Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Putting the Pleasant in Pleasant View

I suspect "richard@pleasantviewhealthcare.com" is getting more than a fair amount of email these days and not all of it is because of his straight-forward, fact-driven web site for his two elderly care/assisted living homes in Barberton, Ohio.

Proving that people still read newspapers, this news nugget surfaced earlier in the week and then spread like wildfire across social media platforms of all kinds. I guess in keeping with the attitude that says "sixty is the new forty" we have a bumper crop of elderly juvenile delinquents proving you're never too old to have a happy childhood.

At an age where many of us have trouble removing the staples from a stack of papers, or raisins from our rice pudding, we have the next generation of centerfolds wearing winning smiles and very little else. Talk about the bare truth.

Somewhere, as I type this, Harry Nilsson is smiling, though I suspect his tie is undone.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 30, 2015

And How Was Your Weekend?

I started Friday morning waking up in my own bed. From there my wife accompanied me to the William Backus Hospital (a five minute walk from our house, just past the historic Yantic Cemetery, which I've always assumed was not by design) for a cardiac catherization.

My job was nod off when injected and wake up after it was over. I did swell, almost. I came to but after the part by my cardiologist explaining the "why" of the next step and only caught the what which was an ambulance ride with Cora and Sara to Yale New-Haven Hospital.

I couldn't persuade them to drive on the shoulder of I-95 with the sirens blaring and the lights flashing. I'm thinking I failed for two reasons: it was an incredibly foolish idea and I was still so doped up and cotton-mouthed that no one could understand a word I was saying. Yeah, just like normal.

We hit the emergency entrance of Yale-New Haven (I'm avoiding the Y-NH abbreviation because there's nothing sadder than an aging hipster (in the words of Lenny Bruce)) and up to the fifth floor of the York Building to the cardiac wing over which Stefanie presided as chief nurse.

In the next two days I met scads of superlative people practically all at once or so it seemed to me, to include Doctors Becker and Healy, the former looking like Doogie Howser's stunt double and the latter dressed in the brightest Hawaiian shirt ever-to include the one I suspect in which they buried Don Ho.

The pair spearheaded a seamless team that went in through a smaller than 1/16" incision in a vein in my right wrist and placed two stents in two different arterial chambers in my heart, without incident like they were walking to the corner to grab a  paper and maybe a coffee. Come to think of it, I did smell a coffee.

When Emily came to visit a little after nine on Sunday morning to tell me I could go home, I may have been dressed faster than any one in the history of quick change artists on the Eastern Seaboard. I couldn't wait for the wheelchair and the elevator and headed for the stairs, with her in tow because she insisted I couldn't go by myself.

When we reached the ground floor and she headed to the coffee shop I pointed out the obvious, that I most certainly could walk myself down the stairs. But before she could counter, and I feared she would very effectively, I thanked her and asked her to relay my gratitude to all of her colleagues, for their efforts on my behalf and walked across the lobby and out onto York Street for the best view of Yale New Haven it's possible to have.

From the outside of the building, by a moments-before-released patient who is "a successful outcome" heading home with his son who had just arrived to pick him up and return him to his life, still scattered but already in progress.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Revisited

Raised in the faith of my fathers, I know that today, Palm Sunday, begins the most important week in the Christian calendar-even if you lost your faith along the way to here and now as I have done. 

What follows is as close to contemplation as I may have gotten in recent years (or decades). It may not make sense to you-that wasn’t my intent. I needed to hold the world still for one moment so that it made sense to me-your mileage may vary in ways neither of us can contemplate.

Karl Glogauer was the wrong man at the right time.

The protagonist in Michael Moorcock's novel who travels from the future to the time of Christ, Glogauer, instead, meets a profoundly retarded child of Mary who is, in Moorcock's account, most definitely NOT the Son of God. 

Glogauer then assumes the personae of Jesus of Nazareth, based on his recollection and knowledge of the accounts in the Gospels of the New Testament, culminating in his crucifixion to fulfill those accounts which shaped history to the moment in the future in which he journeyed into the past to complete the story.

Perhaps the most simultaneously unsettling and reassuring aspect of Behold the Man is not the death of someone else in place of the Son of God but its emphasis and reaffirmation of the importance in the belief that He lived at all. 

For you today for whom this is, an Ecce Homo experience, my sincere congratulations is tinged with more than just a little jealousy and envy.

Not everyone has the comfort of your beliefs and the reassurance of your faith. Some may not wish to have it while others who once did are forced to realize again the distance traveled from then to now which involved a bridge of faith that, once abandoned, has been destroyed and which can very possibly never be rebuilt.

As even Mark reported, help for one's unbelief is not easily achieved and perhaps the realization that such assistance can only be given and never earned is part of why pride becomes the greater of the sins especially for those with so little reason to be proud. 

Perhaps it's doubt that creates the whisper of vulnerability in an armor of faith which then allows a wanderer to know the path but who refuses to walk it again.

Sometimes it's the belief, and sometimes, the believer.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 28, 2015

No Need to Alert Mensa

Have you seen those TV commercials for the ice cream bar which ask you what you would be willing to do to have one? Yeah, I know-after you’ve watched the first one you’ve seen the entire series even when you haven’t-not intended as a complaint or a shot, but that’s how it works out. 

I think my complaint with that always seems to be a “lack of imagination.” It carries over to lots of other things in life- from movies (seriously, how many more Transformers movies do we really need and when do the Autobots finally transform into something that writes a decent script with less than stilted dialogue) to TV comedies where the current hot show reminds you of something you watched as a kid that when you did that your folks said it reminded them of something nearly pre-historic.

And while I’ve got at least one foot on that soapbox, might I ask for something, anything, with a few less zombies in it? Or if nothing else, put them in a musical or romantic-comedy. Neither would be walk-off the earth new I realize but definitely different. And that would be terrific, at least from where I sit.

