Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Whisper to a Riot

It's always surprising how often the calendar and New England weather seem to be synchronized and complement one another. This past Saturday, the first "fall" weekend, had me decide after a quick walk around the block to ditch the shorts I've been wearing for months for my 'big boy' pants.

I'll admit it took me a couple of minutes in the out and about to get comfortable with wearing long pants again during the weekend, but I have the feeling I'll get used to it pretty quickly; now if only all those thank you notes from passers-by would stop.

I was tuning up here in Norwich (I like to think of it as a 'home field advantage') for what has already gotten off to a soft start across the region, The Last Green Valley's Walktober 2015.  During past years of these organized regional walks, I've enjoyed learning about tons of spaces and places across Norwich that I'd passed dozens if not thousands of times without ever really 'seeing.'

My ambition this year is to spread my wings and lace up my walking shoes and sample other towns and points of interest because there's so much to see and do it would be a tragedy to simply not try.

While you're on their website, you can download the entire catalog of walks and explorations or when you visit their Facebook Events Page, you can read the day by day listings with something for everyone.

Saturday, as I passed Little Plains Park, the leaves on some of the trees nearer to what I call the Cathedral side of the park had started to turn color while below, oblivious to that change but not to the season, a group of youngsters enjoyed themselves and a spirited game of touch football as an elderly couple perhaps taking a break from a walk of their own, sat and smiled as the players ran past them.

We are electing a City Council and a Board of Education in about five weeks' time, and as I walked down Union Street towards City Hall I passed lawn signs advocating for various candidates. Truly, and not just here, of course, they are signs of fall.

But walking from my house near Chelsea Parade past Little Plains Park I'd seen far more, and far more, disquieting lawn signs, actually For Sale signs, that lead me to hope we'll soon have candidate forums and the opportunities to speak with those of our neighbors who are offering themselves for elected office about their approach to reversing our city's slide (I feel I'm being kind when I use that word-I've heard 'free-fall' and far worse).

Continuing down Union and then back up on Broadway perhaps it was the motion or the direction but I kept thinking about how, in the words of Jackson Browne, "we have come to the place where the road and the sky collide," as a city and maybe more than that.

I work hard to be an optimist, but I am also a relentless pragmatist, and while I applaud the generosity of all those who volunteer to serve as elected officials, I need those of you running for office to have more than ' I love Norwich' (who would run who didn't?) as your platform. Seriously.

I know you mean well but it's time we choose people who will do well. At least that's what I was thinking about as I walked. That, and how much my long pants itched.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When the Outside Is In

Every time I think me and my generation have progressed in every way from the life my parents led, I look at the state of our politics, from sea to shining sea, and I don't talk so loud or walk so proud. 

We could, in the course of the next forty-eight hours have, again, a shutdown of the federal government as we did in 2013 (as a Federal employee not included in the Pay Our Military Act, I stayed home until the morning of 17 October and felt like crap for every waking minute of those seventeen days because my employer had decided I "wasn't essential to our mission"). As you may have just realized reading that, I took it personally and still do.

The consequences for a temper tantrum orchestrated by one sect (I chose that word deliberately) of one party at the national level seeking to defund the Affordable Care Act had consequences for those residents who are/were members of it locally. We in Norwich that year were electing a Mayor and a seven-person City Council. You might be able to guess for whom I could not bring myself to vote.

It may happen again, this time over funding for Planned Parenthood, and it may be a shape of things to come as the rhetoric for a Presidential election almost thirteen months away is already so red hot, I wouldn't touch some of those running with a barge pole. Like this candidate. Glad I own a Dell computer.

It's easy to spot an office-seeker who has no experience in any aspect at any time of elected government and who wears that as some sort of a badge of honor. Being ignorant of how something works isn't a sin; being proud of your ignorance is arrogance, though, and that is one of the seven deadly sins, Pride. 

Standing on principle can be done without holding the machinery of governance hostage. My disquiet isn't just with Ms. Firorina or the Canadian-born Texan who wants to eliminate anchor babies, but, rather, with those on the flanks, in both national parties, of the political center. They have a singular focus and insistence in refusing to hear nuance in the language of leadership or to see any shades of gray but only black or white.

They are the embodiment of  Churchill's warning that a fanatic is someone who cannot change the subject and who will not change his mind. The last thing we need on a very crowded planet is more people with open mouths and closed minds
-bill kenny 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tinder Is the Night?

Feel across these scribblings from a couple of years back and despite what the calendar says, they seem sadly to be as true now as the day I first offered them. Not sure that's the kind of progress we should be striving for but that seems to be all we're going to get at least for today.

Living as we do in this age of miracles and wonders, why should I be surprised that we've applied so many of our technological innovations in single-minded pursuit of making one another unhappy, or more unhappy (as the case may be)?

That we're also very good at it is one of those 'goes to show' moments, I guess. I can dimly remember being single (not that I was ever any good at it and not that any woman whom I may have known during that period of our lives just looked up wistfully and wondered to herself 'what might have been?'). I have no sense of nostalgia or regret. I'm only good at marriage now because the woman I married is so excellent at it. I really have the easy part, in that I just show up and she does everything else.

