Monday, August 31, 2015

This, That and Some of the Other

Digging through some old notes (I'm old; what other kind do you expect me to have) and came across some Imponderables that, at the time I noted them, were vexing to me and now that some distance and space has elapsed, I still don't get. Your mileage may vary. The outcome will not.

I saw a man the other day with a Mohawk haircut, but the part that wasn't in the Mohawk was shaved to the naked scalp. He was wearing a three-piece suit that probably cost twice what my car is worth. I cannot imagine what he does for a living to be able to do what he does for a living. He wasn't a young guy, either. I'm not real good at guessing ages, or weight for that matter so that career option as a Carney is out. 

Actually he was closer to being my age and he looked as goofy as the guys with whom I didn't go to Woodstock together all look. You've seen 'em too. They have long hair, gray and frayed and wispy, in a ponytail usually with a bald spot the size of a pancake (mine is more a silver dollar size). Nothing sticks it to the man like a Volvo station wagon, Teva sandals and those green 'we recycle' grocery bag while you shop for organic tofu and bean sprouts. Fight the Power!

Here's somebody I'd actually like the 'man' to stick it to. The auto-American cretin who compensates for his car's driver's side headlamp being burned out by driving with his high beams on and not dimming them as you and he approach one another. Yeah, I remember what Driver Ed said: don't retaliate and turn yours on-it makes two blinded drivers but still.... My son some time ago gave me a great idea-I turn off all my lights which makes it a lot easier for Hi (no Lois) to see me behind the wheel as I visually suggest that he's my #1 special friend, but not in that way. 

I also don't know what to do about the driver who goes up a one way street the wrong way, slowly because he certainly doesn't want to cause an accident, for a short distance, to pull into somebody's driveway, rather than go around the block. I love when he comes nose to nose with a car coming down the street the correct way and they glare at each other like Mr Upstream Salmon has any comeback at all. Or that guy's cousin, the driver who backs up a one-way street the wrong way with the car flashers on, so I guess it doesn't count as much. 

Speaking of counting, how many crumbs from the toaster tray do you suppose it takes to assemble an entire piece of bread, and can you toast that slice when you're done? I've told you I have a second Facebook thing (account/page/I don't know what to call it). When I go there, why does it say "you must log in to see this page"? Don't they mean "you must log in to see the NEXT page" since I can see the log-in page just fine?

And help me get the word out in advance of next year's Presidential elections.Take the pledge now and promise to make everyone else do it too: After the vote is cast and the Republic is doomed or saved, depending on whether your nominee won or didn't, why not take the political bumper stickers off.

And I mean ALL of them, not just the party who lost but the party who won as well. We hate those talking heads on our TV screens officiously opining about the ills of the nation and cringe when our elected Representatives blame one another for everything from the recession to Bill Buckner booting that grounder (and the cancellation of Paris and Nicole's The Simple Twits), and yet here we are, not remembering that sometimes a razor blade can be your friend, and not in that way (either). 

But judging from the number of three-day growths I've seen lately, every bumper in America will be gleaming from sea to shining, or whining, sea. I can only assume we're working our way to buzz cutting those chickens in every pot much like that guy in the three-piece suit, unless your state has legalized marijuana in which case your recipe may just be the reverse.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hurrah! Wir Leben Noch!

It's an exclamation auf Deutsch that translates as 'We're still alive!' as in we have survived a calamity and have come through on the other side. I thought of that exclamation when reading about Victoria Yillia who has far more than a secret, she has a triumph, and by extension, so do we all.

For us here in the Land of Round Doorknobs, Ebola was something that happened long ago and far away, as it always had in the past, to people about whom we knew very little and about whom we cared even less.

There were some headlines last fall when one or more posturing politicians saw an opportunity to profile themselves against what was already an ever-enlarging pack of potential Presidential candidates, with mixed results.

Whenever I see Mr. Perry with glasses (what did become of his candidacy for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, anyway?) I always think of lipstick on a pig. Oh. As if I'm the only one? Just me, really?

I've always loved that image and not just because I'm one of the six men in North America who never married Kim Kardashian, though attempting to be serious if only for a moment, perhaps it's because we're insulated and isolated by large oceans, or have great neighbors to our North and South so that the last large war fought on our own soil was against one another from 1861-1865, but we really never grasped, and still don't, the horrors of infectious diseases that spread like the types of plagues Western Europe saw in the Middle Ages.

So it's time for a small cheer for Barnabas and his mother whose circle of family and friends was decimated and shattered by Ebola while so many advanced nations shook their heads in dismay.

And if that reminds you, even a little bit of the reaction to the immigration situation right now engulfing Mediterranean refugees, where First World Nations are softly sighing and saying 'if there were only something we could do." If only we had a worldwide outreach that could help.

If you want to help, you'll find a way; if not, you'll find an excuse. What can I say? Something about shoes, how they fit, who walks in them and who walks alone.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Just Not of the Rosary

I have trouble sometimes keeping the past in the past, and nothing aggravates that problem more than a shared monumental moment but one that I’ve sorted sideways of how history sees it. 

We are awash (deliberate choice of adjective) this week in Katrina retrospectives (this one I find especially excellent for much and many reasons to include who created it) because it has been ten years since that hurricane turned so many lives upside down. 

From what I’ve watched and read, many of those who survived the types of horrors I tend to think of only when describing Third (or Fourth) World nations are still struggling long after the last of the TV camera’s lenses were capped and the uplink trucks chased off over the horizon in search of their next ninety-second circus. 

We tend to like our endings three ways: simple, neat and wrong. Maybe I’ve missed it so far, not the first time that would have happened, but there’s a report or a program we’re going to  catch real soon on the lessons we learned and the ones we still need to learn about how we responded to Katrina, right? I hate to say 'I sure hope so,' but what else can be said?

Tens of thousands, if not more like hundreds of thousands, of people, are living with and through the hellish aftermath of all the sins of commission and omission that went on a decade ago.  But the more things change or appear to, the more they stay the same. The immutable object has now become the irresistible force. And the machinery behind the scenery is now one and the same.

