Sunday, May 31, 2015

Walking in Your Footsteps

There’s a routine on an ancient Monty Python record of an imaginary game show, “Stake Your Claim,” that always makes me smile whenever I hear it or even just think about it. 

The point where I lose it is when “Norman Voles of Gravesend” who claims he has written all “of Shakespeare’s plays and my wife and I wrote all of his sonnets” is interviewed by the show’s host who asks, “Mr Voles, these plays are known to have been performed in the early 17th century. How old are you, Mr Voles?”  

Chagrined, Norman admits that he’s only 43. The host pounces swiftly, “Well, how is it possible for you to have written plays performed over 300 years before you were born?” Trapped, Norman capitulates to the inevitable, “There's no possible way of answering that argument, I'm afraid. I was only hoping you would not make that particular point, but I can see you're more than a match for me!” Click here and you can laugh for yourself.

I think we’ve all known a Norman Voles or two, and perhaps even voted (more than once or twice) for the gentleman. I love stories that are the soul of plausibility until exposed to daylight where they turn to dust as everyone averts their eyes to not embarrass or be embarrassed by what’s happening.

We’ve all had a Mayan Apocalypse, or traveled a portion of life’s highway with our own Harold Camping who learned that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Both of which brings us to Edgar Nernberg and his amazing if slightly ideologically incompatible discovery. It would seem the past isn’t all that’s cracked up to be. 

The discovery should make him the talk of every Tim Horton’s in Alberta and Saskatoon. Especially after it’s learned that beside the fish was an unopened 60 million year old jar of tartar sauce. Aside from some extra napkins, you really could not ask for more.
-bill kenny 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Perhaps Gold-Plated Gold

Which of these is really real? 

A holy water font in the latest edition of the Beate Uhse catalog? 

A pride of vegan lions at the Bronx Zoo? 

Yeah, me too.

I didn’t know that conspicuous consumption was being considered as an Olympic sport.  That’s the only reason I can come up with to explain why this vehicle would ever be built. And all this time I thought something else was God’s way of telling you that you have too much money.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 29, 2015

Some Kind of Innocence Is Measured Out in Years

You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. I’ve been reading, as a guilty pleasure that also serves as a self-esteem booster, ‘lands’ sakes! We don’t know anyone like this!’  all about Jaunty Josh Duggar and his tawdry and sordid familial freak show. 

I already thought it was odious-then the fine folks at USA Today (“A newspaper by people who hate writing newspapers for people who hate reading newspapers”) unearthed, literally, this little chunk of awful offal

Turns out, Josh’s pop, Cletus or something, took the young scamp to an Arkansas State Trooper (the same folks who stood watch as then-Governor Clinton ‘did not have sex’ with Gennifer Flowers) for a stern talking to and straightening out. I know except for this line, “(T)he trooper is currently serving 56 years in Arkansas prison on child pornography charges.”  Well. 

The old ‘takes one to fondle one’ school of discipline, ruled to be in violation of the Geneva Conventions of War back in 1756, or so. Surprised it’s not used more often by more people-in this instance starting with Mike Huckabee, a former Governor of Arkansas who’d like to be the next President of the United States who’s still standing steadfast and by Chester the Molester, at least so far.

The silver lining in all of this could well be that Josh’s former TV home, The Learning Channel, may have actually learned something after far too many years of its unabashed lowest common denominator pandering programming in search of audience ratings and advertisers’ prized demographics. 

What, you ask, might they have learned? See the first sentence. Woof
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 28, 2015

When the Beautiful Game Isn't

One of the best worst-kept secrets in all of sports is now no longer a secret: cheaters do prosper and when you’re an insider within the Federation of International Football Associations, FIFA, you’ll go broke buying wheelbarrows in which to take your cut home. 

But don’t take my word for it, form your own conclusion. Let me help

You may not think so based on its dearth of popularity on these shores, but professional football (what we here in the Land of the Round Doorknobs call “soccer”) is not only the world’s most popular sport, in terms of attendance, fan clubs and those who have been known to wager a fiver on a Cup outcome, it’s a HUGE business at the national and international level. 

When, in this case, you can be pocketing 150 million (with an “m”) dollars as the surcharge for your skullduggery, we are talking real money. And yeah, I recognize the presumption of innocence and am a huge fan-except maybe this time. 
There’s a lot we don’t know yet (and probably even more we’re going to wish we didn’t) by the time this passion play is over, but my favorite moment of Zen, so far, is how FIFA reacted to the arrests of their own top officials.  

I have the feeling that “pleased the investigation is being energetically pursued” doesn’t quite capture the actual essence of the true reaction of the folks who had silver bracelets on within the last 48 hours. 

It takes balls (inflated ones, Messrs. Brady and Kraft) to play the beautiful game but only moments to destroy generations of good will in order to better satisfy an insatiable greed some of its leading lights seem to have. 
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

You Pay Attention Every Time Money Talks

What follows are in no way original thoughts but rather, observations I first offered six years ago; how strange they still seem so current.

It was Einstein who said, "(w)e cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." However, the last time I checked, he wasn’t seeking a seat on this fall’s City Council so I guess we can safely continue to ignore his advice.

Meanwhile we’re searching for who’s to blame for the municipal budget that’s shaping up but the culprit can be found in the nearest mirror. We should know better, we go through this every year and yet because we don’t do things differently in the preceding eleven and half months we get to this point in the fiscal calendar every year and are amazed. Actually and pardon my cynicism we’re always disappointed about the results we didn’t get from the work we didn’t do.

In the meantime, our alderpersons are watching the horizon for some sign, divine or otherwise, that a state budget will be or has been approved in Hartford and that such a budget will be of benefit to the City of Norwich. So far, no dice (in light of the Massachusetts casino threat, too soon?)

