Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blow Your Harmonica, Son....

Then is Now.

“Well I'm about to get upset
From watchin my t.v.
Been checkin' out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it's gonna change, my friend
Is anybody's guess
So I'm watching and I'm waiting
Hopin' for the best
Even think I go to praying
Every time I hear them sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day.

Wednesday I watched the riot
I seen the cops out on the street
Watch them throwing rocks and stuff and choking in the heat
Listen to reports
About the whiskey passin' round
Seen the smoke and fire
And the market burnin' down
Watched while everybody on this street would take a turn
They stomp and smash and bash and crash and slash and bust 'n burn
And I'm watching and I'm waitin hopin' for the best
Even think I go to prayin'
Every time I hear em sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day.

You can cool it
You can heat it
Cause baby I don't need it
Take your t.v. tube and eat it
And all that phony stuff on sports
And all those unconfirmed reports
You know I watch that rotten box
Until my head begin to hurt
From checkin' out the way
The newsmen say they get the dirt
Before the guys on channel so and so
And further they assert
That any show they interrupt
To bring you news if it comes up
They say that if the place blows up
They’ll be the first to tell
Cause the boys they got downtown
Are working hard and doin swell
And if anybody gets the news
Before it hits the streets
They say that no one blabs it faster
Their coverage can't be beat
And if another woman driver
Gets machine gunned from her seat
They'll send some joker with a Brownie
And you’ll see it all complete.

So I'm watching and I'm waiting
Hopin for the best
Even think I go to praying
Every time I hear them saying
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day.

Well I've seen the fires burnin'
And the local people turnin'
On the merchants and the shops
Who use to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watch the mob just turn and bite ‘em
And they say it served them right
Because a few of them were white
And it's the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yelling ‘you can’t understand me’
And all that other crap they hand me
In the papers and t.v.
And all that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more everyday
Each time I hear some nitwit
He wants to go and do you in
Cause the color of your skin
Just don't appeal to him
No matter if it's black or white

(Frank Zappa, 1966)

-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Walk on the Mild Side

Despite popular demand, I'm walking around and across Norwich on just any day without rain or snow (or locusts) when I'm not working. The number of third-party requests received at my job asking I be scheduled for overtime has amazed my bosses, but I'm determined to get my steps in so keep your cards and letters. 

Sunday was a rough day for walking some laps around Spaulding Pond at Mohegan Park. It wasn't technically speaking a nice day by any means. The skies were overcast, the air was a little raw and all in all it didn't feel much like late April. And yet, despite all of that, there were a lot of people at the Pond, many taking advantage of the weekend to get some fishing in. 

I don't know a lot about fishing (actually I don't know anything about fishing), but I always carry packets of mayonnaise with me in case someone does land the big one and is willing to share. I usually keep a couple of packets in the pockets of my Call Me Ishmael warm-up jacket in case you were wondering.   

I think the hardest part for Mohegan Park fisherpersons (I'm not sure if women who fish are called fishermen, so I'm going with persons and hope that covers everyone) is probably putting up with people like me asking them if they've caught anything. What I heard for the most part was the fishing was good, the catching not so much.

As I found out Sunday afternoon in casual conversation with about sixty people (and two chipmunks who heard about the peanuts I keep in the other jacket pocket), many of those who were at Mohegan Park came from beyond a Norwich zip code. 

They know all about Mohegan Park and stop by on a regular basis to hike some of the paths, barbecue at one of the grilling areas, fish (of course) and, when in season, to cool off at the beach. I don't know how much money the "Ice Cream Parlour on Wheels" was making, but there was a steady stream of customers heading towards that green truck so it was obviously worth somebody's while.  

My point, realizing it's hard to see when I'm wearing a hat, is that "passive recreation" which is what folks in the activities business call places like Mohegan Park is quite a draw for more people than just those of us who live in Norwich. 

And while we rack our brains trying to come up with new and/or improved reasons to attract people to choose the Rose City, perhaps, if we wait quietly for a moment like one of those fisherpersons I saw on Sunday, and track where people go and why they go where they go while in Norwich, and then work to enhance those experiences, we can build up our own brand.    

Joni Mitchell, in another lifetime, recalled with more than a touch of sadness 'when they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.' We think it’s new things when perhaps it’s things we knew.  As I learned Sunday we need to not only look but to see.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Some Once-Proud Words on a Dusty Upper Shelf

I wrote these words, okay not these words <= seven years ago today. That first bunch I wrote just now, if you wanna synchronize calendars and meet back here again in seven years ago that works for me. What was true at that moment seven years ago remains so to this day. Read on, or not. 

It was a quiet story at the time seven years ago, but it's a part of the form of government we've chosen and it's included in the overhead. The CT Secretary of the State released a report on the number of deceased people who are still listed as registered voters. I think we're looking at a challenge to bookkeeping rather than a conspiracy and that's pretty much what the news stories said.

Having helped bury a parent a very long time ago, I can recall the bewildering number of notification forms and advisories we all filled out at the time-in my family's case, all of this was compounded by the fact that the parent who died, my father, was Senior and I was (still am?) a Junior. 

Were there people we should have notified, and didn't? Yeah-the state motor vehicle folks who mailed a license renewal to my mom some time later-she probably didn't need that reminder and I suspect none of us notified the Mr. Met Mailing list that Dad was gone. To this day, every once in a while, I'll get a piece of mail that (to my mind) is clearly intended for my father.

So much of what we do in our everyday lives seems so automatic that I'm hard-pressed to imagine a system that might better help local voter registrars keep track of all of us (and when we register to vote, but then can't seem to be bothered to do so, I'm not sure we're helping the process). As I said, I don't think as I read the news release, anyone connected to the Secretary of State's office was suggesting any form of hanky-panky, just that there's some free play in the accounting system. 