Meanwhile, when I skim headlines and come across stories on crimes such as kidnapping, the hair on the nape of my neck stands up, not that anyone would ever kidnap me (see O. Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief for a preview of that coming attraction) but because I worry about my family to the point where it’s more than an obsession, it’s kind of a hobby. That kind of crime has always seemed to be especially dastardly, at least in the fragile construct of a world I have  

And then, you have these chowder heads.  Who thinks up a demand like $8,500? You couldn’t round it up to ten or down to five thousand dollars? And maybe ask for a car or insist the victim throw in a Pocket Fisherman, “or your pet ferret gets it.” Seriously.

The resources in time and talent expended in pursuit of a clown car caper like this, and the diversion from other far more serious situations is just the kind of thing that causes law enforcement officials around the globe to lose their collective composure, among other things that get misplaced. 

I fully expect to read where the original demand also included a Klondike Bar but with temperatures s being what they are right now in California, the criminal masterminds feared it would melt.

-bill kenny  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Accelerating at the Speed of Thought

I’ve spent most of this week watching my blood pressure tick higher as this day approached. I knew as of this Monday past that this would be the day I’d be undergoing a cardiac catherization-I had one a bit more than six years ago but I guess the stamp on my hand has washed off so I have to hit the ride again.

Obviously this is being written before any of that happens/happened (I hate writing in the present for a past tense event that’s still in the future perfect when I’m at the keyboard) and tomorrow’s entry, about which at this moment I have no idea, will also be synthesized in the here and now before setting off on the flume ride that starts in the semi-darkness of this morning at same-day surgery.

I have absolutely no work at all today-everyone else will and with some luck I’ll be almost eerily tranquil throughout. I intend to make doubly sure I’ll be wearing that wrist bracelet they give you in the hospital because otherwise my wife may not recognize me afterwards, assuming there is an afterwards.  

My intention is to be back to writing this closer to real-time and in real-life by Sunday though if I’m not there’s an excellent chance that of the two of us only you’d notice (and that barely, if at all); for my part, I’ll be beyond caring.

I work very hard to be funny especially when I’m scared so at some point in the course of really soon, I’ll be going through a lot of what I sincerely believe is “A” material in rapid-fire order-so if you hear any of it, just laugh and hope it gets funny later on. I know I will.   
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pictures of Things As They Used to Be

Forty years ago this morning I woke up in a concrete block multi-story dormitory on the largest US Air Force installation in the world without a runway, Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas.

Memory fails where it doesn’t merely fade but at some point in the course of the morning I’m very sure I received my very first military haircut for one dollar and twenty-five cents. It was as I had been promised by the recruiter in now distant East Brunswick, New Jersey, indeed, ‘closer to your head than far away.’

Along with the full wardrobe make-over of uniform issued items (most designed to fail to successfully answer the question, ‘what goes with olive drab?’) and three (count ‘em!) pairs of shoes to include oxford low quarters, combat boots and something the USAF called Chukka boots and for which many of us had a slightly different name that rhymed (sort of) with Chukka, I was an Airman. 

Whiskey no good, PT so good. Yessir, buddy-from my lips to the Lord’s ear wherever in Texas He may have chosen to be. I can remember exotic fare in the chow hall to include jack-rabbit (but no armadillo), surrounded it always seemed to me by older guys in Smokey the Bear hats (drill instructors, also known as DIs) who did nothing but yollar at MaxVol. In retrospect I should concede they had provocation for their volume and I was a not small part of all that.

I had read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 in college and thought it was an hilariously brilliant work of fiction. Eighteen hours of standing at attention on a drill pad behind a quadrangle of barracks buildings being shrieked at led me to reassess my definition of hilarity. So much for Captain Yossarian as a role model-I saw his roomie, Orr, in a whole new light.

As I said, memory fades and huge portions of the Seventies BEFORE "off we go into the wild blue somewhere" became part of my hit parade are forever lost but in bits and pieces, like dailies from a film still being shot, some of what did happen after putting my hand up and solemnly affirming still remain, like cheap and stale scent after a very long night.

If we are everyone we’ve ever met, it would explain why so many of us end up in witness protection and asylums, staring at life as it rolls and sometimes roars past the open window. I always keep my head and hands inside the moving vehicle because sometimes it proves to be a dark ride.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

This Town Is My Town

"This old town's been home long as I remember. This town's gonna be here long after I'm gone. East side, West side--give up, or surrender--been down, but I still rock on..."

Realizing those lyrics sound like they could be penned by someone in the Rose City Rockers (whoever they might be), that's actually from "My Town" by the Michael Stanley Band, the pride and joy of Cleveland, Ohio, from about three plus decades ago. Proving, if nothing else, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

I keep that tune on compact disc in my car whenever I need a mini-pep rally of sorts to clear my head of dark doubts and drab thoughts about where I've decided to call home, here in 06360, Norwich, Connecticut.  

Definitely needed it a lot over the weekend, actually on Sunday when I took advantage of the sunshine (if not the less than spring-like temperatures and March winds) to re-visit some of my favorite places to include Ponemah Mills and Uncas Falls, both shaking off the long, hard winter as I continued to fitfully read Norwich's Economic Development Strategic Plan in an attempt to understand not so much how we have come to the place where the road and the sky collide, but, rather, what we are intending to do about it.  

I took a break from reading about "development opportunities and possible targets" (which is a serious examination of who we are and where we should be going, starting on page 23) and turned to the Sunday papers where, splashed across the front page was: "Special Report: 84 Norwich city workers made more than $100,000 in 2013-14."

