Thursday, March 31, 2016

No Beautiful Door

Even though people of every faith and color are being murdered by crazies who've convinced themselves God is on on their side, in every corner of the globe, only white people of European descent seem to be worth the saturation news coverage and have earned use of the word tragedy. Talk about mysterious ways, and moving in them.

The actual tragedy we have created is a world where some have so much and far too many have nothing at all and even less than that to live for. And as we should all know by now, people who have nothing to live for very quickly find something to die for but are only satisfied when they make others, as many as possible, die for it, too.

East and West, left and right. It doesn't make any difference to a dead man which side won the war. And it's always those in the middle whose lives are worth so little.

"You can preach all you want to and makeup forever more.
I know you want to walk into another world but I don't see No Beautiful Door."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Stoop to Conquer

I enjoy walking around Norwich be it after dinner or on weekend afternoons, more so as the weather improves and have convinced myself I see a different side of us when I'm a pedestrian than when I'm driving from one place to another.

Sometimes I bite off nearly more than I can hike. There was a Sunday last fall when I, with our daughter, Michelle, along for company (and as it turned out because she had correctly guessed her dad's sense of distance was in need of a tune-up), walked from our house on Lincoln Avenue to Poppy and Rye, that delicious destination and great bakery in Taftville and back again.

I'll admit now I was a little surprised at how much longer that journey was on my legs than I had mapped it in my head. On our way home, we encountered two candidates for City Council who were investing their shoe leather and going door to doors to get elected (and it paid off for both of them, as they proved they had sole).

Easter Sunday was a tune-up for the walking seasons ahead, I hope, as I set off from Lincoln Avenue up Washington Street (though I always say 'down') to the Norwichtown Commons to make and buy a salad from the grocery store to take to work on Monday.

It was a March morning with grey skies and temperatures near forty; considering the previous Sunday we were bracing for winter's return on the first day of spring, it was decent enough for walking. With all the snow, I hope, now gone, I had the unhappy experience of realising just how much discarded fast food wrappers, hot drink and cold soda cups and assorted other detritus we have lining our streets. I had forgotten to take along a small empty bag to help keep Norwich clean. Too bad really because it was a target-rich environment.

Where Washington intersects with Lafayette, across from Backus, where a new sidewalk desperately needed was installed last fall, the short bushes that parallel the sidewalk are choking on every kind of crap tossed, I suspect, by uncaring and careless cretins from the cars and trucks speeding by on both streets.

I've never understood how gravity works, I guess. A person can hold a full coffee container or soda cup perhaps for hours, but when it's empty it is suddenly so heavy, it somehow flies right out the window of a moving vehicle and ends up on the side of the road. Seriously?

There's no shortage of junk on the grass strip between the fence at Backus and the sidewalk as Washington makes its way to the intersection of  2 and 32 on the left and Harland Road on the right.

And maybe I've lost a step as I've (aged) improved, but even moving briskly I am barely halfway through the crosswalk at both Lafayette and Washington and the next intersection near the Leffingwell House Museum before the 'don't walk' light starts to flash (so I guess I should run?).

Speaking of the Leffingwell, their new Walk Norwich sign looks terrific out in front of the house and you can check it out for yourself when they open for the season this Saturday morning at 11. You can sample Leffingwell Chocolate and listen to the Nutmeg Junior Volunteer Ancient Fife and Drum Corps.

So lace up your walking shoes and come on out. And while we're all out walking in the coming weeks (and months) please consider bringing along a trash bag and helping out along the way by picking up some of the roadside unattractiveness.

Every litter bit hurts but both the walking and the cleanup will do each of us a world of good.
-bill kenny    

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hooked on Phoenix, or, in this case, Houston

Sometimes we hide things from one another by leaving them in plain sight. At least from what I can see (full disclosure: I started wearing glasses in the hopes of seeing other peoples’ point of view) of our often bruising interactions with one another, with not very good results. 

Here’s a perfect example and be advised it’s a story without a happy ending.  Did you notice how the headline is a variation of the last line of the story? And some variation! As my late uncle Mort might say, were he not already someone who is not deceased or even existing, of which he’s both.

Now, go back to the story and re-read the third paragraph.  Just me or does the word fiancée sort of jump out at you? How about after you re-read the last paragraph in reference Mr. Panzica’s arrest with a ‘New York woman’ while engaged in alternative amusement on a ferris wheel in Las Vegas. 

Do you wonder, as I do, if the unnamed fiancée in the third paragraph is an entirely different person than the New York woman in the last one? And just how general a definition of ‘good sport’ do you have to be, I wonder, if they are two different people?  

