Saturday, February 28, 2015

And Your Little Angel Hung the Cat Up By Its Tail

How surprised would you be if I told you today’s title and coda were unpublished lyrics from Where Everybody Knows Your Name, usually called the theme from the television show, Cheers

They were in the original song, just NOT in the TV version used as the theme. True story and another example of Ruth being stranger than Bridget in terms of the real, surreal and cereal which fill our lives.

I’m doing the perky, smiley routine today to keep me from scowling as I read about Mohammed Emwazi, more infamously known as Jihadi John. I make no pretense of being ‘enlightened’ when it comes to my hopes for retribution, swift, soon and sudden, for Jihadi and his buddies and I certainly offer no apologies for a desire for the revenge I feel.

Not that Mo loses any sleep over my anger-it’s the legions of infidels, armed to the nines, that I’m sure he’s more concerned about especially since everybody now knows his name. 

You sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind and your actions in attempting to hasten the end of the world will result ultimately and finally in only ending your world, which turns out may be exactly what you are praying for..

-bill kenny 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Some Day We'll Have to Explain This As Well

One billion. That’s a nice, round number, innit? Has a one at the front and a bunch of zeroes. Looks quite nice actually as numbers go though in this case, it most certainly isn’t as that’s a really rough estimate of how many people around the globe go hungry every day. I made as  a good a guess as I can, not using the Fox News logic behind mocking global warming (as attractive as that technique is).

I lied, of course, in the above paragraph-this is an actual number from 2013 that’s about as accurate as anything anyone anywhere can or will ever find in terms of an educated guess on world hunger. There will come a day when we will need to google (or whatever the next google is called) to find out what “world hunger” even means, or was it eve real or just an urban myth like trickle-down economics and Citizen United.

But it won’t be today. And it’s not looking good for tomorrow either. When you think of how much food the world’s farmers produce (and how much food we in the first world waste and/or throw away) it’s pretty obvious hunger is not the problem, distribution is.

And unless and until enough of us want to make sure no one goes to bed hungry, people will always go to bed hungry, get up hungry and eventually die (of hunger). Their passing will not make the crawl on bottom of the screen of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians TV Show on “E.”

I got to thinking about all of this when I came across this news nugget on line (that ten free hours of AOL has already paid for itself!). When rates of obesity in this country are exceeded only by the sales of stretch yoga pants and feed bag rentals for those all you can eat buffets, that there’s something like Major League Eating, for competitive eaters mind you, is high up on the list of half-shoulder shrug explanations we offer the first interstellar travelers who touch down here on The Big Blue Marble.

After we invite them to lunch, of course.

-bill kenny

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Last Call at the Last Refuge

As a callow youth, imbibing clean-shaven and under-aged undergraduate at Rutgers on a stool in Mosco’s Bar in New Brunswick near the Douglass College (for Women) campus, I grew used to the bartenders’ last call. It was always the same, “you don’t have to go home, but you do have to go.”

I just googled Mosco’s and came up dry-as opposed to seeking out (and finding) cross-town favorite and bookend bar, Olde Queens Tavern. I guess you can go home again but your folks rented out the room.

Samuel Johnson once offered “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels” and in light of the number of times we’ve watched politicians wrap themselves in the flag when caught or cornered on some ethical or behavioral matter that seems about right. 

The former mayor of New York, Rudolph Guiliani invoked echoes of the “P”  word earlier in the week, say news reports, when he suggested the President of the United States (a position Rudy himself once coveted (though I suspect he wouldn’t have liked the pay cut) didn’t “love America.”

I already didn’t understand what that meant when he offered an explanation on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal whose allegiance to money is unquestioned and where patriotism is notional and never national.  All that “think piece” did, I submit, was allow the double-decker bus that has been called into commission as the 2016 Presidential Klown Kar of Kandidates and Analysts to slow down and let a few more wild-haired weirdos get on.

I very much enjoyed the pop-up window back there that solicited a donation for some cause or other by telling me ‘defunding amnesty is defending America.’ Maybe we can go ahead and raffle off that Statue in New York Harbor and give ‘em the money from the sale since we don’t seem to have any further use for the huddled masses on the dirty boulevard.

I have to admit in recent years American politics has more closely resembled underwater kabuki theater than anything else I can think of. Words take on meanings that I can only guess. Perusing a leading light’s prepared remarks (and party affiliation makes no difference) is like being in a library with books in a language you don’t read.

I’m told actions speak louder than words, but we have too many people who’d rather crank up the volume rather than improve their original argument. Tina Turner once asked ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and that may be the last intelligent thing I remember anyone saying, and she wasn’t even speaking about politics

As a kid when we had ‘cut battles’ (mocking one another) we had a rule: no mothers. You could make fun of anything and everything else, but not Mom. It was a good rule, and I think with some adaptation we can make it work at the national level in pursuit of a more civil dialogue among and between us.

George Bernard Shaw whose works have always led me to believe he could’ve sat on my front stoop on Bloomfield Avenue offered this thought on loyalty based on the accident of where you were born,  “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”

I have always preferred the thoughts of Carl Schurz but I’m told oldest children spend a lot time getting and setting things in order. It’s what we do. Sometimes living like that means I’m not allowed to eat at the cool kids’ table for lunch in high school, but that’s alright; I needed to lose a few pounds anyway.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Channeling Howard Beale

This will not surprise you, though your lack of surprise should sadden me: I have never allowed my lack of knowledge or information to keep from having an opinion. Consider that a disclaimer of sorts for what follows, because while I should be sorry what I’m about to offer, instead I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to finally express it. 

The Norwich Arts Events Committee sponsored a “brown bag summit” open to the public a fortnight ago that attracted some forty people from across the City. While I regretted not being able to attend, I felt the newspaper account of the meeting had a terrific “you are there” presence I deeply appreciated.   