‘They’re selling postcards of the hanging; they’re painting the passports brown. The beauty parlor’s filled with Sailors, the circus is in town…and though her eyes are fixed upon Noah’s great rainbow, she spends her time peeking into Desolation Row.’   
-bill kenny

Friday, August 28, 2015

Real, Surreal, and Cereal

Willie Sutton a legend from when my parents were children once explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” He meant I am sure, paper with portraits of Presidents on it that you could fold up and put in your pocket. 

Meanwhile and maybe the bleeding has been staunched, as of ‘close of business’ this past Tuesday, the New York Stock Exchange had ‘lost’ three trillion dollars of I-don’t-actually-know-what. Value? Triple-S Green Stamps? Perhaps that’s what has happened but what I don’t understand, with my apologies to the “other” Willie, if the value ‘lost’ was real or a paper chase.

I have trouble with our checkbook and get a lot of get-well cards from my bank as a result of many of those troubles so I’m not the guy who can tell you if we should worry about a run on the banks or getting a line for a dinner setting at the soup kitchen. Am I, too, too big to fail or too small to matter?

I ‘follow’ stock reports as part of newscasts but only notionally. ‘A company’s stock did something somewhere and this other thing happened.’ As a guy who’s hoping to stop showing up for work in the not too distant future in order to retire and live from my pension and investments (I stopped working a very long time, unless you are my boss reading this, in which case I have no idea how that sentence fragment got into this line of typing), I am just dumber than a bag of rocks on the stock market and how (and why) what it does affects me.

I’m pretty sure stocks and bonds are a better investment than scratch-off lottery tickets, but I cannot tell you why that is. I’m not looking forward to collecting discarded bottles and cans to redeem for their deposit in order to supplement my retirement income but I watch the fiscal machinations on the world’s stock markets the way I visit libraries filled with books written in a language I don’t speak.

I’m conflicted between paper money and paper cuts. Somewhere there is a blaze burning and someone is feeding the flames. If we follow the smoke, do we find our future or someone else’s past?
-bill kenny     

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gotta Make It through the Tunnel

As you’ve seen online, in print, on TV news and perhaps on a banner being pulled by a small plane while you were at the beach tanning or rusting (your weather and mileage may vary), it was this week forty years ago (!!!) Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run (BTR) and the publicity storm that accompanied him hit the big time. 

As a student at Rutgers College, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I and the thousands who had seen him, in various incarnations, play The Ledge, a garish and grotesque architectural affront intended as the ‘commuter student’ lounge plunked down on a bank of the Raritan River on one side of the campus, dozens if not hundreds of time before CBS released his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park (how can you not love this?), there was a sense of validation with the success of what was/is his third album, mixed (at least a little) with ‘what’s the hubbub, Bub?’ 

Both the debut and (still my favorite complete piece of work) his second release, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (the joyous noise of Rosalita still drills and thrills me whenever I hear it) were terrific. So they were barely known beyond small sections of the East and West Coast. Heck, both of them got tons of airplay on the Metromedia radio stations in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

It was that airplay and response to it at WBCN-FM in Boston that helped assure Springsteen and the band’s shows in small venues in the Boss-town and it was there that Jon Landau caught the act, opening for Bonnie Raitt and penned his ecstatic review and endorsement (this is a really good retrospective on that time and space).   

BTR is an album of brilliant songs, superlatively performed by musicians fighting for their (commercial) lives. A story has floated for years that the album was the ‘fish or cut bait’ effort for CBS in terms of keeping Springsteen on the label. Seems to have worked out for all concerned (okay, Mike Appel, maybe not so much). 

This is a great piece from, for me, slightly unusual place in terms of rock and roll but sometimes it’s the journey and other times the destination and helps highlight that every fan of the album has a favorite song and I am no exception.

Of course, I love the title track, Thunder Road and the audacious scope and scale of Backstreets and the raucous rock and roll of Night and Candy’s Room but for me the song on BTR that holds a special place combines the subtly mordant piano chording of Roy Bittan with the wistful brilliance of Randy Brecker on Meeting Across the River.  

All of this album is music from a lifetime ago, not just for me, and I believe sounds as vital today in these times as it did four decades ago when we were all a little more wide-eyed and more inclined to believe there’s magic in the night even for tramps like us.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Ellis Island to Cliff Street

I've encountered readers who've told me that perhaps I try too hard to be funny for fear of offending with what I see as my truth. There are times, more than I care to admit, they have been correct. I'll try to do better. This is one of those times.

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. And with apologies to Lewis Carroll (and I suspect, his union Carpenter) to speak of scapegoating people whose crime is entering our country in search of a better life for themselves and their families or for the care and concern we offer, or don't, our invisible indigent.

As a reader of boxcars of news copy, I avoid getting incited or incensed by headlines that appear in it but today I am unable to allow a contrast and coincidence of two different, but to me related, reports on events of recent days to go unremarked upon.

On a bronze plaque inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is Emma Lazarus' sonnet, The New Colossus, that reads in part, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

There are no construction specifications about border walls and armed guards, pejorative references to "anchor babies" or technical discussions about the mechanics of a repeal of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

For me the sonnet is a statement of intent and a promise by the country I am very proud to live in for everyone else everywhere on earth even to (or maybe most especially for) loudmouths whose theme song seems to be We Shall Overcomb.  

It's August 26, 2015 and we have exactly four hundred and forty-four days to go before Election Day 2016. We may well need a new word to capture the stridency of what we'll pretend passes for discussion if where we're already in tenor and tone at is any indication.

Unless, that is, we learn to lower our voices and open our minds and (I'd hope) also open our hearts as it seems we have done after a protracted and often heated disagreement between the Catholic Diocese of Norwich and its Saint Vincent de Paul Place in the former Saint Joseph School on Cliff Street and the Commission on the City Plan of the City of Norwich.