Maybe we could hold mandatory block parties once a month and take attendance? If you're going on vacation, you must bring a note from your travel agent? I think we're doing the best we can do and that considering how free-wheeling we Americans are in settling and resettling, the registrars do the best they can to keep track of us.

I don't know about you, I always assume when I stop seeing people I'm used to seeing that they've moved (if I've even noticed that I don't see them anymore. I'm not the most perceptive guy in the room, even when I'm by myself). People could be in witness protection, I suppose, though making new friends is probably not high on their 'to do' list; I just don't assume the worst and I don't think any, or many, of us do. 

We could probably check with the telemarketers and see who hasn't renewed a 'Do not call' listing or ask one of the Nigerian spam mailers to double check or we could try a little harder to watch out for one another. Considering we're all each other has, it might be a good idea to keep an eye out and the porch light on. Just in case.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 27, 2015

Everywhere You Look

I gave up a long time ago believing anything I could type here on a daily or otherwise basis would or could make a difference like that of gale force winds created halfway round the globe by the beating of a buttterfly’s wings. Nope, not even close. 

I realized all by myself long before anyone pointed out to me, I was attempting to empty an ocean of lunacy and bad behavior with a teaspoon.  As it turns out, the spoon is one of those cheapo plastic ones that tend to melt into nothingness as you use it to stir your coffee. And you thought that bold new flavor was the result of those fresh-roasted, fair-trade purchased and rainforest grown coffee beans? Um, no.  You’re cuter than a bug’s ears even though I have NO idea what that expression is supposed to mean.

Today, under the rubric of Don’t Worry, Be Happy let’s applaud the fearless programming acumen of Netflix in bringing back (despite popular demand) Full House as (gasp!) Fuller House. From the same folks who brought us Jordache Jeans I suspect and pet rocks, it’s Mulling the Mullet, Part II (Roman Numerals make everything classier, that’s why we use them to number our World Wars).

So afraid are we, I fear, of what the future may bring, we remain rooted in our own past-music, arts, politics (Clinton vs Bush, again?) and entertainment. Somewhere Marty McFly has the hood open on the DeLorean and is working to regap the spark plugs and adjust the timing chain. When that happens, all I can conclude is nothing is different but everything’s changed
-bill kenny     

Sunday, April 26, 2015

(Yet) Another Orbit Round the Sun

At some point this morning my youngest brother, Adam, will complete the New Jersey Marathon, an effort for which he has meticulously trained. Being an expert in only running out of patience I wanted to pass along advice our other brother, Kelly, the one who was nearly-elected Pope, would offer him from the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes for along the way. Good luck and best wishes!

Today is my birthday, again. I mention this because family and friends (you might assume they are one and the same, very small in number and extremely reluctant to be thought of as either; you may kiss my grits) have congratulated me which is something we all do on birthdays but I've always felt we do it to the wrong person. 

I always thank my Mom when she calls, and she always does, referring to her as 'without whom none of this would be possible' because she really is and was, together with my dad, the person who made it all possible. 

My role was mostly to behave according to the rules of gravity at that moment, which is how I went from inside to outside. I didn't have a plan then and today, sixty-three years on, I also don't have a clue.

I am one of six and the first draft of a child so to speak. Each of us have run pretty much the same race, if on different courses and in different circumstances than those our parents had and their parents before them.

I traveled halfway across the earth a lifetime ago and found someone who loves me to this day despite myself, which is leichter gesagt als getan (believe me). We have two beautiful children who are themselves adults, though one of their parents tends to forget that, a lot (and it's not their mother).

When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be a grown-up. I hurried through childhood as if there were a prize somewhere for being first without knowing what first felt like or why it was so important. 

It wasn't and it never will be and I've only recently discovered that, which is really too bad as that would have been very useful to that little boy of eight standing in the big backyard on Bloomfield Avenue in Somerset, NJ. Too late smart, nothing new there.

It's taken me all this time and all those years to realize just how much I don't know and to accept that the list of things I will never know continues to expand exponentially into infinity. I could waste what's left of my life yearning for what can never be or be gracefully grateful for that which I have. The latter feels like a good choice at this point.

"It takes a long time to grow young," said Picasso and none of us have as long a time left as we think or hope. But it's what we do with what we have that defines us and how we live and who we love. Happy birthday to me. says the calendar but happy birthday to you as well, be it today or whenever it is.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Picture Postcards from Radio Days

This is a brief, very brief, stroll through my back pages of long ago and far away.
It's actually about two people with whom I had the good fortune to work before the first of our two children was born (or even conceived; not that I'm suggesting cause and effect here).

Today is the shared birthday of "Lips" deep in the heart of Texas, Palestine, if my memory serves me well (the other one, with armadillos) and TOB, the other bill, unless he's speaking about me in which case I am he as you are he and you are me and we are all together. Kookookaju. TOB is somewhere in Florida.

We shared office space and airwaves in Frankfurt am Main of American Forces Radio in (West) Germany, back in the day when the Russians were the Evil Empire (seems like only yesterday for some in Eastern Europe still, I suspect) and I don't think I ever realized they share(d) a birthday until decades later long after we'd lost sight of one another here in The Land of the Round Doorknobs.

The other Bill sent this clipping to me during the week-another reminder that the river continues to flow to the sea whether you are on the banks or in the boat. For the three of us and lots of others there were times I think when we thought we could walk on water.

Some of us have photographs (people other than me) and others have just their memories. They're all that's left. Herzlichen Gluckwunsche, Dave und Bill, und alles gut zum geburtstag(en)!
-bill kenny

Friday, April 24, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again

I live too far from where I work to (realistically) take part next month in National Bike to Work Day, NBWD, on Friday, May 15. If I were being sincere instead of snarky (hey! They both start with ‘s’), I could ride a bicycle to our $22 million Inter-Modal Transportation Center on Hollyhock Island that took a decade to construct and whose existence, purposes and possible applications continues to confound local elected officials. 