Maybe it’s the unrelenting winter we’ve had so far, or maybe it’s a concern I have had that too often we confuse talking about solving problems with actually solving them.

If I may in one sentence attempt to describe our biggest challenge it is this: Norwich needs to become a place where people want to come home to.

Feel free to add any and all demographic adjectives and modifiers that you’d like to that sentence. But in terms of the demographics in our census data since 1990, understand we are becoming home to the very old and the very poor. And just about no one else.

I know. What does any of that have to with “the arts?”

You mean aside from putting quotations around the words except, of course, when we talk about the arts and music programs in our public schools, because we don’t have to because those have become a luxury we can no longer afford in our classrooms.

Live larger, think bigger.

When we hope to make “the arts” an engine of development in Norwich, who do we think those artists will be, where they will come from and how will they grow into the creative forces others from beyond our borders will support if/when we don’t invest in programs that broaden our children’s horizons while enriching our city.

And, quick note to a Board of Education that annually wrings its hands about how a “very tight” budget leaves no room for arts, music and language programs that neighboring districts offer as a matter of course, and then sits back as if that pronouncement helps anyone or anything at all.

Why not search out the attendees from the summit and insist on being part of larger conversations and collaborations that return “the arts” to our classrooms and which allow the many talented community hobbyists who play music for the love of it to share that enthusiasm with a whole new audience of school children. Don’t tell me we can’t do this when what you mean is we won’t.  

We can all only benefit, from the youngest to the oldest in our community, when we work as one beyond the confines of organizations and bureaucracies. The bad news is there’s no part of Norwich that’s not broken-but the good news is there’s no part we cannot fix.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Way the Camera Follows Us in Slo-Mo

Considering the relationship I have, or better phrased, do NOT have with God/The Deity/the Universal Consciousness (whatever you choose to call Her/Him), I can understand why we claim to be made in Her/His image and likeness, so often believe we have supplanted Her/Him.

A news story like this one, which could not seriously hope to complete with the likes of who won an Oscar and who got snubbed (since neither of us even got nominated I think we’re included in the latter) or how Kris Jenner is being blackmailed for a nude video of herself by persons unknown (I see a movie, “Fifty Shades of Ewww!”) almost was lost this weekend which is a shame because it’s an amazing and uplifting story.

I say that not just I stumbled over it on-line after an exchange of notes with a family member on matters of the health of their significant other with news that made me sad since I can neither help nor pray for others to help, but more (I think) because it’s a major miracle rendered mundane (seemingly) because of the effortlessness with which very brilliant and talented people, backed by teams with training and technology, make all of this seem routine though none of it is truly “as is seems.”

I sometimes think of Ozymandias when these stories surface except it’s never those accomplishing the miraculous that confuse their humanity for divinity or misplace their sense of humility but the rest of us here on the ant farm with beepers heedlessly hustling and hurtling towards an uncertain future with outcomes we can neither conceive of nor control.  We lose sight of how our lives are nothing more than a dry wind sweeping across the desert, curling into a circle of birth.    

-bill kenny

Monday, February 23, 2015

Time to Thin Out the Herd

I've been battling a cold for the better part of a month that I learned on Friday evening may not be as simple as a cold that doesn't quit. Two things usually happen when I get news like this: one is that I sulk and the other is that I just power through as if the physician were talking to someone else (a habit I've realized with a shock I inherited from my deceased father with whom I insist I have almost nothing in common until I look at behaviors and in the mirror and then have to swallow very hard).

Anyway, we had snow and sleet and ice and rain and more snow over the weekend because this is New England and that's what happens around here. We did get above freezing yesterday which I think is the first time in something like eleven years or so it seemed.

Of course it didn't get warm enough to remove the white out from our first draft of streets and sidewalks and according to the doctor I'm not allowed to do that anymore so I was saddled with the 'you can go to the store and get the fixings for the Mexican food we'll have for Sunday dinner' job.

I grabbed a shopping cart because I am much more a hunter-gatherer than a thrifty shopper. I cruise the aisles after getting whatever is on the list and hope neat stuff decides to hope into the cart. Our children are grown-I mention that so you can get a sense of how bewildered I was in reading this message on the plastic flap on the cart seat.

Seriously? Have we raised a generation of imbeciles who require these reminders in order to better parent. Or is this another manifestation of the litigious society in which we live that insists fast food joints tell me their coffee is hot because otherwise should I spill it I might play the victim card?

If you don't know your child should never be left unattended or "may fall out" of the cart, on behalf of future generations, swing by the condom display and arm yourself or your lover so someday these warnings are part of a bygone era.

And heed the words of Petula Clark, a champion of the obvious way back when we thought it was romantic and not a warning label.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not Really an Accurate Description

I've read with bewilderment, anger and astonishment of the success of the criminal crazies who are the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) -also called by a large number of other names, many of which make my mom feel very sad- and I confess to being so white bread, so Christianized (which is like pasteurized except I'm going to heaven or Carolina (in my mind)) and so Westernized that the appeal of these murderous maniacs eludes me entirely.

Came across this the other day which, I'll tell you this in advance, has working against it, its length (over five and half minutes) and I say "working against it" because while many of us will watch puppies skateboard, raccoons hula hoop or kittens leap up and open doors for an hour or more, without surcease, we're not big on actual learning of stuff by sitting and watching it on the Interweb.

I don't know why watching extended pieces on-line is so hard to do-I'm nearly sixty-three years old so maybe my attention span was already formed by three hour advanced placement tests (are you listening Oklahoma?) before any more damage could be done.

In any event, you owe it to yourself and anyone you care about to check this report out and remember Churchill's observation: "a fanatic is someone who cannot change his mind and will not change the subject." Perhaps after watching you'll agree with me that an antiseptic nuclear cleansing is our first and best solution.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fifty Shades of Sasha

It could be worse, I suppose. Brian Williams could be piloting a Hind helicopter which would make reporting on his role in the hostilities in the Ukraine even more awkward, but this news item, involving Sasha Grey (I’ll pause while all us guys can pretend to not know who she is) will do for now. 

