Monday, February 29, 2016

You Know the Summer's Coming Soon

If you wanna talk about the  Oscars today, go somewhere else. I haven't been to a movie house in decades and don't know who won or lost last night and don't care.

If this were the YES Network we'd be having what Michael Kay always calls extra innings, "Free Baseball." Today, 29 February, is a limited edition type of situation.

We only have one of these 'extra days' of February every four years. I had a classmate in grammar school, Jimmy M., whose birthday was February 29.

We used to tease him as kids that he shouldn't be in the seventh grade since he was only like three of four. Now, I guess, he must be closer to twenty something or so as I near my 64th birthday. Of course, he may have been hit by a bus, so there's that.

Can't help being cheerful about extra days once every four years that we stick on the 'shortest' month which falls during our coldest season. I suspect Australia feels very differently about the extra day, but still. We might have preferred it in June or July for additional hot fun in the summertime, but we're stuck with it where it is, I guess.

Since this is an extra day, and included on the calendar and in the lifespan of those of us on the planet why not do something with it? Once every four years, we can afford that I hope. It costs you nothing today to perform an act of kindness or civic-mindedness. This day came with the calendar, be it a Kincaide or a Far Side. Right here, 29 February. Put it to good use. Take a look around for someplace or someone to help. God knows it's a target rich environment.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Revisiting: My Name Is Called Disturbance

I wrote this awhile ago. Some things have changed. Some not enough. And some need a damn sight more. You'll have to decide for yourself.

There's a story told that Richard M. Nixon, upon meeting Mao Zedong after ending decades of silent hostility between the People's Republic of Chine and the United States of America explained to the Chairman how the US was the original revolutionary society. Oh, the Chairman replied, and how do you know one revolution was enough?

My family and I were still living in Germany (West; a distinction that hasn't been made for decades) when the Warsaw Pact, a fact of life and force of nature since the end of the Second World War, wheezed its last and gave up its ghost. I drove one day from home in Offenbach am Main to see colleagues outside of Kaiserslautern, and everywhere on the A3 und A6 (high-speed multi-lane highways ) were Trabants and Wartburgs as streams of zukunftiger ehemaliger Ossis inhaled their first Wessi Luft. It didn't take long for euphoria at reunification to sour.

The Revolution that engulfed most of Eastern Europe as the Eighties ended and the Nineties began was peaceful (a notable exception was Romania) though the aftermath, to include the disintegration of Yugoslavia into pus pockets of ethnic hatred, has sometimes been less than pacific.

As various forms of communication, cell phone, text, computer, video, and any and all combinations thereof, have continued to converge, the rate and pace of change their convergence creates and its impact on political systems can best be seen in recent weeks across the Middle East where decades, and more, of imposed government are ending, some more rapidly and acrimoniously than others (yes, Libya, we're all talking about you). Turns out the Revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal. Who knew?

We went from hui to phooey when the US Embassy in Teheran was seized all those years ago so I've already started to brace myself for more of the same as the weeks and months of the post-revolutionary spring stretch into the summer. I imagine all this regime change is hard on the folks in Foggy Bottom who have to sort out the good guys from the bad guys as part of their State Department jobs.

How they measure the world and the intentions of those with whom we share the planet are as different from one another as they are from the very people who are judging us even as we judge them. Reaching a conclusion on who to bless and who to blame isn't nearly as scary as acting on it, especially when a compromise solution proves to be neither.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Based on a True Story (not Necessarily Mine)

It was sixty degrees when I got up in the oh bright early this Thursday past. Less than ten days earlier it had been ten degrees below zero. I first authored what follows five years ago. Unlike now, it appears, back then I actually knew something.

Habits are actions we take after we've trained ourselves (or others have trained us). Many of us remember as kids when mom would insist that we 'cover your mouth when you cough' or those around us might say 'God Bless' when we sneezed. Perhaps we still do one or both of those actions to this day because what we are now is what we were when.

I was thinking of this yesterday morning as I went to leave the house to go to work. My wife has mounted the monitor portion of our very-super weather station in the hallway from the living room to the kitchen in a very logical spot, beside the closet where we keep all of our outer clothes, coats, jackets, scarves and mittens. 

Her theory, proven repeatedly in the course of the nineteen plus years we have lived where we do, is you can check the outside temperature as you're readying to depart and keep the 'whoa!' sharp intake of sudden surprise to a minimum when you step out the back door from the kitchen to the landing to the stairs. 

