Friday, July 31, 2015

The Clapper in Donne's Bell

This time a month from now we’ll be gearing up for the Labor Day holiday, the last hurried and harried hurrah of summer 2015. Today is already the last day of July. Except…. 

I’m not really done yet with this month or with this season. Hell, I’m not done with anything now. Less than five months ago the Winter of 2015 very nearly killed me and now I’m supposed to start to practice braking and stopping at a safe distance behind the flashing lights on those little yellow metal boxes on wheels taking your kids to school? 

I think not. Screw the calendar (today is the 212th day of 2015; only 153 left to go. Yippee!) and those indicators of the changing seasons we see around us. Not interested in the diminishing daylight earlier in the evenings and later in the mornings. I just step on the leaves that have fallen off the trees; if I had Elmer’s I’d try to glue them back on.

And as for me, the birds are welcome to stay as long as they’d like; just don’t squat on the tree limbs overhanging my car.

We are, as near as I know, the only species that cuts a day into ever smaller increments and then torture ourselves with some, part, or all of them. Cannot claim to have ever seen a rabbit with a pocket watch (Alice, stay seated) and I don’t imagine starlings are all that concerned about nanoseconds.

And yet despite all of our cunning and derring-do with watches, hourglasses, clocks, and calendars, time gets away from us faster than we can possibly gather it and hold it fast. That sound, right there, that one. All the promises we made to ourselves and one another for all the deeds we’d do when we had the time. Now dashed and destroyed. Damn you, John Donne!
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bungalow Bill and Buffalo Bob

There are days I’m tempted to use these opposable thumbs to poke out my eyes so I don’t have to read a story like this one: How a Minnesota Dentist allegedly killed Zimbabwe’s most beloved lion

The headline is from yesterday morning and maybe has been repaired in the meantime not that most of us have the attention span to hold that thought, but quick note to the otherwise sadly sane and sober editors and headline writers of the Christian Science Monitor: the asshat who did this admitted to doing it so allegedly is a courtesy fig-leaf on his naked guilt he does NOT deserve.

I admit the closest I have ever gotten to animals of prey such as Cecil are in zoos, the Frankfurt Zoo is a marvel as is Central Park in Manhattan and Great Adventure (a number of years ago when Sigrid and I with our two were with Adam and Margaret and their kids). Consider me a voyeur of sorts-I like looking at wild animals, and that’s where it ends. No petting and, Doc, no poaching. Only movie intros, can we agree on that?  

What would Daktari say? 

I’m hoping some education is undertaken to train gorillas (in the mist or in plain sight) to use bows and arrows, so that they can help drill Dr. Palmer (you’re welcome) for what he did before dipping him in gazelle scent and allowing him to wander naked across the Hwange National Park. Others have reacted with more measured eloquence than I shall ever possess. 

Suspect he’d soon appreciate how fine the line between Serendipity and Serengeti actually is; I fear for the health of any the beasts who might partake of him as we now know the depths of thoughtless hedonistic hooliganism the Great White Hunter is capable of. No excuse for his abuse, but here’s a hopeful step in the right direction: donate.  

As the stewards of The Lord’s Creation as that seems to be one of the job titles we’ve bestowed upon ourselves, we might consider new business cards identifying us as “unprepared food.” 

And when the scavengers are done with the big pieces and the hyenas have filled up all their Tupperware containers with leftovers, Burt Lahr has a lecture about courage he wants to share
-bill kenny       

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

They Say It's Your Birthday

If you’re looking for an easy twenty-seven points word score in a Scrabble game, especially between tomorrow and Sunday (and even more especially if you’re in Taftville), try ‘sesquicentennial’ on for size, because that’s what the anniversary celebration going on in Taftville is all about. 

One hundred and fifty years at the same location, so to speak. Somehow, ‘congratulations!’ doesn’t quite do all that history and all those people and progress justice but I think a four-day birthday is real close to getting it right.

Despite what many believe, I wasn’t here when Taftville sprang up around a cotton textile factory built on the Shetucket River. That factory, once called the Taftville Cotton Mill but now better known as the Ponemah Mill, was, in its time (shortly after the Civil War and for decades that followed), one of the largest textile mills in these United States.

Ponemah Mill is still a dominant and prominent point of pride and frame of reference for many Taftville residents who regard it in much the same way as the fingers on a hand look to the thumb. And hopefully, sooner rather than later it will be a superlative example of successful historic restoration and community repurposing, not for just Norwich but for all of New England.

That’s a piece of the past and a peek at the future but here in the present, there’s a 150th birthday celebration that will be talked about for the next one hundred and fifty years with a lot of the activities at or near the Wequonnoc Arts and Technology Magnet School and the Taftville Volunteer Fire Department on Providence Street.

Taftville so heavily influenced by waves of Irish and French Canadian immigration will mark its birthday by drawing closely from that heritage as well as adding attractions galore such as a carnival and a community parade stepping smartly Saturday morning at ten. 

There will also be stage entertainment on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, large craft shows over the weekend, community booths, nightly dinners on Friday at the American Legion/VFW and on Saturday at Sacred Heart School and, of course, an extended and extensive opportunity to get up close and personal with those residents, famous and maybe not so much, who helped form Taftville from its beginning to its here and now.  

With so much going on, you owe it to yourself and to those call the Village of Taftville their home, to stop by, enjoy the hospitality and be a part of the party. And if you want to cap your Scrabble game with thirty-two points that usually comes with a party-hat, noisemakers as well as cake and ice cream, be sure to wish Taftville a H-a-p-p-y B-i-r-t-h-d-a-y!

Image by Scott Boenig
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Woodn't It Be Nice?

I was off yesterday to take care of some of the medical mystery tours that I'd put off so long they went from 'when you get a chance' to 'get your behind in here now' which is my least favorite way to interface with the medical community.