All I can do is wonder if that’s why so many of the carnival attractions along the midway have those signs “You must be this tall to ride this ride.”  Indeed.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Darkness Begins

One of my favorite expressions has always been 'no single drop of rain feels responsible for the flood which follows.' Yes, I imagine for some it sounds like an uptown version of 'you never which straw breaks the camel's back' (made possible by a grant from Camel Chiropractors, a leisure time activity of Lawrence of Arabia, Inc.) but I most appreciate the implied sense of an absence of personal responsibility inherent in the former.

Much of what we are now is where we were when. And I offer that in tandem with the observation about a raindrop's responsibility when I agree with so many who are concerned at how fear both individually and collectively makes us hurried and hateful in our thoughts and deeds.

Sometimes we rush to judgment and make decisions and take actions that we later realize cannot be undone. Living with the consequences of those things that we do and also fail to do can shape us for years and decades that follow. As the branch is bent, so grows the tree.

I'm told this was a rainy day in Berlin on this date in 1933 when the Reichstag, voting its fears instead of hopes, conferred dictatorial powers on a Chancellor who had first assumed office less than six weeks earlier, Adolph Hitler.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Calendars and Calculations

If you are observing Easter Sunday today, best wishes and all the happiness of the holiday. Like me, I'm sure you have difficulty explaining the relationship of chocolate, a bunny and the Resurrection of Christ (unless you just choose to overlook all of it). We may not be pulling on the same oar, but we're both in that boat. I think if we put our backs into it, we can still reach shore.

Actually, and I reckon time in this instance by the day, Easter Sunday, rather than the date on the calendar, today thirty-nine years ago I asked the woman I was seeing, Sigrid Schubert, to marry me. More importantly for the history books, is that today is when she said yes.

Sigrid told me later she had at first thought I was getting ready to break up with her; sounds like a great argument to NEVER play poker for money with me, except I tend to have all the emotional range of Rainman in a coma, so I should be grateful she held on and waited for the ride to get to....

Where she and I are now is, in some respects, not all that far from where we started. The material conditions have changed. We had a two room cold-water walk-up flat off a bus line in Offenbach am Main a 'small' German city with more people in it than who lived in ALL of New London County, Connecticut when we arrived here in the fall of 1991. Our home today is across from the landmark park in the city of Norwich, an industrial revolution meets the American Revolution town found so often in New England. That we were here isn't/wasn't part of either of our visions of our future proving again, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans

Our wedding rings have both the date of our engagement (technically, that anniversary is next Sunday) as well as of our wedding. I only very rarely take my ring off and actually cannot recall the last time (I just did it to make sure I still can and I can)-and I mention that because I don't especially like jewelry and spend all day putting on and taking off my wristwatch. The ring is a constant, not that I need the reminder.

We were, with apologies to Erich Fromm, a coalition of two against the world from the beginning. I'm not comfortable with new people, taking forever to warm up to them, with the exception of the two who joined our lives, our children. We were three and then became four and then three again and soon enough we'll be back to just the two of us, where we started and I am with the person in the world with whom I am most comfortable.

Sigrid is, for me, like breathing out and breathing in, though I fear I have given her moments where the judicial application of a pillow to my sleeping face has crossed her mind, and so much for the breathing. And that's fair-actually more than fair. This is a day I usually spend looking at where we've been and where I hope we're going but today, I'm thinking more of enjoying just where we are and what we have, which is, one another. She can brighten any room and always brightens my world.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Beginning of the End

I have never been to the Vatican, nor have I stayed at a well-known motel chain, but I know my way around the Stations of the Cross and the Lives of the Saints. I'm always amazed at the number of people who think Christmas is the origin of Christianity-others consider the beginnings to be Easter Sunday.

If the former is The Promise and the latter The Promise Fulfilled-today, Holy Saturday, is the act of faith and hope that defines you as a Christian (choice of second person pronoun deliberate). The belief in the Resurrection which the New Testament portrays as the reward for the faithful is never so near and yet so far as it is today.

The earliest disciples had nothing to go on, unlike we of the Brave New World Order. They had witnessed a crucifixion-one of the most egregiously horrific forms of a death sentence at its time. Cowering in an upstairs room huddled together while fearing any sound and every footfall were signals someone was coming for them, they had no way to see the glory of Easter Sunday. All they could do was believe.

For them to believe as devoutly as they did between the worst day in the history of the world and its greatest day, for me, loyal son of Holy Mother Church, but a FARC  for more years than I care to recall, remains an overwhelming example of faith, hope and love as represented by the day which created the Christian religion, today.

