Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Carousel of Time

It’s too bad history isn’t taught anymore in our schools. It was something I was pretty good at and enjoyed learning about, be it “American” or “World” history. And I always found it weird that we studied them in two different school years as if each were not a subset of the other, much like new AND improved should really be new OR improved. 

I’m not sure when history as a separate discipline disappeared. I imagine like so much else I’ve followed in the Land of the Round Doorknobs for almost the last quarter of a century since returning, it was so gradual as to be almost invisible. And, of course, very quiet. Dignity at all costs.

We now do a lot of multi-discipline style learning incorporating various subjects together, each one  complementing  and completing one another in a lesson plan (at least) so as to make a right hash of the whole experience in the classroom and producing young citizens who not only can’t write but can’t read or count. 

How much thinking they can do is a matter of mean-spirited speculation as well but I suspect that’s often seen as a benefit by some. The graduates do, however, feel very good about themselves and that is what’s important say the people who claim expertise in these matters. 

We are already and exactly half-way through 2016. The same 2016 we welcomed with rapturous cries and open arms in the dark days as December became January and Mourning Becomes Electra. And now? We’re kvetching about a summer which has just started. It often has too much or not enough rain, sun and other atmospheric embellishments and accoutrements, blah, blah, blah.

And just as we get the hang of it and learn to take the sting out of the sunburn we all get, it’ll be over and autumn leaves will be falling, the shop windows will have a Halloween Witch thumb-wrestling with a Pilgrim for a peek at what’s in Santa’s sleigh and we’ll be bum’s rushing poor old 2016 and making room for whatever’s next as we go round and round….
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Singing an American Tune

Technically and there’s not a calendar on this continent that could prove me wrong, we are on the last Wednesday of June in 2016. No more and certainly no less. Except, and I saw your eyes dart to the right counting the days on the calendar, we are just about to begin another three-day holiday weekend, in this case, Independence Day celebrated this year on Monday. 

Some of this will sound familiar because I’ve said it before but that will not keep me from saying it again. 

On this Fourth of July should we be pleased with ourselves and proud of our nation? Of course, but somewhere between the backyard barbecue and that softball game that no one keeps score in and that only ends when it’s too dark to see, we might look in a mirror and then look around at the country we received from our parents and their parents and which we hope to give to our children and theirs.

In the midst of celebration, perhaps we can find a moment of contemplation.

Enumerating what it called our ‘unalienable rights’ to include ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ the founders of our republic, who did not agree on very much except that the present state of affairs such as they were in 1776 could not continue, concluded the only way forward as a people on this largely unexplored, new continent whose size and wealth were not yet known, was to break with the past and declare independence from King and Crown.

And 240 years on, look at us. Out of all of that has come all of this. And along the way, the original magic and meaning have been muffled by backyard pool parties, holiday car sales and chicken fried steaks on the barbecue.

Our politics is spirited even if our interest isn't and our understanding of the issues is muddled and muted. And, again, it’s not that we all agree with who we are and what we are doing. It’s been reported we haven’t been this divided morally, politically and socially as a country since the Civil War. And that should mean far more than it does.

Some say never have so many had so much of life’s material rewards but others say never have so many struggled to hold on to what they have. And there’s a lot to be said on both sides of that argument and there’s also a lot to be heard and we’re not very good anymore at listening to one another.

What may be missing is our national sense of self, our confidence and belief in our own abilities to forever adapt and triumph. We had those traits at the Founding and I would hope each in our own way we might again find them, both for those whose inheritance we are and for those whose promise is yet to be. Happy the 4th of July. May the 5th and all the days that remain be even more so.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Heart's Here Upon My Sleeve

The old (and awful) joke goes “I had no shoes and was sad until I met someone who had no feet.” I tend to regard that as an anti-Nike advertisement but suspect they would feel differently. I think the takeaway from it is often, no matter how badly you think things are going for you, they are infinitely worse for one or more others. 

So if you had a rough start to your work week yesterday, or perhaps no start because you don’t have any employment or some other calamity has manifested itself in your life, consider for a moment the far-too-short life of Julianna Yuri Snow.

That a five-year-old could live, and die, with so much grace and dignity catches me up short every time I return to the CNN account of her passing.  If this paragraph about her funeral and the poster her grandfather made does NOT absolutely shatter your heart into pieces which skitter and scatter across the universe, I guess the good news is that you have no heart.

"Text from Julianna: Arrived in heaven! I am healed! Thank you for your love! Hope to see you in God's time," the poster read.
-bill kenny 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Baked Beans Are Off

If the convergence of various technologies has created the world in which most of us First Worlders live, then it has also created the equivalent of the encyclopedia salespeople knocking at our email doors.