I'd forgotten it was the annual physical which means all clothes are off and I get one of those gowns that ties in the back. Here's a tip for all of you who are young at heart, present company included: if you put the gown on backward and then tie it, it's sort of like a cape.

And if you stand on the examining table with your cape while the wall-mounted five-blade fan is turning, it may look like you're flying like superman to people, in my case, waiting at the bank drive-through window behind the examining room whose window blinds aren't as fully drawn as one thinks. Not that any of this actually happened.

While rummaging around in my own back pages, I found a story I'd forgotten that highlighted some of the follies and foibles of fellow travelers on spaceship Earth, helping me (sort of) put into perspective what was happening in my life, sitting on crinkly paper, my legs off the ground at a singularly unattractive angle, wearing an air-conditioned gown.

Have no doubt my friend that while we may see ourselves as the Crown of Creation we are, too often to count, also the Butt of the Cosmos (if it helps, it's a fine but clear line between butt and butt and a suffix of the universe and we make out okay in this deal).

Despite what could be their envy of our big brains and opposable thumbs, there are times the rest of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms find our pratfalls humorous though I'm not sure how I'd know an igneous rock is guffawing or how big a smile a wild rose could summon.

If you, too, believe that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt in your philosophy, trust me; the next time you stroll through a copse of trees and nearly trip over a root in the path, there will be giggles that can be heard but not explained. How else to react to a truly West Coast news story that, as a child of the Sixties, makes me sad?

Truly, the dream is over.
-bill kenny

Monday, July 27, 2015

No Longer Stuck Between Stations

I had someone offer the other day, unsolicited since I did nothing to either provoke or encourage him, that 'life's a funny old dog, ain't it?' Pausing for a moment, rather than then, or zen, for that matter, I cannot say with certainty he was speaking to me, through me or for me, but these are the days we were warned before those of miracles and wonder, so I’m uncertain even as to the very things I am uncertain about. 

'Sure is,' I replied because I had no idea where this was heading and then he just kept walking down the hallway and was gone. Leaving me with mental movie of a Great Dane, an Irish Setter or one of those Please-Don't-Eat-the-Daisies dogs (never a greyhound, or a whippet or whip it good) all because he was filling up that couple of seconds it took him to pass my office threshold and he didn’t want to NOT say anything at all because that would be rude. Thanks for nothing, Old Roy.

My wife and I have two children (now adults) who, when they were younger (I used to say 'small' as if she and I were in the miniatures business or something) had pets, fish for the most part along with the occasional turtle (a great name for a band, IMO). 

Sigrid wound up taking care of the pets because the children, being adults in training, didn’t care about anyone other than themselves, especially a species that couldn’t talk or attract attention until the moment it shuffled off its mortal scales and went belly-up.

We had our share of burials at sea. Did you know that most Americans believe the water in the toilet swirls in a counter-clockwise direction in Australia? That’s true, but what isn’t is the swirling; it’s in the same direction though some settling of contents may have occurred during shipment. Science, eh? 

We're not pet people--not that I know what pet people are or what they look like. I have enough trouble taking care of myself and really don't. My wife does, and I don't want to burden her any further. Besides why would I invite competition?

I could see having a horse, at least once a year for that ride for my birthday (at my age, riding on a pony, my feet would still touch the ground whereas a horse…) but then what? Perhaps an ocelot? I'm not sure what they are, but they sound cool, don't they? Maybe a marsupial--I just like the name--or a koala (what happened to the one who used to be the spokes bear for that airline?). 

We have mascots for sports teams, from junior high through professional, all named for animals. We drive Mustangs and more and sometimes we compare ourselves to animals (feel free to supply your own example). 

“We didn’t go back to her place, we went to some place where she cat-sits. She said, ‘I know I look tired, but everything’s fried, here in Memphis.’” 
-bill kenny 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

That Was a Close Shave

I encounter people whom I used to know and we’ve fallen out of one another’s orbits only to meet again and spend a minute catching up on what was going on while we were out. I’m always struck by the number of folks who seem to think I’ve gotten less stable in recent years. 

They are wrong and I can sort of prove it from something I penned just about six years ago when, I’ll assume, crazed by the heat (= hardly at all) I took exception to the presence of Scandinavian motor vehicles, especially Fjords, it appears. You decide.

My family has convinced themselves I don't like small talk when really it's the other way around: small talk doesn't like me, at least not very much. Yesterday afternoon is my most recent example, and it almost got me killed, because I forget I'm so concentrated a little of me can go a very long way.

I parked near my local grocery store and with (conservative estimate) two hundred bajillion empty parking spaces from which to choose, I was surprised when a thirty-something or other guy, in a grey wife-beater tee-shirt, driving a light blue Ford pick-up pulled in alongside me, sort of flopping over into my spot. 

It was a middle eighties model truck, lots of character (= missing paint, a very crumpled fender, a ding in the door) used as a work vehicle before pickups became trendy and housewives started driving them. 

I sometimes discover I'm using my outside voice when I think it's my inside voice--usually when someone about whom I'm making a personal and silent observation to my evil twin, Skippy, points out that he's heard me and isn't happy. 

Bobby-John, or Billy-Bob or Harley-hyphen (I have no idea what his name was. By the time we were through he had many names for me, though none I normally answer to-but I was unable to ascertain his. Perhaps Rumpelstiltskin?) had a large, very large (actually visible from space with the naked eye, large) sticker on the back window, 'Proud to be an American.' That my ability to read it almost got me punched out I will forever blame on that Literacy Volunteer back when I was a kid.

I had just finished telling Skippy big American trucks handle like double beds, which is why some of this guy's truck is in most of my parking space when his baleful glare and flared nostrils caused me to realize I had transcended the sub-vocalization level. Remembering Will Rogers' suggestion that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met, I complimented him on his sticker saying it "really makes a statement, even if I'm not sure what the statement is." 