Cities and towns whose sole power to tax is restricted to property are busy measuring three (or more times) and cutting once all across the state as many, like Norwich, have requirements to have an approved budget for the next fiscal year by a date early next month.

They are nervous-a great deal of their budget depends on allocations from the state of Connecticut and, let's face it, no matter the state and no matter the town, if the choice comes down to a program or position in the Capital or one ‘someplace else,’ guess who's going to win? Color me surprised only as long as we can afford crayons.

Every year we all get a case of the heebie-jeebies and vow to 'fix' this 'broken system' and then suffer amnesia when the crisis passes. As a matter of fact, since it's so familiar and recurs so often, I'm not sure if 'crisis' is even an appropriate word to describe it. Semantics aside, what next?

For right now we’ll watch the TV news a bit closer, open our local daily newspapers to the "Capital Doings" section before we hit the sports page(, but after the comics) and muddle through with a strained, stoic smile as if we were under siege.

Better a horrible end, than horrors without end, I suppose, but this annual dance could end with very little effort, if we could all sit and work together throughout the year. 
After all, money talks. And some days you can't get a word in edgewise.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Us and Them, Again

I'm always delighted by small children and infants though I often am annoyed at parents who don't keep better control of them in social environments. My wife and I were shopping the other day and I hadn't realized it was 'bring your mewling child to the store with you' day because I was up to my butt in unhappy, tiny, young people.

When that happens, I go with the flow and get cranky myself. Don't get me wrong-I'm not angry with the children. A newborn didn't decide to get in the car and drive to the mall. Mommy did. Or maybe daddy but based on what I saw yesterday, more than likely not, though mommy probably wishes she knew where daddy was.

I don't know when we became a country of the very young and the very old but having been the former and now being the latter let me tell you that all the other age groups, and food groups for that matter, had best start pulling their own weight.

We spend way too much money in these parts on diapers and Depends. We built this nation for our children-that's the deal every generation worked with the one that followed except now we sold our children and their children out for off shore bank accounts and left them with no skills, no jobs and no hope.

We're so busy blaming the New World Order and the changing times that we have no time to look in the mirror and look at ourselves. When Gandhi talked about being the change you want to see in the world, he wasn't talking about what you find under the couch cushions in the living room. He was talking about all of us to each of us, for everyone.

If being polite means being less than honest, maybe we should ask one another if that's too high a price to pay for comity. We owe each other the unvarnished truth in order to build the world we all want to live in. Hurt feelings are a luxury we most certainly can afford if they get us to where we need to be.
-bill kenny  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Take Heed of the Dream

Today is when we observe Memorial Day, another holiday we've moved to a Monday so we can have a three day weekend with plenty of time for a barbecue, a run to the beach and some laps at the Brickyard (okay turns out that was yesterday, but it's the thought that counts). 

If we work it right, we don't ever or even have to think of those with whom we grew up and with whom we went to school but who never, themselves, got to be old, or whose parents and grandparents, having survived the Depression battled fascism to its knees in a world wide war and their children and their children who have been engaged in a dozen "smallish" wars for the last half a century that all seem to cost lives.

Every town across the country has observances and we here in Norwich, Connecticut have three all of which you can easily participate in with the first, as is tradition at Memorial Park in Taftville, starting at 10, which this year honors the life and sacrifice of Army Corporal Fred Roessler who died in Trier, Germany, on January 8, 1919. 

Coming back across town to Little Plains Park, formed at the split between Broadway and Union Street, at 11 is a brief  remembrance service for the 26th Connecticut Regiment Volunteer Infantry many of whose members are interred in the Yantic Cemetery and whose memorial  in the pocket park honors their sacrifice in the Civil War at the Battle of Port Hudson.

You'll still have time to cheer on or to march in the parade organized by the Norwich Area Veterans Council that steps off 'sharply' at noon from The Cathedral of Saint Patrick and ends with a memorial ceremony at Chelsea Parade. 

On a day usually filled with backyard barbecues and family softball games the remembrances help us realize war is not an abstract geo-political game played out on a grand stage by dominant personalities-it is very local, extremely personal and heartbreakingly private. Those of our neighbors who choose military service have as many reasons for so doing as there are those who so serve. 

And while today we should mark the ultimate sacrifice of those who have served, we can also spare a thought or prayer for those who have survived as well. They bear scars, often invisible and painful, of their struggles that take a lifetime to heal.

We must never lose sight of all of those whose service makes us who we are and to whom we owe more than we can ever repay. They are a call to arms for each of us to be better than we are for ourselves, our children and our nation.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Today and Tomorrow Made Possible Only by Yesterday's Sacrifices

I hate to be the one who clouds the sunshine of a three-day holiday weekend, but just think of it as part of the service. We're so used to each of our days rushing past us in a never-ending stream we sometimes forget others, elsewhere, sacrificed theirs so we could do whatever we choose with ours.

Even, and especially, when we choose to do nothing.

Sometimes words are not enough like this time.

Thank you to those who served and sacrificed your lives for ours.