From childhood on, I struggled against the suffocation that surrender to the traditions and the rites seemed to signify. I took no solace in unquestioning and unswerving belief-preferring what I understood the path of Thomas to be and, finding no one who could answer my questions, absenting myself from the body of believers. How odd that this declaration of freedom has never created a sense of being free.

Not that I don't envy those of faith and think about the comfort that comes from that, especially as I did last night revisiting the accounts from some years back of the death of Captain Nicholas Rozanski. He came all the way from Dublin, Ohio, to be lost in the fog of war, along with SFC Jeffrey Rieck and SFC Shawn Hannon, on the streets of Maimanah, an otherwise unremarkable spot on a map of a nation we have carried with us as a coward does an abscess for over a decade, unable or unwilling (I can never tell which) to do that which we know we must and to conclude that which we can no longer control.

Captain Rozanski's death and all the others should be another reminder to those of us who are alive to redouble our efforts to be the best people we can be in The Now because The Next, as the New Testament illustrates, can be so lonely and uncertain without a reason to believe. Either you have a reason, or you become one for someone else. When you do, every day is Easter.
-bill kenny          

Friday, March 25, 2016

Near but Far from the Faith of My Fathers

As a child at Saint Peter's (sic) School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, it was forcibly impressed upon us by the Sisters of Charity whose charges we were (and for whom many of us became crosses, and yeah, Kelly, I'm talking about you, among others) that there was nothing good about Good Friday. 

When we were old enough to mentally and emotionally comprehend the New Testament accounts of the Passion of Christ I couldn't imagine a more horrible way to die. As I grew older if not up and learned more of our species' history and track record in dealing with one another, I realized we could, and often did, behave like a life form beyond any Redemption.

Christmas gets all the ink and Easter the lilies and chocolate, but Holy Thursday through the sunrise services of Easter Sunday morning are 'go' time for Christian believers. 

The events and circumstances of Good Friday, the sundering of the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem (what a great word 'sundering ' is when you're in fourth grade; actually, it's still pretty cool), the forgiveness of The Good Thief, the testimony of the Centurion Longinus at the foot of the cross and a hundred and more sidebars, nuances, and obscured by time and telling points on the biblical accounts always seemed to make Good Friday the most important of the days leading to Easter.

Around the world today, processions and reenactments of the Stations of the Cross at or near three o'clock in the afternoon will cap observances for the faithful and faithless alike leaving them Saturday to recoup and regroup before the Promise is redeemed for saints and sinners all with the light of Sunday morning.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Most Important Meal of the Day

I am not a big fan of experimentation (I used to be a huge fan of things created through fermentation but that was another lifetime, one of toil and blood). I plod along for the most part with one foot in front of the other in travel and travail from Point A to something like Point B. It fills up the day and makes the time go fast.

On weekday mornings, I have a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast after I've gotten to work. I still spend more time there than I do at home because I live for the approval in strangers' eyes, I guess (keep your pity or contempt to yourself; I have my own).

I have a routine from the time I open my eyes to about a half hour after I'm actually at work. All the stuff in between happens, of course, because I'm the one making it happen, but it's an auto-pilot operation. I'm such a slave to how things flow that if anything changes, like one of those wind-up toys that walks itself into a corner, I just keep bumping into whatever the roadblock has become, unable to clear it or go around it. 

Cheerios at work is my decompression food, I suspect. When I sleep, I cannot recall if I dream though my wife has told me there are nights (and early mornings) where I shout out and/or talk or get up, and for which I have no explanation because I have no recollection. My dream world is just black. I use the whole going to work and getting used to being there for the next twelve hours part of the day as the Re-entry to Earth part of the program. And the fuel for this is Cheerios.

I knew someone who called them bagel seeds-suspect the Big G folks wouldn't have been too happy about that but it makes me smile and I repeat it to myself every morning and crack myself up. I never tire of saying it or laughing at it. If I had a million or so folks with my delightful sense of humor no doubt I could have my own cable news show-and oh, how we'd all laugh then. 

I have Cheerios in the next to last of the red plastic bowls we had when we lived in Germany and used for cereal there. Some time ago, Sigrid found very nice replacement bowls and the red plastic ones went to the land of their ancestors on trash day. As the oldest thing still in our house, I get VERY nervous when anything is pitched out 'because it's really old.' You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows on that equation. 

I eat Cheerios without sugar or milk. Actually, I NEVER eat dry cereal with anything other than a spoon and my mouth. Why do you think they call it DRY cereal? What am I supposed to do with the milk? Drop little tiny people in the bowl, so they can be rescued? 