We’ve all read stories about family pets getting credit cards in the mail and this is sort of along those lines and also the whole “on the internet anyone can be anyone else” (though usually it’s an FBI agent pretending to be a fifteen year old girl) paradigm.

My favorite part in explaining and examining the disinformation campaign is the mention of Josef Mengele and how not even that could deter folks from swallowing (was that an oblique reference to Sasha’s skillset? I’ll never tell) the disinformation  hook, line, and sinker only to end up flopping on the dock.

A lie, said Mark Twain in the pre-Internet era where no one ever imagined a thing such as social media, can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes. These days our self-generated social media news feeds with topics and genres we select have rows and columns of sport shoe ads helping mock and make the point even more.

As if the slaughter in this corner of the world, largely ignored by our mass communications practitioners, isn’t obscene enough, let’s manipulate diminished attention spans to create and enlarge fake outrage based on manufactured  mendacious memories of incidents that never happened in a conflict most of us can’t even imagine.

-bill kenny

Friday, February 20, 2015

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we actually made things in this country that worked, we were NOT First in Space. I was less than a wee slip of a lad when the Soviets launched Sputnik and was oblivious to the worried looks on grown-up faces that we living in the shadow of rockets with the hammer and sickle on the side. 

Meant nothing to me I must confess. And while I sort of remember space monkeys (my brother Kelly would have approved until they touched down, and then not so much) it wasn’t until Alan Shepherd in Freedom 7 went on the first Mercury flight that I started to pay attention. 

It was a sub-orbital flight, which is a grown-up word for ‘didn’t really get out into space’ or leave the Earth’s gravitational pull. It made no difference to any of us on Bloomfield Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey. Me, Neil S, Bobby F and all the rest who sand-lotted when the field around the corner wasn’t covered in snow, now had a new aspiration even if we didn’t know the word.

And by the time we got to “Colonel Glenn”, who on this date fifty-three years ago became the first American to orbit the Earth, we would have gladly joined Alice Kramden after Ralph sent her to the moon, if only we’d stayed up on a school night late enough to watch The Honeymooners and get the reference.

John Glenn was actually a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines, though for us that was difference without distinction as it was for most of about to become knee deep in Big Muddy half a world away in the rice paddies of Indochina.

But it was high times listening to the loudspeaker in the right hand front corner of the classroom at St Peter’s (sic) School in New Brunswick when the principal, Sister Immaculata, held her PA microphone up to the radio as we sat enthralled with it all listening at our desks. 

Those were days when we never tired and never wavered. We would live forever and use the moon as a launching pad for adventures to the farthest reaches of the universe. Sometimes growing up is not all it’s cracked up to be.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

I’ve read it a dozen times and I still don’t understand what I’m supposed to feel. I’m talking about Alex Rodriguez’s letter of apology for getting caught using performance enhancing drugs. Didja notice what I did there? As follicely-impaired as I am becoming I can still split hairs.

The Yankees’ 3rd baseman as everyone on the planet now knows was more juiced than the baseballs he has been smacking over outfield fences all across the American League. I’d like to believe no one (else) in professional sports cheats-I’d also like to believe I am 6’2” tall. We both know how that’s all worked out.

He cheated. He got caught and he was punished. I love the idea of ‘handwriting experts’ weighing in on the real meaning behind his scribble. Dear NJ dot com: Seriously? Were there no entrails-reading experts on Annie’s List you could have called? I'd have told our Hanky Panky Yankee to spray paint his apology on the Stadium's concourse walls; what would you have made of that

I realize this is Lent and we should ask forgiveness for our sins (real and/or imagined), so I guess I should applaud his example but, y’know what, enough is enough. I didn’t think the “apology” to the Yankees’ ownership was necessary. When they signed him there were murmurings and mumblings on a whole raft of players and not just about the soon to be former Texas Ranger. But you made the deal and now rather than buyer's remorse we have Gumby Theater. Terrific. 

No one has ever mistaken Mr. Rodriguez (I was reading the NY Times earlier; can you tell?) for Mr. Rogers, though there are probably days when the neighborhood is more fun than the Bronx Zoo (either of them). For the most storied franchise in American baseball and possibly in all of sport, the Pride of the Yankees has often had some serious blemishes on its sheen.

Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Alex Rodriguez all have something in common and I’ll leave it to you and your imagination to figure out what it is but, as a hint, let me suggest abuse can take any number of forms. Yeah, you got it now.

Besides, no hard feelings here. I’ve rooted for the Yankees my whole life and with apologies to the famous Lloyd Bentson-Dan Quall exchange, you are not Andy or Bernie or Jorge, all of whose numbers will be retired soon enough (leading me to wonder when the team will start issuing four digit uniform numbers)-so my disappointment and anger (?) at what you did certainly does know some bounds.

You’re the guy who was brought in to play third base and get the ball club to the Series. The former you did on a regular if not always consistently spectacular basis, the latter not so much. As the imaginary Greg House noted years ago, everybody lies. It stands to reason, those same liars also cheat.

Apology accepted, if that’s what you wanted to read. Now go forth and PED no more. Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow and the full squad is there a week next Wednesday. Be ready for baseball because I sure am.

-bill kenny 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Same Shirt, Different Daze

A front page news story last week about the $76.24 million dollar tentative 2015-2016 school spending plan presented by the Norwich Board of Education’s budget expenditure committee signals the start of the municipal budget development cycle, as far as most of us in the public are concerned.

I know from having two children in our schools many years ago, across the school system from the classroom to the top of the administration, dollars and cents are carefully measured against desires and sense on a daily basis. It’s a tightrope act that begins anew every morning and each day the rope seems to get a little shorter and tauter.        