I hope we prove to have been worthy.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Let's Go Down to the Fairground

Let's go down to the fairground
Go down side by side
Let's remember what life was like
When life was a wild ride
Let's go down to the fairground
Before it's up and gone
Get your tight blue jeans out
And try to get 'em on

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

We can watch the Carneys spin the cars
And make the young girls cry
They always seem to have bad skin
And one lazy eye
And one on them's on your money
And the others on the floor
They gotta keep their noses clean
And watch out for the law

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Check out that big black guy
Who works the Ferris wheel
He looks like he's been around
Let's ask him how it feels
Traveling around from town to town
With many a lesson learned
Putting up that giant wheel
Just to watch that damned thing turn

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

See that girl in the tattered dress
Who runs the Octopus ride
She's no more than fourteen
And already one inside
And every tattoo that's tattood
Upon her hide
Tells the story of her life
A life of pain and pride
How her mother used her
And left her all alone
Her stepdaddy abused her
So she ran away from home
She set her sights on Hollywood
But winded up in Maine
Went the wrong direction
On a cargo train
But hey it ain't too bad now
She's movin' on at last
She forgot about tomorrow
And forgets about the past

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down my dear
Watch those young tow-headed kids
Grin from ear to ear
Maybe the know something
That we forgot about
Our lives became so complex
We blocked the fun right out

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Well the girl who takes the tickets
For the ghost train around the back
Looks a lot like Courtney Love
You know a real class act
And I'll bet that that's her boyfriend
Who runs the Hoopla stand
Maybe he's a genius that no one understands
Maybe he's an inventor
Clever with his hands
Right now he's just small time
But he's got big plans
Or maybe he's just a shifty guy
That's got a violent streak
Maybe he's the one who murdered
That clown and and got away scott free

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Let's go down to the fairground
Before it's up and gone
Get your tight blue jeans out
And try to get 'em on
Get 'em on"
- Graham Parker, from Your Country, 2004

The Norwich Rotary Family Carnival is open today and tomorrow from noon until 11 PM and on Monday, Memorial Day, from noon until six. If you don't go, it's your own fault.
- bill kenny

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Walk to Clear My Head

I'm off through next Tuesday. If you have to work today, please don't think I'm rubbing it in when I tell you I was off yesterday as well. Okay, maybe a little bit.

This is a picture in some form you've seen before of the Indian Leap Historical District which is about a five minute walk from my house, not that there is a cause and effect relationship between those two things. But it wouldn't be so bad, perhaps, if there were. Just sayin'.

This is the view from a street I rarely walk on just below the Jail Hill Historic District (I don't know if it is historic, but I think someday it will be) over on School Street, just beyond Cedar Street. There may have been a school here a long time ago, hence the name. In honor of the occasion yesterday I called it Bill Boulevard (just don't tell the Public Works people who altered the street sign).

On my way back to our house, I stopped to admire this one on Church Street-and yes there is a church, so perhaps there's hope for School Street as well-it's a house I pass all the time but yesterday I thought it looked especially lovely so I grabbed a photo.

I'm not sure I'll take pictures today that I'll share with you but you will be the second person to know it if I do.
- bill kenny

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fate Is Just the Weight of Circumstances

I should tell you to begin  I’ve never understood the appeal of casino gambling, or gambling in any form. I don’t do sports pools, I don’t play cards (for money or otherwise) and as for the entertainment value of watching a wheel spin with a jumping ball that needs to land on a particular spot for me to make money, or wearing a work glove while I’m pulling a handle or pressing a button to “play” the slots, all of that makes as much sense to me as betting on a horse or greyhound dog. And that makes no sense.

I grasp the concept and here in The Land of Steady Habits, who a quarter of a century ago, permitted “Las Vegas Nights” one-night gambling only as fund-raisers for charities (as opposed to bingo, I guess, where some in my old neighborhood would grab six cards and the marker on their way out of the confessional), we now have two HUGE billion dollar gaming operations at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.

Between them they employ many thousands of people who in the course of the (about) two decades they’ve operated have joined the “New  American Workforce” in the service sector, probably I guess because we have enough engineers, programmers, architects and mechanics and could use more bare subsistence wage earners.

Of course, we don’t call it gambling; how déclassé! Now it’s called gaming. Sort of like Scrabble or “Go Fish” except you can lose your life savings very quickly, but all in a family-friendly environment.

The best thing about the casinos in Eastern Connecticut was, aside from some smallish upstate New York stuff and Atlantic City in New Jersey, they were it. If not actually the Golden Geese, in terms of revenues generated for the state of Connecticut who took a 25% cut of all slot machine revenues, then very definitely some other yellow-tinged fowl.

The good times rolled as did the revenues to the state (to satiate its appetite for spending) but other New England states eyed our Connecticut casinos hungrily, as so many of their residents traveled to The Nutmeg State for family-friendly entertainment, and wondered “why not us?” Indeed.

Eventually the Massachusetts’ statehouse and Governor developed a licensing system to place a limited number of ‘gaming sites’ within the Commonwealth. Operators bid for the right to run those sites, obviously with  benefits in tax revenues to the state and perhaps some  to the ‘hosting’ municipalities (and in all cases, at a handsome profit for the operators).

Among those who bid, but unsuccessfully, were the two Connecticut tribal casinos who have now allied themselves with state representatives from both the upper and lower chambers to try to pass legislation creating additional casinos strategically placed along Connecticut’s borders to entice gamblers (‘gamers’ is just too stupid to use in this context) driving through our state on their way to Massachusetts.

This according to this news article and thousands like it in recent weeks and months, will “save jobs here in the region,” which is laudable except (and the point of my screed today), where was this concern to “save jobs” when the bidding for licenses was hot and heavy North of the state border?

Was there a concern, to say nothing of a plan, at that time while pursuing those bids about preserving and protecting the jobs that were back at the Mother Ship in Eastern Connecticut? If so, why not just share that plan now with the lobbyists and legislators who are being stampeded to support what is in essence an expansion of gambling throughout a state that had historically run budget surpluses until it discovered what it thought were Easy Riches?

If not, that’s the part of the  equation that should disquiet us, decades too late after we decided we could retain our balance while riding the tiger’s back, because now we are in danger of being in its belly.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Overcoming Ennui and Entropy

I fell across an insight earlier in the week that left me shaking my head at its directness and simplicity, but most especially because of its truth. It has to do with why so many of us stay in unhappy situations be it a job, a relationship or where we live.

It suggested people resist taking a chance because they focus on what they would have to give up and could lose instead of on what they would gain.