I was never that 'take a look at my girlfriend' guy in prep school and listening to all the purple prose and other prolix praise of Saturday nights past while changing for PE was more of a torture than a treat. My social life, probably like yours, was equal parts fumble and mumble and not a time period I regard with any sort of fondness.

I never really knew when I was going out with someone on a steady basis and/or when we had broken up. This made for some awkward moments tightly compacted so that each minute felt like a year, but thanks to the convergence of technologies life after "'tis better to have loved, and lost" is at least for some, very much without the better part.

In a culture that has break-up and make-up sex, why am I not surprised we're #1 in revenge porn sites? Truth to tell, I don't actually know that we are #1 but suspect we're in the Top Five; I truly believe we have a knack for this kind of thing and when I say "we" I mean "you".

Old lovers used to fade away and become shadows-I can remember doing things like changing how I walked home from school to avoid going past a certain house or a particular hang-out after whatever I had (don't think 'relationship' was the in-vogue word then) had ended.

Now, I guess I'd just bulldoze the house down and get misty-eyed as people screamed until the emergency rescue folks showed up. As Neil Sedaka once offered, 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do' unless you have an internet connection then maybe not so much. I've heard retribution can be served slightly warm with perhaps a white wine. The chill happens later.
 -bill kenny

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fighting Above Your Weight

There are days no matter how hard someone is working to jolly you up, the “No Joy” light continues to burn like a thousand suns. It happens to each of us, hopefully NOT all at the same time but there are moments when more than one unhappy person is occupying a space designed or designated for a different unhappy person. In those instances hilarity often does NOT ensue. 

I’m thinking that may be what happened here, a couple of months ago at The Happiest Place on Earth. Either that or Fogerty’s Bad Moon Risin’ showed up a bit early. 

I did find a lot of the viewer comments about the clip well beyond the pale (and reported so many as ‘hate speech’, the YT folks sent me a note to ask if perhaps I had malfunctioning keyboard), especially since I’m not a big fan of waiting for anything (except, and I’m guessing now, to be taken out back and thrashed with a tree branch; in that instance, feel free to dawdle) and since this happened sometime in July and Florida is not well-known for its July cool spells, I think the elements and environment helped contribute to the fraying of nerves.

I mention this at all because two folks of whom I am inordinately fond, one of them my son and the other the love of his life, are enjoying The House of Mouse even as I type this and I while I certainly hope they receive everything they signed up for on their vacation, I hope they choose “pie” over “pugilism” when asked if they’d like more of something.
-bill kenny

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Later We Can Lean on the Hood and Tell Racing Stories....

Without meaning to harsh your petroleum buzz, as the price at the pump continues to fall to levels not seen since the Founding Fathers, and Mothers, suggested in the Constitution we Americans are entitled to pay no more than fifty cents a gallon (ever) for full-service regular (you can look it up or ask that well-known Constitutional scholar Dr. Ben Carson to help), you might be interested in knowing where all that oil that we refine for our cars and trucks comes from. Or not

Sure seems like a lot of dead dinosaurs to me. And, hand on your heart, did you ever, I mean really ever, see Bob and Doug wearing a Keffiyeh? Quite the attention-grabber standing in line at Tim Hortons (hears a Tuque) I’d imagine. Just goes to show how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Thank goodness we do such a good job in these parts on being uninformed-saves a lot of harm, believe you me. 

Anyway, as you’re sitting at your full-serve fill-up joint, remember when gas stations used to check your oil and offer you a free drinking glass, or a towel, or some other ‘prize’? spare a thought for Ali-Al-Nmir, a young Saudi Arabian who may well be dead, in a most gruesome if not grotesque manner, by the time you read this.  

Thanks to Middle East terrorists of all flavors, we’ve become nearly inured to reports of barbarism from “that” part of the world, except in case you sort of just skimmed that last link, pay attention when reading this link to who is killing him.

It's the same people who have done so much to assist in the humanitarian tsunami that is overwhelming so many nations across Europe, if by so much you mean as I do, absolutely nothing except contribute to the misery of the swarms of humanity fleeing for their lives by supporting a proxy war in Yemen

So far, our country has done so little in terms of intervention in this matter, it would appear from space as if we had done nothing. Wouldn’t want to disturb the sleep of the just, I know, not even to try to stop a most heinous miscarriage of not-even-close-to-justice.

It’s a good thing oil is lighter than water otherwise those supertankers bringing all that Saudi oil to our refineries might not be able to float across the oceans of the world. And then how would we get these metal boxes with voracious petroleum appetite from point blank to moot point.

Thankfully (for us) we've decided to forget blood is thicker than water though washing it off this time may prove to be much harder than we might have ever imagined.