With apologies to my neighbor, Reverend Cal Lord, whose words appear in The Bulletin every Thursday, I recall somewhere in the New Testament (Matthew, I think) a parable about laborers in a vineyard. I don't believe the story was set in Norwich but my memory is not what it once was.

While we could probably have an extended and intense discussion on the point of the story, my concern, while appreciating the comments offered on line and respecting the right of everyone who offered them to so do, is that we seem again, as a city to have set off on a search for the guilty instead of trying to fix our underlying problems.

I'm not sure why it matters who makes what so much as that we create a shared understanding and common vision of what functions our city government should be providing and agree that those are the ones we support and are willing to pay for.

I can't help but remember a TV commercial for life insurance where Lucy and Charlie Brown suggest the cost "should be five cents" and a grown-up (my emphasis) counters "not everything can cost five cents." That kind of economics makes me worry when someone says a penny for your thoughts, just in case it turns out that's all they're really worth.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

And Pluto's Not a Planet Anymore, Either

So we're off and running, officially, for the Race to the White House in 2016 as the junior Senator from the Lone Star State of Texas has thrown his hat in the ring. For comparison purposes, the "other" Senator is on his third, six-year term.

It is a testimony to what we as kids always called "The American Dream" that anyone can grow up to be the President of the United States, to include the current occupant of the office whom his Loyal Opposition has insisted without surcease is actually a Kenyan and now, Senator Ted Cruz, who was himself born in Canada.

I'm bracing for a world exclusive any day now, probably in Breitbart or infowars dot com, that the gunman on the grassy knoll staged the moon landings in Secaucus, New Jersey after arranging for Jimmy Hoffa to kidnap D. B. Cooper.

Speaking of conspiracists and taps on the wire for every paranoid desire, the would-be President already has my undivided attention with his observations about 'alleged global warming.' It takes a confident person to not allow his lack of knowledge (or interest) in science stuff of any kind to get in the way of forming conclusions.

As if  I might have forgotten Senator Cruz claimed for himself the responsibility for shutting down the Federal Government on 1 October 2013 in an effort to get that Marxist Kenyan President to undo the Affordable Care Act.  Quick aside, Mr. Cruz: when Rick Santorum comes across as the Most Reasonable Guy in the Room, your party needs a much bigger room.

But let me exhale for a moment, not that I'm the only one who seems to have inhaled around here recently. It's a long way from the first Tuesday of Spring 2015 to the first Tuesday in November 2016 when all the voting gets done, except in Florida if recent history is any indicator.

I'm setting my goals a little lower for the moment: no more snow for this Spring might be a nice start, and then perhaps as the week goes on seeing if anyone else is contemplating a relocation from The Great White North to the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC.

No need to signal-we'll send the Cat Detector Van out to search for you. Just stay where you and continue to breathe-there doesn't seem to be any other significant requirements or qualifications.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 23, 2015

Every Little Bit Helps

I was raised a Roman Catholic as were we all in my parents’ house. When we each reached adulthood, our mileage varied somewhat in a variety of areas to include activities more traditionally associated with Sunday mornings.

I mention my history as a sort of disclaimer because I have in the past sometimes confused people with what I think is a delightfully waggish, if not puckish, sense of humor that seemingly less discerning fellow travelers feel is not respectful of their and others’ beliefs. 

Which sometimes pains me as I see myself as being the epitome of tolerance in areas of personal belief (the important word being personal). Quite frankly, whatever works for you and/or yours is fine with me. I am so laidback on this topic that, from a distance, I appear comatose. That is more or less by design, if not technically my design.

But, intending no disrespect to whatever religious beliefs you have, this is an amazing story (I’m thinking Olivia doesn’t much like the Reverend) and I offer that assessment keenly aware that in terms of wealth accretion the Roman Catholic Church has quite a financial portfolio history since undergoing therapy to better cope with that fear of passing through the eye of a needle from a long time ago.

More recently there’s been talk of updating references to Early Bird Dinner since the marketing cats and kittens at Corporate are concerned that Last Supper is a bit more End Times than they’d like. So have a seat next to Creflo, grab a plate and hope it goes around.

-bill kenny 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Some Words for Franz Boas

There's something about watching snow fall on the first full day of Spring that gives me a sad heart. And a red behind. Yes, my first thought yesterday was recalling that old expression about all the words "eskimos" purportedly have for snow, though in all honesty NONE of my words came close to any they might employ.

This is my house yesterday morning at a little after half-past eight as I slowly wrapped my head around the fact that despite forecasts to the contrary, it was still snowing from Friday.

I was tempted to pull a Charlie Sheen and blame it on President Barack Obama but my sense of humor and whimsy were both so snow-covered I was unable to see or find the humor in that (happened with Chuckles Sheen about a decade ago).

So here I am, on the first Sunday of Spring hoping that I, along with all the others up and down the East Coast, can now start to speak of snowfall in the past tense only while looking forward to better things and no longer wondering where did my spring go?
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Little Early for the Third Sunday in June

It takes all kinds to make a world and you and I are the proof but some of us prove to be more than anyone bargained for, especially when splashed across a headline-spangled story. Meet Dorian Harper a real gentleman and a scholar-just not a heckuva designated care giver, if this news story is to be believed.

I somehow had the feeling after reading the dispatch the whole story should be sponsored by a grant from the Perdue Chicken Foundation or Something. And, I’ll bet like me, you’re itching to know exactly what the point and purpose of that deceased chicken was. 

Without giving too much away about my own upbringing in the swamps of Jersey, I’m wondering if perhaps Dorian was making an attempt to discipline the mother-clucker by securing it to the child. Stranger things have been known to happen.