There’s serious sticker shock in that projected dollar figure, but let’s be real: we’re not buying hamburger. We’re investing in our children and in the city, state and nation in which they will all one day be contributing adult members.

We are here halfway through the second decade of the 21st Century because those before us built with their taxes the institutions, from public safety through infrastructure to public education, from which we benefited and from which we continue to benefit. If you think education is expensive, wait until you calculate the cost of ignorance.

Judging from the tenor and tone of reaction to the story, with apologies to Charles Dickens, we are again in for ‘the winter of our discontent’ to be followed (in all likelihood) by a spring of unhappy public hearings when various stakeholders and concerned citizen groups implore and importune the City Council, Acting City Manager and Mayor to ‘do the right thing’ when crafting the next municipal budget.

How you define ‘the right thing,’ judging from previous year’s deliberations has a great deal to do with your priorities and how willing each of us is to balance sacrifice, savings and spending. We should steel ourselves now for elected officials telling us ‘this is hardest budget year since…’ and just because we’ve heard that before doesn’t mean it’s no less true.

There will be detailed presentations by every municipal department at hearings open to the public that just about none of us ever attend. Instead we’ll look at the dollar figures at the bottom of every page of the budget and wonder how that number could have happened but our attention wanders when the professionals in our city departments try to explain.

It’s human nature to want more from government while also wanting it to cost less. So far, no one is willing to say how we can do that. Too often, the best we have is a solution everyone is unhappy about.

We talk about ‘consolidation’ and ‘sharing resources’ as economies of scale across city departments but those phrases are clichés without real definition and with no examination of consequences. We keep NOT having a conversation about what we want and what we’re willing to pay for it. And that’s why we keep facing the same challenge at budget time. And why we keep failing.        
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nearly an Eternal Flame

In the future, offered Andy Warhol in a more memorable moment from a long time ago, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. If you are wondering who Andy Warhol is, then perhaps he misspoke himself ever so slightly. But I digress.

Now, in answer to a question no one, I suspect, has ever asked, you can live on and in theory forever, at least on Facebook, after you've shuffled off this mortal coil. So now I'm thinking I'll need to amend my will to list a legacy contact and set up caches of profile pictures and banner photos that this person can use after I've unfriended this life.

I'm not sure if Irene Cara is serving as advisor to Facebook on this type of policy revision (based on the video, I think she took herself out of contention as a fashion consultant) though I think if Mr. Zuckerberg were to contact the spirit of Jim Carroll, he could line up enough business to take him into the new millennium.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 16, 2015

No Business

I admit I'm feeling a little sorry for those who call the Fiji Islands home. The more snow we have here in Connecticut, the sorrier for you I am feeling so much so that a few more inches of snow around here and I may find myself forced to fly to your island in the sun and extend my deepest condolences to each of you personally and individually.  It will give me a break from all the feeling sorry for myself I've been doing lately.

About three weeks ago, when someone gave the snow globe in which we live a rather violent shake from which we've still not recovered, I went out early on a Saturday morning to shovel still-falling snow as the temperatures had started to rise making much of what fell more rain than snow and soaking me to the bone.

That set me up for a seriously debilitating chest cold whose effects like Banquo's ghost still linger and from which I'm still not free. Meaning that right now my better half keeps an eagle eye on me whenever I make "I'm going out to shovel snow" noises accompanied by a very serious lecture delivered at no more than 20 centimeters away from my nose at a rather attention-getting volume.

This isn't necessarily the winter of our discontent (that was 1995-96 which was hellacious with about 115 inches of snow) but it's getting closer and closer to it every day. I have no idea if they have outrigger canoes at the Fiji Islands, and if they do, if any of them come equipped with snow tires.

But if that were to be the case, and there was a place available in one of those outriggers, feel free to row on by. I'll wait for you out on the porch and wade through a snowbank. I'll even wear my best Hawaiian print shirt to demonstrate my sincerity.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Apple: Jobs or Scruffs?

It’s a truism that on the Internet anyone can be anyone else. Or, as is sadly sometimes the case, no one at all. I, myself, have never used eBay and don’t pretend to know how it works, or why, though I know of many people who are very happy selling and purchasing items from it and sites like it (and I have no idea how many sites there are).

Despite being midway through the second decade of the 21st Century, some classic Latin, Caveat emptor, seems to be a watchword wherever you wander on the Weird Wild Web. I’ve taken to wearing a helmet and a condom while also fastening my seat belt whenever I’m seated doing interweb things because you never can tell.

Tuesday was Internet Safety Day which always makes me think of Men Without Hats for absolutely no good reason whatsoever (rivalling only the video for that song which had even less reason to be than I might ever develop for my thought process). So perhaps it was appropriate to learn of Paul Barrington, and how even on the Internet anyone can serve as a cautionary tale.  

All we have online is our reputation-not surprisingly all we have in our person to person dealings with one another when we have no mouse and keyboard. For better and as Paul learned sometimes for worse, our word isn’t worth the flat panel screen it’s displayed on.

Yes, somewhere in the story you’ll read how Paul will be made whole, in terms of getting his money refunded (and probably being allowed to keep the printed picture of the Mac Book he didn’t really buy), but there will always be a scintilla of suspicion and not just for him (but for us who’ve read of his plight as well) when engaging in online commerce.

As Steve Jobs once offered, “Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them.” Or sometimes, to one another.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 14, 2015

What Scares Me Is Losing You

Sometimes, as I'm writing, at or near the end, I'll realize (assuming I have point at all to this screed) on a particular day, that perhaps because the wind has filled my sails, I've traveled farther and truer than I might ever do again.

And I think to myself, "junior (I always call myself Junior in these reveries), the next time you want to talk about this stuff, remember these words and use them because you'll never get this close again."