I am so gentrified. We called the back landing a stoop when I was a kid in Jersey, which is what itstill is. It's not like I live in the part of Connecticut where me and my stockbroker neighbors wash our cars with domestic light beer or are building a twin-hulled catamaran with an eye on challenging for the America's Cup

Yes, we do have a big back yard, but not big enough for a polo pony, so pardon me while I remember to NOT dye my roots but do call things by their real names. I'm thinking Royce would have been a good name for the horse. 

Anyway. I can tell the difference between two dollars and two hundred dollars. As well as between two dollars and twenty dollars. Maybe that's habit, too. Worlds collide for me when I look at the outside thermometer yesterday morning around five and it says 16.7 degrees Fahrenheit and I pause, trying to remember what it was on Wednesday morning (18.7) because in and of itself that's somehow important and/or will dissuade me from going outside and going to work. 

In terms of Galvanic Skin Response, GSR (not Gun Shot Residue), the skin on my face could better and more easily tell a difference of percentage of moisture in the mid double digits easier than a difference of two degrees (maybe at Kelvin, but only maybe). Do I risk some form of a cerebral surprise if I don't check the gauge before stepping out into the dark and minimizing the possibility of atmospheric ambush? No clue and truth to tell, I don't know why I look, except out of habit. 

In the summer, if the display were to be a triple digit reading at the same hour, I don't think I'd remove my trousers and leave them in the kitchen heading to work in socks, sakko and a smile (so ein schmarrn). I can, however, think of one long-suffering spouse who's probably not willing to place money on that turn of events NEVER happening. One of these days letters are gonna fall from the sky, telling us all to go free

Of course, by then to save money, the Postal Service will have ceased home delivery entirely and to save even more, our schools will have eliminated literacy requirements. Will be curious to see if anyone left can tell the difference or to whom they would.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 26, 2016

Two Years On and the Water Is No Longer to Our Necks

I wrote this a couple of years back and moved on. I'm not sure the rest of us didn't. 

It was in Friday's Washington Post but I first heard about it online through a reference in the Bill Moyers & Company.

It's a perspective piece (=editorial vice news) Anatomy of the Deep State, by someone unknown to most all of us but well-known to those who push and pull the levers of power and by the time you're done reading it, if you are not disturbed about how we have been played by every single institution, from religion through the military to the media, then you are not paying enough attention.

It's a LOT more than a dyspeptic New World Order, though it is all of that. It may well mark the Point of No Return for our democracy because as you'll realize when you read it there's no longer anyone watching anyone else who doesn't have a dog in the hunt and when the bullet meets the bone and we round up the usual suspects, there are no innocents left at all.

The jails are filled with unindicted co-conspirators. Guilt is beyond discussion but the exact crime has not yet been determined.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 25, 2016

When Something Simple this Way Comes

It was pretty funny back in June when the blow-dried blowhard Donald Trump declared himself a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of these United States with his rallying cry of “You’re Fired” “Make America Great Again.”

Eight months later the yuks ain’t so yuuuge anymore, especially among those who rant on the radio to the right of center and just above the police calls ideologically.  

Most, if not, all of these folks have been at war with the political culture in our nation’s capital as well as with most aspects of logic and reasoning since at some point shortly after Saint Ronald of Reagan stopped being the President. 

The same bloviators who called the (Bill) Clinton Presidency “America Under Siege,” and who still think Barack Obama is a Kenyan Marxist have insistently called upon The Almighty (actually their version of Him) to deliver them and their country from a Potomac Captivity.  

And as the demolition derby, masquerading as primary season, grinds on, the Grand Old Party’s triumvirate seems to be Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz, and so pervasive he takes the air out of the room, most especially Donald Trump.

But instead of being happy about a (seemingly inevitable) Trump Presidency, these same pundits weep and wail, gnashing their teeth and rending their garments (that’s a visual with Limbaugh the Porcine that I could live without forever) as The Trumpster sweeps voters of all kinds into his sack. 

They are angry and angered that Mr. Trump is edging inexorably closer to being the standard bearer for the party of Lincoln (not that any of them would let Lincoln anywhere near the GOP of 2016) without being A True Believer.

I’ll give them this, they tried. Hard.  As someone who doesn’t share most of their positions, I often find them very trying, as well as annoying. Instead of devoting their intellectual energies to what is basically a fool’s errand they might have been better off researching  the Golem of Prague whom, I submit, The Donald most closely resembles, physically and philosophically. 

