time (those willing to do it a second time are in unsurprisingly short supply) invariably express surprise when they learn I served in the Air Force for eight years. Even when I explain while all of it was spent in sky blue clothes, much of it was serving with members of the US Army and I was a "791X1", a radio and TV production specialist.

They tend to see wings and jet engines. Sorry, nope, not this mother's son. I volunteered to take a train to Germany from Greenland and the Wing First Shirt not sure if I were joking, spent an hour explaining the impossibility of rail travel. "Even with all the windows up all the time?" I asked. Turns out, especially with the windows up. By the time he had finished both sides of the discussion I was close to being qualified as a submariner, and that's a choice for me even less attractive than piloting a jet.

I did not make a career out of the Air Force (I had to assume my luck would run out and eventually I'd end up in a 'real Air Force unit on a real Air Force base.' Nein danke) but I had a fine run of eight years. I wasn't greedy, it was someone else's turn to serve his country and having joined in the first wave of post-conscription recruitment probably made me a poster child for Future Shock for airmen and officers who were making a career of their service.

I wasn't what was new but rather who was next as many more who thought like me, on the rare occasions when I did think, were reporting for duty and the defense of the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. As Bruce told Rosalita, 'I ain't here on business, baby; I'm only here for fun,'

I regarded military service as positive application of avoidance behavior. Whether or not I found any value in making my bunk while in basic training with hospital corners or pulling the blankets so tight you could bounce change off them mattered not a jot to me. All of that was the Drill Instructor's religion, and I was pretty much an agnostic. Except, I always figured there to be infinitely more unpleasant things that I could be made to do 24/7 if I found bed-making once a day too tedious, and I had no desire to explore those possibilities.

I'd read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 at college and thought it was fiction only to find myself in the real-life, real-time novel without my library card. The premise for which the book was named became my mantra, "Catch-22 says we have the power to do to you anything you don't have the power to keep us from doing." You had me at power.

The first time we fell out for police call at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, (the largest Air Force base in the world without a runway, seriously) I was unhappy to discover we weren't assisting law enforcement as the phrase police call suggested but, rather, picking up cigarette butts with our fingers. Thinking about Catch-22 helped me remember that this was a good time to keep my disappointment to myself lest there be other, even less savory items we might need to pick up.

In recent years, as both the composition of the military and the nation from whom its membership is drawn have changed, those in uniform have created a descriptive that has spilled over to the private sector, 'toxic leadership' whose style may be hard at times to distinguish but whose impact and long-term effects are easily discernible though sadly, not avoidable (at least so far).

If there's one thing the US military doesn't do, it's muddle along and the leadership of the armed forces having struggled for over a decade with an endless war that has challenged every assumption and eviscerated belief in long-held customs and traditions, are working to take the measure of toxic leadership straight-on. where they can and when they can.

As a no-longer twenty-something who didn't know what he didn't know when he started on a journey that would make him a future veteran, having served with and worked for the USAF, the USA and the USN, I can assure those girding for battle that the color of the uniform matters far less than the character contained and constrained by its contents.

While each of us has a tale or two to tell as the victim, I know now we are often unaware that sometimes we're the practitioners of the politics of poison. It didn't start with us, but with us it must end. -bill kenny

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rhymes with Funny but Isn't

The Norwich City Manager, Alan Bergren, offered his next year's proposed budget to his employers, the City Council, Monday night. What he said versus what we, as residents and citizens, heard has a lot to do with our perspectives and our interests.

He, together with Comptroller Josh Pothier and Community Development Director Gary Evans spoke as much about maintaining the priorities of the city in austere times as they did in speaking directly about the 2014-2015 budget.

You can find all the slides and the numbers from Monday’s presentation on the city’s website as well as at the Otis Library and other locations. We’re talking about spending and investing a bit less than an eighth of a billion dollars. I have no idea what the 'right' dollar figure should be, and in all honesty, neither do you. We may think we do and we might have good points to make in support of our beliefs, but beliefs and facts are separate entities. No matter how passionately I believe in something that belief doesn't make it a fact.

We have a long way to go between now and June 2 when all the magic math aside and the nipping and tucking having been done, we will have come to the place where the road and the sky collide and the men and women of our City Council, whom we elected (and it's funny how often we forget that) will approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning 1 July. A budget under which, they, too, shall have to live.

The key to all the big numbers that we first saw and heard Monday is to   understand all the small(er) numbers from the city's departments that got us there when we add them all up. What we get for what we pay and how much what we want actually costs us. Even free air is a dollar, so our mileage may vary.