This is one of those days, Valentine's Day. I'm so far ahead of the game at this point that I'll spend most of the remainder of it smiling at how clever I was to fall in love with the person with whom I did. (And to have saved these words.)

I often wonder, in light of the journey so far, if he who travels alone ends up traveling so fast he misses the entire point of the sojourn entirely because he has no one with whom to share it. As someone who was very much, and for a very long time, unlovable, this is a day of major import and minor miracle, all at the same time.

I look at photos of my wife, Sigrid, and I, back when we were fab and she was, as she still is, absolutely beautiful to me. It took zero intelligence for me to fall in love with her at first sight and something far rarer than intelligence to help us stay in love all those years on. I do find myself looking at her, then and now, and wondering if she still sees me as I was or as I am now and if the latter, why does she stay?

We have, she and I, grown old together which causes me to smile as I had nothing nearly so grand in mind when I first saw her. And there are those who knew me back before the day who would be amazed that she kept me nailed to one place long enough for all those years to have become all these years, and to some degree, I share their amazement. 

We share a life that isn't and will never be the one I thought I wanted when I believed things worked out the way we desired (if we only wanted something bad enough), but when I reach the end of every day, to include today, 
I look at her and at our two adult children, Patrick and Michelle, and know that I love, and am loved by, them and I can't complain about some settling of the contents during shipment. Happy Valentine's Day.

-bill kenny

Friday, February 13, 2015

When Something Wicked this Way Comes

I'm not superstitious, but these words written in another year got me through this day and while your mileage may vary mine is unwavering. The Surgeon General has determined blah, blah, blah, awful stuff, blah, blah, whenever it's Friday the 13th and fear of blah, blah, blah. The End. 

C'mon, none of us ever read disclaimers all the way through anyway so I figured I'd offer you an ersatz disclaimer, a slice of that mock apple pie made with Ritz crackers and a tall frosty glass osomething other than milk from a cow to wash it all down with. Mmmmm.You got a little something on the side of your upper lip, sunshine. 

We've got the most highly developed brain of any species on this planet but we're also the only species who hate and fear one another for reasons such as different religions, skin colors or political beliefs. So if any other species has the gift of speech (and I guess, the ability to read as well and a thumb that works a scroll ball) now might be a good time for one or more of them to ask aloud, 'how come the bi-peds are the crown of creation., anyway?' 

On top of all those misplaced prides and prejudices (you don't suppose Jane is related to Steve, by any chance? I'm trying to imagine Fitzwilliam Darcy having a discussion with Oscar Goldman) we have the mother of all irrationalities, Friday the Thirteenth and the fear of it. Of course, it's only irrational if you don't put any stock into any of the literature or folk tales  you've heard since you were young. 

There are seven point two katrillion jillion websites (a number I just made up and have you ever known me to lie to you?) on every aspect of this day and date combination, and one's as good as the other, or as bad, depending on how you feel.

You might have a lucky number, or a special letter, or maybe a pony ride for your birthday (you ba$tard!), so far be it from me to pooh-pooh, pshaw or tsk-tsk (I love when I can use classic ancient words; I am, after all, wearing Old Spice. And you thought I was kidding about the pony) your values or beliefs. If they help you place your universe in order, that's fine. 

I put all the cash in my wallet in order by denomination (Catholics go first, obviously) and then in sequence based on serial number. My wife used to find this quirk endearing; now, however not so much. She's helped me manage my compulsion by making sure I have very little folding money. Everyone standing behind me in lines in shops everywhere as I used to put the bills in order is very grateful.

In a way, I guess it's counter-intuitive to wish you a happy Friday the Thirteenth especially since we'd be here all day on what a 'happy' one might look like. But if you want a reason to be UNhappy about Friday the Thirteenth, let me point out we have one next month, again. Thirteen month old baby broke the lookin' glass-seven years of bad luck. The good things in your past. Better times tomorrow if you can just last. 
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Abe and George

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday is still on my calendar for today but it has had less meaning for decades, since Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act and we rolled it into the birthday celebrating the Father of Our Country, George Washington (normally 22 February).

That George spent more than half of his farewell address warning his countrymen about the dangers of political partisanship, I find, in light of where we are today, astounding. That Honest Abe used his Second Inaugural Address to offer "(w)ith malice toward none, with charity for all..." at a moment in our history where we most fervently hated one another (with a ferocity that would cost him his very life a little more than thirteen months later) causes me to wonder why we, you and me and all the lunatic loudmouths and bombastic blowhards on either side of the political fence, can't pipe down long enough to work together to get this cart we're all in out of the ditch we've maneuvered it into. 

To put it into perspective when Washington and Lincoln were president, people disagreed to the point they fired weapons at one another--and you've seen 'em, it took work to shoot at somebody. None of this cap bustin' stuff-serious mayhem was on the agenda. All this pouting and posturing we are up to on Sunday morning talk shows, and in the Halls of Congress makes my brain hurt and when we get all through sorting out who's to blame for all the wrongs and shortcomings, real and/or imagined, maybe we can devote a scintilla of that energy to fixing things. We certainly have a target-rich environment to choose from, don't we? 

With DNA testing the way it's working out, don't you suppose the day will come when we could, theoretically, work up political profiles of those enshrined in the Tomb of the Unknowns. And don't think somebody will try to make political hay out of it, because you'll be sadly disappointed. It would make as much sense as turning cap and trade into a litmus test or reinventing accessible, affordable health care as a variant of the Great Loyalty Oath, but no matter. It's a fine line between pathetic and petard. Try drawing it for a while and then get real. 

Washington, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Stephen Douglas, Lincoln and hundreds and thousands of others were so busy building this nation and defending it from attacks from within and without they didn't have the luxury of ideology. This isn't an opportunity or excuse to shop, advertising to the contrary-it's a moment to look at the lives of every one of the people who have been President of the United States and whose efforts and sacrifices we'll honor this Monday.