Skippy, who doubles as the Imp of the Perverse, was taken aback (as was I) when he opted to not exchange badinage and banter but rather 'what the fire truck is that supposed to mean?' ('Fire Truck' is the word I suspect he meant but pressed for time, he shortened it). Not knowing I'd already left the city limits of Leave Well Enough Alone, I asked him if he were born in the US and he assured me, loudly, he had, noting emphatically, 'fire truck yeah-and you?'

I smiled as I explained how pride in an accident of birth was a little out of the ordinary since, as George Bernard Shaw observed "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.'' I always get the quotes right--it's my timing that needs work. It was like playing to an oil painting.

Fred the Fordster took half a menacing step towards me, almost afraid to get nearer in case I had some contagion and demanded 'What are you? Some kind of a wise guy or just an a$$hole?' (but without the $, if you follow my drift). 

Oooh, I sighed. I much prefer essay questions--I'm really not very good at multiple choice. I watched his eyes glaze over ever as he snorted derisively and stormed off and into the grocery store. 

Deciding my quotient of human interactivity had been exceeded for the day and that whatever it was I thought I wanted to buy could keep for now and maybe forever, I opened the passenger's side front door, because I had so thoughtlessly parked too close to the Ford truck to use the driver's side door, slid across the seat and behind the wheel.

Invoking the spirit of 
Carl SchurzI skulked home, more or less in one piece. For those who insist the art of conversation is dead, I can confirm it. I was nearly at its funeral
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Neither Love nor Money

I’m not sure what is worse as I vacillate and fluctuate between theism and atheism: no Deity or Godhead at or a Supreme Being who is absent from our daily lives interjecting Her/Himself at sporadically excruciatingly inappropriate times. Based on the puckish sense of humor I sense such a Being must have, I think it’s a wash.

Who else, and how else, to explain this: Adultery Site Ashley Madison Hacked, User Data Leaked. I, too, had never heard of such a site or of any site like it in my entire life. Maybe I ran across while looking up prices for snow tires for my car. That’s probably how that happened for you, too, right?

That the hunter gets captured by the game is something only a Celestial Creation who would, if the Old Testament is as truthful as believed, would flood the whole world or, as I understand the account in the New Testament, kill His own S--, never mind Who died.

How’d you like to be one of the site’s “37 million users” of the site of its partners? I’m not clear if that number is for the US, North America or the world at large and I suspect this is one of those times where you don’t ask the question when you can’t stand the answer. 

I do not intend to sit in judgment, as none of this is any of my bidness; but, as much as I might hope, on principle, that privacy of purchasers and purchases, is secured there is one person, CEO Noel Biderman, in all of this I’d wouldn’t be terribly upset to see hoist by his own….petard, yeah that’s the word I was seeking.   

I love his quote explaining if not actually rationalizing a website that blurs the line between philanthropy and philandering by offering, “Cheating is like the secret glue that keeps millions of marriages together. I would cheat before I would leave." The current or future Mrs. Noel Biderman must be thrilled to have such a foundation of honesty in a relationship. And probably an iron-clad prenuptial agreement. 

Of course, when you dig through the story the moral outrage is centered on, what else, filthy lucre and the taller than average tales the AM folks may have told pigeons, sorry prospects, about deleting their personal information. Imagine, a ‘cheaters’ website lying to cheaters(!) I’m shocked
-bill kenny

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hey Stella!

I penned this some time ago on the occasion of observing her natal anniversary and wouldn't you know, the earth orbited the sun and here we are, back again. Now you know the past, here's the present. Complete with a joke that I am not actually privy to (nor do I understand), yet undeterred and undaunted..... 

Today is my sister Kara's birthday. It's a holiday in her house and probably should be one on her block and across the State of New Jersey, though, in light of the summer heat budget shortfalls everywhere, your mileage may vary.

The world is a much better place because Kara is in it and our family is fortunate that she is our relative even if, as Einstein predicated, everything is relative. (Could that mean everything is Einstein? I'm asking because it would explain the bramble that is often my hair when I awake.)

Kara and I shared an overlapping childhood as I was transitioning away from home and hearth (perhaps with what later might be seen as unseemly haste) as she was becoming her own person. And in a sense, I suspect, she sees herself more often as Jill and Adam's older sister than as the younger sibling of me, our brother, Kelly, and sister, Evan, with whom I spent far more years only because their luck wasn't as good as Kara's.

Kara and her husband, Russ, have their own family that is more that already grown in many instances though I would I not growing apart. Their sons, RJ, Randy and Jordan are young men on a mission, in different directions at maximum velocity. When next Russ and my sister turn around, all three will be grown and gone. I've discovered the easiest way to track the passing of time is to look at and to our children as they are better indicators of how far we have all come than any mirror can ever hope to tell me. I imagine I am not the only one who has made that discovery.
Kara should actually be our ambassador to the United Nations as she has a genius for talking people into doing things they would otherwise never, ever consider and, while so doing, convincing them that it was all their own idea in the first place while she is pleased and proud to help them.

I believe she (and my) younger sister Jill can actually pull off the Tom Sawyer paint the fence trick, but it's Kara who organizes the trip to the hardware store to get the brushes and the drop clothes. And she'll even help you muscle them into the van.

I wasn't around when our Mom was a kid or a teen or a young woman. I caught up with her as a young mother (and technically was the first reason why she was a young mother) but I have always thought Kara most resembles what our Mom must have been like when we were too small to really remember.