The radio rabble–rousers, elected by and accountable to, no one have yearned for a day of deliverance from ‘liberal,’ ‘progressive,’ and ‘politically-correct ‘ governance in the worst way possible so they have no one but themselves to blame when the answer to their prayer appears as a stevedore in an Armani suit with a can’t-help-but-stare-at-it comb over. He may very well be that worst way. The Lord truly moves in mysterious ways.

Cosmetics and appearances aside, the Golem of Lower Manhattan is unencumbered by specifics for any of his proposals and programs, or verifiable facts for nearly all of his ad hominem attacks on anyone in his line of sight and lacks a governor in his brain that would automatically close his mouth before spewing stupidity (Dr. Carson has one; it explains his perpetual silence). 

Macbeth's Three Witches could not have created anything to rival Forrest Trump, a Bombastic Triumph of Style over Substance who is now the poster child for a Star-Spangled Wretched Excess we can’t seem to get quite quit of and who may prove to be the most Cautionary of American Tales since Hancock turned to Jefferson on a hot July day in Philadelphia and asked ‘where do I sign?”

If you're waiting for Birnam Woods to come to the Dunsinane Trump Castle, it's a long way to November
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Plan Your Work

Sometimes our reach exceeds our grasp — as it did in Norwich last week — and that’s not a bad thing. 

Stretching is healthy, be it as a warm-up for a workout at the gym, or for setting a course as a city. Who better to set the bar for us than ourselves? Sometimes we’ll fail, but as long as we learn from that failure, we can look forward to getting better and (hopefully) eventually triumph. 

So what should we make of what has happened — or hasn’t yet happened — toward resituating the city’s boat launch, currently at Howard T. Brown Memorial Park, to the opposite shore? 

The project is part of a larger (some might say ‘grander’) redevelopment and repurposing of a piece of Norwich’s past we call Shipping Street.

The effort was set back last week when the city failed to win a $2 million state grant, leading to the withdrawal of a proposal to borrow $400,000 for the project. 

First and foremost, I’d suggest we should learn as a city that experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And perhaps it’s best to regard last week’s disappointment as the tuition paid to learn how to create a more successful grant application the next time. But work harder because sometimes the difference between a “try” and a “triumph” is the amount of umph applied. 

We also need to learn to better define exactly what we want and why. 

That means having a plan —not (only) a hope — with milestones and measurement tools so you know how far and how fast you are heading toward your goal. And don’t forget to have a means of gathering feedback in case things don’t go as planned, so you can regroup, rethink and recalibrate. 

I fell across a line the other day, out in the wilds of the Internet, from people I suspect know nothing about living here in Norwich, but do know a heckuva lot about how to successfully achieve results: “If everyone swept in front of their house, the whole street would be clean.” 

I cannot encourage Rose City residents (does that make us, ‘buds’?) strongly enough to visit the City of Norwich website and pull up the 2013 Plan of Conservation and Development. It’s a great read created from a lot of hard work over many months by practically everyone who attended the meetings and workshops that served to collect ideas, dreams and desires of what Norwich could and should be.   

I don’t think you can read it and not believe we have the talent and ability to do and to be better. I recall a quote from an earlier development plan that noted, “Good cities don’t just happen; they are made.” Ouch. That is our challenge, and we should dream larger than we actually are. Life is not-quite-equal parts aspiration and perspiration.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

And Don't Let the Bugs Bite

I love “news” like this that, more often than not, is closer to being a BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious). I am, possibly like you, an early riser-not quite as early as my brothers I suspect but I’d say if we were counting down who on my street has worms, I’d finish near the top, but behind both native Hawaiians and Alaskans. 

I will point out while I do get up early I also go to bed very early. So if you have an important topic to discuss with me, you need to do it before nine because I’m in Dreamland by then. And I’m a college graduate, so in looking at the report and then at my alarm clock, I don’t know what excuse to offer you except that however much sleep you get, neither of us is alone in our demographic (maybe). 

I was disappointed in skimming the story to not really get a sense of the ‘why?’ behind the ‘what.’ As I read it, it seems South Dakotans get the most shut-eye, or claim to (I’m assuming people might fib about how much sleep they get, because I have a well-founded distrust of others from our species), but I didn’t really get a good sense as to the cause(s) of that journey to Slumberland.