And if I am a First Worlder (and I have my Starbucks membership card to prove it) and understand that huge portions of our globe are designated Third World (I think that means twenty-minute parking only), what or who are Second Worlders? And who tracks this stuff? When are the playoffs?

Anyway, my various email accounts have tons of unsolicited correspondence with everything ranging from various people, of both sexes, wanting to meet me at "Pinetops." I have no idea where or what Pinetops is but I think in a previous (or future?) life I was the Mayor.

There's also the usual barrage of sexual enhancement aids email leading me to suspect the sender is carpet bombings folks with email accounts as the products offered sometimes don't seem to be anything for which I might have a use.

I've been saving one in particular for some time now just to see if there might be some sort of an attempted follow-up. And sadly, "Olga" (she of the 'thousands of hot Russian girls want to have sex with you right now') you're not the one I've been holding on to.

It's Fakharuddin Manik (at the Disco? Perhaps) who believes I guess that brevity is the soul of clarity though his note is brief without being clear at all and reads: "Hello, Pls confirm the attachment and revert opinion. Thanks." Don't mention it. Why revert when you can dominate the rap, Jack?
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Finally! The Advantage of No Discernible Skillset!

I have with all due respect to Raspberry Beret spent a great deal of my life doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before. I cannot pretend to have elevated this endeavor to an art form but, at four and sixty years, I will concede (albeit ruefully) it has become a career. 

Decades ago I used to answer the ‘what do you wanna be when you grow up?’ question with something considerably less insightful than the current flavor of the month, and would dissolve into mumbles and shrugs because that’s what my cohort did.

At some point in the Sixties, the older part of the generation decided to head off in various directions of the compass, leaving the rest of us to wander and wonder. I’m still waiting for my varsity letter to show up for that; I already have the sweater, so spare me the sales pitch.

As for when I would get good, much less reach my peak, at whatever it was I was to somehow choose to be and to do (here in the Land of the Round Doorknobs, the former is almost always the latter), I had and still have NO idea, but will entertain suggestions.

As it turns out, though, says the Washington Post, if you’re a creative artist, like a writer, a painter or a musician, as opposed to a cretinous crustacean such as myself, research suggests it’s possible to predict with some degree of accuracy when you’ll reach your peak, Zebulon.

Of course, as you read the article and compare its ‘best by’ numbers to the age on your driver’s license, bear in mind some settling of contents may have occurred in shipment and that all of us are evaluated ultimately on weight and not volume (that is less than reassuring upon further review). Sadly, as always, your mileage may vary, but more often it's your resolve.

All I can offer you is some sympathy, and you know where to look sympathy up in the dictionary right?, as I’ve accepted the joys such as they are in realizing when you don’t know where you’re going any road will lead you there. Roll the windows up, Skippy, we might be in for a dark ride
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Shoot My Mouth Off

There are some who will click on this link and say ‘who thought of this?’ and others who might more sarcastically worry, ‘gee, what could possibly go wrong?’ I think both are entitled to ask those questions and (hopefully) will forgive me if I show little interest in the former and pray we never get the answer to the latter.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution, part of the original ten we call the Bill of Rights, is, in many respects, the political third rail in the United States (most especially and tragically again in recent weeks)  and has been for much of my lifetime. 

I do not pretend to know ‘the solution’ to the plague of gun violence in my country except to think a good beginning might be to lose  the word ‘gun’ from in front of violence and then try to address that situation. We’re pretty mean to one another on a daily basis now-giving us guns is almost like drilling a second hole in a sinking boat to let the water out faster. 

I had as much weapon as I ever needed or wanted while in the US Air Force and all I was required to do was fire an M-16 rifle for familiarization. Thankfully. And I say that because I was terrible with it and was more of a danger to everyone in my squadron on the range than to anything purporting to be a target downrange. 

Perhaps in Michigan, ballpark patrons will use this opportunity to build bridges among and between the assorted and various points of view and partisan perspectives. At the very least, I would hope they are more respectful and civil to one another than the sniping and snapping of those who contributed a thought or two in the comments section.

No one has a monopoly on truth on this issue, among so many others, but there are paths we can all walk together to move ourselves along so that we can all benefit.
-bill kenny        

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hamlet's Dilemma

It's still too early on this side of The Pond to know what has happened in Great Britain on the referendum to remain or leave the European Common Market, though as of 3 AM it appears the island nation has chosen to leave.

I only know visits to England as part of the European Union, what we cranky Yankees used to call the United States of Europe, so I don't pretend to know what's "best" for the nation we fought a savage war of Independence to not be a part of.