You cannot help but smile when you are with Kara-I am smiling now as I type this, thinking of her because she is relentlessly cheerful no matter the situation. Her children reflect the values she and Russ have instilled in them and are sallying forth into the world, and by thus engaging, improving it, all by themselves. My brother-in-law has impeccable judgment, excellent taste, and superior good fortune, they happen to all be in one person, his wife, my sister. Happy Birthday, Kara!
-bill kenny  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

She's Wearing Ambush and a French Twist

A tectonic plate, diplomatically, shifted this past Monday and you probably didn’t even feel a tremor; and that’s a good thing. As a result of some Papal intercession and a sudden outbreak of common sense on both sides of the Straits of Florida, the People’s Republic of Cuba and the United States of America have renewed full diplomatic relations for the first time in over five decades and the US Embassy in Havana had a ‘soft opening’ to mark the change of political climate. 

Suspect there’s some restiveness from former Cuban citizens who fled the Workers’ Paradise with little more than the clothes on their backs in all these years and who were the lucky ones to make it to the US. They, and in most cases, their children and grandchildren will need some time to become comfortable with yet another version of the New World Order.

Sports agents for Cuban baseball players may or may not be breathing a Cy of relief (¿Has visto lo que hice allí?) as trying to smuggle whole teams off the island in the trouser legs of their Armani three-piece suits was becoming problematic. I’ll be curious to see how long it takes Major League Baseball to set up American and National League teams for Havana. Wonder if they’d call one of them Yanquis Go Home and what would the Steinbrenner Family do?

Not forgetting the unhappiness of cigar bootleggers as their stockpile of illicit Cuban cigars loses both its cachet and a not inconsiderable amount of its resale value as relations between the two countries are ‘normalized.’ I love that word; it sounds like something you do with recipes calling for onions, but (of course) without the onions because they would make us cry.

Not sure what happens to those in the employ of Radio y Televisión Martí. In theory, there should be a lot of time for film and record library inventories, transmitter maintenance work and resume polishing. Many staffers, I suspect will compete for those in the employ of The Pentagon Channel, now known as the DoD News Channel.    

One of the amusing things about growing old (up is always optional, btw) is standing in one place and watching the river flow. I was a wee slip of a lad when people I didn’t know and would never meet took white-out to the map of the Caribbean and eliminated Cuba. And here we are a half-century and change later, redrawing the map, as we prepare to meet the challenge of the new frontier.
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Almost Anything Is the New Red

I have advocated seemingly incessantly in this space and elsewhere for something I like to call The Joy of the Small Step.

That is (and Connecticut Tigers fans please forgive me for baseball imagery) as fond as I am of home runs, sometimes depending on the strength of your bats and the distance to the outfield fences, quite often some well-placed singles and infield hits can help you carry the game.

That same sense of incremental exceptionalism should go for where we live, you and me, here in Norwich. As residents of the city, we enjoy an enormous amount of community resources and municipal assets and have similar responsibilities and face shared challenges. Identifying and adapting (or even adopting) solutions to problems can and should cross streets and districts.

That's why it's fun and often instructive to watch and root for a neighborhood, in this case, Greeneville, when they pioneer a fun project that helps reinforce their own sense of community and brings people together for a cause.

The Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (Greeneville NRZ) Committee, a mouthful if there ever was one, is sponsoring a fire hydrant painting contest. Applications for selection of artists started a couple of weeks ago, but you still have time, about three weeks (actually, until Thursday, 6 August) to fill out your application and submit it with your fee to get your brush in the paint to nearly coin a phrase.

You still have time to get involved and, as you probably suspected, you don't have to live in Greeneville. But don't dawdle.  Despite what your pooch might tell you, there aren't an unlimited number of fire hydrants in Greeneville (only about 74) and when they're all spoken for, the application window is closed.

All the entry details and rules, to include suggestions on possible design themes and some do's and don'ts are on the city's website, but the visual possibilities in terms of colors, designs and whatever else you think a fire hydrant has, or should have if it doesn't are just about endless.

Before you rush out and get fitted for a matching smock and beret and have your hand-sized for a mixing palette, let me note that while it's a contest, it's not a competition as in "gentlemen (and ladies) start your brushes!" Painting will start on Saturday, September 5, and all brushes must be down by Friday, September 18.

The paint and brushes will be provided by the Greeneville NRZ. And the design you submitted with your application is what you'll be required to paint on the hydrant. If you start to channel Dali or Michelangelo when you grab your brush, there may be some colorful discussions and sad faces when you paint your masterpiece.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Drinking Jet Fuel with the Boys

In recent weeks and months I've had a wonderful correspondence conversation with someone on the far shore of the USA, from my perspective, who knows more about the things that make up a life, the good and the bad, than I shall ever be able to approximate.

In this modern world, we are Facebook Friends and while we both exist in the flesh and blood on our respective coasts, we are ghosts of ether and wire to one another as are millions and billions of others where relationships are defined by mouseclicks, lol's and idk's.

You would not be surprised I know to learn I have few flesh and blood friends and not many more as facebook friends, so her invitation was a challenge and a riddle. It remains so as I've benefited from our acquaintance far more than she.

And to close the ledger on friends and their number, I have little doubt I'll have fewer still in the hereafter though I have the sinking suspicion none of us will need to dress warmly for where we're going.

She will be a very famous writer someday, sooner rather than later, because she is already an amazingly brilliant writer now, wielding words like too many use weapons, seeking not to hurt but to heal some of which vexes her and so many others around her.

"We win at making better mistakes" is a sentence from the short story whose link I shared that, to me, reads as an admission, an accusation and perhaps a defiant celebration. I don't know what to say or do when I read it, and that may be her intent or her fear.

But is not of she I sing, at least not today (and no, I'm not actually singing) but rather of  someone, Tony Hoagland, whose work (actually a poem of his, Jet) she shared with me a few days ago and to which I return on a regular basis, drawn if not intoxicated by its command of language both thrilling me as a reader and chilling me as a scribe who sits here and types this, striving to be someone Hoagland has long ago become.

I've decided some things don't need to be understood, they just are and if I appreciate them for that, I can gain a moment of clarity and perhaps a respite from a world of noise and whirled noise pretending to be so many other things they can never achieve.