I don't pretend to know any more than do you about the details of the agreement, and not everyone may be happy about everything it contains but I think we can all agree that helping those in need knows no zip code or season and truly reflects the spirit of The New Colossus. Goo goo g'joob.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

22 (Slight Return)

Sometimes you see or say something about a situation, and in your arrogance, you think because of that attention, you can now move on. Continuing failing of the care we provide to those whom we have sent to the unending wars we are engaged in around the world suggests to me, today at least, I not need say anything new but revisit a topic from sometime ago that I thought we had turned the page on. I was wrong.

When, or if, the military adventures in Southwest Asia ever end and we tally up the cost of whatever it was we set out to do, I can guarantee the one item no Administration in Washington, not the current one and none that will follow, will want to do is tell us, we the people who nodded when this whole thing got started, what the actual in human lives was. 

Not everyone in an American uniform who came home, came back. A lot of people need a lot of help and it's NOT happening for reasons of cupidity and stupidity. Greed has overwhelmed need and Wall Street has crushed Main Street and the casualties on the human highway are too many to mention and to count. 

If you can read this story about the sad ending of Daniel Somers and not feel your heart breaking, it's either already broken or gone. A remarkably talented person who was terribly tortured and each of us knows one or more just like him (and her), and those entrusted with helping them heal are overwhelmed, underfunded and overworked. 

The Daniels disappear by their own hand at a rate of almost two dozen a day. You might think we'd pause RHONJ while that realization sinks in, but it never sinks in. The challenge of ideas is only that if we let it be one. When all we do is exactly what we're told, all we end with are other people's nightmares to fill up our own lives.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nerds Just Wanna Have Fun

I became a Liberal Arts major at Rutgers College because there was nowhere left for me to go. I grew up admiring math and science, but it was no later than Ms. Perry in 10th-grade Geometry that I knew I had no head for figures unless it was figures of fun. 

Speaking of which, having had Mr. Clarke for 9th-grade Algebra, teaching out of a book he wrote himself (and few aside from him seemed to understand), I came to believe I’d have more success with Arabian Nights than I was to ever have with Arabic numerals. Between us, I’m not sure those who developed the original numerals would have endorsed what was done to them in all instances.

And having barely survived Mr. Donovan’s biology class, I still wrinkle my nose as I type his name remembering the smell of formaldehyde that came with every sample of every species we would ever attempt to dissect, I braced for impact when entering the realm of chemistry.

And the alternative life journey has been quite good all things considered. You want fries with that. Just practicing what I am most qualified to do with my Bachelor of Arts degree. As a matter of fact, I’ve often wondered if the line of Latin in the seal on the diploma doesn’t actually ask us all to supersize. It sure looks nicer in Latin surrounded by red wax.

Of course, I never had any classroom time with Tim Blais, who puts the fun in fundamentals. Science and smile both have an “S” and there’s no reason you can’t have the latter while working with the former and he does his darnedest to make that happens every time. 

And here’s where some less complex math can help him out and do a world of good for the next generation of mathletes and science fair warriors, none of whom we may ever meet.

If your tastes don’t trend towards the classics of rock (no History Major for you!), he can put some pure pop in your pop and lock, or add some dread to your street cred

I could watch him all day, and maybe learn something which (I suspect) is his actual point. Anything to avoid determining the hypotenuse of a triangle or touching a deceased amphibian.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Don't Know Jack.....

The heat wave under which many of us up and down the Eastern Seaboard sweltered for most of last week piqued my interest when I heard about Jack Bonneau, a pint-sized titan of entrepreneurial wizardry with a big dream and a thirst to succeed

I think my favorite part of the story is the ease with which he articulated exactly and specifically what he wanted. None of this ‘I want everyone to like each other’ or ‘I dream of world peace’ or some other very noble, warm and fuzzy ideal. Nope, not even close, Chewy; would you believe a Lego Death Star?  

The Free Enterprise Force is strong with this young one, that’s for sure. One lemonade stand could be an accident; two might be a coincidence, but when you start talking franchise, I’m thinking Mark Cuban and the crew with just a splash of Newman’s Own in the water of the Shark Tank.

You get to smile, just one more time and think to yourself ‘aww, that’s so cute;’ now pick up your pencils and write down today’s lesson: if you never think about the future, you won’t ever have one. 

And if nobody’s told you, that glass you’re holding? That is most definitely all the lemonade you can drink for a quarter. 
-bill kenny 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It Seems like Only Yesterday

This past Sunday marked the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles at Shea Stadium, for some capping the wave they first established in the USA with their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964. 

I remember in my house, on Sundays we watched The Wonderful World of Disney, on NBC, with a peacock to start the show that was wasted on us at the time because we had one television in the living room and it was black and white. 

Years later in Germany I explained to our then very young son, of perhaps six years old at the time, that while he and his sister now had a TV (fernsehen) in their room (zimmer) of our apartment (unser wohnung)  I didn’t have the money (geld) to afford to buy them a color set (farbfernsehen) and so they’d have to make do with black and white (Schwarz-weiss). It was, I told him, all the TV I had ever had when I was his age..

He looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and pity and asked ‘were you bad?’ (warst du bose?) because he just assumed we were being punished. I don’t think he believed me when I assured him that all there was when I was a child was black and white television.  I’m not sure I believe it myself, but there it was. 

And it took a large amount of lobbying to persuade my father that it was okay for all three of us, Evan, my sister, Kelly, my brother, and I to stay up to watch Ed Sullivan on CBS. It was a variety show and a showcase that was really a snapshot of what was important at that moment in the daily lives of tens of millions of Americans who watched Ed Sullivan every Sunday. 

No one watched the show for Ed. All Ed did was introductions and bridges to the next performance. No jokes, no politics, no nothing. A herd of water buffalo riding motorcycles while juggling chainsaws: here they are and, two minutes and thirty seconds later, and Ed was on to the next thing in his really big shoe. 