I'm not sure what the right answer for the citizens of the United Kingdom looks like and how that answer impacts the rest of the EU and the world. We'll have time enough to worry about what it all means and/or doesn't, when we know what we don't know yet. Tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day. Until it doesn't. So far, so good. So what now?
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Looks Like I'm Gonna Start All Over Again

In my dotage, at no extra charge, have also arrived aches and pains I can't do very much about except piss and moan. In the course of the last decade, I've one and a half of two knees replaced, an ankle rebuilt and now, for the last six or so months, and ache at the base of my spine that has caused the orthopedist to purse his lips in that thoughtful, worried way they do before adding zeroes to their medical bills (and if you have insurance, the carrier knocking many of them off).

The ache returned Saturday afternoon as part of a drive to New Haven, never the most pleasant outing in my house even when we take the "scenic route" as stated on the highway signs (including the scenic rotaries?) and I struggled to get comfortable behind the wheel.

Not so comfortable my snoring would wake the other passengers in the car, mind you, but so that I could concentrate on the task at hand on a busy weekend day on a busy roadway without the stabbing in my back distracting me.

I still have pills and refills I can take from doctor's visits back in March but I need so little encouragement to head in that direction in the first place, and take more than enough medication for other maladies in the second place so I'll rummage through my 'I may need this later' drawer next to my work desk to see if I can the cheat sheets that James, in physical therapy, gave me at the same time for stretching exercises that I mocked at the time he shared them but that really helped out (much to my surprise and not a little to my chagrin).

It's a fine line between yoga and Yoda. Erasing it, my job it is I think. Again.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Beauty of Grey

When I was a kid, not just behaving like one, whenever a plane flew overhead I would stop, look up and wave, to the puzzlement of whomever I was with. When asked why I did it, I would always explain that you never knew when someone was looking out of a plane's window down on us. I thought that whoever that someone was deserved to be cheered up. 

I sometimes have that same thought whenever I hear a plane flying overhead as I struggle to get my ten thousand steps a day in on a walk around the block after coming home from work. As an adult, I know better (or am supposed to) than to wave at the sky but I will admit to being tempted at times. Instead, I say hello to the next person I pass on my walk and the person after that as well.

And on those rare instances when I do fly in an aircraft, I strive to always have a window seat to look out of just in case someone 'down there' looks up as I'm passing over and waves. You can never be too prepared. 

I read online how one of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, ISS, said he was struck by how much alike down here on earth we all looked from his vantage point. Maybe that's an urban myth, maybe not; but I find that a comforting thought. 

That idea and the images from the ISS always reminds me of the lyrics of John Lennon's Imagine and how little dreaming the creation of such a world needs in comparison to how much doing it requires to exist. So many people in the same device

Maybe that's why I enjoy the various celebrations of all the people we are who make up Norwich, ranging from the Saint Patrick's Day parade through this past Saturday's Juneteenth Day not forgetting the Taste of Italy, the Grecian Festival, and the other cultural observances I probably am forgetting

These get-togethers bring our various communities closer to one another, helping us better become right here on earth (and in Norwich) the view from out of the Space Station window. I’m always more interested in the people who chose to attend than I am with those who absent themselves. Besides, more for me.

John-Manuel Andriote, a Norwich native son whose literary efforts are known across the globe, used to call Norwich "an American melting pot in a saucepan size.And Juneteenth and all the other celebrations to include the upcoming Rock the Docks Wednesday concerts all help underscore the vibrancy of our shared histories and heritages, adding a special blend of spice to our sauciness.

And speaking of celebrations, are you waiting for me to express discouragement, dismay and disappointment about the absence of Fourth of July Fireworks in the Harbor? Keep waiting. Here's how I see it: If we want something hard enough we'll find a way; if we don't, we'll find an excuse.
- bill kenny  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Always the Ugly Sheep

Every time I think we have to sit through all of this summer and most of the autumn to have the opportunity to vote, in all likelihood, for the lesser of Two Weasels, I throw up (just a little) in my own mouth. And not just because I'm a sore-loser Bernie Sanders supporter but because the choice of Clinton or Trump is that highly advertised one between cancer or polio. 

I've concluded, after having endured all the news and analysis ( = "let me inflict my particular point of view on you and speak in dogmatic tones that, magically and mystically, transforms my opinion into your facts") that this Election Day we are frighteningly close to getting exactly the kind of government we deserve. I do not pretend to be happy about that.  

Are we there yet? One major party candidate lies by telling selected parts of the truth while the other may be genetically incapable of recognizing the truth in any form at any time. This needs to stop before it goes any further. And it needs to stop now. 