Perhaps I should get a recording of Nearer My God to Thee, and using sugar cubes to construct a fake iceberg, reenact the sinking of the Titanic. Of course, with that much sugar in my system, I'd be crayoning all the walls in the five-story building I work in for three days, from the outside in, until sedated with a croquet mallet. 

I used to eat Wheaties, back when Bob Richards was on the box. I guess if you had a box with Michael Phelps, using milk would make sense, but for that collector's edition on eBay (I'm assuming with contents), I guess you'd have to use the ultra-high temperature stuff that looks like white water. I've never understood how they get the cows to stand still while they heat 'em up. I suspect they catch them very early in the morning.....-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Standing Still or Still Standing?

I guess it’s true that people prefer problems that are familiar to solutions that are not. I first wrote what you’re about to read six years and two weeks ago. To put it another way, Earth has traveled 3,517,000,000 miles around the sun (allowing for two Leap Years) and while I’d like to think the world has changed (your mileage may vary)  here we are, stuck in the middle with ourselves.

As a casual reading of our newspaper reveals, we are waist-deep in budget formulations and discussions (order is deliberate though the reverse might be the preferred path). We in Norwich, CT, wrestle with a city budget many dread (before it’s even presented) that’s in many ways a variation on one simple, but terribly complicated, question:  can we afford to spend the money required to operate our city?

How about this, instead: Can we afford not to? I think that question should be asked whether we are looking at education, public safety, public works; at every aspect, person and program in Norwich.

We all agree we want to enhance and enlarge the municipal revenue stream by expanding private sector investment in Norwich but if we don't recapitalize our infrastructure, reinvest in our public safety and readdress decades of make-do funding for our public schools, whom do we hope to attract to Norwich and what will we have left of Norwich for ourselves?

No one wants to pay more taxes, none of us like what we're paying now. But all of us want the services we currently have to remain exactly as they are, and maybe even get a little more. And each of us has an opinion on where (else) in the budget savings can be realized.

The only people who can get us out of this mess are already here. We are all we can count on and that's perfect because we are all we need, but we have to be willing to take risks to achieve rewards. And we need to remember there are NO silver bullets. Rome wasn't built in a day and I’ve been told even Marcus Aurelius found the real estate market soft when trying to lease the upper floors of the Coliseum.

There are as many reasons to NOT invest in ourselves as there are residents, but there's also over 40,000 reasons why we must spend our own money on our own city. Each of us is worth every penny of the current city budget as well as the one being developed by the City Manager and the various department directors. 

Soon enough the men and women of the City Council, the neighbors we elected last fall to make tough decisions like budget expenditures, will take out their stubby pencils and will need every informed idea and constructive suggestion we can offer. 

Once we've decided we are worth saving, we'll have to reinvent every aspect of how we do business with and for ourselves. We’ve traveled far too far to still be standing here.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Breakfast of Champions?

This being Easter Week and all, I dusted off a memory from some years back of a previous Easter Week observation that’s a little more than just that (I think). You tell me. 

In the fast food place, standing behind a dad and his young daughter, based on the time of day and their clothes possibly on their way home from Mass (Holy Communion and a McGriddle, who could ask for anything more) I realize from the way he's speaking to the counter person about employment that he doesn't have a job. There's a discussion of shift availabilities (all of them) and pay differentials (doesn't sound like many) and he's nodding as she's talking while scribbling names and numbers down on a McNapkin. 

It's funny, I think, as we age, it takes us longer to bounce back from the knocks and bruises of everyday life here on the ant farm. I remember a coarse witticism about endurance at a specific act for the course of a night and how you know you're getting old, and how I laughed when I first heard it.

Same with the rest of our lives, too, I guess. In our twenties, then thirties, forties and now fifties and sixties, we move from position to position with nary a thought--as the decades advance, each job starts to look more like a career until the economic tsunami so many have endured in recent years swept away savings, self-respect and maybe home and hearth. Wall Street wrecked Main Street and no one went to jail-and then we wonder about our national cynicism.

The child at his feet was no more than five and had a tiara on and a pink fairy dress of the kind that parents think every daughter at that age loves, and perhaps they do. He's making sure he understands the sequence in which to call the phone numbers, because 'if you call region before district, they'll tell you there aren't any vacancies' when his child squeals in delight and holds up her prize.

She's found a dime on the floor perhaps someone dropped their change from a purchase, or, more likely, it didn't quite make it through the slot in the counter collection box for the network of supportive housing for parents of children with cancer the franchise has constructed across the USA and around the world.

I'm not alone in the latter supposition as the father bends to pick his daughter up and quietly explains to her where the dime really came from and, by implication and inference, where it truly belongs. Without hesitation, safe in his arms, the child leans across her father and drops the dime through the slot in the top of the box. He kisses her softly on her brow and turns his attention back to the counter-person.