And even though we don't get a day on the calendar for ourselves, this is when we use their day as a fulcrum to move each of us, and all of us, closer together in order to form a more perfect union. And to stop being so cranky with one another while we're doing it
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Translucence, Transparency and City Hall

The only constant in the world is change-a truism that happens to be true. And as many of us read last Tuesday in the newspaper, change is the order of the day here in Norwich as the City Council and its City Manager parted company, seemingly suddenly when viewed from a public perspective though reports later in the week suggested not so much.

I smiled reading the headline on the initial report and its use of the word “abruptly,” as in recent years resigning gradually seems to have fallen out of favor. Of course, what’s never out of style is having an opinion on the goings on which are going on. From a distance an informed and an unformed opinion look very much alike and in some areas, the latter is often mistaken for policy while the former is often kept to oneself.

We, the residents and more especially the registered voters, get to offer our opinion on the performance of our elected officials on a regularly scheduled basis. You might know them better as elections but they really are performance reviews. Sidebar for those who push “term limits:” a visit to the polls accomplishes the same thing and think of all the paperwork we save.

Of course, here in Norwich we seem to have apathy issues as our voter participation for most elections never seems to reach even 25%. In a city with tens of thousands of registered voters but such a low turnout, we run the risk of the voice of the people being no more than a whisper when the totals are tallied.  Energized engagement in meaningful elections is, quite frankly a topic for another time.

In the meantime, the social contract between us, the electorate, and those whom we’ve elected, is in full force whether a representative was elected by one or one hundred thousand votes. The nature of our democracy is such that I’m always grateful for volunteers who offer their time and talents in service to our community even when (perhaps most especially when) they make decisions which disquiet and discomfit me. I strive to remember that while I am entitled to my opinion, no one else should have to be.

In the words of Jackson Browne, “when we come to the place where the road and the sky collide” change is always the consequence and happiness and/or unhappiness while always valuable doesn’t actually add any value to the process of governance which continues even as the persons and positions shift. 

No one enters the same river twice as both s/he and the river change. Norwich 2015 is very different in many ways from our city a decade ago but hopefully well on the way to where we’d like ourselves to be in 2025 and beyond.  We cannot and will not solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s skills and tools. As Rick Warren notes, “we are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is That a New Rope?

I have far too often the memory of a goldfish; that is to say, just about no memory at all. It's been snowing since Sunday says the meteorologist but I'm pretty sure that it's been snowing for weeks if not years before then.

I have lived in New England for twenty-three winters and I am keenly aware of the difference between palm trees and pine trees but that doesn't mean I have to go gently into that snow-covered night.

Like my neighbors, I've developed an ability to shovel snow i my sleep which doesn't thrill the people for whom I work, mainly because (I think) I snore and keep others at work awake.

I should be grateful we in Southeastern Connecticut are on the low ends of the snowfall accumulations, and perhaps I am at some level, but even that knowledge doesn't keep me from being that whiny guy who bleats in self-pity over how hard my life is. And yes, I am mindful I am NOT outside for most of these days and have a home and a hearth to which to retreat.

There's a piece of folklore about all the words for snow some Eskimo tribes have-and I have nearly the same number but most of mine cannot be said in mixed company. And no, I don't know how many words there are for hot and humid days, like the ones we have in August for weeks stretching at times into the same number of years our current snowy weather feels like.

Eventually, this, too, shall pass. And I'm hoping we call a five-minute pause in the activities of the shovel brigade to celebrate the arrival of summer should that ever actually happen. It's reaching a point where I've forgotten what color the sidewalk in front of the house once was. But I'm more convinced than ever what color I will want it to be.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 9, 2015

Everything Under the Sun Is in Tune

I am always grateful to live in this age of miracles and wonders. I heard The Beatles, I watched us walk on the moon and saw the Fall of the Wall that divided Europe into dark and light.

Some days I concede I'm less grateful than other days. There's just so many photos of phelines (didja see what I did there?) I can scroll past on Caturday before I feel like coughing up a hairball or two myself. And chain mails are just as goofy on an LCD as they were when I was kid growing up in the stone age reading a mailed letter while riding my dinosaur.

There will come a day of reckoning, I fear, when a Great Something or Other someplace will call us all into account for what we've done with the ingenious inventions of our age and I'm working on forging my Mom's signature on a sick note so I can be excused from the planet when that day arrives.

And while all that continues, or perhaps despite all of that continuing, then we have technology applied in such a way so as to expand our collective knowledge, like this from NASA and I sit in breathless awe of  our singularly sublime bursts of collective genius. A striking of a solitary match in a dark room admiring how the light travels to the most distant corners and returns, redoubled and renewed.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 8, 2015

United's Flag is Deepest Red

This is a quiet moment in European soccer (football) even though the winter pause, where observed, is over. As someone who follows both the Bundesliga (German First Division) and the Premier League (United Kingdom), I pause as well to honor a sadness that forever links Manchester United with the city of Munich and to its first division team, Bayern Munchen.

Manchester United plays this afternoon, our time, against West Ham United (favorites of Iron Maiden, I kid you not) while Bayern won yesterday for only the first time since the winter pause ended, beating VfB Stuttgart, 2-0.

Both teams spend a fair amount of most seasons at or near the top of their respective leagues while also engaged in furious competitions against their opposite numbers from across the Continent in competitions offered by the Union of European Football Associations, UEFA; they battle fiercely and often against one another.

Fifty-seven years ago, actually this Friday passed, Manchester United following a match in then-Yugoslavia against Red Star Belgrade, was flying home and stopped to refuel at Munchen-Reims Airport. Of the forty-four passengers, twenty-three, to include eight Man U players, would die after a (third) failed attempt to take-off.

We in the Land of the Round Doorknobs too often take our sport too seriously (death threats against Pete Carroll after Seattle's loss to New England in the Super Bowl; why should we hope it's only a whack-job?) perhaps because we struggle in using on field victories and losses to find the balance in our lives between who we really are and whom we've always dreamt of being.