From there I could take a bus, eventually, near to where I work. I mean, I really should do that instead of just typing I really should do that. The folks on the hyperlink had me at the artist’s impression of a bike, complete with a “cool bell.” When I was a kid, I rode a bike everywhere-not because we were saving the earth, though that’s a great reason, or to lose weight which in my case would be a wonderful idea, but because everyone had a bike and we rode them everywhere.

It wasn’t unusual on a weekend to have a “bike hike” where Mom packed you a brown bag lunch and a soft drink and you put it in the back mousetrap on your bike (where all winter you’d kept your baseball glove, smeared in neatsfoot oil to build a better pocket (I never knew that’s how it was made, ugh!)) and off you and a swarm of friends would pedal, usually from mid-morning after breakfast coming back at around dinner time.

We had nowhere to be and all the time in the world to get there. There were no cell phones-your mom would stand on the front stoop and call for you. At some point, no matter where you’d pedaled, you heard her or you were grounded for what felt like forever when you did get home. No one screwed that up a second time, if memory serves me correctly.

As we grew older, if not up, we traded Royce Unions and Schwinn’s for Chevy Novas and Dodge Darts-actually, for a chance to drive one of them, usually your folks’ second car because no one went out and got sixteen year-old kids cars, even though it may have been in the Constitution back then, too. At least that seems to be what the kids these days from the high school just across Chelsea Parade, who all drive 60K muscle trucks, think as they travel, usually behind the school bus, to the high school every day. 

In a perfect world we’d have bike paths so cyclists weren’t sharing with either pedestrians and/or motorists, and we’re working towards that without actually getting there, at least yet. Norwich is a good area to pedal your ass, ride your bike because the topography is pretty challenging as you move across the city but the scenery is also very rewarding and a treat you feel like you’ve earned. And it’s a lot easier to take it all in on a bicycle than from behind the wheel of a car.

Based on this news story, I’ve concluded Norwich is NOT Bridgeport and in this case that’s not a bad thing. Most especially if you’re Angel Ramos who would do well to remember to  use your thumb to ring the bell and your middle finger, well, as part of the whole hand to hold on to the handlebars. Tightly, very tightly.
-bill kenny   

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Turn the Page

You stay in one place long enough you’ll get a chance to put the chairs up on the tables and also turn out the lights. I always make it a point at those moments to make sure all the silverware is accounted for. 

I’m working to find the time later this afternoon, in theory on my way home, but probably later than that, to stop by and say farewell to Ray Hackett, someone I could have known when each of us was in another life but we ended up meeting in this one in of all places, The Rose of New England, Norwich, Connecticut. 

His employer, The Bulletin (nee The Norwich Bulletin) is hosting a do of sorts for him at Modesto’s in Franklin, through the early evening and I suspect he’ll only be allowed to attend if he’s turned in his column beforehand. The folks who manage the newspaper run a tight ship. 

He has been the editorial page editor, I think at one time it was called the Community Conversations Editor, and held just about every position within the newspaper that you can have in a career that spans more than its share of years (yeah, I know some really old guys; got to do something about that). 

Ray has been on a first name basis with the Governors and Senators and congressional representatives we’ve elected for longer than a lot of folks have been alive (really hope he’s not reading this or he may try to jab me with a toothpick this afternoon). If he doesn’t know a certain something about politics across this state and region it’s probably because whatever it is, it’s not true-otherwise he’s the encyclopedia. 

He and  I could have met, except for timing, never my strong suit, when we were both in the US Air Force working on opposite ends of the world and decade for the American Forces Radio and Television Service, AFRTS. But his luck was good and we didn’t but when it finally ran out close to twenty years ago in Norwich, he was a really good sport about it. 

That, among other reasons, is why I’ll miss his notes and running into him, as opposed to over him, in downtown Norwich. He was instrumental in arranging for me to contribute my two cents every Wednesday to the print edition of The Bulletin-if you read it and it makes you angry, don’t blame Ray; instead blame a Literacy Volunteer. 

I can’t imagine how often he’s had to explain to people at his newspaper how and why I hang around but he has and I’m grateful or should be. After tomorrow he trades in all those headaches and other pains for a more measured pace and different circumstances.

I don’t really know what he’ll do next but I know I’m already looking forward to it. Ray, with regards to mutual absent friends, best wishes as you turn the page and start with a fresh sheet.
-bill kenny     

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Standing the Watch and Keeping the Faith

Right in the middle of your Spring weekend and its clean-up from a too-long and too-hard winter, through the scrapped-knuckle yard work reclaiming a flower patch or preparing a vegetable garden to maybe not doing very much of anything at all except taking in the lovely weather we’ve been promised and hoping there’s more (and lots of it) yet to come, I would hope you can find the time this Saturday to mark the turning of a page in a story that’s half a century old.

On March 8, 1965, the United States’ ground war in the Republic of Vietnam began with the deployment of 3,500 Marines. By Christmas of that year, there were nearly 200,000 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors in country. 

By the time American involvement concluded, April 30, 1975, about three million American military members had served on river patrols, at base camps and on air bases. Nearly 304,000 were wounded; to this day 1,628 remain missing in action or unaccounted for and more than 58,000 lost their lives.

There wasn't and isn't a city or town in any corner of this nation that didn't lose someone. Norwich is not alone in honoring those twelve men who called our city home and who gave their lives in that conflict, but I would suggest the Rose City is a bit unique in that, even in the hurly-burly of this Brave New World of the 21st Century, there are  those who work hard to remember what many others seem sometimes to work hard to forget.

This Saturday afternoon at one on Chelsea Parade the Norwich Area Veterans Council (NAVC) honors those men and women who served in uniform during the three decades of military involvement in Southeast Asia, as well as their families and friends.