Sort of a variation of the old 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' when we should be thinking you cannot win if you do not play, especially if you do not play, you feel that means you cannot lose. For many of us, the "not losing" part trumps the attraction of any potential opportunity.

I don't think aversion to risk is Norwich-specific; it's more true than not in almost anyplace you can name. As Pink Floyd once sang, "there's too many home fires burning and not enough trees." There's just about no place that couldn't use a lot more energy and engagement to overcome ennui and entropy; more enthusiastic beginners and fewer discouraged experts.

As I suggested in this space last week, the game's afoot in Chelsea and many other places across Norwich if/when we choose to see it. It's not smooth but it's steady and sometimes it's despite, and other times because of, our efforts. The dogs bark but the caravan moves forward. And life goes on.

Last week in remarks offered at a Global Entrepreneurs Summit in the White House President Obama said, "...we believe in the power of entrepreneurship -- the basic notion that if you’ve got an idea and if you really work hard and you’re able to pick yourself up (even) if you stumble a couple of times, you can eventually turn that idea into a reality.

"And this matters...because...the spirit of entrepreneurship can help us to tackle some of the greatest challenges that we face around the world...."

And while that should hearten those in down-turned downtowns everywhere working to earn a living and make better lives for themselves, their families and their neighbors, there's more immediate and tangible (as in fold up and put in your wallet) local help available, the Business Resource Roundup, this afternoon starting at 5 in the Mohegan Sun Convention Center.

This is a free event, open to entrepreneurs, start ups and small businesses who call today 888-835-2333 extension 2040, sponsored by the Community Economic Development Fund, which has two million dollars in loan capital available expressly to help existing Norwich businesses, start-ups or any (other) business looking to (re) locate in Norwich.

There will be information on the Norwich Job Creation Program, incentives on opening a business in downtown and participation from Norwich local banks and organizations like the Small Business Administration, the Southeastern Connecticut Chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, among others.

There's even a buffet dinner, so bring your appetite and an extra napkin to write down your next Big Idea.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

To Bee or Not To Bee

If you thought this had been a rough winter across large parts of the US, and you are correct it was, it was less than a cakewalk for bees, from spelling and quilting through knitting and honey. But whereas we have the spring and summer to look forward to and enjoy, the same cannot be said for that star-spangled bumbling pollinator, the honeybee. 

This, my friend, is a bad news story-but upon closer scrutiny it’s actually a worse news story. Not because it’s in the New York Times, far from it-but rather, because it’s buried somewhere in the bowels of America’s Newspaper of Record instead of on the front page above the fold.

We are talking about a situation, not intending to create panic, that should cause us to RUN WILDLY IN ALL DIRECTIONS SEEKING AN ESCAPE THAT DOESN’T EXIST. Sorry about that. Damm Caps Lock.  

Seriously-the food we eat, and if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, the food your food eats, very much depends on bees to be fruitful and multiply. And that ain’t happening like it used to.

Some are blaming Colony Collapse Disorder (which sounds like something that would have happened to bees in the British Empire, but what do I know?), others a parasite and still many others much of what man(kind) hath wrought to the environment and planet we share with the winged beasties. And no we don't know exactly why, but simply put there are 40% fewer bees than this time last year. 

I don’t have the answer and admit I have trouble fully grasping the question but 40% less of anything we need to sustain ourselves (and all other life forms) is quite the attention getter. I’m not a melittologist but I’m no fireman, either, and when I see a blaze burning where there shouldn’t be one I have an instinct that says “find somebody to help.” This time, too.

I’m not sure what needs to be done or even if we can do it-but we need to knock the Kardashians off the front page of our news feeds and worry a lot more about Honey and Hereafter or there will be very little of either very quickly
-bill kenny     

Monday, May 18, 2015

More Back Pages: Four Years Later, Don't Touch That Dial

Either we don't change very much or very well-I'm not sure I know the difference or can tell it either. What follows feels like it could have been written a minute ago but it's over four years old (Happy Birthday!) and despite its age, for the most part, is pretty much who we are, specifically in 06360 but in all likelihood in your neck of the woods as well. Reassuring monotonous stasis-at least there's something we can depend on. 

Germany's 19th Century Iron Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, once observed politics is the art of the possible, and it was Tip O'Neill who said all politics is local. Put both of those thoughts together and we really should have swarms of registered voters every time we have an election for City Council or the Board of Education.

While a great deal of newspaper and television coverage of Politics with a capital "P" tends to fixate on the statehouse and Governor's Mansion or on Capital Hill and the White House, for most of us it really is those closest to home, our local elected officials, whom we see as having the greatest impact on our community and our quality of life. Yes, the President is the Commander in Chief but I'm not asking him about a cracked sidewalk at the house on the corner.

We've got some time and distance to go before the next cycle of elections around here for both the City Council and the Board of Education. Lots of time for those who are incumbents to make (more) progress on those projects they took on as their terms began. And plenty of time for those who are contemplating a run at elected office to measure at least twice before cutting once.

When the time comes,I don't care how you vote so much as that you do. If you're registered to vote, make sure you do and if you're eligible to vote but aren't registered, make sure you do register. Click here for the Norwich Registrar of Voters or here's the Connecticut Secretary of the State's Web Portal. Democracy is a contact sport and we cannot win if you do not play.

Let's face it, the current terms of office of members on both bodies have not been a walk in the park for any of them. Some say we should regard a problem as an opportunity to excel and in that context those currently in office have been spoiled for opportunities. So, too, have we even when on more than one occasion I've disagreed with decisions the neighbors who serve in elected office have made.

There's a temptation when you're not Teddy Roosevelt's Man in the Arena to speculate about how well someone else might do in a particular office. Some hypothetical solutions always seem to lend themselves to much happier endings, whether those endings are real or not. I've contended had my mother married a Kennedy, I might be living in the White House-but she didn't, so I'm not. 
See how much more attractive fictional lives can be?