Sadness such as Manchester's helps them and all who love any sport to better place wins and losses in a better and more proper perspective.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cheat Sheets for the Kings of the Questionnaires

I’m impressed by how many TV commercials I watch for companionship services (I’m trying to avoid saying ‘meat market dating operations’) with my favorite one, perhaps because of my Catholic School upbringing being Christian Mingle. I still think their tagline should be ‘The Lord Wants You to Get Your Freak On.’ I think that says ‘seal the deal for real’ in a way their audience can better understand.

There’s an ad for Zoosk that has something about “first it begins with like” which does a nice job of lowering the bar for expectations, and has probably done wonder for sales of smoke alarm batteries and dish towels, too (I suspect).

We’re a species cursed/blessed with a burning desire for a pairing and sharing with some oft-unspoken hope that Sweet Dreams Are Made of This to the point that in our search to avoid being alone with ourselves we welcome advice and relationship tips from any source, even if (as you’ll see in the clip) those undertaking such actions are not sanguine of a Happy Ending.     

I’m not sure what the first woman, “a loyal Cosmo reader since I was a child” was doing with the magazine when she was a child (I hope NOT reading it for the articles), but as a guy who was the second of the two people in his (still) current relationship to realize he had found something special, I’m here to tell any and all women a week away from Valentine’s Day that us guys are stunningly simple creatures who have little to no comprehension (and less appreciation) of context, pretext or subtext.

Whether you are still searching or desperately seeking, all the services and the glitzy magazines add up to nothing when eyes meet and smiles are shared. One lifetime or one night, the depth of passion is the same, it’s the degree of commitment that shifts.

-bill kenny

Friday, February 6, 2015

...though how he got into my pajamas

In the larger scheme of things, it’s probably not even a blip on your radar, this story about Brian Williams’ of NBC News and his mis-recollections of life during wartime in Iraq over a decade ago. 

To err is human and to forgive is divine; I’m not sure what lying is or how to evaluate an apology for the lie, or “conflate” (as Mr. Williams’ calls it) after being called on it. 

I would point out from my corner of the world that if we hold our elected and/or appointed leaders responsible (and I do) for what they do, and for what they don’t do, it’s only reasonable to me that we hold everyone else as responsible, at least in terms of  integrity and truth-telling.

I’d hope I helped instill in our two children a sense of what is right and what is wrong at least as equal to that as my parents strove to do with me. Perhaps Brian’s parents had a bridge evening when that class at Mom & Dad University was going on.  

Not for me to say, though in the same spirit of full disclosure I persist in insisting for everyone else, I should tell you that while and when I strive for absolute honesty, I sometimes fall short. I rationalize those moments by telling myself I’m probably not alone.

There’s a cliché about people living in glass houses (who should buy stock in Windex) and the biblical admonition to ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ but we’ve become such champions of sloganeering from our Presidential campaigns (elections are won and lost on ten second soundbytes) to the coffee we drink with breakfast, that often I fear we hear but don’t listen.

My somewhat puckish sense of humor was attracted to this hectoring and lecturing analysis of The Life of (the other) Brian as provided in the “entertainment” section of the NY Daily News, which (too) often finishes in a last-place tie with the NY Post as anything other than a fish-wrapper/bird cage liner. My first reaction was remembering the punchline to a bawdy joke, “yeah I know; but you picked the ugliest sheep.”

This, too, shall pass; whether it should or not is best left to others beyond the scale and scope of these scribblings. Mr.  Williams should take solace that he was not in the helicopter with Mrs. Mittelschmerz of Dundee, as that ended very badly. For her.      

-bill kenny

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Smell of Bacon in the Morning

You could do the laundry, I'll come by on Monday.
You give me the money. I will buy a ticket on the local lottery.

We could win the lottery. We could go to Vegas and be very happy.

I could be a plumber. We could wait till summer.
We could save our money, have a fine vacation.

We could buy a trailer. If we bought a trailer.
We could go to Vegas and be very happy.

If life is just gamble, gamble if you want to win.
Life can be so easy. Let the wheel of fortune spin.

We could make a record. Sell a lot of copies.
We could play Las Vegas and be very happy.

If life is just gamble, gamble if you want to win.
Life can be so easy Let the wheel of fortune spin.
- harry edward nilsson, 1941-1994

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Hate Typing when My Mouth is Full

Taking a break from shoveling some of last week's souvenirs Blizzard Colbie's visit, I followed my nose and the aroma of freshly baked muffins to the quiet first week opening of LuLu's Lunchbox at 20 Lafayette Street, just steps from one of my phavorite places, Philly's.

Lulu's Lunchbox, at what was Linda's Market (as well as later, GinaBeans) is another piece in the ever enlarging mosaic that reflects our community's quality of life and is also another small but important proof of (renewed) interest and engagement in The Rose of New England.

Designed for early-risers and the let's-have-something-different-for-lunch crowd, LuLu's is open Monday through Friday from six in the morning until three. They have both eat-in and take-out from a menu filled with delicious delights and homemade treats. Lulu, herself, was at counter to greet and guide another first-time customer (me) struggling with the consequences of freedom of choice.

I stopped in last Friday morning a little before ten, joining a few patrons already studying the menu and enjoying a late breakfast. A tray of muffins was coming out of the oven (I've always trusted my nose and was right again), taking its place in a glass display case already stocked with home-baked cookies.

As a long-time fan of Linda's lunch-time grinders, I was happy to see new life in a familiar space. LuLu's is new in every sense of the word with bright, friendly colors, warm lighting, flat screen TV and tall tables ideal for quick or casual conversations. Her menu offerings are featured on large boards behind the preparation counter, with enough blank space to keep adding menu items, which is the plan.