And numbers without context or subtext cause me to have sleepless nights. Kidding, of course. 
-bill kenny

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wondering 'bout Washington

Abraham Lincoln's birthday is still on my calendar for 12 February but it has had less meaning for decades, since Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act and we rolled it into the birthday celebrating the Father of Our Country, George Washington (listed on my calendar for today, 22 February). I'm still trying to figure out why this year, that holiday is not observed today, the 22nd, which happens to be a Monday, but I'm afraid there may be math involved and I haven't had my booster shot. 

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

To put it into perspective when Washington and Lincoln were presidents, remember that people disagreed with one another so strongly to the point they fired weapons at one another--and you've seen those weapons. It took a LOT of work to successfully shoot somebody with one of them. None of this cap bustin' stuff-serious mayhem was on the agenda then. 

All this pouting and posturing we are up tothese days on Sunday morning talk shows, the endless primaries and in the Halls of Congress makes my brain hurt and when we get all through sorting out who's to blame for all the wrongs and shortcomings, real and/or imagined, maybe we can devote a scintilla of that energy to fixing things. We certainly have a target-rich environment to choose from, don't we? 

Today is NOT a holiday but it is most certainly still George Washinton's birthday and as good a reason as any either of us can think of to use as a reason and a fulcrum to move ourselves and one another closer together in order to form a more perfect union. And stop being so damn cranky with each other while we're doing it.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Of Spring I Sing (or threaten to...)

Sometimes you learn things from people you know, but don't know at all, at least that's what I think when I know someone as a Facebook Friend (FBF). Moment of clarity (I have so few, I hope you appreciate this): for me, FB friends aren't really friends, they're more acquaintances; for them adding me was probably a moment of confusion while attempting to select the 'unlike' button.

I understand FB continues to add nuances to define (in its corporate opinion) the dynamic of our various online relationships though I'd have appreciated something between "roadkill with hair on the human highway" and "friend" in terms of what we are to one another.The latter has a meaning and a context for me that I don't find very often in real life and so using it in cyberspace, or in whatever ether and wire world in which FB exists, always feels a bit presumptuous to me.

Bearing in mind the degree of presumption one has to have to be someone like me and to type this stuff in the first place and then wait for people to read it. Sort of two bricks short of a hod. Tell me about the rabbits, George. I love the color of it all.

Actually that's exactly what a FBF (of a friend) neither of whom I'll ever meet, nor ever know, (from the formerly divided German nation) helped me learn and that I use to (I hope) better get through whatever winter we have left in the Northeast of the United States.

Considering the weather a lot of us on this side of the Mississippi have had since December, maybe the Northeast is more a state of mind and not so much a region. In recent years, Atlanta has had almost as much snow as Boston leading me to wonder if this is the season that Braves' fans have to learn to do the Tomahawk Chawp? (It may depend on where they pahk their carh, y'all).

One of my FBF offered the words, auf englisch, of Ward Elliot Hour, "(t)he color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination." Though that's NOT the image they suggested to complement the turn of phrase; this is the one I found and while it hasn't helped me change my opinion of winter (too Squared: too long and too cold), it has improved my appreciation of Rilke. "Live your questions now, and, perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."

Why else do you think there are moments of more light with each passing day? We need to see where we're going or how will we know when we're there?
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 20, 2016

You Can't Buy Good Health

The weather around these parts this weekend will be more like March than the cold February days we had earlier in the week. Not that I had a lot from them as about a week after nursing a stuffy nose and post nasal drip I conceded yesterday that enough was enough and saw a doctor. 

In the days before I end up with a physician, and I know the routine by heart because I have at least one of these killer colds every winter, I start patrolling the hallways where I work attempting to plant a big wet kiss on the lips of folks I'm less than happy with (= everyone; but you knew that right?).

This time around I was disappointed with how quickly people closed their office doors and no amount of blandishment or enticement could get them to poke their heads out. What's the point of having a virulent strain of pork-chop fever or brocolliitis if you can't share it?

Defeated, but unbowed, I actually took sick time to see my primary care physician (if I hadn't my wife threatened me with bodily harm). I have enough things medically wrong with me that I should have my own health insurance company, but one of the nicest things about the insurance I do have is that my doctor is in their network.

Some thumping on my back and listening to me breathe with a stethoscope helped her arrive at her diagnosis. That and the fact that every time I coughed, it sounded like I was bringing up not only a lung but also a piece of my spleen and a small pony complete with a saddle. This time of year, she and her colleagues see a lot of us sickies every day so she was wearing a sterile face mask which allowed me to fantasize I was being treated by The Lone Rangerette. 