He smiles as his order is given to him and both dad and daughter head for the parking lot and home with breakfast and, perhaps, a new hope. For a just a moment, a bright spring morning brightens even more.

The past is gone, it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings, I know tomorrow you'll find better things
 -bill kenny

Monday, March 21, 2016


Thanks, Obama.

In this spring of our discontent, who else should I blame for a first work-day of Spring 2016 that promises to look a lot like some of the days we had in January in terms of NOT admiring the grass on the lawn.

That is a picture from this time last year.
I had hoped to NOT ever need to dress like that so late in March ever again. And I don't have to if I move to Aruba. And, yes, I've given that some serious thought (okay, what passes for me as serious thought).

I am unhappy not because the red-red robins aren't bob-bob-bobbing along though I really don't like them as a bird since they always seem to be running from place to place; you have wings, so fly! (just not always to there), but I will whine without surcease when the heat and humidity that we have in these parts in July and August kicks in. It's what I do.

In the meantime, unless you brought some extra gloves, please pass a napkin. The vendors never give you enough when you order one of these and it always makes such a mess.

-bill kenny

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Le Sacre du Printemps

In light of what the calendar says, and despite what some forecasts had called for around my area for this weekend, on this, the first full day of Spring, I will continue to whine about a winter I so hope is really and truly finally over (though I am still suspicious). Not nearly as much as I am over it.

If you live in most of these occasionally United States I know you know whereof I mewl. And sitting in the shelter of Long Island Sound I would not be surprised to learn we here in Southeastern Connecticut got off lighter than many others. According to forecasters and weather trackers this winter we didn't get what we usually get. More importantly for me, we probably didn't get what we deserve (thank goodness), but in my case certainly more than I bargained for.

And I also concede that none of the past cold weather kvetching will keep me from piteously bleating when the heat and humidity of August finally arrive because they never come on little cat feet but stomp right in wearing Size 44 Triple E jump boots. Where oh where will any of that polar vortex be when that happens? Your guess will be as good as mine, and probably better.

I endorse the idea that worrying and complaining about the weather, while human and often humorous, is a waste of our time and talents. It changes nothing and dilutes our enjoyment of the moment in which we find ourselves.

Now and Zen, I remember, "Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself." Make a moment for yourself to take off your thirsty boots and stay very still for awhile so you can enjoy the shifting of the seasons in your own time and at your own pace.

Spring, the most hopeful of seasons, awaits. I hope yours will be everything you want, and perhaps more importantly, everything you need.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I Do this Every Year Because.....

This ends a tough week for anyone who's ever picked up, owned, or been named for, anyone in Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints. The main event, of course, was Thursday, Saint Patrick's Day. I'm not sure every place on earth paints the median strips on Main Street green as part of the parade or adds food coloring to the beer but let's face it, Saint Patrick is the 800-pound gorilla in the room for the month of March.

Which is too bad, because today is the Feast of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary (Mother of God) and (technically, I think) Jesus' step-dad. I'm envisioning an at-the-dinner-table exchange between the Son of Man (when still small) and Joseph that has The Lord saying something like 'well, you're NOT my real Dad,' and Joseph nailing it with a rejoinder like "then go right ahead and ask your 'real dad' for a new bike and let's see what happens." And then I also imagine The Curia or the Legion of Decency showing up at my house and slapping the cuffs on.

As a grade-school child I missed the subtlety that went into the talk-around by which the Sisters of Charity explained 'the Annunciation' and when I got older and it smacked me right between the eyes, I admired even more the cool, collected response Joseph seemed to have had to all of that. Talk about Rainy Day Women #12 and 35. It's a pity we don't roll the Apocrypha into the Bible (sort of a VH-1 Behind the Book) and let Max Von Sydow have another crack at the Greatest Story Ever Told (as soon as legal gets the rights clearances squared away). 

Today, the Feast of Saint Joseph is when the swallows come back to Capistrano. I wonder if the village fathers paint the center stripe on their main street a shade of bird droppings white and gray or if they even have a parade (I think I'd steer clear of the beer, but that's just me). As urbane and world-wise as I like to think of myself, I love the story as much now as a doddering fool as I did as a child. I find it reassuring and, while my belief in a Divine Being fluctuates wildly (and how screwed am I if Her/His belief in me reflects my faith in Her/Him?), I hope (in a faint-hearted, wimpy sort of way) that Paley is right about the Great Watchmaker.