-bill kenny

Friday, September 25, 2015

More than a Celebratory Parade

Today, and I know you'll be as delighted as I in finding this out, is National Lobster Day!! I'm only using two exclamation marks, not because I'm unimpressed with this bold action taken by our United States Senate, though I am, but because a quick check of headlines past, indicates we've been this way before and may still have the lemon and butter stains to prove it. 

Actually, you would have to have them as I never eat lobster-just not a fan of any of the bounty harvested from Neptune's kingdom. My entire happiness about today is a matter of calendar calculation. It provides me with an excuse to offer up one of my back pages as if I have now developed fresh, new insights on life here on this planet. We both know I haven't but thanks for playing along. 

I stopped by my local grocery yesterday to visit their salad bar for my lunch for the following day. I'm serious as heck about eating healthier, or at least swallowing healthier, stuff. Having a salad at lunch instead of a cholesterol and bacon thrombosis burger is one of the ways I intend to live forever (or feel like forever, which, I suspect, is way more likely).

Some of it is mind over matter if you think you're making responsible healthy choices, perhaps you do. I've come to this 'be healthy and be happy' party a little late and my smile is more than faded though I did smile a lot yesterday.

The assemble-your-own-salad-bar is in the corner of the store with the delicatessen on one wall, the fruits and vegetables scattered throughout and along the back wall is the fish counter. Despite half a lifetime of meatless Fridays, I've never been a fish fan. 

We used to eat swordfish before we screwed that all up and if the Lord had asked me how to feed 5,000 hungry folks I'd have prayed for fish sticks and hoped the manna became tartar sauce, so you now have a better appreciation of how I am with the creatures of the sea.

As I'm working through the salad bar, there's a young man, perhaps all of five years old (on a good day with a strong breeze at his back, downhill) who is, as are they all at that age, thrilled to be alive and shopping with 'Dad!'. I'm typing it that way, 'Dad!' because that's how it sounded every time he said it. And he said it a lot. Madras shorts and an electric yellow short sleeve shirt, this young fellow, standing before the lobster display case, was as enchanted as if he were at Sea World.

The lobsters at $5.99 a pound, rubber bands around their claws, stacked like so much cord wood on the bottom of the display case were just about at his eye level. He touched the glass, somewhat tentatively and then realized they couldn't bite him and started to slide his hand along the glass, shuffling his feet and shouting for 'Dad!' over and over and louder and louder like maybe 'Dad!' was deaf instead of ignoring him. He wasn't the least bit sad that the lobsters weren't chasing his hand, besides, he was in no hurry.

After minutes of this, 'Dad!' caved and came over to the display tank where his son announced he'd 'really like to get one of these to take home!' (it's possible all children around the world until they hit double digits, think and talk in exclamation points). 

'Dad!' calling his son 'buddy' seemed okay with this idea and suggested getting a second lobster as well 'for mom' while he and 'buddy' shared this one.

'Buddy' nearly went along with this proposal until he considered what his mother might make of a lobster as a pet, which nearly all of us in the area of the display were pretty sure is what 'buddy' had in mind. I say nearly all because 'Dad!' had no clue at all. 

After observing 'buddy, I didn't know you liked lobster', and in turn being promised by 'buddy' that he'd take of the lobster and 'walk him every day' all I needed was the fat lady to sing, after fetching the melted butter and lemon.

'Dad!' was now on thin ice (technically he was in water to his ankles) but seemed to think he had a teachable moment here, somewhere. He got as far as explaining that 'we eat lobsters, bud----' "EAT THEM!" the child shrieked. "WHY WOULD WE EAT THEM?" 

As questions go, this is an excellent one, especially had it been followed with an explanation of how we eat them. Instead the child, now staring at a man he'd never suspected of cannibalism, kept repeating so loudly I'm sure you could hear him in the parking lot (perhaps in Delaware) 'Dad!' 'Dad!' 'Dad!'

I assume Steve and Bindi Irwin had many similar moments. Luckily, Mom (no exclamation point please) arrived from, I think, the cereal aisle and scooped up a now openly sobbing 'buddy' shooting an 'I will boil you for this' look at 'Dad!' while marching towards the deli counter to get the child a please be quiet bribe slice of salami.

I was thinking of sharing with 'buddy' what I've heard about where we get salami from, but mom had a visage that would make a train run on a dirt road (thanks, Dave M) and I really needed to find some arugula.
-bill kenny

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I Prefer Percale

With all the challenges (shortcomings and obstacles say some; I prefer to say opportunities to excel), we face as a nation about which we can do something: healthcare for all, elimination of the school to prison pipeline, equal rights in every way for everyone, fair wages at meaningful jobs for all who want them, protection from all enemies, foreign and domestic, we’re generating a lot of heat though not much light about religion, and/or more specifically why some versions of God may be/are better than others, at least that’s how it seems to me.

Last week, as all the Republican candidates who participated in the CNN telethon, were still working the cramps out of leg muscles, one candidate got popped with this question

As someone who is (too) often dangerously close to abusing freedom of speech, I absolutely defend the right to his own opinion the fellow in the audience is exercising. However, he doesn’t have a right to his own facts.