I anticipate being better today than I was yesterday though I think/hope I'm still 'hot' (or, at least, warm) because there's a meeting I'm hoping to attend this weekend that might be improved through contagion though I suspect the folks in attendance will feel differently (I have that effect on so many). 

Unless and until I tell them about Rebecca Wells in Downey (home of The Carpenters), California, who died at her desk in her cubicle and no one noticed until the following day. I'll leave you to do the math on what this may say about us as a people and a culture. I'm still a little too full of antibiotics to think straight-an excuse I intend to use until the late summer, perhaps into Labor Day weekend.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 19, 2016

T-t-t-alkin' 'bout M-m-my G-G-G-eriatrics

I subscribe to AARP magazine rather than Rolling Stone. It seemed to me, in hindsight, to be a rather logical progression from one to the other though I confess ending my subscription to RS decades before taking up with AARP.

I subscribed to Rolling Stone in its original form as a biweekly very cumbersome newspaper rather than as a glossy magazine. I imagine the Post Office hated processing the deliveries and sometimes the print came off on your fingers; that’s how newspaperish it was at the time.

It was all about music, pages, and pages of profiles, album and show reviews, new and notes. It seemed to a bunch of us at the time that rock and roll music really was important and we needed something that boasted it was the ‘counterculture's New York Times' to report on it. Hell, RS nicked the Grey Lady’s slogan for their own; “All the news that fits” and we went yeah!

Rolling Stone Magazine may have hit its high water mark in terms of journalism (about which I know now as much as I did then, that is to say, nothing)  covering the McGovern-Nixon presidential campaign in 1972, and only because it had Hunter Thompson as its national affairs correspondent. To this day, forty plus years on, I have no idea how much of what he wrote was true, but every word felt real to me.  

Later while I was in the Air Force stationed in Greenland in the middle Seventies, Neil Young’s mother was on the cover of the Rolling Stone (not that I’m suggesting cause and effect). Except it wasn’t actually his mother, it was someone named Diana Vreeland and she was the editor (publisher?) of a fashion magazine, perhaps Vogue. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I’d already guessed it was nothing good for me in terms of continuing my subscription. I stuck it out in the Air Force until the early Eighties, but I and RS had gone on our separate ways long before I was through going into the Wild, Blue Yonder.   

As the decades have gone on, some of rock music’s truisms have become truths in my mind at least. Rock and roll is, indeed, the music your parents love to hate. I knew that from my music with my parents and in case I forgot much of what our two kids listened to when they listened to anything was crap, of course. Why? Because it didn’t sound like what I had listened to. Are you paying any attention at all?

Now when I stroll through my stacks of wax, the thousands upon thousands of albums I have all cataloged alphabetically by artist and chronologically by release date, I flinch, almost but not quite, imperceptibly at some of the music I saved. 

Me at nearly sixty-four listens to Me who bought those records all those years ago with a barely concealed incredulity I usually reserve for the folks who choose to ignore that ‘no soliciting’ sign beside my doorbell, and when I respond to their ringing, try to tell me about how they’ve accepted the Lord as their personal savior.

Yeah. Those folks and Uriah Heep. Maybe the second album from Lothar and the Hand People or I can use  that on a night when the 2016 Republican Party Presidential Town Meetings are being broadcast and turn the TV volume down and the stereo up to eleven. I think I’m saving Arthur Brown (he of “Fire” fame) and his memorable solo album, Chisholm in My Bosom, for just that televised cat rodeo.

I opened the AARP magazine that arrived in the mail last night to a feature they have on Neil Young, again without his mom, as well as one on Dion of Dion and the Belmonts and a side by side comparison, taking up a whole page, on Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, both of whom will be road warriors all summer long across these United States.

Ozzy is a decade older than I am (and looks like my memory of Neil Young’s purported mom on the cover of that long-ago RS magazine).  I guess my solace should be that someday my daughter will read about her favorite band, 5 Seconds of Summer, in whatever AARP chooses to call the magazine it will include in her generation’s membership and they’ll have a small section, Where Are They Now, on the inside back cover with one or more Kanye West factoids per issue. Maybe on his mom, too.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sandbags and Glad Rags

More and more we live in a word-less world. By that, I don't mean a silent one but rather, a world in which you can scrape by with pictures and symbols. I love looking at the tags in shirts--it's like a graduation from Semaphore University. There's no bleach, hang dry only, wash in cold water, dolphin-free, dry-clean only, Burma-Shave, etcetera. 