I say that mindful (with apologies to Jackson Browne) that 'I don't know what happens when people die.' And in keeping with that point, I have known two very dear people who shared the Feast of Saint Joseph as their birthday. They are both from long ago, at the time when I knew everything (and everything better) when I worked for American Forces (Europe) Network and Bob was my first (and very best) boss in Radio Command Information (together with Sara, Marge, Norm, and Brian) while Gisela was the record librarian of the most amazing (and amazingly organized) collection of vinyl in the world.

Bob was married to 'local color' as I was to be as well (GI's who married citizens from the country in which they were stationed; usually guys marrying women but NOT always). He and his wife, Erika, had no children but loved as if she were one, a stray dog they took in and kept all its life, Sandy. Erika and Sandy passed away pretty close to one another, leaving a hole in Bob's heart that never healed, filled with a pain of which he never spoke. Bob himself passed a number of years ago and I see him at this very moment in my mind's eye in a beaten and worn beige long coat with a beret he wore in every kind of weather. 

Gisela was my translator when the letter of permission from the Standesamt of Offenbach am Main (where Sigrid and I hoped to marry) arrived and I raced frantically from office to office trying to find someone to be my eyes (I was illiterate Auf Deutsch and vowed to never be that guy again). Gisela put her glasses on near the edge of her nose, and would read a line and then look over the tops to give me the English translation. I still recall the shine in her eyes and her warm smile as she reached the conclusion granting us permission and she clasped both of my shoulders and hugged me in congratulations. 

I remember both of them today, maybe more so than Saint Joseph, perhaps because I don't know how many others remember them and I'm sad when I think about what happens to you when the last person on earth to know you dies. So today I tell a little of the story of their lives, as I knew them, to remind me to celebrate their lives and hope the day comes when we can laugh together about all of that and so much more. 
Happy Birthday, Bob und Alles Gute Zum Geburtstag, Gisela.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 18, 2016

Merrick Garland and Other Tales Too Ticklish to Tell

I am chagrined to discover I am older than President Obama’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.  As a kid, I got to tag along on week-long school trips my dad organized for the school (where he taught for decades) trips to Washington D. C. every spring/Easter vacation. I loved the White House and the wandering through the Capital Building and the FBI but also found stopping into the Supreme Court awe-inspiring and awesome.

Just the name, The Supreme Court of the United States, sent a chill down my spine. I had very little appreciation or understanding of the workings of jurisprudence, frequently thinking they were interchangeable with the notion of ‘justice’ (my brother can probably ‘splain that at me better now though whether I get it is another matter entirely), but I got the whole ‘everything ends here’ now aspect of the Supreme Court.

All three branches of the government, Executive, Legislative and Judicial are interlinked and integrally important to the success of the other two, and in combination with them, both, to the continued peace and prosperity of these United States, but maybe, just maybe, the Judicial branch is important-er.  Cast a glance at this list and I’ll wait while you offer a low whistle of appreciation and amazement.

I said all three branches of our government are joined, at the hip and elsewhere. It all happens within the Constitution of the United States, most specifically in this instance in Article II, Section 2.  I was born at night, but not last night so I understand the role of adversarial politics at the national level meaning for me the reaction of members of the Republican party in the US Senate is not so much a surprise as it is a disappointment.
I don’t quite understand the excuse masquerading as a reason that ‘if the situation were reversed’ or ‘the Democrats did the same thing…’ Brings me to my favorite faux argument against everything, ever (I’ve used this millions of times and NEVER TIRE of it): ‘if my mother had married a Kennedy, I’d be living in the White House. But she didn’t, so I’m not.’ Yeah, I know: doesn’t make any sense. My point exactly….

Long and short for Mitch, Orrin, and all the other simpering obstructionist meat puppets who’ve said ‘no’ to everything offered by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the last seven plus years if you wanted to do something, you always find a reason; when you don’t, you always find an excuse. #DoYourJob.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I Saw the Mistake that I Had Made

I wrote this five years in honor of this day. I've had no reason to rethink so much as a single word of it since. Making it (no pressure) your turn.

This is a day that, as full of Irish heritage as I am (along with so much else (maybe more?)), I get more than a little creeped out by the celebrations of all that is emerald even when it's not. There's a claim that there are more persons of Irish descent living in New York City than there are in Dublin, but I suspect that's a statement you can make without (nearly) fear of contradiction about almost every ethnicity who've come to settle here in The Land of the Round Doorknobs.

Whether your tastes run from Danny Kaye singing Danny Boy to U2 through The Chieftains or Horslips and how you wash down your bubble and squeak, if you're celebrating being Irish or pretending to be Irish, or you just like to bathe with Irish Spring, hope the day is a good one.  