Use the tools available online, fact check and others like it, or this one from aren't the only places to check, by any means, nor should any of them be the only measurement you employ to decide for whom to vote. But you need to choose; it's freedom OF choice, not freedom FROM choice

Instead, we are a heartbeat away from a mean-spirited demolition derby of a national election, which may be what many, but I hope not most, really want, because we need to focus on November 9th which is the day after this Bonfire of the Insanities and Vanities is extinguished.

All of the vindictive vitriol and tweet slogans masquerading as solutions  if that's what they ever were (but I doubt it) will have melted away by the dawn's early light, leaving us all to marvel that the sun does, indeed, come up and we have to make our peace with vox populi and its consequences. E Pluribus Unum and not WTFO. 

Who's going to repair the planet? Create real wealth for all instead of vapor trails in account ledgers? What about health-care and human rights or the politics of need versus greed? Do not tell me what 'we' need to do. Tell me how you will lead us so that we are going to do it. 

We kept saying to our parents, 'just you wait'. So far, so good. So what? 
All they wanted for us was the best and look at what we've settled for and what we are choosing to saddle unborn generations with. We are the only ones we can count on to help ourselves now, so let's begin today. Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 20, 2016

We're Still Here

This is now a twice-told tale and I first offered it for Father's Day almost a decade ago. Yeah, I know "it was yesterday, dude." But I'm not through ruminating on it, yet, so there you have it. Cheer up, if you remember it, you can skip what follows. You're welcome. 

True story I remember from so long ago, Patrick is our only child. He and I are driving from our home in Offenbach to my work in Frankfurt am Main. He is about three or so in the back seat of our car, in his car seat. The car is waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Eschenheimer Landstrasse and Adickesallee, just a block down from the old Frankfurt cemetery. "You know what?" he asked me, in German (as that's all we spoke), looking out the side window at a kebab-laden or a trinkhalle, "if Mom had married someone else, I would have a different father." Thanks for playing, indeed.   

Both of my brothers, Kelly, and Adam are fathers, so I hope they had Happy Father's Days. All three of us are fathers without a reference library as our own dad passed away over three and half decades ago and, quite frankly, set an example before his passing that I suspect none of us would have been interested in closely following. 

I don't know if either of them have, in the course of their own families, had moments where they've wondered 'what would Dad have done?' I have had a few, but not as many as being the oldest, perhaps, I should have had. My wife and I are married for almost thirty-nine years, and all but about eleven minutes of that are because of her hard work and certainly NOT mine. We have two children, a son turning thirty-four in three weeks and a daughter whose birthday (her age is her business and not my story) was a little more than a month ago. 

When my son was small and when my daughter was (much) younger, I was fortunate that my wife's Dad, Franz, was close at hand to serve as a sounding board to his somewhat befuddled and other cultured son-in-law as he struggled to remain competitive in the Parenting Olympiad. I never wanted children or thought I never did, until Patrick and Michelle were born. I was very fine with defining myself as Sigrid's husband but I think 'and father of Patrick and Michelle' adds a lot to my resume.

I don't have happy memories of interaction with my Dad and learned many years later he could have said the same about his relationship with his father. I grew up thinking somehow I was the screw-up and judging from the caustic comments, I wasn't alone. I was numb, literally, after we learned my wife was pregnant with Patrick because I feared I would forge the next link in that chain, but that fear evaporated in the first moments of his life on this earth and while his sister later brought her own challenges (how could someone so tiny be so insanely defiant I used to wonder as she would glare up at me, no higher than my knees it seemed, and tell me 'no' for hours on end), I kept coming back to Freshman Orientation at Dad's College: Help Them Do Well and Be Happy.

I've since discovered, as have probably all fathers, it is pretty easy (especially in hindsight) and not unlike the lesson of Dad's College. You can't do too much about the skinned knees or the first true loves that break hearts but tell yourself, and your child, 'this, too, shall pass' because you know it will even when they know it won't. All you can wish for your son or daughter is that they are well and happy, two conditions for which they, themselves are most responsible. I used to fret that their father, unlike the parents of their friends, couldn't afford cars for them to drive in high school, or ski holidays or wardrobes from A & F, wasting so much of my energy on pointless worry since both of them grew up never missing what they never had. 

Today, both of our children are adults with lives very much their own and have more or less accepted that in the heart of their dotty Dad they will always be his kids. And should the day come when they choose to have children, I think (or hope) they'll have good memories from their own childhood to draw upon and smile.
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 19, 2016

You Will Still Be Here Tomorrow

Housekeeping first. Happy Anniversary to my brother, Adam and his blushing bride, Margaret. I remain amazed and impressed at what a good sport your wife is. I think she, Sigrid, and Kelly's Linda, are in the same club. I hope they continue to maintain their memberships. 

I wrote what follows when I was so much older; I'm younger than that now. I'm hoping the wisdom arrives shortly but I'm not holding my breath.