It’s not so much speeches being offered, and flags unfurling, or parading of the colors, though to some extent all of that will, and should, probably happen. Perhaps, more importantly is the opportunity we have on Saturday to pause from our everyday and to reflect on the selfless sacrifice and the burdens borne by those who fought and, in some cases, died so that we could enjoy a sunny Saturday with no more thought for their sacrifice than we have for the air that we breathe

In addition to ceremonies at Chelsea Parade, our Freedom Bell, in the David Ruggles Courtyard just beyond the front steps of Norwich City Hall in the heart of downtown will toll twelve times to honor the memory and sacrifice of  Robert Karl Cooley, Francis Charles Donohue, Thomas Edward Donovan, Joseph John Grillo, Jr., Robert Louis Howard, William Lincoln Marcy, James William McNeely, Harold Richard Nielsen, Robert Lee Pendergast, Aaron Lieb Rosenstreich, Alton Browning Sebastian, and David Vautour.

It will be the briefest of moments, especially in light of half a century, for simple and unadorned truths. Honoring those who made our today but in particular, our hope for each new day, possible with the sacrifice of all their yesterdays
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weather or Not

One of the mysteries, and ongoing miseries, of life from the way I see things is why does it have to rain during the daylight when I want to do things? So full of myself am I and too stuffed to jump for the most part that the rain (actually for much of the day a drizzle bordering on a mist until late in the afternoon when it got kind stupid) on Monday was part of a day when I was working at my desk in my office inside a building and was nowhere near outdoors except to leave the car in the lot and walk into the building.

No matter-if I want to have a pity party for me and all those like me, why should I let facts get in the way of my opinion about how hard my life is. What would the point of that conversation be? I sometimes wonder. Jeepers, Wally, what's the matter with you is (not surprisingly) what’s the matter with me.

After the frigid and frozen winter we had, complete with snow the week before Easter instead of saying ‘at least it wasn’t the week before Memorial Day,’ I still have a sad heart (and a red behind) with anything other than sixty degree plus temperatures and blue skies (‘and green lights to you and yours!’) so I fear the choices I face, as the twilight years near, are to lower my expectations or my voice, especially when expressing disappointment.

Of course, there’s always the wit (and wisdom, often in equal amounts) as articulated by Roger Miller who offered, ‘Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” I always smile when I remember that ‘for I am a Rain Dog, too.’  
-bill kenny

Monday, April 20, 2015

Diem, from Per through Carpe and All Points in Between

We had a marvelous weekend, weather-wise in these here parts (I'm practicing talking like Yosemite Sam in case that ever becomes a thing, again) and I used both days to do absolutely nothing of any social value at all.

I observed National Record Store Day on Saturday by visiting a great shop I enjoy year-round, The Telegraph, in New London and finally meeting one of the engines who drives the store, Daphne Lee Martin, whose music I'm also inordinately fond of.

I, and my wife and daughter then traveled not that far, down Golden Street a skosh and a quick left to Berry's Ice Cream and Candy Bar for some ice cold delight wrapped in a chocolate dipped Belgian Waffle cone, of sorts. And yes, if you don't get it all over your face, you're not doing it right.

The troubles of the world will, I'm sure, make themselves known to me and to all of us later today as is their wont but the respite provided by the weekend was (of course) too short and entirely necessary.

I hope you had an opportunity to enjoy yourself, for yourself. You're all you have and are all you can depend on. So, what are you waiting for?
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 19, 2015

From Lexington to Oklahoma

History, I’m told by those who purport to know has no beginning or end. It flows like a river whether there’s any one to note or notice or not. Perhaps, but that we as a species do notice and (at least in theory) do draw conclusions from what we note and notice, may, along with these opposable thumbs and our command of tools, be what sets us apart from the other beasts of the earth.

Or not.

I add the 'or not' disclaimer when thinking about history because that’s the easier path. And if I’m about anything at all, it’s the ‘don’t think too hard, you’ll strain yourself’ school of exertion. Three names associated with three moments in our history that share this date; you do the math. Let me know how that straight line connecting them together turns out to be and then let me know what we should do about it.

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past,” said Thomas Jefferson. As Abraham Lincoln said some four score and seven years later, "(T)he best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time." 
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Record Setting Performance

This is one of my favorite days of the year and has nothing to do with either of our children’s birthdays, or that of my wife or our anniversary. Today is National Record Store Day. We used to have a shop here where I live in Norwich, Connecticut, University Music (with a rumored second location in Willimantic).

University Music is long gone as is the Norwichtown Mall that surrounded it. The Norwichtown Commons has a lot of nice and new businesses (hopefully thriving) but no record shop and so far there’s no record store in Chelsea, which is what some of us who don’t call downtown Down City (no idea why) call downtown. Maybe someday, but certainly not today, which in case I haven’t mentioned it enough is National Record Store Day.

I could go to the chain store out in the Crystal Mall and maybe before the day is over I shall, but I’m headed into New London, The Whaling City, to browse the bins of The Telegraph, an absolute must when coming to New London (it and the train station are my two reasons for going there; your mileage may vary but not by much).

As a Scarlet Knight at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey I used to trek out to East Brunswick on Route 18 into a house someone converted into The Record Setter, a vinyl shop so amazing it defied adequate description.

Just one example of why independent record stores rule: I’ve been told five hundred copies of Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka (Morocco) were ever pressed (the first release on Rolling Stones Records). 

I own it on vinyl and eight track (!) and on cassette (until it was stolen out of our VW Beetle in Offenbach, Germany). All of them were tracked down and sold to me by the folks who operated The Record Setter.

The Telegraph is owned and staffed by people who love music because they make music, selling it is their day job to support their avocation. Lots of independent record stores today are having special events, and sales and other patron thank-you’s (no pony rides, I checked) but it’s we, who listen and love music, who should thank those who eke out a living in the retail jungle.