I thought it reassuring that no matter where in the world you travel those symbols are the same until I realized it has a lot to do with the manufacturing process and that almost all the clothes we buy, no matter where in the world we live, are made in the same third-world sweat shops. That's more likely the reason why the care symbology at the collar is the same. Oh. 

I'm not going to hold a Geography Bee with Carmen Lauer and Matt San Diego on where our clothes are made, because I have no trouble finding my way around as nearly everyone, be it at home or at work, tells me where to go. And that's an unfair advantage even for television stars to overcome. 

What I am intrigued by is how our technology, not knowing where in the world we will use it, has created its own language to which we have universally adapted. Do you remember when you used to yell for 'Help!'. Our machines' clocks do the same thing, sort of, except they flash 12:00--we all know that means there's trouble at the mill and are now conditioned, when we see it, to look around for a cause. 

My smartphone does this weird little vamp when it's loading an application (I had to ask someone who knows about phones to describe that process so I could write it down here. I have so little idea of how the device works, when it doesn't work, someone else has to tell me as I cannot figure it out by myself). Maybe yours does the 'gimme a minute jitterbug', too.

It looks like a vertical bow-tie and then it starts to whirl and twirl in a clockwise direction. Someone told me it's NOT a bow-tie at all, it's supposed to be an hour glass. That actually makes more sense to me, since that would have something to do with time, which is what the device is wasting, and not neckwear, of which I have a closetful though I have no idea of its purpose (or didn't) even though most work days I wear one. 

Every time I see the posters for the raffles, there's always the disclaimer at the bottom, 'duplicate prizes awarded in the event of ties' and I keep thinking, today's the day. Good fortune, here I am! Luck be a Lady tonight. And yet all I ever win is a dry-clean only dolphin, two sizes too small, no bleach only.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

All of Our Guests Ask Me the Same Questions

Time flies when you’re having fun, I’m told so either we’ve had a lot of fun in these parts since last November’s elections or the cliché isn’t as true as it’s cracked up to be.

In case you missed it (but how?) we’ve swapped out most of our City Council, and have hired a new City Manager, but I’d bet you to dollars to donuts (now that’s a cliché for the ages) that we’re about to have pretty much the same old discussions about the usual topics in our annual municipal budget we’ve had since before there were clichés.

If I had a dollar for every year someone on a City Council has used the phrase ‘this has been a very tough budget year, I could take us all out for ice cream and have enough change leftover for that pony ride for my birthday. I don’t think any of us expect to NOT hear it said again this time around. And I’m sure it’s true.

I’ve lived here for almost a quarter of a century, feels even longer to me since I hadn’t intended to stay, but I’ve heard a lot of the stories about the ‘back in the day’ Norwich, when there was a downtown, when there were neighborhood schools and when the city was a magnet that attracted people from beyond our city limits.

And now, it’s hard times in the land of plenty and an almost wistful resignation and pessimism from so many I meet. I think we use that pessimism as a cushion to soften the shock and disappointment when a good idea ends up dying on the vine because we wanted hope to be just as good as a plan though we certainly knew better.

And as the professionals who run our city departments huddle with the City Manager and the elected leadership to craft the next municipal budget, we are pretty much where we always seem to be and have been in years past for too long and too often.  

When I listen to people at meetings and read comments online in the papers, too many of us focus on what we could lose instead of what we can gain. That wasn’t the mindset that built the Thermos factory in Laurel Hill or created the Ponemah Mills, so what happened?

It’s not a fear of a specific failure that keeps us from doing the things we know we must do to make a Norwich our children will want to live in. It is instead, a fear we have of doing anything that keeps us from doing something. We are in a rut that will end us because the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

This is the year to talk to our elected leaders but also listen to one another when we speak about what is important for ourselves and our families. Jean-Paul Sartre said, “hell is other people.” He couldn’t possibly have meant us because we are Norwich.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sands of Time in Sandlots Everywhere

This Thursday the first wave of major league baseball pitchers and catchers report to spring training camp. Two weeks from today the very first spring training 2016 baseball games will take place. Like every spring training game in the history of baseball, it will make no difference to the regular season who has a good or bad exhibition record. We who follow baseball will worry and fret anyway.

I keep telling myself that the grey skies, snow and ice here in Connecticut will also disappear the same day pitchers and catcher report and if not, no later than those first spring training games. Not everything we want to be true comes to pass, I know, so I'm readying myself for disappointment. Again.