I should also note in the finest traditions of American jurisprudence Dorian's lady love, Wanda Larson, who is both the eleven year old’s legal guardian AND Supervisor of the Department of Human Services for the county where the offences are alleged to have occurred (the irony of the latter portion of that sentence fragment is so thick I’m tempted to eat it with a fork, but will use my spoon because I don’t want to miss a drop) ia of course presumed to be innocent (which in this case may be half a world away from not guilty). That ship has sailed for Captain Dorian himself..

If the Hallmark Fathers’ Day card folks aren’t on line one right now working out the details of the endorsement deal with Dorian, it’s only because they haven’t yet secured the photo rights to the San Diego Super Chicken to use on the front of the card.

Maybe they could just use a picture of a KFC Big Bucket, sort of a "before" and "after" kind of  presentation?         
-bill kenny

Friday, March 20, 2015

(More of) My Back Pages

I wrote what follows seven years and a day ago. Maybe it’s just me, but (sadly) it doesn’t read as being that old.  Your mileage may vary; your conclusions, I fear, will not.

Today marks the beginning, five years ago, with "Shock and Awe" that the liberation of Iraq began. There are too many articles in too many media to list or read on this anniversary but here's a place to start and someday over a root beer we can have a discussion on how growing up in the shadow of the Manhattan skyscrapers, across the river in Jersey, influences what newspapers you read and which ones you trust.

Being my current age only for today and realizing I've learned next to nothing about myself, or anyone for whom I care, I'm not sure what I think, hope or pray we might learn about ourselves as we look back at what is the first five years of the Last War on Earth.

I came across a reference earlier this morning to
The Thirty Years War which, for a moment, I found comforting until I realized the name is a tag developed by historians long after its end and NOT by the leaders who provoked it or the soldiers who fought it. I couldn't help but smile to read in one of the descriptive summaries, I could choose the long or short version (I am assuming, of the narrative).

This will sound cynical, and I'd apologize for that, but it's not like you didn't already realize it, but even the critics of former President George W Bush (and he had a few of those) would have to concede he didn't underestimate how this would play out, at least not when he described, five years ago, an enemy the likes of which the world had not yet seen. An implacable foe that would slit a woman's throat to advance its agenda. I'm not sure he didn't nail the landing in that description.

I don't know how to negotiate with sharks, and I've been to Sea World. I'm old enough, as I've noted on other pages, to see Southwest Asia as Vietnam with sand instead of rice paddies. Does that mean My Lai and
LT William Calley 
have been replaced by Abu Ghraib and Lynndie England

That's not what frightens me so much as we're not ready to acknowledge that the 'monster label' we conveniently place on them, and others (actually, a variety of denigrating terms for everyone with whom we disagree) makes it easier for us to 'deal' and NOT have to interact with one another and own the consequences of those actions and inactions.

It took three decades longer to get here than
Orwell feared in 1984, but that brighter tomorrow has finally arrived for this province of Airstrip One and I just hope we live long enough to appreciate it.

When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. And while I love W.B. Yeats'
Slouching Towards Bethlehem it is with growing unease that re-read lines of his poem: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world......Surely the Second Coming is at hand. " I wonder if he's drawn a map or created a souvenir book of where we already are.

The Rand Corporation has offered, online, a cleverly entitled attempt at a way ahead (use of the indefinite article is deliberate on my part)
War By Other Means, that can perhaps be made into a motion picture to be shown at Redford's Sun Dance Film Festival, starring Sean Penn and George Clooney. 

Hell, we can watch it on a plasma screen in the back seat of a stretch Hummer limo while chatting about whatever with some BFF on our I-phone. And it always looks the same: There are too many home fires burning and not enough trees.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

But Memories of People Stay the Same

I was someone else, somewhere else a very long time ago. 

It's okay, so, too were you and if we ran into one another then we wouldn't know it or remember it now. It's a fine line between past tense and past lives. There's a lot of what I was that I don't recall and I'm very happy I don't because I was not a good person or a very nice one. I'm still not (and will in the time remaining probably never be) but I'm not that quite that quick to celebrate that anymore which is progress, right? 

Today I offer some musings I've offered before on this very day, think of it as 'tradition,' because I still feel about the people involved the way I have always felt about them.

I'm looking at (too much) fallen snow out my window (thank goodness for darkness should be my new motto, though darkness is what seems to be enveloping my country, so maybe not) but on the other side of our great nation (your mileage may vary-Armageddon is closer than it appears in your mirror, depending on your political perspective) at some point today, I've never understood it to be tied to a clock so much as a calendar, as is always the case. the swallows return to Capistrano as they do, today, the Feast of St. Joseph. 

But I want to head in a different direction, east over the ocean to Europe and to Germany. 

Thousands of GI broadcasters for decades worked with two fixtures of the American Forces Network (AFN) Europe, from its days in 'The Castle" at Hoescht (a suburb of Frankfurt am Main) to its long-time residence next door to Hessicher Rundfunk (Hessen State radio (and TV)), a block removed from Miquel-Adickesallee in Frankfurt am Main.

Gisela B and Bob M, who shared March 19 as their birthday, travelled two very different paths to that place on Bertramstrasse. Gisela a native of Frankfurt had survived World War II and the desperate days that followed it choosing to work in the schallplatten arkiv (record library) of the amerikanisher soldaten sendung because the Amis, in addition to a weekly pay packet, offered a hot meal at noon as part of the employment package. She never spoke very much about the time after Stunde Null but what she didn't say spoke volumes.

Bob had arrived as part of the bezatzung after the end of the hostilities as a musician. He wore a black beret and I am smiling as I type this because I can still see him in my mind's eye with it at a jaunty angle. He also wore a long, light brown overcoat and a plaid scarf. He was perpetually pre-occupied and there was a gleam in his eye that signaled this incredible appetite for knowledge and an insatiable curiosity about everything in the world around him, and I mean everything.