There was a teachable moment there both at that event and on screens all across the nation, which, in my opinion Mr. Trump failed to seize for reasons I cannot pretend to know and will not attempt to speculate (yeah, something about sin and stones; not Keith or Mick, some other kind). History, held in low regard by some circles across this country, does show us all a different way to respond to practically the same situation.

Speaking of facts (and other annoyances), “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” 

Pretty straight-forward, I think and yet….There’s another aspirant for the nation’s highest office who sounds like he’s going into the “creating new qualifications to be President” business. I think the folks who came up with Article 6 of the Constitution have that one handled but leave your card and if an opening develops, we’ll let you know.

As a kid attending Saint Peter School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, when the United States elected John Kennedy as President, despite being a Roman Catholic, I assumed we had put the ‘what’s your religion?’ litmus test strips back in the box and abandoned them somewhere in the past. It looks like everything old is new again, sadly.

We need to have meaningful discussions leading to solutions on many actual and serious problems confronting us as we continue Slouching towards Bethlehem (and not the one in Pennsylvania). I’m not sure how creating artificial issues help us do anything good for anyone, ever. 
-bill kenny

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Let the (Three) Rivers Run

With the weather turning cooler and the daylight arriving later and the evening sky getting dark earlier day by day, I appreciate how, when the sky is clear I can see the moon and stars and I wonder if anyone 'out there' is looking back at me 'down here' trying to sort out who I am and what I do.

Such thinking always leads me to be impressed by pictures taken from space of the Earth--not so much for their color, composition and contrast or even for their peacefulness but because, from that distance, we all look very much the same.I tell myself that's how God in Heaven sees us though between you and me I'm quite willing to wait a while longer before putting that theory to the test. 

Tomorrow afternoon, starting at five, is an opportunity to Celebrate Diversity with an event so named and organized by the Norwich Rotary whose sponsorship and participation grows with each passing year. There will be food, dance exhibitions, presentations and demonstrations offering opportunities to meet people like us and unlike us with whom we, together, we share Norwich as our home. 

Celebrate Diversity at Howard T. Brown Park offers a perfect platform and setting for each of us to begin or to continue a dialogue on shared hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families which transcend reports of discord and disturbance we see from across our nation on the evening news almost every night.

Perhaps because we're better, certainly not perfect but progressing, at speaking with one another rather than at one another, we are a city where civility is always an integral part of our civic conversations, where, despite the three dozen or so languages spoken across our community, our hearts can still better hear and understand what our ears and minds sometimes struggle to listen to and comprehend.  
Don't get me wrong. As a white man nearing his middle sixties, I would never presume to assume we are a city which has achieved unlimited opportunities for all and no obstacles or challenges before us. My mom might have raised crazy children, but not stupid ones (at least after me). 

But just how much progress we are making in being better at living and working is something I think we can all agree has no easy answer but we can't stop talking about it just because the question upsets or anger us. Yes, we are a city, but more than that we are neighborhoods, and, before that, we are also neighbors. Sometimes we live parallel lives, making opportunities for shared experiences and conversations that much more important.

Inter-personal human relations aren't like math problems or scientific equations where you plug in specific values of designated variables into a formula that produces a result which can then be applied in a particular set of circumstances. One plus one, despite our best intentions, doesn't always equal a well-known outcome, but we should we all continue to strive to be One Nation.

We are a nation, a state and city in transition. Racial, gender, sexual, religious, financial equality and freedom are all goals in many instances more conceptual than concrete. There will not ever come the day when all of us aren't working on any of those challenges and half of us will see the progress made and the rest of us will see all the miles to go before we sleep. Dreams delayed can only be denied for so long. Let all the dreamers wake the nation.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peripatetic Papacy

If you’ve been following the advance news reports for Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States, it seems a little like The Beatles meets One Direction in terms of hype and hysteria. Glancing at the calendar I suddenly realize, it's (wait for it) The Final Countdown

That was such an awful trick you almost forgot to admire that Pope visit tracking link. Good that I'm here. I think we should scrutinize that a little more closely and linger for just a moment, shall we, on the marketing machine (and I do mean that) behind ‘the site for Pope Francis’ visit to the US,’ that calls itself

I’m torn, I really am; I cannot decide which I like more, the Catholic Hoodies or the Catholic Tote Bags. Ah, c’mon, you probably know that neither one really makes my heart beat faster. This is the one I truly love, but I’ll bet the licensing agreements couldn’t be worked out in time. And yes, I confess they had me at Gadgets for God.