I don’t care what kind of music you say you like (yes, Justin Bieber I’m looking at you-not listening, just looking) except maybe Rastafarian Country and Western, Polka-Swing or Thrash-Gospel. Today is the day to let the freak flag fly and go find your local independent record store and put some of your money where your mouth is and help someone somewhere who’s been making music for themselves for all these years become an overnight sensation
-bill kenny       

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

Farid Rashti and Walter Huber were almost perfect strangers earlier this week in Sunnyvale, California, until calamity befell Rashti who was struck in the middle of his chest by a kicked soccer ball and went into cardiac arrest. It could have been the end to his sad story, but as you’ll read here, it wasn’t and their story had, instead, a very happy ending.

I am a sucker for happy endings but in this case, I confess to having some skin in the game, and I don’t mean the soccer match. I downloaded and installed the Pulse Point AED application (for my iPhone; it’s available for android as well. If you’ve got a phone with a Windows operating system, why?) because even though I was never a Boy Scout (got lost trying to find the meetings), I endorse whole-heartedly their motto, “Be prepared.”

No one looks out for you the way you do and since I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford to travel in a mobile ER with a full entourage of medical professionals, I’m thinking Pulse Point could allow me to comfortably rely on the kindness of strangers even though nine out of ten times I’ll prove that Ruth is Stranger than Richard

Admittedly, Pulse Point doesn’t look like it’s as much fun as Angry Birds or Farmville but I’m thinking for those like me who have a strong desire to live forever, it may prove to be far more useful and closer to being the perfect reason to make sure your smart phone is smart enough. 

In a perfect world, the interface between the technology and humanity should be seamless-I’m thinking Pulse Point not only can enhance your quality of life it can extend the quantity as well. 
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 16, 2015

All Others Pay Cash

Is there any chance you forgot that yesterday was the last day to file your Federal income taxes (unless you had requested an extension)? It’s not nearly as dramatic when you add the part in the parenthesis, is it? And considering how much lead time you have on the federal filing deadline (and I think it’s true for state and municipal as well), it’s not like the calendar stole a march on you, right?

I can remember our Dad, who worked in New  York City and took the train (Pennsylvania, then later the Penn-Central and even later Amtrak) from New Jersey every day, having to file federal as well as State and City of New York tax reports. He wasn’t alone, joined by tens of thousands from places across Jersey and, back in the day, Connecticut Gold Coasters as well.

Commuters like Dad were heaven-sent for states and cities scrounging for revenue-he used none of the goods and services he was helping to pay for and they needed all the help they could get. I don’t remember if he was still riding the train into The City when New Jersey finally got around to enacting a state income tax under Brendan Byrne in 1976 (I always thought it was earlier than that; must be getting old (for which I am most grateful)).     

Every state has a “tax freedom date” that changes, rarely for the better, annually. Here in The Land of Steady Habits, Connecticut, it’s Wednesday, May 13th (which folks on all sides of the political aisle will talk about all the way to it, and past it, if history is any indicator). Your mileage may vary but the rending of garments in anguish and despair accompanied by loud lamentations probably not so much. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., once offered ‘taxes are what we pay for a civilized society,’ but in light of decades of national dysfunction, you might want to rummage around and see if you saved your receipt to ask about a refund.

Figured you could use a smile today, especially if you did wait until the last minute to file. I could also offer you John Oliver’s observations, which are not only brilliantly hilarious but also spot-on. Try not to laugh too hard, it can tax your breathing. 
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Outside of a Dog, a Book is a Man's Best Friend

We're just days away from one of my favorite points on the spring calendar and I've prepared for it, as I always do, by having my eyeglasses steamed clean so that I can practically rival Clark Kent for visual acuity.

I'm prepping, as you may have already guessed for the Friends of Otis Library Book Sale which kicks off this Friday morning and runs through Sunday afternoon at three.

This Friday morning will again feature a sneak preview from nine to ten that collectors from across the Northeast gladly pay $10 for the head start it allows them on all manner of goodies and great deals, but don't worry there's a basement chock full of hard cover and paperback books, compact discs, audio cassettes (remember them? I do. Ouch!), DVDs, of every genre and description.

If you're going to tell me you'd love to go but there's always 'problems with parking,' just stop right there. When we say that about downtown Norwich what we really mean is we cannot take the car into the library with us. There's plenty of municipal parking with hundreds of spaces no more than four minutes' from the Library. Just walk.

And it's okay to take a break from the book browsing to grab a bite at one of the restaurants that seem to be everywhere on every path from the library. What kind of food do you want for lunch-it's right there, steps away from Franklin Square-good deals on great meals.

The book sale is a great way to stock up your home shelves (in my case we might need to buy some more and find space for them), which is already terrific but, in light of the fiscal challenges libraries across the state are facing as budget reductions cut in even deeper than previously feared, the money raised from the three-day sale helps keep the O in Otis. Actually it might be the "T" as well, I'm not always sure.

What I am sure about is that libraries are far more than the sum of the goods and services they offer which too often means it's very difficult to put an accurate price tag on their value to all of us throughout the community who use them.

We're fortunate in Connecticut that there are so many inter-library programs in place across the state. Library patrons in Norwich can avail ourselves of products and services from larger metro areas with more plentiful resources. At least so far.

Without intending to harsh your pre-book sale buzz, many of those patron services could be constrained or curtailed, sacrificed on the altar of so-called fiscal responsibility, which is why the dollars raised by the Friends of Otis are even more important than they already always are.

What is Otis worth to you or your family aside from a trip downtown to rummage through the shelves and bag yourself some bargains? Check out this page on the Otis Library website, "Library Use Value Calculator," and prepare to be surprised.