At one point he had worked for a US advertising agency, in Germany and had horror stories about trying to market American brands of cold cereal to Germans for breakfast and how he watched orange juice get poured over corn flakes until he was so put-off he stopped eating breakfast himself.  He explained to me on a very snowy day when the world seemed to be quiet the meaning for those in the advertising game of  "Go West" (see #11) and how he chuckled every time he saw an ad using it for a German cigarette.       

I worked with Gisela and for Bob for much of my time at AFN and could/should/would have learned even more about Germany, broadcasting and life in general if I had listened more closely to their words and deeds. So tuned was I to WII-FM I often missed the learning that came from their teachable moments. I was in such a hurry that I missed, or nearly did, the whole point to the journey fixating on the destination instead of the view.

They were there when I, and so many others, got to AFN and both of them said 'farewell' to me while remaining on the staff after my time for coming and going had come and gone. I never thanked them for their kindness and their generosity. There was no hurry-we all had time in the world and our paths would surely cross again. Man proposes but God disposes; our paths didn't cross.

I left Germany and they left AFN and then this world, in that order, many years ago. I cling to my memories of them, most especially Bob who had no family aside from his wife Erica and their dog, Sandy, with a tenacity that tries but fails to assuage my fear that I am the last person on earth who knew of them and should I somehow forget them, they will be gone forever. 

At some point, I'll dig out and play, Music Box Dancer by Frank Mills, whom I interviewed and who, at Bob's suggestion, I introduced to Gisela because he knew how much she enjoyed that song and whose smile, upon meeting Mills, lit up what felt like the entire building a very long time ago. 
Der gl├╝cklichste von Geburtstagen, ihr zwei!
-bill kenny   

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Calling All Angels

We in the here and now of Norwich, Connecticut, too often lose sight of how we can came to be here and how the city, as we now know it, came to be here. 

People just like us, centuries, scores, decades, years and/or just moments ago made decisions to be here and/or create the physical structures and organizational/departmental strictures by which the City operates.

Norwich at this moment. 18 March 2015, is a reflection of everyone who has ever been here. We, you and I, are just as much a part of the journey as we are of the destination that brought us to this instant. The choices we make (or choose to NOT make) in the City we will build today are part of the story of the Norwich that those who arrive here tomorrow and everyday afterwards will inherit and claim as their own.

Who we are and who we shall be is driven by our will and our wallet and most especially to use the former to both compensate and complement the latter. We are at the time of the municipal year when all of us need to each become our Better Angel.

Because it is as our Better Angels that we must strive to frame the discussion we need to have with not just the elected leadership of the City of Norwich but with one another on wants, needs and desires as reflected in the next City budget. We should promise one another now to listen with the intention of hearing and less for the opportunity to merely respond.

The self-proclaimed greatest rock and roll band in the world, The Rolling Stones, once suggested  that “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” Which leads us to, and leaves us with, the inevitable: what is we want as a City?

That’s where we will spend a lot of time in the weeks to come, advocating and (in all likelihood) arguing about how many public safety versus public education versus public works dollars are to be allocated and invested.

We’ll square off to attempt to answer (or fail to, again), questions like, which is more important: textbooks or paved roads; class size or emergency call response time; clean streets or clean water? They are all part of a larger conversation that comes down to which Norwich do you want to come to: the one we are or the one we can become?  

At the risk of becoming just another voice that gets lost in the noise of disagreement on our way to becoming disagreeable, those are all questions of the aforementioned will with little thought or energy devoted to wallet.

Unless and until we commit to examine and help implement the Economic Development Strategic Plan for the City of Norwich outlined by the Mayor Hinchey and scarcely noticed by the general public, we’ll have the same conversations that lead us to the same place. Nowhere or right here.  
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Traditional Reflection on My Roots

The 2010 US Census indicated slightly less than 35,000,000 Americans (that's the number with an M, if you blinked and lost your place) claim for themselves Irish heritage. As point of comparison there are a few less than 5,000,000 Irish in the Republic of Eire.

It has been rumored for decades that the celebrations by the first group are actually audible to even the most cloth-eared of the second. If you are observing yourself today perhaps you might wish to pursue the scientific method and check out the premise for yourself. Be warned it will be extremely loud and very drunk almost anywhere you go.

The most devoted to celebrating their Irish heritage among us, to include people who aren't really Irish at all, will have attended early Mass before starting their observances which may, or may not, cease at about the time the whistle blows tomorrow morning to start the day. 

God loves Irishmen and the Lord loves a drunk but there's no sense in provoking him by combining them at Mass now is there? See, there are reasonable men among us. Usually they are called designated drivers.

Many hateful, hurtful words will be shared between friends today that will never be forgotten. Fortunately there will be even more that no one will ever remember except in quiet moments and luckily the Irish have far too few of those for anyone to be concerned. The Irish tend to use alcohol to ward off their own sad permutation of Alzheimer's that results in an Irishman forgetting everything but the grudges.

It's been three plus decades since I last touched a drop (mainly because it never remained a drop) and I can still recall every single slight, real and/or imagined, to my intelligence and honor from anyone at anytime, anywhere. Yes, like so many, I, too, have Irish Alzheimer's; I forget everything but the grudges. But I don't suffer from it, I revel in it. Today's a good day to remember green means go and do so with dispatch.

"You may bury me with an enemy in Mount Calvary. You can stack me on a pyre and soak me down with whiskey, roast me to a blackened crisp and throw me in a pile. I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style.

"You can take my urn to Fenway spread my ashes all about or you can bring me down to Wolly Beach. And dump the sucker out. Burn me to a rotten crisp and toast me for a while; I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style."
-bill kenny

Monday, March 16, 2015

Prefer Al to David

I had a more-secular-than-I work colleague ask me the other day if it were just him or did I, too, notice more TV ads for Fish-Macs and the like at fast-food restaurants. I always enjoy the opportunity to explain various nuances of the liturgical calendar to heathens (kidding, Dave; actually, not so much), since I am so eminently qualified to do so.