Being my wife's spouse and our children's father are the two things I do best and most days I'm not all that good at either of them. My wife makes the former work for both of us.

As for the latter, I didn't take classes and while I yearned for an indeterminate probationary period, there was none. And nothing but on-the-job training. It's the hardest job I could ever love and despite what I believed while I was on the giving end, Dad is the highest compliment I can receive in the whole world. 

And today is our day. Of course, all of us who are fathers have people to thank (especially our children without whom technically....) and I won't even try to list all of the fathers whom I have had the good fortune to know because that list would go on forever.

I have to pause for the father I shared with my brothers and sisters.

I caged this photo from Adam who got it from the school where Dad taught (and which I attended). He got pictures, and I still get newsletters and fundraiser solicitations from them. Life is unfair, but funny that way.
Our dad was a short time here and a long-time gone but there have been many times I've had wistful and wishful conversations with him about our two kids (who are now themselves adults). I think in many ways, I've spoken more with my father in the three-plus decades since he passed than I did in all the years we shared the planet.

I know these are fantasy conversations because had I ever asked him for advice and had he ever offered it, there would have been no place for me to put it. So full of myself was I for so many years that's it's only been in the last score and more that I've learned to appreciate how fortunate I am that those who do love me do so despite rather than because of me. I can't help but think he'd have laughed his ass off at that because of how often I've laughed knowing it was true for him as well.

Getting married to my wife made me a man. Having and loving the children that together we made and raised made me a better person. Happy Father's Day.
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Somebody Thinks They Really Found You

I first offered these words eight years ago. You say 'duplicative' and I say 'timeless.' Let's agree to disagree.

Happy Juneteenth to you, where ever you are. I could offer you an explanation of Juneteenth, with nary a card to be found in your neighborhood Hallmark store, but there's a lot of unresolved sorrow, fear, anguish, and anger associated with the origins and causes of the system of oppression whose end, in the United States as we knew it then, Juneteenth helps mark. It was on June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that the War Between the States had ended and that they were now free. 

In the here (and hear) and now, basically lasting all day today (a day earlier than is historically accurate but it's Saturday and what doesn't celebrate better on Saturdays, right?) at the Marina at Norwich Harbor across from Louis Brown Park, will be quite-the-do. And large fun has been a part of these annual celebrations in Norwich for the 28 years the Norwich NAACP has sponsored them.

In a sense, holiday celebrations help bring different people, and peoples, together, to reflect on who they are, who they were and who they are on the way to becoming. Ideally, each of us sees in one another a reflection of ourselves as well as a better understanding of our unique talents and gifts; the stuff that makes you, you and me, me. That's why the Juneteenth party at the Norwich Marina is so large--not only all the people who are going to be there are at it, but all those who've come before them and those generations as yet to be born who will fulfill their promises and who will dream their own dreams and then live those as well. 

So celebrate with us here in Norwich or where ever in the world you find yourself today.Sometimes, unless and until you look back it's hard to see how far you've traveled. It can be easy to realize the journey has a distance yet to accomplished, and to feel daunted by the challenge of that task, but it is sweeter and sweetened by the knowledge of where we were and where we are now. "And if my thought-dreams could be seen, They'd probably put my head in a guillotine. But it's alright, Ma, it's life and life only." 
-bill kenny

Friday, June 17, 2016

We Are the Punchline

One long national nightmare is over. Actually, it was over according to media math about ten days ago when Hillary Rodham Clinton captured the primary in Puerto Rico enabling her to reach the magic number of delegates to secure the nomination of her and, at the moment, my political party, the Democratic Party.

What’s in a name I might ask since the number of reports of irregularities at caucuses and primaries would fill a small book (and give me some crayons and I can improve it I’m sure) but that’s so much water (and the juice of sour grapes) down the plinth. In terms of sour grapes, the next national nightmare awaits us all in November.

I’d like to be unhappier about my party’s choice than I am and I am typing this with my pouty face firmly in place and my potty mouth at the ready. Then I look across the aisle to the candidate the other major party is running (barring Divine Intervention). 

I sincerely sympathize with Senator Bob Dole, in his time “Mr. Republican,” who, when asked for whom he would vote in November, offered “I can’t very well vote for George Washington.” Suspect for some in his party, Martha is looking pretty good right now.

Speaking of George, Martha and the whole Let’s Go to Philly for the Weekend and See What Shakes Out crowd, after two hundred and forty years of travail and travel, I suppose some settling of our nation’s contents was to be expected though I am not happy about settling for the Lesser of Two Weevils when casting about for the next occupant of the White House.