-bill kenny

Monday, July 20, 2015

When Dreams Were What We Did

I've kept a daily journal for most of my life. It helps me think I have some control over what is happening with and to me even though I realize that is a story I tell myself to help me sleep. Sometimes it reminds me of events that I thought were important but I've lost sight of on my way to here. This is a recollection I lost, but now I have found again, and polished a little and hope you enjoy.

On this day, in 1969, we walked on the moon for the first time. If you weren't yet born when that happened, you missed something, you really did. You can read a library of books on how much effort and coordination, time and talents and money such an effort took, and it's staggering, but here's the thing to remember from 'back in the day'.

Going to the moon wasn't the only thing we were doing as a country, as a tribe, a nation-state on Earth. We had almost 450,000 men under arms halfway around the world in forests and fields of Southeast Asia in a war that was to be as divisive as any in the history of our nation and whose outcome left us saddened and sullen for a decade. 

Nearly the same number of young men and women were heading to upstate New York during this summer, actually in August, for what was advertised as three days of Peace, Love and Music and almost all anyone can remember, whether they were there or not, is all the mud and the incredible performances by so many musicians, especially those whose flame flickered brightly from that stage and were then forever extinguished because of self-indulgence or profound bad luck.

Back at the moon walk, we on Earth watched around the world, with some of our younger brothers and sisters going outside to stand on the porch at Harvey's Lake (Pa) and look up at the moon to see if you could see the astronauts (if wishing could have made it so) as the astronauts seemed to skip and dance across the most desolate place we could imagine. 

As a nation we were faced with challenges all around us-but we found the time, actually we MADE the time, to watch these extraordinary people do this extraordinary thing that NO ONE in our history had ever done before. And just as no man enters the same river twice because both he and the river have changed, there is no way we can ever be those people who watched by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming. 

We did it then, and we can do it now--not because it's easy, because it's not, but because it's hard and because if we do not repair and restore our country, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when in another forty years we cannot remember anything to be proud of since the Moon Walk.
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 19, 2015

We All Scream

A calendar never tells you the good stuff. There could be acres of space in the little blocks on the pages and the Fourth of July in Swaziland will be listed but never Prince Spaghetti Day in Boston's North End.

We get all the important stuff from the Internet, fast, fresh and occasionally very foolish but still sporadically factual. Which is how I know where I'm going to work to be later today, catching the breeze off the Norwich Harbor while nibbling a sugar cone filled with ice cream covered in sprinkles at the Friendly's Scoop Shack.

Today, says the Internet, is National Ice Cream Day and it's because we have and celebrate holidays like this, Al-Qaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram and your evil (but very musical) cousin,  Procol, and all you other nit-wit wackadoodle crazies, that you will never win. With my apologies to Ben Franklin, ice cream is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.

If you're in New London, Connecticut and don't go to Berry's Ice Cream and Candy Bar, LLC, you have wasted a day and will get no pity from me at all. Actually I'll be fine if you skip both places. More for me; a lot more for me. Happy National Ice Cream Day!
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Taking What We Want

If you stop to ponder one horror, you risk being overtaken and overwhelmed by the next. The Four Horsemen riding in advance of the Apocalypse have been at full gallop for some time now and their steeds show no signs of slowing. 

The calamitous cowardice that left four Marines dead in Chatanooga, Tennessee, is still on front pages across the country where newspaper are printed and on and in all manner of news feeds. I (attempt to) make my living with words, and I have none in reaction to this atrocity or to any of the seemingly unending stream of butchery and barbarism that has befallen us.

Charlie Manson is right, “no sense makes sense” and there is no sense, or rhyme or reason to any of what is happening across the globe. A contagion of one part religion, one part ethnic inferiority complex, one part nationalism and oxygen (?) has become a combustible mixture in danger of consuming the world. 

And those morally bankrupt bacteria who are spreading it cannot do so fast enough to suit themselves. The light of a world aflame only encourages them to spread the fire. I once heard it said that when two people argue about religion, they are both wrong. Every day I see more and more proof of that position.

I’m struggling right now, in an effort to not become one of the animals against whom I so often rail, to read again a book first published in the ashen aftermath of 9/11, When Religion Becomes Evil, by Dr. Charles Kimball. The discipline of reading it coupled with the ongoing struggle to understand it is helping me regain my equilibrium, I hope.

I keep returning to an observation early in the book that serves as my North Star for everything which follows: "Whatever religious people may say about their love of God or the mandates of their religion, when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure the religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed."

Or as Lenny Bruce offered decades ago, but unheeded, "I think it's about time we gave up religion and got back to God." Amen?  
-bill kenny

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hung Up on Romancing

I’m out of line today so you may be better off just skipping on by. My feelings won’t be hurt (I’ll never even know) and your day won’t be scorched before it begins.

If you’ve kept reading, I’d apologize but once I got that started I know we’d be here all day and into the night (cue you know who). Let me back up to go forward or at least try. It took me a very long time to fall in love and get married. As is so often the case for misanthropic trolls such as myself, I fell in love repeatedly but in a non-reciprocal situation. When the person I love chose to love me back, stuff got very real, so to speak, really fast.  

I wanted to tell you that before offering a characteristically caustic comment or two about a news item that shrieked at me yesterday around mid-morning and depressed and distressed me no end. I dare you to find the happy ending in this mess.

I don’t know the people in the story and chances are neither do you. Do we each know people who fell in love with one another, married and then for any number of reasons, fell out of love? Yeah, sure we do. When we meet one or the other now, we lower our voices, avert our eyes and there are some names we don’t speak. We are so civilized, aren’t we?

When I was a kid, sometimes a family in the neighborhood did have a divorce. I think most of the time everyone ended up moving away which saved emotional cripples like me from having to interact with pieces where there had once been a whole. I didn’t learn anything from any of that, but I didn’t forget  it either.