That he was the first to have The Beatles changed everything for him, for those in his audience on live national television and for all of us, everywhere beyond the beats and bounds of a studio or a TV tucked into a corner of the living room. Of course, Ed introduced them when they played Shea Stadium; we at home thought they were joined at the hip. 

I was in the vanguard of the Baby Boom Generation, now dwarfed by those of the Millennials, but at its time referred to as ‘the pig in the python’ because of our size and how we reshaped every institution and perception of Life in These United States that had ever been. It was inevitable that the four mop-tops would turn a baseball stadium into a concert arena, never done before, and we’d just take it from there.

I’ve had a CD of The Beatles #1 songs in the car player all week, where it remains, listening as I drive at pretty close to max vol. Yeah, if it’s too loud you’re too old and a lot of what you listen to these days is way too loud for me (and maybe a bit beyond me in other ways as well). But The Beatles were all there was for me and every one of my generation whom I knew. They were, and still are, why music matters.
-bill kenny     

Friday, August 21, 2015

Putting the All in Baseball

You can learn a lot about geography, among other things, from watching the just getting underway 2015 Little League World Series. Unlike the Major League Baseball version of ‘world series,’ this is the real deal and I suspect the only reason we’ve yet to see a team from Antarctica qualify is because their cooler with the orange slices would have melted before the competition reached the double-elimination stage in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. 

Which may be just as well because good luck finding the lower half of the strike zone on a penguin (inside joke).

I may have casually mentioned in this space, perhaps in passing, two or three hundred thousand times, how much I love the game of baseball. This is the baseball I most love the most. It is a game, first and foremost which means it is intended to be fun. And it is played as hard (and fair) as each player on every team can possibly play and it is played with as much grace and élan (I love using that word because I think this is the perfect instance for it) as I wish ALL professional sports from everywhere in the same world these youngsters live could also be played. And thanks for NOT pointing out they rarely are.

Cynic that I am, and I’m guilty as charged, little league baseball allows me, and all of us I’d like to hope, the luxury to see the world, not as it is but as it can be. And at the end of every game these incredibly earnest, passionate young persons leave absolutely everything they have out there on the diamond, called that because it sparkles with the hopes of what may someday come to be.

If you’ve not tuned in to watch the games, grab some pine, rookie, and a handful of sunflower seeds or a large chaw of bubble-gum (good habits start early in these parts) and prepare to enjoy, no matter the weather or the score, because when it’s the Little League World Series, it’s a perfect day for baseball.
-bill kenny     

Thursday, August 20, 2015

People Take Pictures of Each Other

My wife, Sigrid, is a firm believer in 'ordnung muss sein.' It's not a nervous tic or a preference so much as both a character trait and perhaps a national compulsion as well.

She is by birth and blood a German and is the embodiment everything has a place in which it belongs and it is her mission if not calling to make sure whatever the item is that it ends up there and stays there.

She was reorganizing the other day and found an envelope my mom had shared with me a long time ago (I'm guessing as I have no idea how long ago it might have been). Inside was a photo from a life I'd long ago forgotten. And here it is, just in time for Throwback Thursday.

That is, I believe, all the way in the lower right side of the picture The Honorable Peter Frelinghuysen (Sr.) whose son or perhaps grandson is now in Congress from the same district. He always found time for constituents and was always happy to have a staffer snap a photo or two.

This is a trip my father, who was also a Senior, in this case, William Kenny, would have organized for a school at which he was the headmaster (of the lower school) and would have had to have been in the very early Seventies.

Every year my father took a group of students to Washington D. C. to get up close with their government from the FBI to the Capitol Dome through the tour of the White House to Arlington Cemetery and three dozen points in between.

If there are Forty-Something Captains of Industry and Finance in the New York City area who know anything about the history of this nation, they owe their knowledge to my father.

That's Dad all the way on the top with the white hair and the broad smile in the center of all the humanity on the stairs at the Capitol. And me, his sometimes reluctant son, to his right, on the near end of the top row of smiling faces. Proving yet again people often change, but memories of people stay the same.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Present Tense Because the Past Was Perfect

I was on Main Street in the heat of our sunny Sunday admiring the rapidly accelerating ruins of the Reid & Hughes Department Store, what I am told was at some point a large part of Norwich's glorious and historic past.

My family and I arrived here in the fall of 1991 and I cannot recall it looked markedly different than it did on Sunday (okay, maybe a bit more ragged for the wear and almost quarter century of hesitancy, indecisiveness, vacillation and just plain cluelessness that has abounded in connection with the property).

I was hoping to use the buildings flanking Reid & Hughes to throw enough shadow across the street to reach my vantage point so I might better be able to admire rather than simply perspire or expire from the heat.

Not a lot of luck with that endeavor, though as I shifted my location to take as much advantage of the shadow as I could I realized it was easy to forecast where the shadow would fall and step to that spot and wait.

Doing that a couple of times, as I stood on Main Street, provoked a small epiphany as I regarded Norwich's most severe and ongoing municipal affliction, Present Shock.

I'm hoping Alvin Toffler is otherwise occupied for the remainder of this space because my point as someone who is considered NFH (Not From Here) is that we seem to have two places in Norwich: a glorious past where our downtown was prosperous and packed with people most especially on Thursday evenings with sidewalks so crowded children walked in the street, and a less promising future where every great idea seems to run out of energy, enthusiasm and money just as it's about to catch on.

We do great beginnings around here but have lousy middles and often very sad endings. That leaves us in the here and now as the summer of 2015 winds down a bit tense in a present that few of us are happy about but fewer still are willing to risk jeopardizing just in case that big, bright tomorrow is a little late getting here and we have to try to explain to one another how we managed to fail by refusing to try.

Because, that more than any crowded Thursday sidewalks or nostalgia for back in the day that probably never was is what keeps us rooted to a place, the present, we are terribly afraid of. It might be better tomorrow, say some; but others worry it might be worse.

So we've come up with a form of math to help us avoid moving at all: if we never try anything, we cannot fail at anything. Of course, we also don't actually gain anything, but when you use this math, the important part is to not lose anything.