There are departmental budget hearings continuing tomorrow night, starting at 6:30. Those making presentations include Human Services, Otis Library, Public Works and to conclude, the Norwich Public Schools.

 The first of two Public Hearings on the budget will be a week from tomorrow night at 6:30 in Council Chambers, which is why I mentioned the departmental hearings as it's always more useful in a discussion that turns into an disagreement (and budget hearings often work out that way) to use facts to improve your argument instead of just raising your voice.

We all get to talk, but we all have to listen to one another because it is, after all our money and we want our City Council to spend it wisely and well (= on those programs we want despite what any other resident/voter says), which can make for some loud deliberations, especially when others at the meetings have opinions and ideas different from our own (=wrong).
There's a difference between listening and hearing which means we have a lot of work yet to do in understanding one another.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fractured not Broken

The tragedy of youth, goes the expression, is that it’s wasted on the young. Actually, from what I can remember of my own childhood, riding dinosaurs and helping Noah fill the Ark after school, the usual pre-historic stuff, the actual tragedy is how much of what enriches young people is dependent on money they never possess. And how holes no one ever sees eventually consume the person concealing them.

I’m astounded staring at the tabloids and ‘zines at the grocery check-out exactly what kind of a world I have helped create by doing nothing. I’m not talking about the celebrity wastes of skin, we have always had those from right around the time Marie Antoinette suggested a swap out of foodstuffs that caused her a terrible headache.

I mean the two to three hundred dollar ‘sports shoes’ that we called sneakers growing up and would never dream of calling them that now with warm-up clothes priced to move at about two and half times a monthly car payment. And because we can’t tell the difference between real and knock-off, don’t think our children’s peers can’t or won’t.

When clothes make the man to be weighed and found wanting is a terrible burden and almost more than can be borne. And then we wonder why so many school-age children, ranging from primary grades through college are on every form of narcotic and tranquilizer that a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry can imagine (and a few others that street corners supply). If you can’t hope, then cope and hang on until, exactly what? The World of Things seems to be all that counts.

I think those of us who are parents want our children, of any age, to be happy and everything and anything else beyond that is more or less gravy. So what can and should we do to create an environment where happiness is most likely to flourish? If I had that answer, you’d be watching me on a TV talk show right now.

But rather, I don’t think whatever it has a lot to do with money (I hope not because we didn’t have much in my house for our kids) but perhaps our time, and more the quality of it, rather than the amount. Nothing is wasted on the next generation, ever, except the opportunity to help them succeed in the only life they, or we, will ever know.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 7, 2014

Their Words Had Forked No Lightning

I grew up hours from where I now live which is only fair because I came of age and spent great portions of my life for even longer and much farther from here than I am now, as I enter my senior years (still don't have a varsity letter on my jacket) and undertake Dylan Thomas' most railed against journey.

I've been one of those "wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight" and have the bruises and beatings, inside where only I can see them, to show for all of that. I'll be sixty-two years old later this month which surprises me because I don't feel like an old man but I know I am because when I was young (and trust me, I once was) when I ran into those then my age now, they were old. QED.

Where I live now, I'd never heard of until I got here. Based on the reactions of so many of the people with whom I live, that surprise was mutual. I must admit most of them have been very good sports about it. This is not my hometown but will, in all likelihood, be where I am when I'm finally caught short for the last time.

We do some things around here that make my hair hurt, what little of it I still have and even under the greatest of light, the only color I can see of that which remains is grey, like the remains of the day. If we're being candid with one another, there are things that go on where you live that put you around the twist as well.

We both have movies in our heads about other places we might yet live where everything is vastly improved over where we currently are though if we were to encounter residents of these magical locales, we might be crestfallen to learn of their disappointments and unhappiness. It turns out it's pretty much the same movie with a different cast.

Here's why I think I like my movie over yours. It's three minutes from my house.
Yeah. I figured your walk might be a little longer. I'll give you a head start. Go.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Getting Antsy

Winter bothers me really for only one reason, the shortened days. I'm pretty sure if we didn't do all that fall back and spring forward stuff and just left the clocks alone, I'd be less SAD (seasonal affected disorder) though just as pathetic.

Back in January when it's dark shortly after four in the afternoon are the worst of the winter days. I get up around oh-bright-early so most days of the week I get to see the dawn break, and even help repair it but there's not much I can do about the coming of night in the late afternoon.