A cynic, I'm told knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. At this Spring's Friends of Otis Library, show how valuable this regional resource is to you, and buy a bag of books. Borrow my glasses and buy two bags.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Passing of a Different Drummer

For decades I was a voracious reader-not one of those tablet or nook or kindle guys, actual books where you open them at page one and use a bookmark (I was always partial to index cards so I could write down questions and ideas about what I was reading as if the day might dawn when I could offer Shakespeare or Heller a pop quiz).

There are some who bend the corner of a page to mark their place-a practice I can never endorse or condone. I think it’s rude and disrespectful of the process that created the work, such as it is bound by the covers, etc.. It’s not a deal-breaker in terms of forming friendships though since I don’t have friends, maybe it is.

I love books, no preference anymore for fiction or non-fiction and immersing myself in one is a sort of adventure that requires little to nothing of/from me except to turn the page and keep up the pace. I was saddened to learn of the passing over the weekend of a favorite modern German writer, G√ľnter Grass, whose place in present-day German literature is somewhat colored (if, as an auslander who was a guest in Germany for many years, I may be allowed to offer my analysis, mein senf dazu (so zu sagen)) by a moment of inadequate candor.  

I came to know him, as did so many within and without Germany, for Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), though Grass had a full life and career beyond that novel and its cinematic treatment (and the other two books that made up the trilogy).

It would be rude (though certainly not out of character) for me to offer further observations or any attempted analysis on his life and times, except to say I worked with many countrymen (and women) of his generation who had stories of their darkest hours that they kept to themselves. Nor was he alone in trying to shield himself-we all have deeds we’ve done that we’d rather run from than confront.

His works were, for me, a door into another room filled with people, known and unknown, whom we are tempted to become, but only at those moments when we are most sure no one is watching us. As he helped me understand those moments, and the decisions made during them, have consequences, both for what is done and what was left undone.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 13, 2015

...and this just in: Water Is Wet

I felt terrible having the entire chair in the living room for myself yesterday morning watching the talking heads public affairs news programs when, don't know about you, all I was using the absolute edge of my seat.

Hillary Clinton is running for President. Despite working hard on my look of surprise face, I just don't have it in me. With all due respect to Mrs. Clinton, the former Secretary of State and former Senator from the State of New York, we all knew she would run, the question was more about when she would choose to make the announcement. Glad we got that out of the way.

My heart beats on the left side of my body (was just in the shop, up on the rack and the mechanics confirmed that, among other things) and my politics tends to reflect my heartbeat. And yet all I can do right now is yawn over the menu so far here in the Miracle of Democracy Cafe.

At the risk of sounding mean (I know, "you? mean?") from what I've read, the two folks on the other side of the aisle who've already announced really don't inspire me at all (except to consider packing and also learning all the words to "Oh Canada" in case it's on the test).

This is the best we can do? Clinton, Cruz and Paul? Sounds more like a grunge band in search of a major label deal. The bad thing as far as I am concerned about the three hats currently in the three ring circus is one of them could win. The good thing about the three hats is that we have a long time yet before we have to start making serious decisions.

And, no (in case you hadn't guessed it) I don't consider any of the Trio So Far as the person we need at this point in the greatest democracy on earth. I say we should refund their money since they're just not tall enough to ride this ride, give 'em play at home games, and send 'em back to where they came from, or farther, if possible.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 12, 2015

So I'll Have to Owe You a Couple of Words

Took (nearly too) full advantage of Spring weather (blue skies, temperatures nearing sixty degrees) to visit a cross-town somewhat overlooked gem of a pocket park and recreation area here where I live in Norwich Connecticut.

Yeah, it doesn't get much better than this-and that's fine with me, too.
Spring it on!
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Drove My Chevy to the Levee

I’ve heard the phrase “priceless work of art” and understand what is meant and have a general list of items, artful or not (no Dodgers, please) that might be on it. These days, it’s one less as Don McLean’s manuscript for American Pie went under the auctioneer’s hammer and “Sold American (Pie” or elsewhere) for about 1.2 million American dollars.

Very little in the rock music community spun people up at the time of its success four plus decades ago like McLean’s opus. Trust me on that one, I was there. Rolling Stone, you might be surprised to learn before they failed to accurately report campus news, used to be all about music, and they offered a review if my memory serves me well (and it does) offering that McLean’s (second) album from which AP was released labelled McLean, “Nixon’s Dylan.”

I had enjoyed his first album, a year earlier on a little tiny label that had a lovely sweet song, And I Love You So, which Perry Como (whose sweater I proudly wore as a wee slip of a lad) made into a Top Five pop hit sometime after McLean’s American Pie had topped the chart.

Point in fact, Rolling Stone reviewer guy in my memory, his records were well-made and very enjoyable (Vincent, The Grave, and Babylon are three other cuts from that album which have held up very well, in my opinion) and you were a whiner and a closed-mind, open-mouthed cretin. But I could be wrong.

Speaking of Dylan and “money doesn’t talk; it swears,” I’ve got a ways to go before I hit 70, fingers crossed while typing that, so let me endorse the idea of finding out how interesting it might be (to me) to find out what all of this stuff in the ether for the last seven or so years might be worth.

There’s a small island, coincidentally quite near Don’s (I'm guessing its purchase is the reason for his curio$ity), I’ve got a hankering to settle down on and sure could use the cash.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 10, 2015

All We Are Saying ....

Things I only recently learned include that the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is a left-handed person. My oldest younger sister, Evan, is also a left-handed person. My sister Evan, however, is not Barack Obama. I make that distinction for those of the ‘Fox News Channel is my primary source of information’ persuasion as their ability to reduce coincidence to cosmic certainty and then unshakeable (and often unspeakable) truth amazes me on a regular basis. 