When The Gangs of New York was making the rounds, I watched it like a deer in the headlights growing more disquieted and discomfited with each frame. Though I was already old enough to realize history is written by the winners and should have been old enough to know better, I learned of a past of which I had only a passing knowledge and felt either comfort nor joy in knowing. 

For cinema, the movie had more than an inconvenient truth or two about alternatives to the 'melting pot' (myth) explanation every child received as part of her/his American history classes in grade schools across this country for most if not all of our growing up years. (And I'm not just talking about Leo's accent.) 

Instead, what more of us learned as we aged was that we have as many dirty little secrets as we have truths we hold to be self-evident (and sometimes the former is also the latter but, in that case, is more often than not always unacknowledged). The stories of the 1863 draft riots in New York City during the Civil War were as well-known in their time as the number of leaves on a shamrock and the animus and enmity directed at 'the others' (of all stripes) is true to this day, over a century and a half later. 

As it happens, for those from the Sod who drown their troubles a wee bit too often, maybe there's a deeper reason why you order the beverages you do when we dine out together; we just didn't know it. And whether you're marching down that New York City Fifth Avenue today or in any of the hundreds of slightly out of control celebrations across the nation that we tend to use to get us closer to spring, please spare a thought for the Battalion de San Patricio five thousand miles from a home to which they could never return who became a Legion of Strangers to those who would have been their countrymen, but refused.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seizing the Day and Opportunities It Presents

I'm sure I'm not alone in having a more upbeat frame of mind once we struggle past the winter and (finally) get to spring. Yeah, I know according to the calendar, it's not yet spring, but our recent weather is leading me to believe that while "it's been a long, cold, lonely winter," really and truly, "here comes the sun."

I always associate spring with the latin exhortation, carpe diem, seize the day and I admit it's a little easier to do that when you have an hour's more daylight, even if I grumble and stumble a little bleary-eyed for the first couple of days after we had the clocks spring forward on Sunday (there's always one clock somewhere in my house I forget about and discover later in the week).

And when you have days like we had here Sunday a week ago with loads of sun, skies of blue and scads of folks in downtown Norwich for the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, you cannot help but be (more) hopeful. We do the 'celebrate ourselves' stuff, in my experience, better now than we did years earlier. Perhaps practice makes perfect (actually perfect practice makes perfect but I get your point).

Probably like you, I put a lot of the fun stuff on my calendar, and the newspapers are good about making sure to publish it in advance as well and I make the time to attend because who doesn't enjoy a good time, in the name of building a better community?

We are spoiled for choice, with more choices always being added and you’ll hear no complaints from me on that score. There are a lot more Norwich celebrations from Rock the Docks, Winterfest through Juneteenth and so many others that happen across Norwich and around the waterfront and downtown.

And there's no lack of smiling faces and happy feet to take part, which, if you're an event organizer, is all the reward you can hope for (which is good, because it's all you'll get). But in the glow of all that hail fellow well met, let's make sure we look squarely at the municipal calendar because hard decisions with far-reaching consequences are gathering like storm clouds and other bad-weather cliches.

We who cheered and waved during the parade at those we elected to positions on the Board of Education and City Council need to be just as present when budget decisions affecting classroom populations, street-sweeping, community patrols and literally hundreds of programs that make, and keep, Norwich the place we choose to live  in are being weighed and measured on how to pay for what we want with what we have.

We all stood on the sunny side of the street and enjoyed the parade. We cannot choose to throw shade at one another or at those we elected to govern. We are in this together, today and every day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Brat

I’ve always had difficulties separating child-like and childish, but I’m pretty sure I know on the scale where my current attitude actually is even as I protest otherwise. 

After a weekend of glorious weather, Saturday I thought was a bit nicer than Sunday though the latter had that extra hour of daylight tagged to the back of it, I got up to start my working week (no snickering!) to not just grey skies but practically morose that really didn’t lighten all that much as the day wore on.

I’m not sure where the complaint box but let’s face it: why is it called daylight saving when it’s overcast and damp? Is this a jumbo shrimp contradictory riddle or prank? I know the farmers and the ducks appreciate the rain, especially farmers raising ducks (not that I know of any), but a little less liquid during the daylight hours would, I submit, be helpful and not just for me.

Yes, every day is a gift, but as Tony Soprano once asked, why so often socks rather than an X-box? With earnest apologies to Hemingway, if the sun also rises, wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could enjoy it?
-bill kenny  

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Used to Be Rather Odd.....

I wrote this years ago; which, in the age of the Internet, is so long ago that some of the letters used in its writing no longer exist. I hope I'm making that up, but you'll have to decide. At the time I called it "I Brake for Mothra" which may tell you all you need to know.