I smile now thinking back to his furrowed brow and then the “Eureka!” look that crossed his face as I explained Lent and its impact on food sales. I was tempted, but didn’t, to ask if he just thought the folks who marketed singing fish got together at some point every late winter to push their product. It might have better explained that 55 gallon drum of tartar sauce I fear he has in the garage.

I am flattered (I think) that he asked me and will pretend it’s because he believed I looked like someone who knows many and varied things as opposed to some kind of a diz-buster who’s up on all the loopy stuff in the universe (from a distance they look very much alike).

I was more of a fish sticks or macaroni and cheese for Friday dinners kind of kid this time of year in accordance with our family’s religious traditions. In more recent decades, I’ve abstained from abstinence with not always salubrious effects, but if you don’t walk on the wild or mild side, what’s the point.

I will for future reference always emphasize my mac-and-cheese history sort of as a get out of jail free card especially if Mega Piranha ever really exist. I found a film clip of a movie I suspect that was adapted for the screen by putting it on a piece of wood and banging a few holes in it and probably filmed on VHS as well as directly released to that format. 

Barry Williams, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.
-bill kenny    

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (I get nervous when my wife goes for an eye exam just in case she reconsiders the last three plus decades) and while matters of taste are always subject to discussion, we live in a time of more deeply felt and loudly professed sense of injury from all manner of devices and deeds, real and/or imagined.

Wandering around on the interweb (I think I originally intended to check the weather but that was a decade and six hundred kajillion water-skiing-squirrels-eaten-by-grumpy-cats ago) I saw a picture of (I assumed) a military service person’s newborn baby (battle dress uniform as the background because the child was being held at waist height) sleeping peacefully swaddled in a white warming blanket while cradled in an American flag.

Talk about angering people, the photo certainly did that.

I’m a father, a veteran of active duty, an American and obviously dumber than a box of rocks because I don’t “see” the disrespect (or worse) by the photographer or the family who desired the image in the first place that has so inflamed so many people.

And without intending to pour gasoline onto that particular “you’re disrespecting the flag” fire, might I suggest to all those whose intentions are as least as pure as their rhetoric perhaps we can worry a bit more about more fully practicing and realizing the virtues for which our flag stands and less about appearances.
-bill kenny        

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cast-offs and Castaways

As a living fossil approaching his sixty-third year here on the ant farm, I bemoan an ever enlarging circle of throwaway items our society has created and perfected.

Sounding at times (I know) like a broken record, even when you reading this have no idea what the heck a record is much less how it’s broken (unless a hopped-up Armstrong or A-Roid is involved), I blithely nevertheless sally forth (a wonderful name for a child, if you’re shopping by the way) in my lament of nearly everything Modern Times hath wrought.

When was the last time you saw a cobbler’s shop-or even know what a cobbler is/was? Ditto for a seamstress. As for appliance repairs; seriously, people still do that? We’ve become a culture that thinks ‘going green’ is about biodegradable cell phone parts rather than constructing devices we repair rather than simply replace.

My favorite example until I started to follow a frightening news story from halfway across the country was computer printers. It’s cheaper, significantly so, to pitch whatever printer you own and buy a new one than to purchase any replacement ink cartridges when the ones in your current device run out.

That is almost as disturbing as throwaway children, which is what this story is all about.

The operative word in the story, of course, is “rehoming” which is part of a larger phenomenon, the perversion of language which is supposed to illuminate but instead is used to obfuscate. Except this story is actually far more horrific than just some casually comfortable folks being inconvenienced by children they once promised to love but then decided ‘not so much.’

When we get to here as the tale is told, her face at first just ghostly, turns a whiter shade of pale. This isn’t a guy sitting in Connecticut wringing his hands over some bozo in Arkansas-we are fellow-travelers on Spaceship Earth and this person, Justin Harris, is as evil and responsible in allowing the mistreatment that befell those children entrusted to his care as the degenerate sack of slime who actually did the damage.

But give it a week-not that the children will be better. That will never happen and like the ripple in the water of a pebble in a pond the damage those children inflict on themselves and others as they grow  into adults as twisted and broken as those who failed to raise them, will be extraordinary. Not forgetting (as if we could) the damage that will be done by all those with whom they, in turn, come into contact.  That’s not what I mean here.

Rather, news cycles and attention spans being what they are, in a fortnight we won’t give this another thought. Some are already way ahead of me and have already forgotten whatever the first paragraph of this was even about. Probably just another roadside attraction on the human highway. Keep moving, there’s nothing to see here on the road to hell.

-bill kenny

Friday, March 13, 2015

And the Moving Finger Having Writ

It was George Bernard Shaw who first offered a snarky but frighteningly accurate definition of patriotism as “fundamentally a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.”  Ouch. 

Maybe because I’m kinda thin-skinned on the subject it’s so easy to draw blood but that does sting a bit, especially when I’m forced to concede he’s probably right.

I wondered what George would make of the kerfuffle that the University of California at Irvine found itself in, up to at least its butt, over the course of the last week as to what to do/not to do with the American flag. 

By George (M), It’s a Grand Old Flag, though your mileage may vary. I served eight years in the Air Force protecting, among other things, freedom of speech, though I often had precious little of it myself, so I squirm in physical discomfort when we shout one another down pretending to debate freedom of speech.

Actually, I’m mindful of all those in my life who died wearing a military uniform so that we can have unending discussions about how many pinheads can dance on an angel (golly that doesn’t look right at all) and I very often feel we owe them better than what we do with the freedoms they defended to the fullest measure.