As part of the White House’s Annual Easter Roll festivities (and you thought they didn’t have Easter in Kenya, didn’t you? Live and learn, pilgrim) it was the President and Maurice Sendak, standing together yet alone, as bees decided to participate in the President’s reading of Where the Wild Things Are.

I suspect all the Easter quilting and spelling activities were overbooked and the gathering on the lawn of the White House on Monday was a target of opportunity (or another attempt by Jerry Seinfeld to bolster interest in his cinematic excursion. In that case, well-played, Sir!).

Mr. Obama who has spent nearly seven years wrangling with members of Congress (both of his own  and the other party) sometimes most resembling herding cats, by all accounts acquitted himself well in both reading the story and keeping the children safe.

There was some disappointment in that outcome I suspect for  George Will, who probably had at the ready an anecdote about how Ronald Reagan invented the honey bee during the Middle Class Jelly Bean Gilded Age that occurred only in his mind after the bow-tie over-tightening created an oxygen shortage to his brain. I remain at a loss to explain Chris Matthews’ continuing delusions and histrionics as he so often has open neck shirts. Perhaps a bee sting where he sits down?

Anyway. UN Bee-Keepers arrived in short order, restoring order and imposing triple-parking on the narrow streets leading to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue while covering the East Lawn in their blue helmets which seemed to thrill both Messrs. Schmidt (didja see what I did there?) and Kohl.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nearly Lynyrd Skynyrd

While I was preparing to not watch the UConn Lady Huskies tangle with Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish in the Finals of the 2015 Division 1 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship (when I watch them, they lose so Stewie and Geno, you’re welcome), three time zones away, a truly remarkable human being, Stan Freberg, was shuffling off his mortal coil.

As a Child of the Novelty of TV in America in the 50’s I knew of him more so than knew him at all. He was a genius at what he called ‘pay radio’ what the rest of the industry called records. But he harnessed his humor, which was in its way was as outrageous as Nichols and May, Shelly Berman and Lenny Bruce were in more conventional comedic traditions to create television commercials that demanded you watch them. To this day, his rendition of Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song, cracks me sideways.

We look forward to the humor (or as far as I’m concerned, the possibility of a hint of humor) in Super Bowl TV commercials sometimes more often than the contest on the field-but until Freberg’s ad agency, whose motto was “Ars Pecunia Gratis” (Art for Money’s Sake), humor and television commercials were on different plants in different galaxies.

Those were strange days, indeed. I remember as a (non-Brussel) Sprout watching a commercial for a cigarette, “There Is Nothing Like a Lark,” that stole the theme music from The Lone Ranger which, musical illiterate that I was, was actually the William Tell Overture. I knew they ripped off the Lone Ranger and Tonto; Freberg was infuriated they had misappropriated William Tell.
Adam’s birthday I forget; this commercial I remember.    Crescendo and out.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

If You Think I'm Talking About You....

Our moms went to school together-where else would we have learned except from them, "you have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth, so use them accordingly" (I always thought my mom was saying 'accordion' and took lessons for years; glad it worked out better for Weird Al).

Now when I get wound up, and I've been told by many I have a tendency to so do), I hit the bricks and go for a walk.  All the snow for all these months really cramped my education so the changing of the seasons (finally) gave me a chance to get smart and get in some steps.

One of the nice thing about Norwich is I have no fear of getting lost because everyone tells me where to go (I'm rarely dressed for it, though). That was the case mid-morning on Easter Sunday. I set off while the sky was a beautiful blue canopy before the "breezes" started stacking up the clouds atop one another and turned the day darker and cooler than many of us might have liked.

I always choose to walk down Broadway, because, let's face it at my age that's as close as I'm gonna get and smiled as the sidewalk somewhere on Broad Street had been modified to accommodate a large tree root growing under it so that all parties, bi-pedal and arboreal, got what they needed.

I'm thinking we could do with a little more of that philosophy around here, be it Norwich, or across the country. Happiness, success or whatever you want to use as your measurement (I'm partial to pony rides, but that could just be me), is not a rationed commodity with only a certain amount available and only for a specified and limited time.

When (not if) you succeed, your success in no way diminishes me, or my opportunity to do just as well or better. And when two of us succeed, we create and expand an environment of excellence for everyone else who chooses to invest their time and talent into making where we already live even better.

Sometimes, most especially in the Rose of New England, I'm afraid we forget that-at least it seems like it. For every person, be it a resident or a business, who's willing to take a flier on Norwich, there are five (or more) who make sure they keep their hands in their pockets so they can have an excuse masquerading as a reason for why they can't help, when what they really want is a rationalization for why they won't help.

Like the crocuses springing up, often unplanned but always welcomed, on lawns I passed along the way, entrepreneurs maybe with more eagerness than expertise are finding and making their way, adding commerce and convenience to their new neighborhoods, which are ours as well which means when they succeed, so, too, do we. For a town that's so proud of its harbor, why is it so hard so often to see we're all in the same boat?  
-bill kenny


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

So That's Why They Play So Many...

Wow. As a Yankees fan, I look at yesterday's opener and hope we go on a 161 game winning streak because in our division, we may need at least that to get to the wildcard.

That was some grim stuff. But, the crowd reaction to the Cheater, rhymes with Jeter but will never replace him, was very nice, too. I could say the Blue Jays and the Yankees certainly had a nice day for a baseball game even if only one squad turned up, but then I remember they spent the last six weeks in Florida.

Cheer up, things can only go uphill from here, unless of course it turns out we're on the top of an undersea mountain and the big waves are rolling in. Speaking of which, the Olde Towne Team, led by Big Papi, my dear Captain Ahab, arrives in The Bronx Friday night. I hope we've got the chorus line settled by then.