So in the case of the Reid & Hughes Building (and many other projects across the city) we have more than a few ideas and proponents for those ideas willing to try to roll up their sleeves to resuscitate and revitalize it.

But we have nearly as many people standing on the sidelines with their hands in their pockets waiting to say "I told you so" just in case the redevelopment efforts go sideways. We need to remember our future starts today, and not tomorrow and if you don't think about the future, you can't have one.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For Lady Godiva I Came Incognito

Something called VentureBeat, described the Tinder vs. Vanity Fair war of words (okay in the ether if not on paper) as the "best dumbest fight on the internet."

I am not an Ignoramus nor am I a Lothario and know about Tinder as opposed to knowing it only from reading and conversations with younger people, who still need to stop leaning on my Ford Fairlane and get the hell off of my grass, whippersnappers.

For those who use it, Tinder is a little like Fight Club, at least in terms of talking about it afterward. Not so if you publish Vanity Fair. All I really got out of the article is men are pigs and women conquests as a result of using the dating app are called Tinderellas. Saved you eight minutes; you're welcome.

When no less an august news agency than National Public Radio devotes air space and time to what came to be called a meltdown and other nearly semi-apocalyptic terms, it makes me glad to be a fossil and not one of the Kids in America getting crushed by colossal expectations.

Between Sal Paradise and John Berryman, it's a wonder Nancy Jo Sales can get a word in edgewise and I've concluded I can't handle modern love at all.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Spangled Dwarf with His Bow-Tie

There I was, minding my own business at a skosh after four in the morning in Planet Fitness late last week, listening to ABC News Radio on Slacker on my smartphone (have only made one call so far since getting it) struggling to keep pace on a treadmill while facing a wall of unblinking video monitors with everything from Lifetime to NESN, CNN to Fox, and most of the local Connecticut over–the-air broadcasters thrown in. 

I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I watched the graphics unfold and the Fox talking heads get all frowny faced as the plasma display graphics revealed Columbia House Records was filing for Chapter 11, bankruptcy protection.

When local record shops were few and far between back in the day, they brought the store to you with a magazine crammed with glowing reviews that often combined hoopla with hyperbole for a heady potion of near-knowledge of all things musical.

As of now, I have a jar full of pennies with nowhere to go and holes in my music collection that I fear will remain holier than thou for the foreseeable future and longer. Who among us didn’t try to beat the system, after grabbing some mind-boggling number of records or tapes when you joined at what you believed to be next to nothing? Foiled and failed at every turn were we. 

And heaven help you if you forgot to decline the selection and mail the postcard back before the next shipment arrived. Because when you didn’t get that card back to them in time you became the owner of stereophonic delights such as Enoch Light and his Orchestra Play Waiting for My Man, White Light, White Heat, and Heroin from The Velvet Underground Singalong Songbook. Just $19.99 and the better part of ten more bucks for shipping and handling. Yipes!

Those eight or ten free records or tapes became very expensive very quickly, but for those of us at a certain, and somewhat difficult age, it was a rite of passage. The article speaks of Spotify of the 80’s, except I’d like to think the artists didn’t get screwed quite as much as the scheming streaming services do to them these days.

Another souvenir of my growing up years that hasn’t survived the turning of the age. I’m afraid the day is coming when all I’ll have left are my memories which is troubling because the memories I have left right now are often someone else’s and not even my own. Time for my boot heels to be wandering.
-bill kenny 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Calling Elvis

I was the oldest of my parent's six children and didn't really have older cousins to shape my musical tastes growing up. Mom and Dad, if they liked any kind of music, it seemed to be show tunes and Broadway songs kind of stuff played on a large piece of furniture Mom polished at least once a week ('it's a dust magnet' she used to explain to Dad) from Liberty Music Stores in New York City that had everything, turntable, a Garrard gear-driven model, and an amplifier/receiver combination and speakers of some kind on either side hidden behind mesh. It cost a fortune at the time and as I grew up I realized it was just awful for listening to rock and roll on.

I was in the Air Force, working for American Forces Network, when today, thirty-eight years ago, Elvis Presley died. My nominal roommate, Mike, and his girlfriend, Ann (whom he married decades ago) were rushing through the station, grabbing Associated Press wire copy, rummaging through the record library and basically conducting their own memorial on Elvis' passing when I arrived after an evening with my affianced, Sigrid, whom I married that fall (and with whom I am still married; all her effort and very little of mine unless you count showing up for meals as work).

The joint was jumping and Mike was magic on the air. We lost sight of one another many, many years ago and if he and Ann are still he and Ann, all the best to them and sorry I haven't written. I thought about all of this again just the other day when the Post Office unveiled its next Forever Stamp (and his former wife looks and sounds spectacular, does she not?). The King would approve, I'm sure, as would Mike as well.

I'll skip the Return to Sender jokes, because as I said, it wasn't Elvis' music with which I grew up though what I didn't fully appreciate was how much his music would influence the sound of those with whom I did grow up and everyone else's sound as well. So if you were one of those "50,000,000 Million Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong" when you see him, 'tell him I was calling, just to wish him well.'
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 15, 2015

From Eliot to McPhee

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the ending of the war in the Pacific, often called VJ Day and that image is what many Americans, even the unborn at that time, think of when we speak about the end of World War II in the Pacific. If you're of Japanese ancestry your visual is more than a little different but the beginnings are of more consequence, if less visual than the endings. 

My mother and father raised six children in the aftermath of the Second World War (the first having been fought as the War to End All Wars fell a little short in that regard) and their children, my brothers and sisters, in turn, had children of their own, some of whom now also have children (I'm getting a little dizzy from the math of it all) as well. In the years immediately following the end of World War II, there was little reason for optimism to believe your children's children's children would be alive in a world with a mushroom cloud. 

History is, I’ve read, written by the winners and I’d add, your mileage may vary as artifacts are uncovered or rediscovered that cast events into a new light or confirm previously held beliefs. Our world is in flux so why would our records of it, our history, be different? The original audio of Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast to the Japanese people announcing surrender to the Allies was released not that long ago. It is yet another artifact and argument in an ongoing discussion.