I have to wonder if His Holiness’ faith is being tested by all the hub-bub that’s moved center stage from the sideshow as his arrival to our shores nears. I don’t just mean the black market on line sales of free tickets, that's moneychangers in the Temple stuff, in this case Etsy and eBay, though that is probably causing him to wonder about us just a little bit. Perhaps he already has

I am sure somewhere in a boardroom there were folks calculating the odds of getting to finish their one-on-one pitch for corporate sponsorship by the Pope for all manner of goods and services. I can see him taking Karl Malden’s place in those AmEx commercials (‘Never leave Rome without them!”) or becoming Jim Perdue’s stunt double hawking chicken ( or vice versa) that serves five thousand at one sitting and the list of endorsements goes on  forever to include Twitter

Sorry, birds of the air and lilies of the field-the suits in corporate have finally found the one true religion, and you ain’t it. Can I get an Amen?   
-bill kenny

Monday, September 21, 2015

With the Velvet Hill in the Small of My Back

Thirty-four years ago today, to mark the opening of the United Nations' opening session, usually punctuated say cynics and NYPD by triple and quadruple parked stretch limos with dark tinted windows and DPL New York license plates, the UN declared September 21 to be The International Day of Peace.

I imagine for the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing rabid intolerance in the name of religion across the Middle East, seeking to join the other hundreds of thousands who have already fled the wild-eyed murdering marauders, such a day might be good for an additional handful of millet masquerading as a meal or an hour under a roof reducing exposure to the savagery and harshness of elements we developed civilization to protect us from.

To prove everyone wants a piece of peace, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is offering a free small soft drink at the Vince Lombardi rest stop, at Exit 16 on the Jersey Turnpike, to those reluctant seasick Sailors who survived their Mediterranean passage, unless, of course, they didn't. Sorry, no rainchecks or refunds.

I don't know what your wardrobe calls for today, but I'd suggest cargo pants so you have big enough pockets to put all that freedom in just in case you were to wind up somewhere that, for some odd reason, doesn't seem to be quite as free as one would desire.

According to some reports, we may have been thisclose to chowing down on a McWhopper to help celebrate the festivities, but hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, it takes more than two hands to grasp an opportunity like that I guess and far too often we run out of napkins as well as plates in Life in the Foodchain.
-bill kenny

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Big Vowel Movement

The title is about as creative as I can get, so if that's what you came for (didja see what I did there, Ronda Rousey?), move on as there's not much else to see here today.

Tomorrow we are head to The Big E (now you get the title, right? No? I'll wait) which is New England's State Fair. You can gorge yourself on deep-fried just about anything and it all has NO calories because you're at the fair (I tell myself).

Here's what it looked like a couple of years ago when we went, and I am very much hoping for lots of blue sky and sun and miles of walking. Large Fun Awaits!
-bill kenny

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Turning, not Taking, a Page

It was twenty-four years ago today I worked my last day as an employee of the US Air Force (civilian type) in Europe. I tell myself I still haven't decided if I'm angry or sad about how the end happened and why. I didn't lose my job, it sort of lost me. Historically, in less time than it takes to explain the appeal of totalitarianism to Eastern Europeans, that appeal evaporated into thin air and where there had been two Germanys for four and a half decades, there was suddenly only one. 

As a card carrying grey eminence of the NATO occupation forces, and with Exchange and Commissary privileges to prove it (not forgetting my Mainz-Kastel Audio -Video Club Frequent Shopper Membership), I was part of the 'everything must go!' overhead the United States Armed Forces parted with in their Getting Out of Europe sale. In dribs and drabs for the course of a couple of years, many of those with whom I had worked, in and out of uniform, found themselves in the same place and space-where the road and the sky collide with very little time to think once much less twice.

I was considering all of that (and the role a pair of talentless right bastard career Air Force officers both of them, Captain Mary and Colonel Tom, played in engineering my exit) while watching the images of the now united Germany opening its arms to embrace the poor and terrorized peoples from all corners of the Middle East and while I realize there's mumbling and grumbling about how much help and who should receive it I can recall similar murmurings at the time of reunification, and this time around it seems to be more muted and measured. 

Gone, though not forgotten (at least by me and I know I'm not alone) are the tee shirts that were everywhere when the blush of reunification had faded that read on the front "Bring Back the Wall" while auf den ruckseite, it said "And Make It Three Meters Taller." This time, all Germans, ehemaliger wessies und ossies are all standing tall, rolling up sleeves and helping those in dire need of any and all forms of assistance and writing a new chapter of the world's history.

It amazes and heartens me to watch from a distance. If I'd known then what would happen to my life now and that of my family, I don't think I'd have changed a thing for my family or the world in whcih we lived, despite or because of that knowledge. We are the sum of everyone we've ever known and the journey so far has been as educational as it has been inspirational and entertaining. 

Sometimes this story each of us is writing can be a bit tricky as farewell often becomes goodbye and at other times, it's yet another hello.
-bill kenny 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hearing the Wren Sing and the Falling Cease

Today may or may not be on your wall calendar, more likely than not depending on where it was printed. Last Friday, as you should remember, was Patriot Day observed as the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Dedicating days on the calendar can help us keep track not so much of time itself (good luck with that John Cameron Swayze) but a (not the) prioritization and importance of events we might otherwise allow to fade in our memory and slip from our consciousness.

At one time schoolchildren learned the beginning and end dates of major conflicts and world wars; perhaps because one seems to stretch into the next, we’ve started to get away from demarcations like that allowing, instead, the flickering images online or TV screens to light up our faces even if our eyes seem distant and dull in comprehending what any of what we are seeing actually means. 