Of course, The Bronx still has a team as does Flushing. More than can be said for Brooklyn, which has only the memories of seasons that were.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 6, 2015

Two Birds, One Stone

Today, this morning at least, is the first day I've been at work since having two stents placed in my heart a week ago last Saturday. (I did not say 'the first day I'm working' because so many people have so many interpretations on that gerund it hurts my feelings to listen to all of them).

I came across on line a wonderful poem, of sorts, from Ogden Nash, an overlooked but marvelous writer of my father's generation who was a hopelessly-devoted Baltimore Colts (yes, you read that correctly) football fan whom I imagine had his own moment on the way to Damascus which served as the incentive for him to offer, No Doctor's Today, Thank You.

In the last week, thanks in part to Nash's words, I've decided being grateful for being alive is probably not enough-and I'm adding his "This is My Euphorian Day" to my mental shopping basket of daily aspirations.

I'm bringing Nash up, because April is National Poetry Month, and I'm thinking that without my having told you that, you could have gone the entire rest of the month not knowing and that will never do. "I will tame me a carabou and bedeck it with marabou."
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Ring of Truth

Today is Easter Sunday. If you are observing the holiday either in one of its festive mutant variants or in a more religious vein, best wishes to you and yours. Me and mine, or just me really as my better half tends to live in the moment, celebrate today differently than most (if you place an "i" before the "st" in "most" it looks really goofy. Trust me on this one.) but celebrate a little bit we always do.

Thirty-eight years ago today (okay, not today today, but today, Easter Sunday) I asked a young German woman I was awfully sweet on, Sigrid Schubert, to marry me. For historians everywhere, the sole point of note is that she said "yes.". Back when I asked her in 1977, Easter was the third of April (and I was in US Air Force and had far more hair on my head than I do now, proving not everything gets better with age).

Sigrid told me later she had thought I was breaking up with her-giving me credit for an element of surprise I never knew I possessed, causing me momentarily to consider entering those really-big-jackpot poker tourneys because of my bluffing ability except I have the emotional range of Rainman in a coma, so I should be grateful she held on and waited for the ride to get to....

...Here. Where she and I are now is, in some respects, not all that far from where we started. Material conditions have changed-we had a two room cold-water walk-up off a bus line in Offenbach am Main a 'small' German city with more people in it than who lived in ALL of New London County, Connecticut, when we arrived here in the fall of 1991. 

Our home today is across the street from a landmark green space in the city of Norwich, Connecticut, an industrial-revolution-meets-the-American-Revolution type of town found so often in New England. That we are here, and will be very likely for the rest of our lives, isn't/wasn't part of either of our visions of our future,  proving again life is what happens when you're busy making other plans

Our wedding rings have both the date of our engagement (technically, that anniversary was this past Friday) as well as that of our wedding. I've stopped taking my ring off aside from that 'testing to see if I can still do it' drill I go through at random moments-and I mention that because I don't like jewelry and I don't wear any. My wedding ring is an unwavering constant, not that I need the reminder.

We were, with apologies to Erich Fromm, a coalition of two against the world from the beginning. I'm not comfortable with new people, taking forever to warm up to them-with the exception of the two who joined our lives, our children. We were three and then became four and then three again and eventually we'll be back to just two, which is where we started and I am with the person with whom I am most comfortable in the entire world of seven billion plus people.

For me, Sigrid is like breathing out and breathing in, though I have given her many moments where the thought of applying a pillow to my sleeping face must have crossed her mind (so much for breathing). Actually, that's fair-more than fair if I were to be honest and this is as good a day as any to do that.

I usually spend this day examining where we've been and where I hope we're going but this day, and this time, I'm enjoying more of the where we are and what we have, which as it has been for all these years, is one another. She brightens any room and always brightens my world.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 4, 2015

At The End of Every Hard-Earned Day

I have never been to the Vatican, nor have I stayed at a well-known motel chain, but I know my way around the Stations of the Cross and the Lives of the Saints. I'm always amazed at the number of people who think Christmas is the origin of Christianity-others consider the beginnings to be Easter Sunday.

If the former is The Promise and the latter The Promise Fulfilled-today, Holy Saturday, is the act of faith and hope that defines you as a Christian. The belief in the Resurrection which the New Testament portrays as  the reward for the faithful is never so near and yet so far as it is today.

The earliest disciples had nothing to go on, unlike we of the Brave New World Order. They had witnessed a crucifixion-one of the most egregiously horrific forms of death sentence at its time. Cowering in an upstairs room, huddled together while fearing any sound and every footfall was possibly a signal someone was coming for them, they had no way to see the glory of Easter Sunday. All they could do was believe.

For them to believe as devoutly as they did between the worst day in the history of the world and its greatest day, remains, for me-loyal son of Holy Mother Church, but a Fallen Away Roman Catholic (FARC) for more years than I care to recall-the day which created the Christian religion, today.

From childhood on, I struggled against the suffocation that surrender to the traditions and the rites seemed to signify. I took no solace in unquestioning and unswerving belief-preferring what I understood the path of Thomas to be and, finding no one who could answer my questions, absenting myself from the body of believers. How odd that this declaration of freedom has never created a sense of being free.

Not that I don't envy those of faith and think about the comfort that comes from that, especially as I did last night reading  the accounts of the death of Captain Nicholas Rozanski. He came all the way from Dublin, Ohio, to be lost in the fog of war, along with SFC Jeffrey Rieck and SFC Shawn Hannon, on the streets of Maimanah, an otherwise unremarkable spot on a map of a nation we have carried with us as a coward does an abscess for over a decade, unable or unwilling (I can never tell which) to do that which we know we must to conclude that which  we can no longer control.

Captain Rozanski's death should be another reminder to those of us who are alive to redouble our efforts to be the best people we can be in The Now because The Next, as the New Testament illustrates, can be so lonely and uncertain without a reason to believe. Either you have a reason, or you become one for someone else. When you do, every day is Easter.
-bill kenny