I don’t quite share the opinion of Henry Louis Mencken, The Sage of Baltimore, though I do nod ruefully (and in full agreement) when I read a column he offered about ninety-six years ago in the pages of The Baltimore Sun, for whom he wrote nearly all his life.

The larger the mob, the harder the test," he noted. "In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men," he surmised. "As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
-bill kenny 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

If....'re going to drink all day, you have to start in the morning. I saw that stuck on a car window the other day, sort of in the area where you might have a campaign slogan--and realized it might just be the driver's idea of just such a slogan and I smiled and grimaced just a little bit.

Perhaps like you, I always assume a 'drink' is something with alcohol but it's possible that's not what the sticker is all about. Because I'm in a charitable mood let's assume it's really just another way of saying 'do what you do, but do it well.' 

Professional baseball games are nine innings-American football has four quarters, golf has eighteen holes in a round, etc. We rarely if ever watch only the first twenty minutes of an athletic contest (unless it's a hundred yard dash and in that case, if we're still watching now might be a good time to release the 'pause' button the TiVo/DVR) so maybe the 'come early, stay late' approach works in more of our lives than just, well, just on bumper stickers. 

As we hit the summer season, we'll have lots of distractions that will keep us from the hard work of evaluating the people who are standing for the general elections, at all levels of all tickets this fall. I'll rant and nag enough about it as we go along that I don't want to harsh your buzz today (we've got Copa America and Euro 2016 matches to watch and some of the latter is best accomplished starting early) but in the coming weeks and months, unless you're planning on moving to your own country on your planet, we'll need to look into, and at, who we are and where we want to go as this election draws nearer. 

I'll defer to minds greater than mine (= everyone else) but while it's not sitting for a course final, how we decide, alone with our thoughts and a computer scanner in the booth this November will have an impact on us, our families and beyond. The butterfly's beating wings can do more than create a Storm Force Ten on an alien, distant shore and we may well have to set a course into the wind in order to escape the conspiring currents. 
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

And People Watched in Wonder

Cal Ripken, Jr., the Baltimore Orioles baseball immortal (more than) once said, "you can be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball." As someone frequently accused of being childish, I always have Cal's quote at the ready. Now is the time to invoke it.

The warmer temperatures have arrived bringing with them bluer skies and longer days (feel free to create your own cause and effect relationships among them). We've observed Memorial Day, most of the kids are finished with school and even the calendar says next Monday is the "official" start of Summer. 

Perhaps not so coincidentally a week from tonight, at 7:05, our own Boys of Summer, the Connecticut Tigers, take the field at Dodd Stadium for their 2016 home opener against the Brooklyn Cyclones (the baby Mets).

As you should already know, the Connecticut Tigers, Class A Short Season affiliates of the Detroit Tigers, are in the New York-Penn League (NYPL) which is the oldest Single A baseball league in the United States. But there's a little more territory involved than just the Empire and Keystone states.

There are teams from Aberdeen, Maryland, (whose principal owner is Cal Ripken, Jr.), the baby BoSox of Lowell, Massachusetts, and the Class A Short Season farm hands of the Oakland A's, the Burlington, Vermont Lake Monsters. And yes, for the geographically-minded among us, there are (of course) teams from both New York and Pennsylvania to include the Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees

When our kids were kids, they were the perfect reason for me to head to Dodd Stadium with them back in the days of the Navigators and Defenders. Baseball at Dodd was and remains great value and terrific family entertainment. 

Class A is a learning experience that forges potential into professional talent and you have to admire the efforts both teams make on the field. There's not a bad seat in Dodd Stadium, you can still follow the action while getting a burger, fries or whatever at a concession on the concourse and you don't need to take out a second mortgage to pay for a family outing at a Tigers game. For us, it's an afternoon in the sun or a nice evening under the stars but for the players, this is real-life and it's their real lives.They give it all they've got because they want to be here and do this. 

I'm sure, as always, there'll be plenty of between-innings silliness to keep us entertained. And between you and me, I'm not sure we'd see adults do the Chicken Dance with their children and often their grandchildren on the roof of a dugout at one of the major league ballparks; sometimes the best fun is the fun you make yourself. 

Did I mention Friday night home games have fireworks, win or lose? And next Wednesday's opening night also has fireworks because what better way to announce the greatest time of the year, baseball season? See you there (and bring your glove).
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Follow the Flag Together

Between now and Election Day, we will hear every single person seeking office in these United States of America invoke the flag in support of whatever it is they are advocating.

That is their right, just as it is mine to arch my right eyebrow and aim a caustic comment or two (I get them by the gross, they're much cheaper that way) in their general direction, certainly no longer in the hope of dissuading them or any adherent from pursuing a particular course of action I'd rather they not, but because it's hygienic and perhaps therapeutic for my own mental state.