I look at a story like this and have no idea on any of the background that brought these people to where they are. I’m pretty sure they’re not especially happy about ending up in a news feed (wait until they realize they were here today, eh?) and I wonder what Elia might say.

Actually it was Essays of Elia, penned by Charles Lamb who wrote the (to me) achingly beautiful Dream Children. And more specifically, I wonder what those children would make of a story such as this most especially if they had been the objects of the litigation.

I have and will always see our children as my deal with God (I use the big G just in case that atheism stuff is wrong; no need to gratuitously anger a Supreme Being, right?). I suspect I am not alone.

Every time I think we cannot be more hurtful towards one another than we already are, there’s a reminder such as this suggesting the contrast between that which we do for our children and that we do to our children...

-bill kenny

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Miss Is as Good as a Mile

I lived for a not inconsiderable amount of my years outside the United States (the total percentage of my life lived like that gets smaller every day (that’s a math joke, btw)) and nearly all the Europeans I encountered were constantly bewildered and bemused at how lackadaisical we as Americans were, and are, about exercising the power of voting. 

Most (Western) European nations back in the day had balloting on Sundays and turnout of registered voters was about 80% and more. In Eastern Europe, balloting was held at a secret time and location but turnout was almost always 100% (that’s a geopolitical joke of sorts).

Far more of us can name all the members of the Kardashian Family and Friends than know who the nine members of the Supreme Court are. I just tripped myself up there with a mini-movie of Chief Justice Kanye announcing the expansion of the Fair Housing Act while Associate Justice, Kimster, breaks the internet with her dissent. I sometimes fear my reveries could be realities.

At last count the only people NOT seeking the Presidential nomination of a major party are you and I and I’ve heard a story that if you can get that felony off your record, you might still try. Good luck with that, by the way; quite frankly if it hadn’t been such an ugly sheep, no one would have called the cops.

Sadly, I am already predicting, the enthusiasm to BE a candidate will not translate well come the General Election after the party primaries, demolition derby debates and the swimsuit competition (yeah, I’m looking at you, Governor Christie) in terms of voter participation. It never does.

I don’t know if it’s our inherent cynicism (let’s face it, too often it really does seem to be a ‘choice of cancer or polio’) or our nearly terminal Attention Deficit Disorder that impacts our concentration on-LOOK! BIKES!- something as important as our nation’s tomorrow. Sorry about the bikes, but they were so shiny and had streamers on the handlebars.

This is an infinity of mirrors parlor trick story. On a slow news day, the folks we rely on to tell us what’s important in the world decide this (somehow) is. But instead of concentrating on the talents and abilities of those seeking our nation’s highest office (let that phrase and the image of Donald Trump roll around in your brain for a moment; yeah, makes me smile, too) that is a sidebar to a story about two young women who get their pictures taken with the candidates. You can read a LOT more about them here. 

No need to thank me for finding that for you and, of course, you are welcome. We may be stupid around here (yeah, I’m looking at you and those goofy glasses, Governor Perry) but we are always polite. Even when we say ‘no problem’ in response to others saying ‘thank you.’ 

Think of this kind of political near-involvement as a Grey Line Tour to Hitler’s Bunker during the Fall of Berlin while on speed. Not that I would know anything about that (that was a pharmaceutical joke). It’s a result not unlike what might happen if we sent Cynthia Plaster Caster to shoot a documentary on the College of Cardinals. In Saint Louis, of course. Where did you think I meant
-bill kenny

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Sometimes life imitates art-at other moments, it exceeds it in ways we could not possibly have ever imagined. I smiled, actually more like a grimace than a grin, the other day reading the newspaper (and social media) coverage of Chelsea Botanical Gardens and Mohegan Park. 

I don’t think anyone would confuse Norwich’s Wilderness Drive and Judd Road with Birnam near the castle at Dusinane, and yet, as it so happens, the woods are indeed moving. Or in this case being clear-cut. What remains unresolved, at least to me, is for what purpose, to what end, and for whose benefit any of this could be happening.

The Bulletin’s Adam Benson, I thought (and still do), did an admirable job in his coverage as this story unfolded from all the way back in late April and early May through to the present day. 

Re-reading the on-line comments posted in reaction to the first two stories (actually, there were NO reader comments on the April story) there was a very strong, reasoned and reasonable discussion building among and between various folks on the viability and feasibility of the entire project. 

However, sometimes our human nature being what it is when we can choose between ‘getting it right’ and ‘getting it right now’ we opt for the latter and worry not at all about the consequences of such a choice.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take any time at all for our variation of the Three Witches, gathered around the cauldron, to transform what should have been (but never was) a community-wide discussion which included as many interested residents as possible instead into “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” 

As follow-up stories were published, to include a report on comments offered at a City Council meeting that seemed to result in less, not more clarity of purpose and communication, which in turn precipitated letters to the editor and a lead editorial advocating accountability and transparency that seemed to get lost in the noise, an already contentious topic became for lack of a better term incendiary. 

What at times for over two-plus decades has seemed to be a less than well-articulated and even less well-understood plan for a significant tourist attraction has, maybe just for me, become a source of a lot of heat but surprisingly little light, in terms of progress and a path to success.

And I’m not sanguine that we’ll see a lot of improvement anytime soon as across the pages of various social media lines are drawn in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS which I’m told online is the same as shouting. 

All this time I just thought people were proud of their spelling ability. Live and learn, I guess. We are frequently in error but rarely in doubt and sometimes each of us is convinced we have The truth when all we really have is A truth. We should try harder to speak to, rather than yell at, one another.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Better to Turn Off One Light

The more things change, the more they don't. What follows are musings from this time six years ago. I'm not happy to report there is NO update possible because NONE has happened. It's early when I go to work, not as early as when my brother Adam heads out, and by the time I do he's gotten most of the chickens fed and the cows milked, which works out well for me since my employment efforts are confined mostly to the mess the back ends make. 