Do you remember when people spoke about things made in Japan in a derogatory tone? Before your time, probably (I wish I could say that, and mean it), but we did. We even had a snappy little jingoistic two word put down the seconded of which was 'crap' and the first word rhymed with it. Oh, how superior we felt as we laughed and got into our 1963 Terraplanes with the white-wall tires and eventually got the bad boy started and drove away. Those were halcyon days.

The awful thing about that line was that it was true, but it didn't stay true. Every year, more of what we had in our house and garage was made elsewhere until ALL of it (or just about) was and it was pretty easy to do, since in some areas, like auto manufacturing, the US guys just got sloppy or stupid or something. That, too, is an overstatement and a generalization, but it hides a reality of a self-fulfilling prophecy that crept in, on little cats' feet and stamped "paid" to the dream of unending good times and decent wages in many parts of the country. 

We always speak of Detroit when we say US automakers, but I remember applying, with John C while we were both at Rutgers, for a summer job at a Ford plant in Metuchen, New Jersey (they built Torinos, I think) and there was a Saturn assembly center in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Both of them are long gone.

And now 'Japanese' cars, come from exotic places like somewhere in Indiana, probably near Dan and Marilyn Quayle's PotatoE Farm, and the Nissan, Honda and Toyota folks are all heading the same way. (And now those manufacturers are looking over their shoulders at Korean competitors). Those who've concluded in print and electronic media that 'American-built' vehicles are inferior (because they're built by Americans?) should walk east until their hats float. 

Perceived quality problems soured us on Seeing the USA in a Chevrolet. My mom tells me I used to watch Dinah every afternoon, sitting on the coffee table in my parents' apartment and would blow a kiss right back at her at the end of her show. Kiss my butt, Burt. Dinah, I saw you first, even if he ended up with the Flying Nun in a Trans Am (for crying out loud!). Now it's one of the 'other' guys' turns to have recalls and repairs. We're back to smiling smugly, except no one has ever confused a Prius with a Pinto or a Corolla with a Corvair
Sing this all together and see what happens.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Beware the Sharp-Dressed (Wo)Man

When I closed my eyes last night, I hoped as I do every night we might all agree to play nice(er) in the course of the campaign to be selected to be one of the two major parties' candidates to be elected the next President. To be honest, maybe like you, I looked at the job for myself, in terms of benefits and advancement potential (welcome to moot point, population: me) and concluded hearing 'Hail to the Chief' played every time I would show up someplace would get a little old (I'm more of a Louie, Louie guy myself).

Then there's the haberdashery and men's' furnishings situation. From what I've observed, the President of the US is propping up the suit manufacturers as I rarely see him, or anyone in national politics, have anything like a Casual Friday. Perhaps there's a rule that says you cannot create a cost-efficient and effective universal health care delivery system for 50 million uninsured citizens while wearing a rugby shirt (we sure don't have one yet and I'm hoping that's why we don't). 

So, and do the math with me here: if the President declares, in a sweatsuit, that we're NOT in a recession, that the moon is not made of green cheese, that ISIL are junior varsity and/or Mexico is going to pay to build a wall separating our two countries, is any of that actually going to happen? Is the message what's inappropriate or would it be the packaging? This may become more than my problem as I look at who's left standing in the demolition derby we use to identify those MOST interested in becoming President (and it's only mid-March). 

Eventually, this all plays out, right? I mean better a horrible ending  than horrors without end unless....well let's not get personal in terms of invective and animus. That doesn't help at all. In theory, one of these folks still standing (or listing heavily to port) will be Lesser of Two Evils whom we elect in November (maybe they'll wear nametags identifying themselves as such). 

Did our politics change since the Founding of the Republic or have we? Have we concluded the Lord gave us two hands to better help ourselves and two pockets to put it all in or are we just taking a break, ethically, spiritually, philosophically and soon we'll have our second wind? We were so relentless for the last decade and a half about regime changes across the globe. Are we going to have one here in November and what will we look like then, not just to the rest of the world but to ourselves (assuming we can look ourselves in the eye in the mirror; that has been a bit problematic lately hasn't it?). 

We've become a pluralistic culture that's at least as bi-polar as it is bi-coastal and more and more of us look at one another and are concerned that even though we have shared words and grammar we don't seem to speak the same language. Stumbled across James McMurty the other day and suspect I'm about to wind up sharing an adjoining cell on an artificial Paradise clad in an orange jumpsuit when staring at the dilemma facing us in an America Gone Away as The Other One Went Awry.
-bill kenny