I had stopped in to order a lunch sandwich but standing there surrounded by the sights and smells I almost gave in to the temptation of Brad's Breakfast Burrito, which is sausage, eggs, home fried potatoes with peppers, onions and cheese in a flour tortilla. My mouth is watering just typing it. I had read rave reviews on line about how good it is, but I already have one membership at Planet Fitness and don't need a reason to have to get a second one.

I decided on Riley's Turkey/Bacon/Avocado sandwich but the snow had snarled Lulu's deliveries all week and she was out of turkey. Instead I opted for ham and hoped Riley would understand. I smiled (okay, maybe drooled a little too) as the hearty wheat berry bread and Swiss cheese strained under the weight of all the ingredients.

With my sandwich wrapped in white butcher paper, I continued on my walk, with one eye on my watch, looking forward to lunch-time. Of course, it was delicious and just large enough to make very happy I had no friends who'd expect me to it with them, since I wouldn't.

There’s soup and salads and savory side dishes, too. Stop in for a menu and explore for yourself. LuLu's phone is 860.886.5858 and the fax is 860.886.0019, Taste for yourself why LuLu's is another reason to come home to Norwich
- bill kenny

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Have really Old Siblings

Today is my brother Adam's birthday. He is, I believe, 257 years old; I'm not actually sure as I am afraid of candles and it's very bright at the top of his cake. 

Actually he's not really that old though he's always seemed to me to have been born serious and full-grown. I'm gambling his memory has started going as I first offered these thoughts a number of years ago, so welcome to Deja-Vu Theatre, and I'm your host Alistair Cooke.

The law of averages being what it is and the population of earth being what it is, Adam's probably not the only one celebrating his birthday but he is the only one I know. I don't especially care. My space in the ether, my rules.

I am the oldest of six. Adam is the youngest. Sandwiched between us are three sisters and a brother, all of whom at various times did so much more than merely take up a seat in the Chrysler Newport station wagon and/or the Renault 10 as we traveled from who we were to who(m) we became.

Joan and Bill (Senior) are our parents. Mom lives in Florida. We buried dad a long time ago. At times, walking away from the grave is easier said than done and not all the promises we made to ourselves about who we were going to be when we grew up were delivered. I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Adam wasn't even yet a toddler when he was hospitalized as part of a medical safari of sorts that his pediatrician put him and my parents through in search of causes (and treatments) for a mystery he couldn't solve. Adam would stand in the crib and howl in pain until Yakky Doodle Duck came on the ward TV. I learned how to do the voices of all the characters to distract him. I still do them, except now to distract me.

Later, I dragged Adam to undergraduate classes while I was at Rutgers. He wasn't a mascot or a talisman or a babe magnet and he wasn't my show and tell. He was my guy. Those were exciting times, there was revolution in the air and I wanted to make sure he was a witness. After graduation my class traded blue skies and air you could breathe for BMW's and stock options. Sell-outs, you say. I saved my receipt if you want proof.

Somewhere and somehow I wandered off and away. Not all who wander are lost but many of us did while others stayed that way. Bob's your uncle but Jack was the role model. For decades I had the same contact with my brothers and sisters those in the witness protection program have. Didn't start out that way but stemming the tide is harder than riding it, even when you know it ends in the sea far from land.

I always told myself there'd be time to catch up/make up for all the missed weddings, the births of children and in some instances, grand children--most of that didn't work out and my Air Force salute (shoulder shrug) became my silver bullet signature. Adam grew into the man he was supposed to be.

He found Margaret, Suze and Rob and forgetting my (broken) promises of that armadillo from Texas and a penguin from Greenland (he was too smart to believe that one but too polite to call me on it), he invited my family to be part of his life on a very important day for him and his family and he remains my guy, often despite me.

I've got lots of IOU's to redeem should the 'really big' reunion be held, and not all of them will or can be, because redemption is rationed and rarely earned. There's bridges to rebuild and fences to mend with almost everyone with whom I grew up. That's a project for maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's oh bright early as I post this and, speaking of early, I hear Mom, on seemingly any morning for many years when we all shared the same roof, shouting 'Up and At 'em, Atom Ant!' (don't ask). He probably is already and outside training for his marathon or downstairs tuning up on the treadmill. All I can add is Ayup! and Happy Birthday!
-bill kenny

Monday, February 2, 2015

Don't Mess with Me, Porkchop

I know someone who was born in Puxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on this date BUT who's name is not Phil though that would seem to have been low-hanging fruit at the time of his nativity.

My brother, Kelly, would be disappointed, somewhat, to learn his name also isn't Bill, as in Bill Murray, which might seem to be an acceptable alternative as a sort of homage to his cinematic tour de force.

I think Kelly is on to something with his regard for the movie since as I've aged I have a growing sense of us living and reliving the same day over and over again. The fear of End of Days may be misplaced as it could, for some of us, actually be more of a new paragraph than the closing of a book.

Look at our world, then at our nation and, then if you promise to NOT blink, look at your own life. What do you remember of where all of this was this time a year ago, a decade on or perhaps a score of yon years? I'm starting to think the rewind button is stuck and all that changes are the characters while the play rolls on.

Lest you think I'm depressed or distressed, nothing could be farther from the truth. I love this day because it's all the excuse I need to listen to this and smile, at least usually in that order.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Our Long National Nightmare Is Over...."

The only reason I'm mentioning the Super Bowl at all today is because I do not wish to get fined by the National Football League. At some time today, I lose track of exactly when, one of the pre-game shows will stop because of the actual game.

I'm thinking at some point in the one of the post-game shows will be a mention of the final score, unless the game has ended in a tie and the teams are playing even as I type the last of this sentence.

The prospect of that happening makes the threatened snowfall for later tonight into tomorrow across my region of the states even gooder. Real pizza, real football, real challenges and maybe, Janay, real solutions beyond the end of the season.
-bill kenny