I wrote what follows eight years ago. Some of the current events mentioned in the account are no longer such and that's fine. I'd like to think, much like baseball itself, the fundamental truths which propel the narrative are both immutable and forever. In the event, they are not, don't tell me. I like things the way they are, and that includes NO designated hitter, ever.

You do know I'm a Yankees' fan, right? However, being a Yankees' fan, or a member of Red Sox Nation, or rooting for any particular baseball team is a subset of a bigger whole.I am a fan of baseball. Period. 

Treating all of the above as 'read', instead of being happy that pitchers and catchers are reporting for spring training this Thursday, I'm watching baseball implode as Roger Clemens, Andy Petitte and others, testify before a House Investigative Sub-Committee. 

Lemme get this straight, we have right now: war in Iraq; economy heading into the abyss; almost a million more medically uninsured being added to the rolls every month and Congress is holding hearings on steroids in baseball? What next? A special prosecutor to find out why Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like original Dr. Pepper?

Do I think all the allegations of 'juicing' are true? No
Do I think any of them are true? Yes
Do I fear we may be engaged in a Vietnam-like 'we had to destroy the village to save it' situation when it comes to 'getting to the bottom' of this morass? Sadly, that's what I see happening and when it does, what will we want to pretend the point was? 

Thanks to my wife's parenting, my children, who are actually adults themselves, know the difference between right and wrong and understand the futility and inherent risks to destructive behaviour. 

Congress isn't protecting my children, or yours, from the evils of steroids or human growth hormones--that is our job as parents and if we can't pull that off, it may be time to cash in our belly-buttons and leave this orb to others.

From what I saw the other day, perhaps because this is a presidential election year, we've injected partisan politics into this mess. So we have, the Mitchell Report which listed 83 names, closer to 100 major league baseball players who are only accused, but already convicted in the court of public opinion, of illegal and unlawful substance abuse--simply put, they cheated and got caught. 

The hero of this Through the Looking Glass tale is shaping up to be none other than Jose Canseco-proving that God not only does have a sense of humor but that S/He no longer follows baseball. 

So instead of reading about Joba Chamberlin's first pitches, I'm watching Roger Clemens' last moments as a public figure. So much for the presumption of innocence. He must've done something; there are TV cameras here so let's watch. 

That we continue Slouching Toward Bethlehem is no longer important. Here's Johnny to tell you what today's contestants will receive. -bill kenny  

Monday, February 15, 2016

We Name Cars for Presidents or Vice Versa?

This is the holiday we created when we rolled the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth and that of George Washington into ONE holiday and renamed it, President's Day (to honor, among others, Millard Fillmore, the first US President to have a bathtub installed in the White House. Considering Alexander Graham Bell was years away from inventing the telephone, how long do you suppose Fillmore could have settled in for a soak before the phone rang?).

Lincoln was celebrated as a person who had made a difference in his time and whose shadow was cast through our own lives. Now, he's part of a three day weekend and we're having a White Sale (gotta love the irony!), c'mon down!

There were a huge number of issues bound up in something as simple and stark as 'slavery' but that's the headline, the casus Bellum. Dispassionate historians and anthropologists agree slavery wasn't an invention of the New World, but an extension of a practice stretching back thousand of years across the entire world. We in the USA still have not yet fully faced up to what was done by some to others. Instead of confronting and resolving, we continue to equivocate and rationalize. 

In 1860, after decades of compromise and accommodation over a dozen issues that always came back to the idea of freedom vs. slavery, Abraham Lincoln, failed Congressman, failed candidate in 1858 for US Senate from Illinois, look up the Lincoln-Douglas debates if you despair about our democracy and be of good hope, was the candidate of the fledgling Republican Party and was elected to the office of the Presidency of the United States. And, practically as he was inaugurated, the United States of America already philosophically and economically divided, took up arms against itself and disintegrated.

It's bizarre that we would call the War Between the States (its official name, btw) the "Civil War" since historians agree it was often anything but. With other nations picking sides to advance their own agenda, the two sides, bloodied and bedraggled, fought one another from 1861 through the spring of 1865, when the Confederate States of America, prostrate and exhausted, surrendered and, say some, Modern America began. 

What we are now is what we were then. 
Provided an opportunity to begin again with 'malice towards none and charity to all' as outlined by the soon to be murdered reelected Lincoln, instead, as a nation, we veered from that path and have continued to settle old scores and create new wounds through the latter half of the 19th, all of the 20th and, now, into the 21st century.