But in the here and Norwich in which we live, between now and November look at where we are as a city and where you see us heading. Nothing is eaten as hot as it's served and nothing's so marvelous it cannot be improved. We can always use another great idea and the energy to implement it and no one in any party has a monopoly on either.

Many believe we're rebuilding our downtown and enhancing our community's quality of life as well as our grand list. Many others are not so sure. There's room enough for both the hopeful and the skeptic. 

What we are now is what we were at the last election and the election before that. What we are to be is limited only by our willingness to find out. It's not how you start, it's how you finish and we're far from done.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Days Drip Slowly on the Page

I wrote this some time ago and fell across it just now. Not sure if I'm pleased or even more discouraged about that than at the emotions I almost express.

I've been stuck on standing for some weeks now and as a cause and effect guy I'm flummoxed by what is happening, or better phrased, not happening in what passes for my life.

Maybe I'm another casualty of this graceless age in which we live but I can't get to sleep or stay asleep at night, awakening around three in the morning (though the last two work days of last week I've been 'sleeping in' to nearly four) only to run out of energy at some point close to mid-day and drift for hours not sure if I'm waking or dreaming until I come home in the evening when the cycle starts again.

Perhaps it's spring fever, delayed onset? A malaise that starts in the joints and eventually devours the spirit as well. It's like having a head full of stones and having to stack them in order to move forward.

I've looked around at work and in the shops and I think I see others with it as well which makes for some tricky negotiations as, in my case, I'm not a convivial person to start with and give me a serious case of the "meh's" and I am not any one's idea of a day at the beach.

I keep waiting for something to happen to cause me to be here now and at my age, that's not always a good sign. The Young Turk that I was a lifetime ago still has a place of pride in my heart, but the arteries are narrow with plaque and somebody needs to tell the Wild Child to set the rheostat to mild or getting even older will be a lot more of a chore than it has proven to be for most of the last year or so. 

There's just so long you can channel swim and not get farther along before you settle and sink. I know what I want to do, what I'd like to do and what I need to do but I can't summon the strength or stamina for any of it for anything resembling a prolonged time. 

And I can hear the footsteps of others departing in a dozen different directions, all without me. "It's as if the thing were written in the constitution of the age. Sooner or later you wind up pacing the cage."
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Wizard of Space and Time

When I was a wee slip of a lad in the wilds of Central New Jersey, I wanted to grow up to be a baseball pitcher, a cowboy, the President of the United States and an astronaut. 

I was in the third grade when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, in hot pursuit of the goals and mission statement outlined by the too-young-to-be-martyred President John Kennedy, got into the manned space flight program. 

I used to see the President doing I never fully grasped what on Sunday television so I figured I could combine that job with being a Big League pitcher (the ideal summer job if you think about it, and I sure did. A lot). As for the cowboy part, who among us didn’t want to be one? This was all pre-political correctness where the history of how the west was actually won was heavily airbrushed in classrooms from sea to shining sea. 

But returning to that reach-for-the-stars astronaut stuff, could there ever be anything more exciting than shooting across the heavens in steel and glass capsule?  Talk about amazing adventures and wondrous stories! But in all honesty there were things we never thought about with space flight to include some of the most elemental of needs and requirements. 

And now, thanks to the European Space Agency, ESA, I’m very much all out of any questions and will be rejoining the rest of the crew once all the paperwork is done. Assuming, of course, I can ever again recapture my adolescent ardor for space flight and all the crap, literally, that comes with it. 
-bill kenny

Friday, May 15, 2015

Someone Will Turn this into a TV Series

There are days I struggle to fill this space which you, who struggle so often to read that struggle, know all too well. Thanks for your patience and forbearance. Today is not a struggle unless I mean to suppress a snicker or perhaps a chortle even though this is a real story, literally torn from the pages of an actual newspaper (metaphorically speaking), with a less than happy ending. 

But don’t take my word for any of that (why would you start doing that now?). Read it for yourself. 

Perhaps like me you, too, have lots of questions with a critical paucity of answers. For starters, how can you want something, anything, in this case an automobile so badly you are willing to attempt to steal it with the owner hanging on to the roof? Conversely how can you decide in a split second that the risk to your life and limb is worth the attempt to keep your car from being stolen? 

Why do we get to read the name of the convicted thief but not that of his victim of the car theft or of the woman from whom Mr. Vidal, Jr. stole a kiss? Did anyone actually confirm that a law enforcement specialist created a report with “stole a kiss” in the narrative (that person is a poet and is destined for far greater things than supporting public safety in Bridgeport, Connecticut). 

You don’t think this has the makings of a TV show? I'm thinking prime time all the time, perhaps on one of those cable stations that operates at frequency just above the police calls. Which would only be appropriate, if only in an alternate universe
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Vegetable Oil Wildcatters’ Strike of ‘04

There’s a really excellent for today’s title but on my way over to the desk to sit at the keyboard and type this, I forgot it. I’m thinking if I sit very still and listen very hard (aside from hearing Robert Plant), the Universe, which knows everything, will share the reason with me, though so far all I’ve been getting is a faint and softly-muted, “Dude, I’ve got nothin’!”  

And so it goes, I fear. I’ve been watching a news stream fill with stories of the testimony in the penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his role in the Boston Marathon Murders (that’s what they are/were and I’m tired of all the talkarounds) and ensuing carnage. It’s reported he is now expressing true remorse for his actions

Well, as long as he says he’s sorry, I don’t know why we just can’t call it square and move on except, as it turns out, people died and many others were hurt, so moving on doesn’t even get a second much less any discussion. And in the torrent of words that has spilled out about and from this trial since the day it started, that keeps getting forgotten and for the life of me I don’t know how or why. 