Today is National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day, a different day of remembrance because for those most deeply and directly affected, every day is POW/MIA Recognition Day and the pain of loss is neither dulled nor diminished with the passage of years and decades.

William (WS) Merwin once offered “What you remember saves you.” 

For too many of us, perhaps salvation has slipped from our grasp and yet I would hope we can at least for today find a moment to remember those for whom the battles to secure our liberties have yet to end.

In defending hearth and home as many have done throughout our history, the belief and hope that there will be a day when you return to that same hearth and home often sustains in both moments of trial and triumph. 

If only in our thoughts and hearts today, for all those were and are feared lost, welcome home.
-bill kenny

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Not Rory, the Other One

I confess that I've never really understood his appeal, but I've always respected the career of Leo Anthony Gallagher, Jr. better known to his legion of fans as Gallagher.

Who else has had a comedy career spanning decades based on the produce aisle of his local grocery story? Of course, one bad harvest season, and he'd have been handed his cards, but the Jolly Green Giant was on his side, I guess.

Not sure that was the case, here.
I'm thinking more dullard mean-spiritedness than homage or tribute. In any event, I hope they're seedless watermelons as that way it's costing the miscreants a good couple of bucks for their moronic fun.

As for me, I was looking for an excuse to play me some Rory Gallagher, so thank you very much, Reno!
- bill kenny

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Voting with Your Feet

While I was out this past Friday afternoon grocery shopping with my spouse, one of the candidates for City Council stopped by because when you’re running for office in Norwich, and elsewhere I assume, that’s what you do, you knock on people’s doors and more often than not have to explain to them who you are, what office you are seeking (and why) and when the election is. Sometimes the order is different, rarely is the outcome. 

The candidate was even kind enough to leave me a note on his handout to tell me he was sorry he’d missed me. Skippy, my Imp of the Perverse wondered how sorry he might have felt had he actually met me instead.

I’m sure there will be lots more knocking on doors and pieces of (hopefully recyclable) paper with talking points about what we can all agree on are shared issues of concern (I have my doubts on that point already just based on the one handout I have) but there’s a lot of time between now and November for candidate panels and voter forums (what would be wrong with a dodgeball tournament whose proceeds went to a charity? Let’s face it in small-town politics, you better learn to dodge or duck on some of the hotter topics) to help us all gather and nurture good ideas and people of promise who have them. 

I don't think we can have enough good ideas and ways to implement them. I add that latter part because that seems to be where we get stuck and stumble. I've offered very often in this space the point that while hope is a wonderful virtue to have, hope is NOT a plan. I’m listening to everyone seeking office with both my heart and my head-I want passion, but I insist on ability.

What you might wish to do, if I may make a suggestion, is comparison shop (sounds so tawdry and I apologize but still....) and read every newspaper articles you can put your hands to (the Otis Library has great archives of local newspapers in case your puppy has ruined your collection), check out candidate websites, and make it a point to seek out the debates and voter forums between now and November.

You cannot ever make an overly informed choice. It is just NOT possible.
Instead, you can sift through the words and thoughts and look for the ideas that you feel are most worthwhile and the plans for implementing them and then form conclusions on who it is that can get us, as a city, to where you've concluded we need to be heading. This time we have choices and divergent voices to better reflect both the city we are as well as the city we wish to become. 

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. Just how many more abandoned mills, surrounded by pot-hole filled streets through blighted neighborhoods do you think we need? Yeah, me too.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

You Expect to Be Sad in the Fall

Yesterday was the first morning in many months that I could have used a light jacket as I was leaving the house while heading off to work. There was just a hint of a chill in the air, mixed for me at least, with the certain knowledge and dread that as the days shorten and the shadows lengthen, autumn will arrive more rapidly than it did last year as the year begins its turn to winter.

I am not, as you may know, an especial fan of winter. The last one very nearly killed me, literally, and so by extension, autumn with its riot of colors across the tree line and its clearer than clear clarity in the hours before dawn-I saw the morning star all the way from my house to my office yesterday-surrenders to General Winter who covers everything in this part of the hemisphere in ice and snow, is not a time of year I welcome, because of what follows.

I grasp the essentialness and significance of the passing and changing of the seasons. On somewhat morose mornings, such as yesterday’s, I wonder and worry how many more will pass me by before they no longer do. 

I guess there is some solace in realizing that when it happens, you never know it. There is nothing like a brisk morning meditation where you can see your exhaled breath to get you contemplating your own mortality.

I pass down a hallway in our home every morning on my way out that has photos of our children from when they were small-they will always be our children-and I smile looking at those pictures because I can vividly remember the circumstances of our lives at the moment the shutter clicked. 

Ironically, because the camera froze that moment, time, itself, felt no need to tarry and didn’t. Our children are adults with lives much like, and unlike, ours at their current ages when we were working hard to be their parents.