It's still early Spring, so much so that in April in New England, it can look like a great day outside until you get there and realize that brisk breeze is actually a lot more chill and shrill than you realized through your double-pane glass in the living room watching the day go by

Yesterday was like that with mostly overcast skies that made the day feel darker than than it really was but also with enough of a breeze to make you happy you had a jacket on and not too warm that you were tempted to not fasten it.

It's changeable enough, the weather I mean, right now, that my monster walks of two to four hours are still a ways off, especially since getting caught in the cold spring rain far from home can cool far more than my ardor for the great outdoors.

I went for a short walk, because I try to do that every day (anyway) carrying with me the third and final Android phone I used to use for everything but that broke my heart once too often because of its flakiness so I went to Yapple which works well but whose camera in their phones is just awful

I think my walks would be more walks and I'd cover more distance if I didn't take the cellphone/camera with me and grab happy snaps but I do and I will at least until I drop it and break it or lose it. And that hasn't happened, at least yet. I think of this as a tune-up.

-bill kenny

Saturday, April 5, 2014

If You're Waiting for the Funny, Keep Waiting

The occupational hazard to being a wisenheimer (and boy do I know how much my German wife will hate my deutschification of a word to sidestep a point), is when I try to offer something serious and in a straight-forward manner, you wait for other shoe to drop. Except today, there's no other shoe and no toe tags (and both are, with apologies to Martha Stewart, 'good things').

When the war in Afghanistan moved off the front page of our local newspaper and into the 300 block of our TV newscasts, it also vacated the front lobe of a lot of people's brains. Except we're still there, if by "we" you allow me the conceit to take credit for the talented people in US military uniforms, and others, who are part of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, who've been doing the bulk of the heavy lifting and getting wounded and killed for over a decade.

Yeah, the current Thief In Charge, is a just another warlord who correctly filled out the questionnaire on how much he hates the Taliban-and should never be confused with a George Washington or an Abraham Lincoln. His days are drawing down as the Afghan people struggle with a form of government imposed on them from without, representative democracy, and no one seems sure, much less sanguine, as to how much future any of it may have.

All of this has happened almost accidentally and coincidentally in the decade plus of the Endless War on Terror that has maimed and wounded tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of thousands of civilians. For those military who return home "intact," that word, in light of economic and emotional challenges, can only be used advisedly.

So many dark thoughts on what I had hoped going to bed last night would be a genuine spring weekend, and my apologies if I am harshing your buzz (unless you are already buzzed; yeah, I'm talking about you, Washington State and you, Colorado) but I make it a point to check in with a site that LH shared with me, though the good Captain is a little behind right now in his posting, and I tell myself that I can almost see the silver lining. Feel free to feel the same.

And part of that silverness (silverosity?) might be for the month that just ended, there was this bright spot. I don't have a quip-if I still believed, maybe I'd have a prayer of thankfulness-but in its place I have a hope that I know will be bruised, battered and beaten, that this trend continues and that when we've brought the last American service member home and accounted for everyone, that we expend both the effort and the money needed and necessary to make each one of them, and ourselves, whole again.

There's a break in the fog of war and it behooves us all to see our way to the far shore and become the country we tell ourselves we are. Not just for today, but for everyday that remains.
 -bill kenny

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hide those Packets of Tartar Sauce

When I saw a particular news item earlier in the week and laughed, I realized as I did if there were any doubt, post-Earth life, as to my disposition it was now overtaken by events.

Be warned from one traveler to another: if you laugh or even wanly smile at any of what follows, but most especially the link at the start of the next paragraph, we are in the same hand basket and it'll be a lot warmer when we get out than when we stepped in.

Here's what I'm talking about. I'll pause for effect and let you look around furtively to see who was watching you as you read that. Yep, so much for the no-smoking section of the Afterlife, rosebud. Is this perhaps karma and a simple twist of fate?

Makes me wonder who thought 'let's always eat fish on Friday during Lent' was a good idea, aside from the Gordon Fisherman and Mrs. Paul, whom, I have been told, are now living together (they broke up for awhile because he supposedly gave her crabs. Or lobster, I forget which). You don't suppose anyone told the fish, do you?

-bill kenny

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Eye on the Prize

It has been suggested by the person with whom I share my life that I am somewhat distracted and less than capable of concentrating on the "important things." The German descriptive characterization for it is spaetzen hirn, or as we'd say in English, bird-brain and I have provided my loving wife of three and a half PLUS decades (far too) many examples to support her position.