2016 finds us on the eve of another Presidential election but from the vitriol and rhetoric that's floated for the last few months, and will continue to and through November's actual vote, you have to wonder if we've forgotten where we came from and how we got here.We cannot disagree without becoming disagreeable and when the day ends no one, wins. It's the death of dialogue and debate and a dearth of civility and kindness.

The US Presidential elections have become the Greatest Show on Earth, sorry Ringling Bros., and there's just enough time to clean up after the elephants and the donkeys in the center ring before we open the tent flaps and let the next crowd in for a show. 
Didja find a good parking spot? We got valet service for the high-end cars, like the Beemers, Benzs, Caddies, Lexus and (of course!) the Lincolns. Lemme get somebody to take your keys. No scratches, I promise.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 14, 2016

In My Case, a Less than Brilliant Disguise

I wrote what follows a long time ago, for me; it's more like a blink of an eye in terms of the universe but you get the point, I hope. I mean it as much now as the day I wrote it all those years ago.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Walk-On Part in the War

I had someone the other day, I'm sure with the best of intentions, tell me they liked to stop by and read the stuff posted in this space, but "you need to understand people who tend to read blogs don't really like to read." 

That's okay. 

Not for general consumption, but I think people who like to write blogs not only  don't like to write, they especially don't like to write for people who don't like to read. I'd like to think that caustic comment makes us even but I fear I was born, and will remain, odd.

He suggested I consider radically shortening everything, condensing it and reducing it; sort of like haiku for IMs or Twitter. Plato or Socrates with hashtags. I'm smiling trying to imagine this stuff. I'm seeing Shakespeare sitting across from his agent as they reduce Macbeth to 140 characters. Art for art's sake, money for god's sake. 

Anyway, he believes we, as the crown of creation in this food chain, are very much akin to goldfish, in terms of having  memories and attention spans that last all of thirty seconds. I'm thinking the current political debates sort of prove his point, but I'll never tell him that. 

And when I read how we whine about our environment, our economics, our national and international relations (or you pick a subject), it's certainly looking like we are, indeed, heading that way. Except that doesn't make it right. As Voltaire once offered, if twenty million people believe in a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing. And he had never even seen a Republican Presidential debate on Fox News. 

What can I say? 
Stop being a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl year after year. Never mind Wish You Were Here. We are here now. Be. Do. Soon enough we'll be gone.What have you found? The same old fears.He said to keep it short and punchy. I did. Now go play in traffic.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 12, 2016

Because the Dining Room Was Closed Apparently.....

This is one of those headlines you speed right past, “Florida Man Charged with Throwing  Alligator into Wendy’s,” and then when your brain processes what your eyes have already read, you pull the E-brake, go back and grab a really big gulp of the actual story with both hands. 

I, for one, loved the parental characterization as a ‘harmless prankster’ because (to me) that would include flipping a Croc shoe through the drive-in window vice a whole and very much alive ‘see you later’ alligator.

By the way, advocates of fast food places should be open 24 hours a day: please note the time of the ‘prank.’ I’m still working on what took from 11 October until now for this non-Dundee adventure to make the papers but I imagine fingerprinting the alligator took a little longer than might have been normal and I did notice the mug shot wasn’t of the reptile, so just sayin.’

If this kind of knuckleheadedness is his idea of ‘funny,’ I don’t even want to know about hilarious.

-bill kenny 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Exercise in Ecstatic Optimism

If last night went as planned/hoped, right about now as this pops up on the Interwebz my son and I are on Route 2, just beyond where the Road to Nowhere (Connecticut Route 11) starts, on our way home. I wrote this before we ever started out because I knew I couldn't if I didn't.

Patrick got us tickets to see Bruce Springsteen Wednesday night in Hartford at what is now called the XL Center (though having been in it before, it's not even an "L" (copyright National Football League?)) but I've seen Bruce and the band in stranger places, like The Ledge, the commuter lounge on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers College in the early seventies.

We've all come a long way but since I don't have roadies setting up my desk for work tomorrow (I lie; I took the day off), I'm thinking Bruce made out better. Except I have Sigrid, Patrick and Michelle in my life and he doesn't.

I think, maybe in terms of The River, mine is the better boat. And after a show that clocks in at over three and half hours with the 'heart-breaking, love-making, Viagra-taking, legendary E Street Band', shouting myself hoarse to, well, Shout and almost three dozen other songs, I can only steal from Paul Simon when I tell you I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.

We had ourselves a time and what a time it was.
-bill kenny