At the foot of Washington Street, which is also a state highway whose number, even after all these years of living here, I cannot remember, right next to the church with a sign that once advised, "Life is Short, Pray Hard" at the intersection with the Sweeney Bridge, is a traffic signal that captures relationships in and with The Rose City. 

The light sits at the junction of a "T". Those coming down the hill who go right AND those coming up the hill who go left, all head in the same direction over the bridge onto what becomes Route 82 (I think). Maybe that's what happened to Norwich-everyone went for a drive and drove over the one-way bridge and never came back because they can't. The traffic signal is a beacon and often a vexation and, I suspect not for me alone, a cause for some head-shaking. 

No matter the hour, this traffic signal is on duty--no blinking light, red for us and yellow for the other folks. No pause and go-no roll on through and have a nice day. Nope, nada. It works 24/7 every day of the year. Once, during a truly awful snow storm it was a blinking light (red in both directions-that was very helpful, especially for those struggling to get up the hill) but only that one snowstorm. I wasn't sure what to make of the state snow plows NOT heeding the red blinking light as they blew right on through it, so I decided I imagined it (I'll bet you didn't know there's a difference between city snow and state snow.Yepper).

Again, as always, yesterday morning the traffic signal was red when I reached it. It's not on a sensor and if it's on a timer, it's more of a calendar than a clock, based on my experience. My red signal lasted five and a half minutes at four something in the morning (Yes, my life is that empty I timed it. In fairness, it's NOT always that long, so add inconsistency to the list of quirks.).

The part I find funny is at the time of day I'm there, it's not unusual to NOT see another vehicle for the entire timeI'm at the light. Yesterday was a bit weird when the walk/don't walk signal came on, and there were NO pedestrians. For a moment I thought I saw a barbecue, but that would have been quite a I'll imagine I thought I saw a 'puddy tat.'

Eventually (of course) the signal changed, otherwise I'd be trying to type this on a cell phone (and be cited for violating CT's hands-free law) and I had f-i-f-t-e-e-n seconds of green light (that amount of time is a constant; go figure). I've driven the street at all times of the day and every day of the week and it's not always like that so I have to wonder why, at oh-bright-early it can't be blinking. I'm counting on, eventually, the bulb(s) in the signal, mine (red) and the oncoming (green), just burning out and motorists can then drive happily ever after or until they reach the next intersection at the Laurel Hill Bridge
-bill kenny

Monday, July 13, 2015

Still An Imponderable.....

Last time I had an original idea it died of loneliness so this is a revisit to a somewhat familiar place to discover I know no more now than I did then. More and more we live in a word-less world. By that, I don't mean a silent one but rather, a world in which you can scrape by with pictures and symbols. I love looking at the tags in shirts--it's like a graduation from Semaphore University. There's no bleach, hang-dry only, wash in cold water, dolphin-free, dry-clean, only etcetera. 

I thought it reassuring that no matter where in the world you travel those symbols are the same until I realized it has a lot to do with the manufacturing process and that almost all the clothes we buy, no matter where in the world we live, are made in the same third-world sweat shops. That's more likely the reason why the care symbology at the collar is the same. Oh. 

I'm not going to hold a Geography Bee with Carmen Lauer and Matt San Diego on where our clothes are made, because I have no trouble finding my way around as nearly everyone, be it at home or at work, tells me where to go. And that's an unfair advantage even for television stars to overcome. 

What I am intrigued by is how our technology, not knowing where in the world we will use it, has created its own language to which we have universally adapted. Do you remember when you used to yell for 'Help!'. Our machines' clocks do the same thing, sort of, except they flash 12:00--we all know that means there's trouble at the mill and are now conditioned, when we see it, to look around for a cause. 

My smartphone does this weird little vamp when it's loading an application (I had to ask someone who knows about phones to describe that process so I could write it down here. I have so little idea of how the device works, when it doesn't work, someone else has to tell me as I cannot figure it out by myself). Maybe yours does the 'gimme a minute jitterbug', too.

It looks like a vertical bow-tie and then it starts to whirl and twirl in a clockwise direction. Someone told me it's NOT a bow-tie at all, it's supposed to be an hour glass. That actually makes more sense to me, since that would have something to do with time, which is what the device is wasting, and not neckwear, of which I have a closetful though I have no idea of its purpose (or didn't) even though most workdays I wear one. 

Every time I see the posters for the raffles, there's always the disclaimer at the bottom, 'duplicate prizes awarded in the event of ties' and I keep thinking, today's the day. Good fortune, here I am! Luck be a Lady tonight. And yet all I ever win is a dry-clean only dolphin two sizes too small, no bleach only.
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Across the River to the Jersey Side

Growing up in Jersey (what exit? Nine) my point of reference was alway New York and with apologies to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten island, when I say New York, I mean Manhattan. It was and remains the City of Lights for generations of Jersey kids, north of Trenton.

But when you're closer to Philly than NYC, as you are when you grew up in Delran Township, being a Lady Scarlet Knight is a big deal unless/until you win Olympic Gold in your sport, twice, and then on the biggest stage in women's soccer, the Federation of International Football Associations' World Cup held in Canada in the summer of 2016, you take your squad on your back and win the championship practically by yourself, a trip to NYC is part of the Big Wave Drill as your nation celebrates you and your teammates as you roll through the Canyon of Heroes.

Before you applaud Carli Lloyd's luck, maybe you should see the pluck she showed in preparing every day for years to be ready for the moment and the exclamation point she placed on it less than a fortnight ago. I guess that old saying is true, "the harder I work, the luckier I get."

So Friday, Carli Lloyd got to head eighty-three miles North by Northeast to New York City to join the USWNT for a well-deserved victory lap. Meanwhile, the sky-is-falling-or-will-soon-be experts across the country and around the world are looking at the 2019 World Cup and sizing up projected rosters of opponents and fretting about that fourth star on the US Women's national jerseys.