In less than a week’s time, we’ll have made our nearly annual pilgrimage to New England’s State Fair, if you will, The Big E, where if it were allowed they would deep-fry a 1932 Stutz Bearcat, cover it in butter and cracked wheat germ and offer it on a stick to health-conscious visitors. 

The line to purchase one would probably run all the way down the highway to Six Flags New England itself engaged in an annual seasonal struggle as the fall signals the ending of another outdoor entertainment season.

And the snap in the morning air is echoed by the sound underfoot as we make our way to and through another day, almost unheeding of how quickly the time we so dearly prize is slipping from our grasp. And you hope there’s a second sitting for Hemingway’s Moveable Feast.            

-bill kenny

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Definitely Happy....

Happy 5776!
Beginning at sundown yesterday and running through tomorrow morning, it's 
Rosh Hashanah. I am always a bit in awe by a traditional practice by people of faith of many and various religions to not actually spell out or say God's name.

As a lapsed Roman Catholic, I envy those whose faith, especially today in the world we have created, allows them to move forward and carry on even if I no longer share in those beliefs (but would like to) because of my own sin of stiff-necked pride.

The existentialism of despair that I've adopted, I suppose, provides its own comfort, cold as it is, or at least I hope it does as I have little else and when I'm finally sure of my lines, no one is there. I'm thinking of Stu, Marcie, Larry, Susan, Ev, Bob, Dr. Bob and teacher because as liberal as I pretend to be, that's about all the members of the Jewish faith I knew, know or know of after six-plus decades on this sphere.  Perhaps I should make it a point to get out more as I certainly can't get out less.

A religion perhaps no larger than the mustard seed about which a Teacher of another time spoke so eloquently-whose existence is, for many, proof of a Divine Providence's steadfast watchfulness in comparison to which, the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field can only dream while, sadly, in so many parts of the world, others who profess to revere a God of their making can only scheme.

-bill kenny

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Probably Nothing to Do with Anything

None of these next words are mine, but they are all amazing.
And if you are a parent, you know exactly how amazing they are.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bow from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might that His arrow may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's band be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

--Kahlil Gibran

-bill kenny

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Speaking in Tongues

If the weather cooperates, we will eat like royalty today here in The Rose of New England, Norwich (CT) and we’ll be spoiled for choice while doing so.

Practically across the street from my house, though I suspect the organizers didn’t necessarily have that in mind while planning it, is the “Healthy Living Festival” which (admit it) is a very catchy title and sounds way cooler than just about anything you or I (but especially me) might come up with. 

As someone who is reputed to carry with him the only known manufactured version of the Swiss Army Spork (a story never proved, by the way, and, no, you cannot check my pockets) I like that someone, somewhere, worries about what it is I choose to eat since I’m a lot more universalist even in my dotage, than many would prefer.  And, yes, to return to an earlier point, that I don’t have to work up an appetite walking to the festival is certainly an argument in its favor.

In my house, we’ve had it on the calendar for weeks and months (usually scribbled in marinara sauce, truth be told) is the Taste of Italy where the eating gets in tents.

Did you see what I did there? Must be the Alfredo sauce talking, I suspect.

If you stand near the entrance of Howard T. Brown Park for ten minutes or so in the course of the Taste you will see people you very likely last saw at last year’s event, the food is just that good and the appeal is so overwhelming that, like moths to a flame, we show up, napkins tucked under our chins, or in our pockets (if our wives have had anything to do with dressing us), following our noses and ready to enjoy mouthwatering deliciousness.

I think I may have just gained three pounds writing that paragraph, not that this is a good day to get on a scale and see how true that statement might be. Technically, it’s still summer and in likelihood in your neck of the woods there’s a festival or two going on, so bring your appetite and grab a large plate for a heaping helping of a bigsmorgasbordwunderwerk
-bill kenny

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Live from the Cake and Eat It Carousel

I passed a woman the other day while driving who was walking her Doberman Pinscher (I assume it was here; who offers to walk someone else's'?) on a leash who had on dark blue tee shirt with Shut Up Underpants printed across the back.

I have no idea what was on the front what with the large dog and all, but when I sat down to write this, her shirt just jumped out at me (which probably isn't really the way I'd like this sentence to read, but, as they say in Congress, who has time for English? (kidding, I hope)).

And my mentioning that means if you're  surfing the web today, hanging ten, grabbing some churn and getting jiggy with it (see? all of that was English and I have NO idea what any of it means) and your search engine finds that term, you will feel like you've learned something even though, upon further review, you haven't. 

I had someone send me some amazing insights the other day someone with whom I share the same biology and with whom I'm joined by the same air we breathe, but that's about all we have in common. So he's a pretty amazing guy for passing this stuff along but (of course) not as amazing as I am for sharing some of it with you. (why is there no ironic type font?)

Bernie (not the guy with the appliance store, another Bernie) tells me this comes from the mind and pen (or keyboard, I suspect) of Regina Brett of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and while I'm only going to pass along a few of her insights, the column itself is right here but before you read it, make yourself a nice cup of coffee, brew yourself some tea, or if it's late enough, maybe have a Seagrams's and soda, because you'll want to savor it, it's that good.