I, along with millions of the others since before this nation was a nation, have served in its armed forces, worn its uniform, followed the lawful orders of those placed in leadership positions and done as best I could what was expected of me in defense of my country and my family. In recent days, we've had horrible and ample proof of the importance of defining and defending both in the broadest sense possible.

The American flag is a symbol of that nation and means to each of us what we wish to see in it when we look to it. Today is Flag Day and we are going to hear a lot about 'the flag' and 'our country' before we make decisions this November about who we are and who we shall continue to be.

I think of Carl Schurz's words about "my country" and how far too often pseudo-patriots have selectively edited and condensed/corrupted his words to support their own agenda.

Here's all of it in one place: "(O)ur free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’”

It doesn't fit in a tweet from a twit so you rarely if ever hear the whole quote in much the same way as we use the flag to cover a multitude of venalities. Today, Flag Day, it's good to remember our flag shouldn't be a prop of personal or political posturing but rather a symbol of our nation's resolve and unity.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Reprise of O'Sullivan's Sweater

I wrote this nearly a decade ago in this space at that time. Some settling of contents may have occurred, and some may not. You decide.

My mom is celebrating her birthday today. A gentleman never tells a lady's age, and while I am not a gentleman, my youngest brother is and feels very strongly there's much to be said about saying nothing about age. Fair enough.

Both my wife and I were raised in two-parent families, though not the same family (see: Cheney, Vice-President; joke about West Virginia and relatives) with fathers who filled up the room when they entered and who, when they departed, left vacuums. With both Moms, I think, at least for me, I never fully appreciate how marvelous they were and are, as people, until they weren't sharing a spotlight of attention. My wife's Dad passed a couple of years back after a number of years of declining health, and the distance from here to Germany, compounded and exacerbated the heartache of that moment, I know.  

My father died before my son was conceived, much less born, and all of that seems like it was in another lifetime. Mom awoke to find her husband of nearly thirty years dead in their bed from the final in a series of heart attacks he never acknowledged even having, with three children younger than sixteen still at home and in need of a home. 

She and my father had, as was so often the case for people of their generation, two families: I am 64 and my baby brother is forty-eight (ie, most certainly not a baby). The 'munchkins' or 'gremmies', as the three oldest children called the three youngest with whom we didn't share the house, were in a precarious predicament but we, those who had flown the nest, never fully appreciated the severity of the dilemma Mom found herself in. 

But, she worked like a coal miner for years, without comment or surcease, to make sure those still at home never wanted for any of their basic needs. Whatever any child needed, they would receive and she did without until she had saved enough. And if another child wanted something, then that's where her savings went and she started yet again. 

She and those sisters and brother have a very different relationship with one another than her three oldest children have with her or with one another, and some/part/all of that dynamic was shaped by those moments, and the decisions made in them, all those years ago. 

I can always call her for advice about my children; she never volunteers an opinion but is there when I ask. She always seems reluctant to do so, as if somehow her offering an insight to someone to whom she gave life could be overstepping her bounds. As the Amish say, 'the older I get, the smarter my parents are.' 

I can only hope that the wisdom is hereditary and in a box someplace on a low shelf in the basement--because I sure don't have any wisdom on or near me right now; you can check with my kids. Happy birthday, Mom!
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I'm Younger Than That Now

I wrote this seven years ago. I was so cute then (and still not modest).

I admire persistence, at least in theory. Actually, I admire my own persistence which, from a distance looks to others like 'this guy's really dumb' but it's an act (not all of it and not all the time, but I like the idea of being a man of mystery and you'll have to guess the exact when). 

I have joined a couple of the social networks (I'm not even sure that's the correct term, that's how much of a dweeb I am), twitter and Facebook. I've steered clear of myspace because I have the distinct impression old people are not warmly welcomed and as an old person, I know I'm not the welcoming type, so we're even. And did you notice this past week the number of thrash rock guys with myspace pages who bought the farm? I bet Metallica is happy they went mainstream or they'd never get the chance to spend their Napster royalties.

There are scads of these sites though how any of them make money is beyond me as the twitter people don't seem to have advertising. That's so "oldest child" in me, fretting how total strangers who may not even exist will make a living as if they would ever return the favor. 

Meanwhile on Facebook, maybe it works that way on your page, or wall, or whatever the starting point is called, where you get suggestions for people who might be your new friends. I have 57 years of living in this skin, and for the most part, the answer is 'I don't think so.' There's a reason why I have no friends in the F&B, Flesh and Blood, World and it carries over to the virtual one. 