In my time on this orb, the hardest moments for me in defending the theoretical values of freedom of speech when practically applied in the real world have always been when the speech I’m defending is hateful and hurtful.

And I placed those descriptives in alphabetical order since they are sadly otherwise interchangeable with little to no loss of intent or meaning.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Somehow "Happy Birthday" Doesn't Really Cover It

My wife, Sigrid, can barely tolerate Springsteen and winces when I start on my 'Bruce at the Festhalle on His first German Tour' story which I will NOT recount today.

She's convinced Bob Dylan cannot now, nor ever, sing and that goes double for Neil Young, because he also can't play the harmonica or guitar according to her. She was a devoted Barry Manilow fan at a moment in his career when he was so saccharine-sweet (commercially), my teeth ached listening to him.

Where there had been just she and a husband was to be also a son and then a daughter. She raised them both (it's their father with the case of arrested emotional development), practically on her own since her spouse gave his time to total strangers, not for days on end, but for decades-and she never missed a beat in creating a home and hearth that was and remains a safe haven for them all.

Not even on the day he came home, on a date of this very month many years ago, to tell her she and the children would be leaving the only home they'd ever known and moving to a country on another continent, that, of the three, only she had been in (and that was twice for holidays) did she blink, hesitate or look anywhere else but straight ahead.

Adding to the degree of difficulty in a relocation of close to 4,500 miles was a landing in the area first settled by the Pilgrims at about the time of year they, too, had arrived (but she stuck the landing). And she was to discover being a stranger in a strange land meant swallowing the bewilderment, frustration, humiliation and indignation often created by disinterested bureaucrats who required a rain forest of completed forms before issuing her a card of one color, but called by another, in order to remain with her family.

She is the most headstrong person, if not on the planet, than at least in a specific house at an address in Norwich, Connecticut, despite some stiff competition in that department from a daughter who has both her self-assurance and belief in her own abilities from her mother. The child's brother has his easy ability to make friends with people he's just met from his mother and she is the reason why neighbors can abide her spouse, I suspect, since I came with her and she's wonderful they assume there must be something she sees in me that they cannot and do not (she does wear glasses, after all).

There's nothing she cannot repair or mend which is a skill that comes in handy because her husband has a gift for physical destruction that approaches an art form and she has as much patience as each project requires, even if all of them require all of it all the time. The number of events and happenstances that had to happen in a specific and given order, for this woman from Offenbach am Main to meet a dweeb from Central New Jersey and make his world stop completely is incalculable.

The life that she has cannot be the one she thought she was getting when she said yes a lifetime ago and it's certainly not the one she deserves. Sometimes the ride has been very dark (as in dunkel night time, a small child offered in Gerglish decades ago). If the power to make today, her birthday, into a national, or international holiday, were mine, I would use it, but it doesn't make a difference to her that this will never happen. She does not miss what she cannot have.

I can only wish her happiness today, her birthday, and marvel, yet again, that she shares her life with me. I never had a girl who loved me half as much as this girl loves me. You gotta hold on tight to her.
She's a real emotional girl.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Voltaire's Challenge

Have you ever passed a car on the shoulder somewhere, four-way flashers blinking, hood open obviously in some kind of distress and said to yourself, 'that doesn't look good-I sure hope they get help.' 

Or how about on the way into our office from the parking lot, we pass a discarded fast food wrapper or nearly-empty cuppa something. When there was food or drink in those containers they weighed more than they do now and yet, now they’re too heavy to carry to a trash can. Not that we do that- we just shake our heads as we walk by.

Hold that thought as I share what may be an urban legend (I love its point and don’t care if it’s real) about an experiment that placed lab mice in glass containers and slowly filled the containers with water. In the story, the mice struggled to stay alive as the water rose higher. And at just the moment that a mouse, exhausted from swimming, would give up and sink to the bottom, a lab assistant would swoop in and scoop the mouse up and save it.

This experiment was conducted many times and no mouse was ever permitted to drown. But, and here's the interesting (to me) part: what researchers learned was that every rescue happened earlier and sooner than the time before. The mice figured out the sooner they stopped trying to save themselves, the faster someone would reach in and save them. Thus, why try? The hand of Man became the Hand of God.

To apply my story to ourselves go back to the trash or the disabled vehicle.

I don't have to pick up that discarded coffee cup I passed on a downtown sidewalk--Norwich has a Public Works Department to clean the streets, right? And in terms of being a Good Samaritan on the highway-  why do we have Triple A or state troopers, if not to help disabled motorists?

"Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do," offered Voltaire, an 18th Century French Humanist, whose words disappear when judged by the deeds we choose to do and those we choose to NOT do.

We would become a city of strangers with no one to assist the homeless and the helpless, to battle a blaze when a house on street corner catches on fire or to care for children too often left to their own devices and an indifferent fate by our savage society. We could lock our car doors as we drive through the dodgy part of town-wouldn't want any of that to get into our car would we? And ideally, what we don't have a government program to provide assistance for, we could pass a law to prohibit.

Whenever you feel pleased with what we have done-please also think of all that we’ve yet to do. Each of us is but one, but we can be one with each other. That choice is always ours.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Grin to Begin

I always enjoyed the music of Queen* and in the course of their active years while I worked in radio I spoke with each of the four original members and found them to be thoughtful, delightful, sincere and hard-working, and sometimes all of those qualities at the same time.

They never took themselves too seriously which, in my opinion, is not always true of their (still devoted) legion of fans, many of whom are (I have been told) extremely angry at this send up, but I cannot imagine why.