Speaking of life that was what was taken from Martin Richard who never saw his ninth birthday. So while I fully understand ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’ at least at the theoretic level, being the father of two (now adult) children, no sale here, Dzokhar. Not even close. 

I don’t see a confused young man under the influence of a zealot older brother. I see two ingrates, rescued from the horrors of war in their own country and through the kindness of strangers able to start anew in the Land of Opportunity, who repaid freely-given kindness with curses and contempt, attempting to bite the hand that fed them for ideological reasons and instead hurting flesh and blood human beings. I can’t help but believe he really is sorry; sorry he didn’t kill more innocents. 

Close his book and turn the page, no matter what happens now
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Be or Not to Be

I didn't mean to startle the young person Saturday afternoon working the window at the newly-opened Friendly's Scoop Shack just a few steps away from the starting bricks of the Heritage Trail at Howard T. Brown Park. I just wanted to say hello and welcome to Norwich.

There's a lot of that hello and welcome going around here it seems to me in recent weeks and months despite that well-worn whine #1 about "Nothing ever happens in Norwich," usually coupled with #2 "back in my day, on Thursday nights you had to walk in the downtown streets because sidewalks were so crowded."

It's not that folks aren't still saying it-as a matter of fact I heard it more than a few times last week as a reaction from folks after they read about Tim Owens and his purchase of the Bulletin Building on Franklin Street and the reports of his hopes for what's next in the heart of downtown Norwich.

There's something a little too New Englandish about that portion of so many souls who cannot be happy for somebody else's success, because they feel somehow it diminishes their own chances of success. Here's the key to being successful (remember, you read it here first): first, you have to do something and then you have to keep doing it. And when you win, we all win. Crazy innit?

We have scores of small businesses, very different from the ones that populated Chelseas in the 50's and 60's and 70's (I assume. My alibis range from a childhood elsewhere to a life on another continent and I have the birth certificate and passport to prove it). They are small businesses with unique and in some cases amazing, goods and services that might be hard to find in places you might normally look, but you'll find them around a nearby corner right here.

On the same Saturday I startled the scooper, I walked past the Caribbean Market on McKinley. Quite frankly, there, I did have to go out in the street to get past because of the throng of shoppers, some of whom (judging from their shopping bags) had also stopped in at Melisa's Market just up the block on Franklin.

We all shook our heads when Chacers' closed because well, see WW#1 and despite those who want to mourn the closing of Pink-it didn't close; it relocated to North Main Street.

To misappropriate the wisdom, wit and words of Mark Twain the reports of the demise of the city of Norwich have been greatly exaggerated. Not that we don't and won't keep telling one another bad news for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom.

These Guys Brewing Co, LLC, intends to open on Franklin Street in less than a month's time and its Facebook page has close to 1,500 hits and they haven't even opened the doors.

On the ground floor of the Wauregan, go back a decade and who thought that rehab project was a good idea?, there's The Rose Pizzeria and Deli and the next block over practically neighbors with Tim Owns is the Panda Market.

On Main Street maybe a dozen steps from LaStella is a quiet treasure trove, literally and figuratively, Encore Justified which is antiques and vintage (I love to visit there because I'm the youngest item in the store) and when you choose to be literally as pretty as you feel, on Water Street, there's Doll Me Up by BKS. They're decades too late to do me any good, but there's always you.

As a past resident of the Wauregan Hotel Abraham Lincoln once said, "We can complain that rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." We are what we decide to be so let's decide to be shiny and happy for a change.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's So Easy When You Know the Rules

As the ESPN sports guys droned on, I kept waiting for Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog to show up and rescue Tom Terrific. Nope. No chance-nailed for an accumulation of indiscretions, Tom Brady and his bunch a/k/a New England Patriots got spanked by the National Football League for getting caught looking guilty of bending the rules of professional football. and all this time I thought the NFL was like Fight Club.

As Richard Petty supposedly said, "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" and these indeed are times to try the souls of the staunchest of fans who brave truly ludicrous weather in New England every late fall into the winter and who spend far too much money on stadium seats and overpriced food and beverages and root passionately for Robert Kraft's Kreatures.

Dear African refugees adrift in the Mediterranean, weary Ukrainians engaged in a national fratricide that Vlad the Impaler helped stoke, refugees in a dozen or more war-torn nations from Syria to Yemen and all points in between.

You'll have to forgive us while we mull the merit/injustice of the discipline meted out to a professional sporting concern probably worth more on the open market than a half dozen or more of your sad-sack little countries' gross national product.

We on whom God's grace has been shed in such profuse amounts have weighty concerns to ponder and targeted audiences to pander to, and we can do both simultaneously and never waste a moment of our front temporal lobe on you and your wrecked, ravaged and ruined lives. It's nothing personal, it's business. Really big business. You wouldn't understand, now and should you survive to see another dawn, or tomorrow.

Bottom line to all the discipline: four more weeks of staying home with Gisele Bündchen. Yeah, It's good to be a gangsta, or at least be treated like one.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 11, 2015

Our Reason Coexists with Our Insanity

I wrote this a year and four days ago. Either I'm stunningly prescient or we are numbingly predictable. I have a pretty good idea which one (and, I suspect, so, too, do you). And yet the movie remains the same, sometimes the cast changes, but only sometimes.
Monday evening (tonight) at 6:30 we in Norwich have a second bite of the proverbial apple at the Second Public Hearing on the (Interim) City Manager's proposed budget.

In a world where silence is interpreted to mean consent, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to use this forum to make your voice heard because (and I'm amazed how often we lose sight of it) this is our city.

The budget creation process is very straight-forward and transparent, if you're willing to look at it. Part of our unhappiness as we struggle to understand the results of a long process I fear is that we want to cut to the chase and have no patience for prologue or explanations. We all want to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. I'm pretty sure that's not how it works.