Four of this year's 23 member squad came from the Jersey Side. And with all due respect to the fine programs in Sweden, Germany and Japan, I have it on good authority that "nothing else matters in this whole wide world, when you're in love with a Jersey Girl."
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Paved and also Extremely Warm

You probably never knew Mr. Roark. Had my luck been better, I, too, could say the same. He was the athletic director at Carteret Preparatory Academy for Boys in West Orange, New Jersey in 1970. He may have been the AD for the previous two centuries, based on the world-weariness with which he seemed to survive every day surrounded by hundreds of us little shirted and tied glow in the dark white preppie kids who thought the world was our oyster. I never knew his first name. He was so old he may have been born before first names were invented. 

I remember him really only for one, beyond devastating, put-down of our physically gifted (though intellectually somewhat diminished) football halfback offered as a performance critique on a very long bus ride back from Admiral Farragut Military Academy after we had had our collective buttocks not-so surgically removed by their football team, highlighted by an (ahem) ill-advised quick kick by this halfback that hit our quarterback full in the face, knocking him out cold on the field, and causing the ball to roll into our own end zone where the Farragut entire team, including the bench, cheerleaders and very possibly the scoreboard operator all pounced it on their way to a triple-digit victory. 

The only sound on the ride back on the Garden State Parkway was of the transmission gears shifting and we all sat forward on our seat cushions as Mr. Roark, a glutton for punishment if there ever was one (or maybe just someone trapped in a marriage he no longer liked who couldn’t afford a divorce), who traveled with every sports team to every away game, leaned into the aisle across from the halfback to offer the following (I remember it forty-five years later as if he had just said it): ‘if they put your brain in a mosquito’s a-s, it would roll around and make a noise like a BB in a boxcar.’

That’s the sound I heard a moment ago as I read this NBC news story and started shaking my head. The American Civil Liberties Union, everybody’s favorite punching bag when we yell at one another and pretend it’s a discussion, on exercising constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, is right in the thick of this one as they always are and as they were so long ago for even more egregious imbeciles who desired to exercise their right to be obnoxious in Skokie, Illinois. I suspect after a day in court representing their client, they scrub off with a metal brush under a chemical shower in the hopes of getting all of it off themselves.

I’m thinking the Klansmen’s ardor for highway clean-up will cool noticeably once they learn the color of the pavement they are seeking to patrol. Perhaps an arrangement can be made to allow them to clean the underside of the roadway. That way, their efforts shouldn’t disturb the flow of traffic and motorists can leave those left blinkers on all the way to the Florida Panhandle.
-bill kenny     

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sure Seemed Like a Good Idea

Have you ever seen those bags of candy in the grocer’s with the itty-bitty sized Snickers and Three Musketeers bars in them that some marketing genius wants me to consider “fun size?” That stuff always gets a big negatory headshake from me. 

To my way of thinking “fun size” should be REALLY BIG candy bars the size of a Honda Accord or a Chevy Spark (if you insist on “Buy American” not that you just did with that choice) not teeny-tiny candy bars. What a weird idea of fun.

I mention that because the Nabisco people have a serious contender in the category of Dubious Idea of the Year and it’s only July-Oreo Thins. I would have been perfectly willing to give somebody at the main office a Nobel Prize if the proposal had been to rename the Double Stuff Oreos, Oreos, and call these new things, Nearly Oreos

Here’s my concern: Oreo Thins are not intended to be twisted open so that we can eat the vanilla cream filling (or whatever synthetic approximation it really is and, no, don’t tell me I don’t want to know) nor are we supposed to dunk them in milk. What? NOT dunk them. What kind of an Oreo cookie is this?

Back in my day, an Oreo was two snacks in one: the vanilla cream filling and the two chocolate wafers as a sort of dessert on the dessert, for afterwards. They even had a how-to song! I will confess that my brother Adam’s birthday is something I don’t always remember; the Oreo Song I cannot ever forget. 

When did Oreo shaming become a thing and don’t tell me that this is NOT that because it is. Seriously. Why else would anyone (anywhere) try to tell me an Oreo with a lot of the filling removed should now be considered ‘sophisticated.’ Oh? Who eats Oreos to be sophisticated? Poppycock! They are fun to eat which is why they are the way they are and I am not alone in that belief.

And as it so happens cookie makers take note, things aren’t all that happy in Happy Valley either nor will they ever be- not when you provoke the wrath of the Nittany Lions, however briefly. So you just keep  cowering behind that “really super-duper swell new idea” drawing board you have there until you come up with something the folks in Dubuque can embrace. And Oreo Thins ain’t it.
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Life Imitates Art

I’m not a sci-fi guy. Yes, I’ve read Asimov and Heinlein but I mean the ‘way-out’ there stuff; the folks who believe there is a Matrix and who look over the shoulders trying to watch Skynet watching them watching it (a/k/a the Infinite Paranoia Reflection). 

As you may have noticed from stopping around these parts, I have enough trouble with real life. I don’t need to go to a parallel astral plane or to a future beyond the conceivable to get myself into trouble. I’m still not comfortable with how a thermos (a vacuum flask) keeps hot things hot, and cold things cold (how does it know the difference?) and that’s a device from well over a century ago. 

So much for future shock you say, and I’m with you whether I like it or not. I’m still wrestling with the past perfect and have not been doing well in those encounters so you can perhaps imagine the size of my grimace when the Mega-Bots Throw Down became a news story. 

Somewhere Neal Peart is smiling as his dystopian vision unfolds, somewhat ahead of schedule I’m saddened to report. But, every cloud has a silver lining, in theory at least, and as Coyne, Drozd and Evans might have pointed out ours may well be named Yoshimi. If and when she gets here, she can have some coffee-hot or iced may depend on her timing…
-bill kenny