It's Wayne's World for Dudettes, and I think the ladies acquit themselves well. Even if I have a hard time with where the steering wheel is located.
-bill kenny

*not the Queen with Paul Rodgers and most definitely not with Adam Lambert.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It Was a Long Drive

I spent a lot of time yesterday in the car, close to seven hours on round trip travel of a sad and somber nature. I smoked cigarettes for twenty-three years and when I gave them up (nineteen years ago this September) I wasn't sure I'd be able to drive a car anymore, but what do you know, that proved to be a false fear.

Actually, the cigarette smoking wasn't the first habit I ever had when driving a car-listening to music via the radio, be it back in the days when AM radio was the dominant in-car entertainment delivery system (long before gabfests took over the airwaves), or when 8-tracks and dinosaurs ruled the earth.

I've listened to the music of Bob Dylan all my life, to include times when I didn't know the music I was hearing was his. I ordered a small parcel of new releases last week on line which means they show up in dribs and drabs. I'm waiting for the James McMurtry disc of which my brother Adam so eloquently writes, but the first one to arrive was the new Dylan work, Shadows in the Night, album 2,096 of his career, or so it seems to me.

I've yet to take it out of the car CD player since getting it, because it is just that good. If you love Dylan, it's brilliant and if you don't, it's more so. How he has continued to reinvent himself for all these years, I know not but wish I could do the same. Back when I as a young and semi-virile Young Turk through some unhappy circumstances I discovered that no matter how fast I ran, and I was fast and strong at the time, a man cannot outrun his own past.

What I've learned again from someone who helped me first define music and its importance in my life, is how when you exchange the race and the chase for the simple embrace of everything that you are, how you can change the river of time into which each of us steps on a daily basis. A silver lining for a day rimmed with tears.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Burnt Offerings

I have gotten used to reading the warnings on the sides of drive-thru coffee cups about the liquid inside being hot or the laundry coming back from the dry cleaner in a thin, clear plastic bag telling me the covering “is not a toy.” My favorite remains the paint shelf on a six foot folding ladder with the red sticker screaming at me that “THIS IS NOT A STEP!”

It’s not that I’ve grown accustomed to the ways of the world here on The Planet of the Idiots, though I fear to a visitor from someplace else we must look a little doofy on some of this stuff. These are legal warnings, not placed on items for my good, but for the continued good (fiscally) of the person/company providing the good or service.

I’m still somewhat surprised (pointy) scissors do not have an advisory on them warning me “DO NOT RUN.” (Maybe they do and my vision has been impaired by all that paste I ate). I mention these seeming insults to common sense because of a headline and story I came across in USA Today, the national newspaper designed by people who hate writing for newspapers for people who hate reading newspapers.

Before you ask, I was seated with both feet on the floor, head approximately twenty-two inches from the screen, arms by my side wearing gloves, with safety goggles on over my glasses, with a bike helmet and a seat belt (I am allowed to skip the condom question in the privacy of my own home)). I could have used a chin strap to keep my jaw from dropping, but no harm was done to any animals in the writing of this paragraph. So far.

Elitist snob that I am, I can more easily understand praying over fajitas you'd purchase at Taco Bell, but I’m not sure I understand what Hiram thought the outcome should be or just how much farther his attorney should pursue this. 

I’m envisioning Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg squaring off in the equivalent of a judicial cage-match on this with salsa flecks all over their black robes. Can’t help but wonder who’ll be catering.

I think, given the chance, Hiram, you should take your next and every order to go since if you’re downwind when the fecal matter intersects with the ventilator some of those stains never come out.       
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 7, 2015

This Time Tomorrow

This time tomorrow, it will be later than it is at this time today by one hour. Tonight (technically at 0200 Sunday) we spring ahead and “gain” daylight on the late afternoon part of our days. 

It’s most obvious and noticeable tomorrow for an obvious reason and then it’s incremental through late in June cresting (so to speak) on Sunday, June 21st (which also happens to be Father’s Day (a note made possible by a grant from The Hallmark Card Company (motto: ‘What else can you do? Express your own emotions? That’ll be $5.95 plus tax.’))

Time is like the tide in a river, I guess, and it’s rising right now whereas in the autumn it’s ebbing. It, of course, still flows endlessly to the sea (ask King Canute about that and watch the typos, buddy) and one more or less hour is a subject I used to find fascinating as a callow youth. 

Those days, and the memories of those days, are both faded and in most places bare so now, at nearly-sixty-three, I am always aware of the sound in my ears my own blood makes as it rushes through my veins.

More appropriately to my somewhat melancholy frame of mind when contemplating the remaining days and wondering how many more beginnings before the end, I find myself concentrating more on what I do with the hours and days I have, no matter how many or how few. 

Perhaps you’ll find that perspective helpful as well.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 6, 2015

Perhaps Why Hiawatha Sings

I’m blessed to live at the moment that I do-though because I am alive you feel slightly less blessed about your life and the timing involved in it. I think that has to do with eggs and how they’re prepared. 

Anyway, thanks to the communion and convergence of dumb boxes and devices like the one I’m typing this on and you’re reading it on we can launch satellites, calculate the number nanoseconds involved in any form of experimentation you can imagine, converse with people like, and unlike, us across the planet. 

The marvels are so numerous and pervasive I almost cannot blame the Third (and now Fourth and Fifth, I think) World for wondering why we in the First World haven’t cured all of us of all our ills already.

I suspect it has to do with how much time we devote to researching answers to questions like “how long is it?” I don’t pretend to know (or know of) women who discuss their personal and vital statistics and truth to tell, I have never had a conversation with any man on earth (or elsewhere) about such things but there's certainly enough speculation about the shape and size of things South of the Border.

Even under extreme and exigent circumstances such as being adrift in a life raft, if I couldn’t simply respond by invoking Longfellow and leaving it at that, I’d have to deploy the Chapman defense and hope for a message rather than a specimen in the bottle.      
- bill kenny