The professionals who manage our municipal departments made their cases for funding to the City Manager last fall and into the winter with crunch time in the early Spring.

The City Manager, in turn, evaluated the requests and reviewed past performance and results in crafting his proposed budget which he presented to his bosses, the City Council, the men and women we each elected to the City Council. There's not a one of them who doesn't pay taxes for the same goods and services we all expect and receive from the city in which we live.

No one likes their taxes to be increased, by any amount, at any time or for any reason. You know both the City Manager and City Council are keenly aware of this already but by all means go ahead and remind them of that again on tonight if you're so inclined. You're entitled to tell them how and why (and where if we're being technical) you agree and/or disagree with the expenditures and appropriations they are considering.

As Sister Mary Jean used to tell us in math class, "show your work." If you have a proposal or an alternative for a budget item, show how you're paying for it and be specific and realistic. Measure (at least) twice before cutting once-that's what they used to say in New York's Garment District-good watchwords for those creating municipal budgets.

Speaking of which, copies of the budget are available on line and also in the Otis Library (and you thought all they had were book sales?). Despite news reports nationally of an economic upturn, around here these remain hard times in the land of plenty. Someday, we may come to regard these as the best of times, but not today and probably not on a future Monday real soon when the City Council adopts a budget.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 10, 2015

from a Mothers Day Past...

I figure everyone with a pulse, or an approximation, is waxing poetic today in honor of Mother's Day, as well we should mom is a tough old broad who wrangled six of us to adulthood, the last three for a significant distance without her partner of (at that time) nearly thirty years. 

At some point today, unless I beat her to the phone call, she'll call to wish my wife a Happy Mother's Day and then walk across the street to the beach on the ocean where she lives in Florida because the loves the beach. Before my generation started using DTS, Down the Shore, she and hers were living it.

When I was a kid, Mom was more than unflappable, she was a force of nature and in the (now more than) three decades since the death of her husband, all of her children, joined by grandchildren and now great-grand children have watched her lead the life she wishes after taking care of so many of us for so long. Mom came to visit Sigrid and me and our two children when we all still lived in Germany.

She and Franz and Anni Schubert, Sigrid's parents, got along wonderfully well even though they shared not a single syllable of a common language. Sigrid's mom was a Rubble Woman upon whose back the Federal Republic of Germany became the economic engine of Europe in the decade after World War II. Anni's husband passed some years ago. The two women took, and take, no shit crap from anybody and raised children pretty much who are the same way.

My sisters, Evan, Kara and Jill are accomplished, masterful and successful. They take care of their own families with the same devotion and also the same discipline (no feet on tables, no glasses without coasters) as their mother did them. Evan only recently lost the love of her life, Glenn, so this day will be a little longer and more somber for her than for them. Russ and Joe are fortunate to have Kara and Jill in their lives and, I truly believe, are also smart enough to know it.

I and my two brothers, Kelly and Adam, are married to women, Sigrid, Linda and Margaret whose Moms raised them to give us the confidence every day to go out into the world and try to reinvent it in our own image and, when we come home at the end of each day, sometimes defeated but always undaunted, to convince us we can begin again on the morrow because we always have their love and support. I think among us at last count we have two point three metric boxcars of children, some with families of their own.

I realize you fear with my diabetes being so sweet puts me in danger of being terminally mushy. No worries, I'm not, as I choose to invoke the deathless words of Ray Wylie Hubbard (delivered by Jerry Jeff) to close. 

Love ya, Mom(s), all of you.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The (Not) Short (Enough) List

It’s only early May and the visual depiction of all those seeking (or expected to be seeking) the Republican Party nomination for the office of the Presidency in 2016 already resembles one of those  “have you seen me?” posters. In this case, too often the answer is, ‘sadly, yes.’  

The contingent of contenders expanded by three this week, and I confess to being a little disappointed that we haven’t seen any more jump in. Of course we still have the rest of the weekend, and if the weather holds, I’m thinking an even bigger bumper crop by Monday. Perhaps it will be so large we’ll need a Massey-Ferguson combine to harvest ‘em all. It could happen.

I am blessed to live in a county where anyone and everyone can aspire to grow up and be President. I do find myself wistfully wishing some of those already running would grow up but whether it’s Saul on the Road to Damascus or Slouching towards Bethlehem, sometimes it’s the journey and other times it’s the destination. 

I don’t know how much will be spent, nor by whom, to drive campaigns at eligible voters, but unbidden and (if you’re a Democrat) perhaps unBiden, the circus wagons draw nearer even if the messages are no clearer. And the chances of the circus remaining even remotely well-behaved just keep shrinking even as the Sailors line up to get their nails done. 

From Sea to Shining Sea, and we shall see what we shall see, but don’t believe everything you see even if it’s with your own eyes. Perhaps especially if it’s with your own eyes and ears….

"Praise be to Nero’s Neptune. The Titanic sails at dawn and everybody’s shouting, “Which Side Are You On?” And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower; while calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen hold flowers between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow. And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row."
- bill kenny

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Slice of Life

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, Macbeth once observed and the day may come when we are asked by those yet to be why we made so little difference in the world with our time, talents and technology and we’ll stammer out something about our priorities and selfishness. Ouch. I for one hope it’s not today and if it is, then hope you already had lunch but if you didn’t, don’t worry because we’ve got more science to the rescue for you. 

In the days of my youth, when dinosaurs roamed the earth even before there was dial-up (yes, there was a time when not even dial-up existed; hard to believe I know, but true) we would have to call ahead and order a pizza, be it for pick-up or delivery. Yep, we once had to put our finger in the little holes on the rotary dial and give our wrist a twist. It was harrowing and time-consuming.