So that the machines that are Facebook keep suggesting the same someone, over and over, seemingly because she, too, went to Rutgers University (it's the STATE University of New Jersey, there are tons of people who went and still go there) is not especially insightful. It's just a variation of 'do you like apples?' without the payoff.

Push comes to shove, Facebook, try hawking James Gandolfini as a suggested friend. He also went to Rutgers. Heck, I interviewed Journey (twice) and nobody got shot (so far). Hey! We've got TWO things in common. You gonna finish those onion rings
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What if God.....

I’ve heard the expression ‘let he who is without sin, cast the first stone’ my whole life and I’m always reminded of it when I drive past a blasted rock wall from which a highway or a building was carved by explosives and heavy equipment and wonder how coincidental the number of quarries located in what we call New England actually is especially in terms of some of the behaviors about which we’ve all read. 

Every organized religion and a couple of the somewhat disorganized ones has sacred writings, some form of scriptures if you will. No matter the region, or the religion, it's part of our human genome, the need to be a part of something bigger. Be it the Koran, the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the latest roman a clef by Danielle Steel, there's a narrative-a place to go look for details. When you argue a matter of theology and someone says, 'you can look it up!' those texts are what they're referring to.

There's the blood of the Lamb, the descent of the dove, the tongues of fire, the burning bush and an almost unending number of symbols and signs that The Lord (however you perceive S/He to be (‘Cosmic Thunderer or Hairy Muffin’)) uses to get our attention and pass along the Word. 

What if we were the first people on this planet who had a Deity? Put down the stone or at least look for a smaller one. I don't pretend to know what all of those before us had, I'm just saying we're the first and Our God uses the tools we have today in much the way as in the days of old we've read about. 

Someone I encountered not that long ago in these verdant fields of ether and wire speculated on how God would communicate the Ten Commandments if S/He had to use what we so often these days use, text. 

It might look something like this:

1.   no1 b4 me. srsly.
2.   dnt wrshp pix/idols
3.   no omg's
4.   no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
5.   pos ok - ur m&d r cool
6.   dnt kill ppl
7.   :-X only w/ m8
8.   dnt steal
9.   dnt lie re: bf
10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl. ttyl, JHWH. ps. wwjd?

What would you ask if you had just one question?
-bill kenny

Friday, June 10, 2016

When the Streetlights Come On

I smile when I read about the Democratic National Committee, DNC, struggling with their Bernie Problem; that is, what to do with the Senator whose sticker is on my automobile's back window.  

To be fair, the DNC didn’t know what to do with him when he interjected himself into the coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton over a year ago and made a right mess of that whole procession. How silly to think he'd go quietly and take so many of us with him.

And now, to add insult to injury he refuses to acknowledge that they see him as little more than Banquo’s Ghost but with millions of adherents and who knows how many new voters, they can’t get rid of him fast enough. Maybe they could send him an email, or is Mrs. Clinton handling that? Kidding, but only just.

Here’s the thing: as a Jersey kid growing up on Bloomfield Avenue in Franklin Township, which was a bedroom suburb of New Brunswick, itself a wholly-owned (or so it seemed) subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and Rutgers University, it always seemed to me that the summer days went on forever.

You’d gather up all the boys and girls (we didn’t care, not because we were so enlightened but we needed all the ballplayers we could find to have enough for teams) from up and down the street as well as from over on Simpson and Appleman. 

We'd head towards what passed for a baseball field, a big, flat lot with grass and dirt over where Fairmont and Irvington intersected (all built up for probably the last 50 years) for all-day baseball games far enough away from all the houses no windows were ever in danger.

Everyone brought lunch and maybe a snack. The folks on Girard had a hose on the side of the house they’d let us use to get a drink of water as long as we didn’t get too loud or make too much of a mess. We’d always promise not to but then forget and usually did anyway.

We never kept score; it didn’t matter, but the baseball sure did. Some kids had gloves or bats or balls or (because my dad was rich, I guessed, not that I knew and he wasn’t) in my case all of the above, and everyone played with everything all day and nothing ever got lost or stolen. I couldn’t tell you how many innings the games lasted or how long because none of us wore watches which was about the same number of us who could tell time.

But we all knew when we had to be home for dinner, which is sort of my point, assuming I have one at all, for the DNC. In those days, it took awhile for the street lights to warm up. They all had sensors and when the night finally arrived, the street lights would sputter and start to softly glow and you rushed to finish the inning or the at bat but also to savor the whole day before you ran home.

Dinner was served when the whole family was home and we were told to be home by dark. No exceptions and no excuses. Same was/is true in Brooklyn where Senator Sanders grew up playing stick ball. As far as I know, the DNC convention will be in a Philadelphia neighborhood with streetlights. Wait until they find out Bernie knows the rule, too.
-bill kenny