"Life isn't fair, but it's still good."
"Life is too short to waste time hating anyone."
"You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree."
"If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it."
"Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful."
"No one is in charge of your happiness but you."
"What other people think of you is none of your business."
"No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up," and my favorite,
"Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does."

We just finished observing Labor Day with many of us working on a day that is dedicated to thanking those who work. I don't make the rules, but that one seems to especially suck. The hustle and bustle and head-noise aren't going anywhere and you really look like you could use a break, so take it. And if anyone says anything, refer them to today's title and let them figure it out.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Beyond Shattered Glass, Twisted Steel and Clouds of Dust

Time, we're told, is the great healer and perhaps when we're speaking about bruised feelings or scraped knees, that's more often true than not but time does not, and cannot, heal all wounds and that's sometimes better so.

This Friday, September 11, perhaps the darkest and saddest day in our collective consciousness and on our calendars is Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.

What we each most remember of that day is usually linked to where we were and what we were doing when at 8:46 AM, American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the north face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center at over 450 miles an hour, becoming the sonata in a symphony of hate and horror that was to be redeemed by heroism and humanity as that day dragged on and for every day, up to, and including, today. But, stealing a line from a Warren Zevon song, 'the hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder.'

As a Presidential Proclamation issued a few years ago marking September 11th, noted, "(w)e will never undo the pain and injustice borne that terrible morning, nor will we ever forget those we lost."

I don't think any of us have or will ever forget but learning to live as individuals and citizens of what we so casually call the Greatest Country on Earth, requires we show compassion towards one another and empathy for ideas and ideals like and sometimes very much unlike our own, and to display the courage of our convictions in order to live as bravely as those who died in New York City, the Pentagon and aboard Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

We have gone down so many different and diverging paths in the last fourteen years and our headlines and news stories reflect, perhaps uncomfortably and far too accurately, the "Pluribus" in our "E Pluribus Unum." 

We may be speaking more often and more loudly than we have at any time since the divisiveness preceding the Civil War, but I fear we're also not listening less than at any time in our history, in at least my lifetime.

A cautionary and prophetic historical footnote, from September 10, 2001, about a Gallup Poll released on that day, indicating 55% of us were 'dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States.

I don't pretend to know what recent surveys on that subject might reveal, but based on the mutterings and murmurings we each encounter every day, the dissatisfaction levels aren't all that different than they were the day before 9/11.

I'd imagine the summer of our discontent will linger through the autumn and into the winter, as we struggle to make decisions on defining a national direction and choosing a President to help lead us there. 

And the discussions that will shape those decisions are at the essence of who we are as the nation so often regarded as a shining light for all others and as a people whose belief in ourselves and in our fundamental goodness and righteousness has driven us from one coast to the other, to the darkest depths of the world's oceans and to farthest reaches and starless nights of space. 

We must promise one another that the memories of those whose lives ended on 9/11 will fuel our efforts to lead our country, and the world, to greater freedoms that more truly and always honor their sacrifice
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Say a Prayer for the Common Foot Soldier

Some attempted thoughts from years ago, that are sadly both still accurate and terribly current. The Big Names and Important People will be weighing in all this week on how their lives changed on September 9th, 2001. The rest of us are no more than walk-ons in their life movies, rarely if ever ending up with a speaking part, but that's just as well because what would we say?

Could we be as pragmatic and matter-of-fact as Captain David Zielinski, U. S. Army who was a junior in college on September 11, 2001, and a decade later was half a world away from family and friends, again, doing what he could to remake the world?

We forget the world, not just the United States, changed on September 11, 2001. Flight Lieutenant Katie Muldoon, Royal Air Force (United Kingdom) helps us remember the reverberations felt beyond the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and Lower Manhattan. The Lieutenant was on her third tour of Afghanistan when that story was created as part of the British contingent of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, a more critically important mission, and a more thankless task is almost impossible to imagine.

You could be Major Daniel Williams, US Army, back for another tour of duty in Afghanistan and who volunteered to be a Scoutmaster for a fledgling Boy and Girl Scout troop operating from an orphanage in Kabul.

It starts to sink in when you meet the Marines from the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines who were in Marjah, Afghanistan, where they had been deployed a year earlier and you realize practically none of those now-grizzled faces you are listening to were even in high school when War Came to America in 2001. 

When you watch "Mike" the MWD (Military Working Dog) it dawns on you that there's 'a war' that gets less and less screen time on the evening news and above the fold in your daily paper (not because it's suddenly less deadly but because we are paying less attention to it) and the war that hundreds of thousands of American service personnel are engaged in every day so that we can sit home and worry about the price of gasoline, fret about the calories a certain dessert will help us pack on or live vicariously through reading of the latest exploits of Publicity Panda Bears, be they named Kim, Snooki or Chelsea.

And if all of this seems to be two different worlds, it's because it is growing farther apart every day, all the way home and beyond.
-bill kenny