But the pizza was delicious-which I think was the whole point of the drill. That was then, and this is now, of course, and the rules have changed. Coming to a Pizza Hut near you, like it or not, sooner or later, will be an app not to order pizza-who doesn’t have that- but so that never again will your pizza yammer at your delivery driver, “are we there yet?

I know, how did we live so long without this? Maybe it just felt long. Okay, so we’ve not cured aids or cancer or Ebola or even the common cold. We do have homeless and unemployed and underemployed around the world and a curious and unjust distribution of wealth and goods just about anywhere you look. Baby steps, my friend, baby steps. 

Now, we’ll know exactly how long it’ll be until our pizza arrives forever (wish I had an excited or perhaps excitable font). To you and me it may not seem like much (perhaps because it really isn’t), but by the time social media gets through with it, it’ll be The Second Sitting for the Last Supper only this time silverware, and pieces of, are optional.

-bill kenny  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Old Billy Was Right

The game's afoot in Dodge City as The Nine Supremes prepare to hand down, or not (they are a clever bunch) a we're-serious-about-this-stuff-you-guys ruling on the constitutionality of Federal recognition of gay marriage.

Or as I like to think of it since I'm too stupid to see people in quite the nuanced and discriminatory way that others do with ease, that anyone has the right to marry anyone else. I'm not smart but this is truly a no-brainer.

Unless you're Silvia Driskill of Auburn, Nebraska, who is pursuing a lawsuit against "all homosexuals" on behalf of God Almighty and His only Begotten Son. As a lapsed Catholic the suit bothers me. I was raised to understand that God Himself can smite people, and rarely delegates that task. And when I read the full petition, my head swims, but doesn't float.

I'm thinking it's in the drinking water, whatever it is that is making us even crazier in recent years than we have been in my memory ever. Not drinking water turned into wine-don't get me started on the miracles from The Book-but wouldn't it be nice if we spent less time in simulated outrage and concentrated a little more on a small miracle of simply allowing one another to live our lives.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Unless You Get Lost, You Can't Ever Be Found

I came across an Internet aphorism this weekend that I thought sounded as if it could have been written about revitalization efforts here in Norwich but it could be applied to any number of cities because we're a big country with many shared struggles that we tend too often to battle in secret.

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."

It seems to me that we may each be adrift in our solitary boats, but it's a large ocean and our continued fearing and avoiding of risk means sacrificing any possibility of a reward. It is of course true that if we don't do anything, about downtown, about the stagnation of the Grand List, or the challenges facing our schools, we cannot do anything wrong.

But, and sorry if this upsets fans of the status quo, we cannot be surprised when we don't get rewarded for chances we never took and opportunities we ignored. Our lives, as individuals and as residents, are the sum of the consequences of both the things we do and those things we choose to leave undone.

Having lived here in the Rose of New England for nearly a quarter of a century, I'm a thorn I suspect for residents, both long-term and less than that, who are most comfortable while Waiting for Godot and waiting for someone, anyone, to appear who will rescue them.

Cynic that I am, I endorse a notion that agrees we need fundamental change in our city, our State, etc, just as long as you leave my life alone.  George Bernard Shaw once offered that "Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their mind cannot change anything."  

As yet another budget deliberation cycle draws to a close all we seem to have learned is what we already knew (or should have known): we cannot keep doing what we have always done and expect a different outcome. The difference between a rut and a grave is too often only the depth. If we can agree on nothing else, we should and must remember an admonition of John F. Kennedy's, "...Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Each of us is quick to tell our elected representatives what we believe our city's priorities should be, sometimes in loud voices (surely only for emphasis). Those assessments are always reflections of our own perceptions of reality and in all cases, your mileage may vary.

It's time we face up to a truth that's a truism: if we want to accomplish and achieve something different than before then we must do something we have never done before. This is our moment to seize or to rue that we failed to.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Historical without Becoming Hysterical

I did some research years back on the history of the observances and celebrations that many, both North and South of the (southern) border participate in today. Think of it as remedial history. 

One hundred and fifty-three years ago during the American Civil War, Union and Confederate forces squared off against one another in York County, Virginia near Williamsburg, in what became a series of battles known as the Peninsula Campaign. There was no victor but the loss of life on both sides was staggering and, more ominously, a harbinger of what was to follow. 

I mention this, because today is Cinco de Mayo which many think is Mexican Independence Day but it's not. I tend to compare it to Flag Day or more like the morning after at Fort McHenry which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner

Mexico declared its independence from Spain about thirty-five years after their Northern neighbors suggested HRH George III go pack sand and when you read the earliest histories of the two New World fledgling democracies, it was no picnic for either of us. 

By 1862, the USA was knee deep in the gore of a fratricidal war and European powers were shaking down the Mexican government attempting to collect on debts owed, shall we say, by the previous management. No nation in Europe "recognized" the Confederate States of America, but no one would have been upset had they succeeded in their secession. 

It was that desire to smash and grab that set the stage for the Battle of Puebla, which is what Cinco de Mayo is all about. French Emperor Napoleon III placed Maximilian on the newly created throne of what he hoped would be a monarchy and started to create a logistics base to better supply the Confederate States in contravention of the Union naval blockade. 

Marching from Vera Cruz to capture Mexico City and force the capitulation of the government, the much larger French army and cavalry was, instead, smashed to pieces in the mud at the Battle of Puebla, abruptly ending the dream of another French empire and also effectively cutting off the Confederate States from their chief, and clandestine, provisioners. 

A little more than a year later, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the high water mark of the Confederacy was reached when its assault was turned back by Union forces and the inexorable end of all hostilities at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865, though not yet visible on the horizon, became inevitable. 

You don't have to be a Civil War buff to see the connection between our two nations--though it's a damn sight easier if you are so inclined. This is a good day to wish our neighbors to the South who celebrate, all the best on a day whose impact is nearly as great for both of our nations even if for entirely different reasons.
-bill kenny