Speaking of discussion, a lot of words over the years have been written about whether the USA should apologize for having used atomic weapons-how that debate divides people is similar to what image in paragraph one you associate with the war's end. I'd point out that a lot of Japan's neighbors (= conquests from 1934-1945) would like an apology as well, in this case from the Japanese. 

Perhaps of more significance is despite some close calls (Korea 1949; Hungary, 1956; Cuba, 1962) there's not been a third use of atomic weapons. Historians argue that the seeds of the next war are always planted in the waging and conclusion of the previous war.

Perhaps that means we learned something, maybe not much, from the calamity and destruction we unleashed upon one another during World War Two. It's certainly not a bright and shiny world in which we live in the ever-dwindling days of this hazy, lazy summer, and sometimes it seems the LWH, Lunatics Who Hate, are multiplying like hobgoblins.

More and more of the world, despite our efforts to the contrary, are born, live and die without a chance.  We must, as a civilization, apply the same ingenuity and steadfastness of purpose that created Little Boy and Fat Man to shift the shape of the society in which we all live if not for humanitarian, than for the most pragmatic of, reasons--those who have nothing to live for soon find something to die for. And then they want everyone else to die for it, too. 

Between the desire and the spasm; between the potency and the existence; between the essence and the descent falls the shadow. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
-bill kenny

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mencken & McLuhan

We all know someone who is angry and unhappy about the US presidential selection process and the manner in which it’s unfolding (if no one else, me). That we have a year plus before we get to Hammersmith is of no solace at all. 

In light of the product thus far resulting from the process, I think we should be grateful we don’t have one of the Real Housewives from Wherever They Come From running neck and neck with somebody who won last week’s Survivor Challenge

And I probably shouldn’t have just expressed that fear. Come to think of it, where is that ‘Does a Bear Eat a Pope in the Woods’ guy? He’d make it a real party.

There’s a song offered in certain circumstances at German gasthouses, usually late in the evening when it’s been very thirsty. Or so I’m told, as I have no first-hand knowledge of the matter at all. And the song goes, “Wer soll das bezahlen? Wer hat das bestellt?” Who pays for that? Who ordered that?

The answer there as it is here, always, is we did. There’s no need to send in the clowns, let me adjust your squeaky nose while you check the pressure on my seltzer bottle. Ready, go!  

Without claiming to have found the gunmen on the grassy knoll, I'd suggest we started to wander and waver in terms of our less than faithful relationship to facts and items of importance the night in the latter 90's when we tuned into the national séance that was AC and OJ driving the Bronco into our collective consciousness. 

From then on, and most especially after the murderous catastrophe of 9/11 we were afraid of everything, most especially to be left alone with our thoughts and felt compelled to have the noise, I meant news, always on in the background, 'just in case something happens.' 

Except the care and feeding of these 24/7 news delivery cable beasts would prove to be challenging, a challenge maybe we could (should?) have seen but since the cable news pimps aim to grab folks for no more than about 11 minutes at a time, they contributed to, while benefiting from, the diminution and dilution of our attention spans. What? My point exactly. 

As Orwell's Big Brother discovered, if you tell us often enough we are at war with Oceania we'll agree with you when you tell us we've always been at war with Oceania. Thinking is hard, believing is easy.

Keep showing us Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and Miley Cyrus and since you have them on the 'news' they must be newsworthy, right? That whole walks like a duck and talks like a duck thing. There’s some kind of straight line from Perez Hilton to Edward R. Murrow. And yet there’s a shadow of a doubt when you think about it, so don’t think about it.

Most of us can name all the judges on America's Got Talent and American Idol- and not know ANY names on the Supreme Court. (What about that singing group with Diana Ross? Huh? How about partial credit for that answer?)

Instead of using our inventions as a window to see farther and further into the universe, we've created a mirror where our inner Narcissus can stare unendingly into our own eyes right here in the Republic of Me. And if our eyes don’t see as well as they once did, even as the wool is pulled over them yet again, it might be thanks to the toxic trail emanating from the electric fire in the corner of the room.

-bill kenny

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Paging One of Neil Sedaka's Calendar Girls

More blasts from my personal past, back when I used to be good at this (LIES! I was never good at this). Too soon it's too late and smart enough is not yet. I was trying my hand at Rastafarian haiku, an obscure art form that no one who practices either of its primary disciplines is even aware of. Think of me as a ninja poet, mon. 

Good that I'm here now, but it would have been gooder early in the month. Did you know last Wednesday, the 5th, was National Underwear Day? I confess I did not know that and let's just gloss over the circumstances in which I don't explain how I found it out. Mainly because there are some parole stipulations that I sometimes see as mere suggestions and I'd rather not revisit those issues. At least not with witnesses. 

I currently have a New Yorker magazine cartoon desk calendar I always tell people my wife got me for Christmas-except she didn't. I bought it myself, but I was allowed to buy it only because I promised to not buy another Far Side or Dilbert one because those are my favorite desk calendars. 

Someday, Dilbert and his (my) two best buddies, Calvin and Hobbes, are going to move to the Far Side and then no one will ever care again what day of the week it is, me most especially. 

According to that calendar, last Monday (the 3rd) was also Picnic Day in Australia, Northern Territory (which could be Japan if you go head far enough North, 'recalculating'). This is why the Internet is so wonderful. You can find this stuff out in two clicks of a mouse tail unless you have an Apple. 

Around these parts, we'd just say 'day off' but other places get fancy and make it all special. "Picnic Day"-sounds like something Yogi and Boo-Boo should be trying to outwit Ranger Smith about. Except Jellystone is NOT part of the Northern Territory, though, again, depending on the map, Indonesia could be. 

My wall calendar, printed in India, also shared that last Monday was "Civic Holiday (Canada)" and I thought it was kind of lazy to not tell me which civic holiday until (you guessed it), I looked that up to discover it's actually called Civic Holiday even by people who drive Corollas. I love the admonition "so please don't work!" in the explanation. 