But....if I may, today thirty-seven years ago was Palm Sunday. I know this by two methods: through the collected and collective wisdom of the interwebs and because it was on that day my wife and I became formally engaged to be married.

The third day of the fourth month of the seventy-seventh year. Another road side attraction on the way to forever. And proof that when it's important, it's important enough to remember.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Strange Fascination

If the disheartened and disaffected among us here in Norwich could fly, we'd have a major airport in Franklin Square, although with lack of space for a runway, we'd probably have to settle for a heliport.

I've been told the airplane was invented by an optimist while a pessimist invented the parachute. As someone who has a reputation for always seeking out the location of unobstructed exits even as I am entering a room or a building, I suspect in a moment of fight or flight, I'd be hitting the silk in short order.

You can't be surprised that I often (but not often enough) see us as a city of enthusiastic beginners or discouraged experts. The dysfunction of that conjunction is that we'd all be better off with and instead of or because sometimes shades of grey capture nuance better than just black and just white in describing color.

As much as many of us enjoy, if not secretly celebrate, living in the Rose of New England practically in the same breath as we are sharing our favorite things, we then hasten to list concerns "they need to work on."

The they in this case is always nameless, invariably faceless and consistently absent from whatever forum we are in at the time we make our complaint aloud. That's a rule for living here, and maybe not just here. Never, ever, voice your honest concern or suggest disagreement, especially in the presence of someone who might be able to offer an explanation or resolution.

I was at a not-especially well-attended public hearing on the Hampton Project Municipal Development Plan last Wednesday night. By 'not especially well-attended' I mean less than two dozen people in a city population of over 40,000, to include two reporters and two members of the Norwich Community Development Corporation, NCDC, one of whom was offering the presentation). There are as many reasons for the often sparse attendance at Norwich public meetings as there are people who are not attending the meetings. I try to never draw an inference about motivation from behavior.

Three residents spoke during the hearing and raised thoughtful and thought-provoking concerns which went to the core of the proposal though some of their issues were less directly connected. I was happy that four alderpersons were also present to take the temperature of the room, so to speak, and get a feel for the heart of the matter. Their decision awaits.

It was exactly the way 'small town government' and 'town hearings' are supposed to work, with the emphasis on hearing. All of the speakers and, I’m sure, attendees wanted to understand as best as possible the project itself, to include the involvement of the Norwich City Council and its engagement of NCDC in an effort that could, say the optimist and enthusiasts, add to the city's Grand List. Or not.

It's those two words, "or not," that constantly remind me that we live in the real world because in the land of make believe we would have a surfeit of happy endings and more than enough tax dollars to fix our streets, fund our world-class schools, provide for public safety, make sure we have enough ranch dressing so our kids can eat all the vegetables they want and still pay for all the goods and services we not only expect but have also come to rely on from our municipal government.

Our lives are risk and reward, parachutes and airplanes. Do we dare to jump or hope to safely land?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Soft Landing on a Blue Planet

Having spent the last three months (or more) bleating piteously about the awfulness of our winter (I'm sure much to the simultaneous annoyance and bemusement of those who had real winters), I'm now whining about all the rain we have had in the space of the last four days.

Yes, I could calculate, assuming a lowered atmospheric and ground temperature, just how much snow the rain I am complaining about would have produced, which would have shut me up quite nicely thank you as I'd be outside even now probably with a snow blower and mukluks (the perfect name for a grunge band, imho).

Instead, I got up both yesterday and today with temperatures above freezing (a novelty of sorts) and rain. Poor me. In honor of April Fool's Day, perhaps a snowfall of mini-marshmallows might be a practical joke by Mother Nature or, in light of how many of us have yearned for Spring's arrival, real snowflakes that look like marshmallows.

We could stand outside and stick out our tongues and hold cups of cocoa, with peppermint swizzle-sticks. Except I dislike peppermint in cocoa nearly as much as I dislike mint in my chocolate ice cream. But enough about snow and cocoa (a terrific name for a follow-up TV show to "I Spy" for obvious reasons) without as much Jell-o as the original, I hope.

The first three months of 2014 are in the books, their passing marked by this day, a celebration of sorts for pranksters and practical jokers. And we turn to face the Spring, or what we hope will be spring soon enough. I have always found people and places slightly more attractive when the trees' buds are just about to burst and the birds' songs are louder because they are more numerous.

Unless, of course, I've parked my car under a tree and returned to find it covered in something that makes me wish wistfully for snowflakes and mini-marshallows.
-bill kenny