Sometimes, I think Canadians as a different race with their boots instead of trunks and their lovely manners and Celine Dion. If you close your eyes, slightly, while in Detroit and squint, you can almost see Windsor, Ontario, as a Northern Territory. That's sort of what William Hull did, but badly. 

We're nearing the end of intimate apparel week though you'll probably want to disrobe in the privacy of your own home unless my suggestion on Tumblr to make this #FullFrontalFriday catches on. 

Forty-one years ago this past Sunday, Gerald R. Ford became the 38th US President as Richard M. Nixon resigned. Ford proceeded to trip over his wife, Betty's, dressing gown just to stay in practice. She was wearing it at the time. 

And Sunday was also Philippines Book Lovers Day which is just a disturbing enough image for those of us with idle minds that I, for one, hope we're using the Roberts Rules of Order interpretation of Northern Territory. 
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

With Apologies to Willie S....

My daughter, Michelle, and I took advantage of the glorious weather we had near the end of last week to stretch our bounds as well as our legs last Friday for our evening walk after dinner.

When I was a schoolchild this was the part of the summer I dreaded, after the first dog days and heat had passed, came the realization as temperatures turned "crisper" (a word my mom always used) that the sun was showing up a little later every morning and calling it a day a little earlier each evening.

That could only mean the return to school was around the corner. As a man of sixty-three, its meaning is a bit more somber now, I know, but despite the memories and the worries, I put my best forward as we started our walk from near Chelsea Parade, down Broadway to Union Street.

We discovered to our enjoyment that it was First Friday in downtown Norwich and we passed larger than normal groups, bordering on crews and nearing the size of crowds, on the sidewalks of Lower Broadway around the Norwich Arts Center at the Donald L. Oat Theater with, I'm guessing now, both the curious and the cognoscenti flowing through the doors to check out the new (and the new to them) artwork being offered.

We could hear someone busking near Franklin Square, just down from the Gallery at The Wauregan, also with a large crowd, as most of the gallery patrons merely nodded in acknowledgement of his efforts while he remained undeterred and undaunted by the race and roar of motorized traffic passing him on Main Street.

On Main Street was a hustle and bustle at Harp and Dragon and on the Upper Main portion, beyond the traffic barricades, was a lively pedestrian zone packed with people who were face painting or taking a brush and colors in hand to work on their own art while others were admiring the myriad of goods created with duct tape and still others enjoyed the memories and mysteries found on the sidewalk in front of and inside Encore Justified.

You could clearly hear the music of the Friday Night Acoustics at Howard Brown Park- it offered a perfect soundtrack to a marvelous movie

We made our way home by way of Franklin Street and pressed our noses nearly to the glass at These Guys Brewing Company at 78 Franklin Street watching as all hands were putting the finishing touches on what promises to be a terrific addition to Norwich (they open this Friday, with a full menu so come hungry)    

We had a great walk and a great time as we wandered "over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier, over park and over pale." Norwich in the Summer of 2015.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

This Metaphor Tastes Just Like Chicken

Not that many weeks ago during a visit to one of the members of the small army of health care professionals whose efforts keep me alive, we had a discussion on placing a frog in a pot of boiling water vice a pot at room temperature which is then heated.

My point, I believe, was that we are infinitely physically and morally adaptable and malleable and can come to accept as a way of life and 'how things have always been' situations and circumstances that only a short time earlier (in relative terms) we would have vociferously howled against in protest and opposition.

His concern, as someone whose English is excellent but for whom it is a second language was in dismantling the premise of the statement rather than its conclusion and before we knew we were talking about the actual temperature of boiling water, how large a pot and how deep in terms of its sidewalls and the age and strength (and leaping ability) of the frog.

Knowing how he feels about the Affordable Care Act, from his perspective as a provider vice mine as a consumer, when he submitted to my insurance carrier his claim for compensation for my visit and got stiffed, again, in terms of his remuneration, I expect I can guess whom he blamed. And never wondered why it seemed so much warmer than when he opened the practice that morning.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 10, 2015

With an Inside Pocket Full of Change and Memories

If you've stopped in here over the last nearly eight years (yeah, I know; imagine how old that feels on this side of the screen), you've long since realized my heart beats on the left side of my chest and my politics tends to more often than not follow my heart.

With that as prologue, you will not be surprised to learn I did not watch any of the two Republican Candidates for President Debates, either the Really Big Shoe, sorry Ed, that was on in prime time, or the one earlier for the candidates at the kiddie table, with the sippy cups and the drop cloth on the floor to facilitate easy clean-up. But it doesn't mean I cannot enjoy an informed and dispassionate report on aspects of life in the arena.

Ever since the Republicans in Congress in October of '13 gave me and my fellow federal employees some extra time off in a sword-fish fight with the President over the budget that was reduced to Moot Point, I've not had a lot of use for anyone who stands for any office from the Party of Lincoln (especially as many of its members think that's a reference to a luxury automobile of the Ford Motor Company).

Besides, the current crop of Republicans aren't like any of the ones I grew up with. There's no Bill Scranton, Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Percy, Everett Dirkson, Edward Brooke, Clifford Case or Peter Frelinghuysen or Millicent Fenwick (most of those folks wouldn't get an invite to the current "party").

My prejudice, and that is exactly what it is and I make NO apology for it, means "the other folks" (the Democrats) have extra pressure to seek out people for whom I could vote (and often fall very short of the mark as well).

I say it that way because I'm the kind of asshat who went to local elections in November of 2013 (and last year, too) and after ignoring all those on the ballot with (R) after their names discovered about two people on the entire ballot I could actually endorse. I'd brought a pocket novel, so I did some reading as I'd have otherwise been out of the polling place so fast I would have knocked myself down coming out going in.

With all due respect to the very sainted Thomas Paine, whom more than one of these representatives of the Crypto-Fascist wing of the Republican Party are so inordinately fond of quoting, these are the times that try a man's soul and also, seemingly allow for a thorough if uninformed discussion of a woman's reproductive rights without actually conceding that a woman has any rights in this area at all.

And nearly all of these discussions, these verbal and intellectual abominations, happen in the name of a Lord that, were S/He to meet any of these clowns as they got out of the car, wouldn't waste the seltzer it would take to drown them.

So far, I've concluded nearly all those seeking office seem to agree on is that anyone who doesn't worship as they do or have the same sexual preference as theirs or know the secret handshake that unlocks the political action committee dollars to abrogate and nullify the basic freedoms of speech and choice outlined in the Bill of Rights they wipe their butts with (when given the chance) will be unsuccessful in gaining my vote or even earning my respect.

You have been weighed and found wanting. Move along, little doggies.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Visitor

My father came to visit me at some point on Saturday. I'm not sure of the time as I was sleeping, though at the time of his visit, I wasn't sure I was. And my father is dead, for longer than my son, our oldest child, has been alive, to say nothing of his younger sister, our daughter, so I'm a little unsure about a lot more than just the hour on the clock of his visit.

In my dream if that was what I was having I was keenly aware that he was dead, and I'm very sure he, too, knew that as well but neither of us mentioned it, nor was I even slightly tempted when tested after some pretty serious provocations that my father might have insisted somewhat disingenuously were not intended as disparagements at all, unless 'a guilty conscience needs no accuser.'

Technical questions like how did he know where we lived and how did he know we were home weren't raised either in the course of the dream which, as I've sampled the literature may have lasted a mere moment but felt to me, the one having it, like unending hours.

I don't remember specifics in terms of words exchanged or topics of conversation but rather I recall the waking up and feelings of inadequacy and the sense of having him let him down that was so much of our actual lives together.

The sense of somberness and discouragement I carried with me for many hours Saturday morning after rising into the early afternoon where it was drowned out by the distractions of the day as it unfolded was sadly familiar as I felt that for so much of my growing up years.

The lie of 'it's for my own good' only covers so much bruising and so many scars when you say it to yourself as a kid with no power to refute or resist but a half century and more since you last said it, it helps not at all anymore.

I have no idea what triggered this visitation, if that's what it was, or what lesson aside from the profound disappointment I have been so far for him I was supposed to take away from the episode.

It won't discourage me from opening and welcoming whomever next knocks on my door, but it may have something to do with long I let them stay in my house, in my head or in my heart.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Java Jive

Between the end of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Republican Presidential debate all happening earlier this week with all the "it's coming! It's Coming!" each event received across all platforms, I got lost on an important piece of sadness, of sorts, that I just caught up on.

I remember as a kid my mom and dad had a stove-coffee percolator. They had a shiny and quite fancy silver one, all electric, for when Gramma and Grampy for dinner at a holiday (they had six children as did my parents so I imagine they had quite a scheduling trick to fit in all their kids, and their kids, for meals and visits). 

We couldn’t ever immerse the electric coffee pot in the sink to clean it while the stove-top one looked like it had been around since the war of the babies. Mr. Coffee changed all that. Mr. Coffee changed everything.

As an adult, I grew up drinking mostly instant coffee though I was always tempted to emulate Walt Garrison and skip the spoon and cup, but didn’t. No one I knew had a Mr. Coffee-heqq, no one I knew could afford one.

The Mr. Coffee makers became as popular in their day and way as the Keurig machines are these days helped in no small part by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio as their spokesperson. Until he died earlier this week, I wouldn’t have known who Vincent Marotta, Sr., was if I had found him at the bottom of a coffee cup.

But he was, for all intents and purposes, Mr. Coffee. It’s early as I type this and I try to limit myself to no more than three cups of coffee in a day, but this cup’s for you, sir, with the deepest of affection and most finely ground Arabica.       

-bill kenny

Friday, August 7, 2015

A, not The, Yellow Tricot

I was wearing a new fast dry short sleeve shirt last week when I stopped into Planet Fitness, PF for those of us in the know, on my way to work in the morning. It has no pocket so I have to put my passport and Tang in a pocket in my gym shorts.

That was my attempt at humor at the expense of the Planet Fitness people who have to endure a huge ribbing, often not especially good-natured, from other physical fitness operations because they are monstrously successful.

The shirt is made of "reprocessed polyester" as opposed to, I'm guessing now, "unprocessed polyester" or "repossessed polyester." There are no herds of esters out on the lone prairie being driven to the round-up as I understand the tale of industry and wonder that created polyester so while I appreciate the honesty of "reprocessed" unless this is something along the lines of refried beans, I'm not really seeing the whole flick.

I was tempted, while I had the yellow tricot of reprocessed polyester on, to NOT use the treadmill where I labor each morning in futile pursuit of my imaginary lost youth (I never had the form or shape I keep telling myself I once had, but damn, I'm persistent) and choose to ride an exercise cycle so I could strike a pose resembling Chris Froome.

The big challenge at the hour that I'm in PF, from about a quarter of four to a quarter of five in the morning, is finding someone to take the 'both hands and arms raised triumphantly over my head in spent ecstasy at the wonder of my achievement' picture. I have the camera, I just need the photographer. And one of those goofy sort of a painter's hat that all the cyclists wear.

I found no takers at all last week and I'm blaming that doped-up cheater Lance Armstrong. No one wanted to help an aspiring cyclist out as part of my PFPF (in this case, Pretty Funny Planet Fitness, or Punking F***ing Planet Fitness) project and so the world is one belly laugh lighter. That's how I'm seeing it, anyway.

So given the chance the other day to put down the very heavy piece of furniture he was lifting into the waiting van and help out a total stranger whom he didn't know from a partial stranger, reprocessed polyester and all, the stout fellow well-met didn't hesitate to lend a brother a hand.

No moving vans were harmed in the taking of this picture. That happened later.
I lift my water bottle in tribute to you kind sir! Next year, we'll ride in triumph under the Arc de Triomphe, at least in our imaginations.
-bill kenny