Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Celebration of Small Things

As of midnight tomorrow, we are down to the last month of this year; yep, today is the last day of the next to last month of this year. I find that almost impossible to believe especially when I recall my 'Things I'll Do' list for 2016 was lost about forty-five minutes after I accomplished compiling it.

I'm a half-full glass kind of a guy so I tell myself I've set the bar lower for next year's list and hope for the best. Sometimes we're in such a rush to get to what's next and new, we look through or past moments we could and should savor.

We had just such a moment, in an extended form, this past holiday weekend and I hope you had an opportunity to enjoy some of it. Hopefully no one was so busy with the nuts and bolts of the Thanksgiving Day meal and shopping rush afterward to not appreciate the efforts of friends and neighbors from all across the city for Friday's Lighting of City Hall followed on Saturday in rapid succession by the Norwich Winterfest 5K Road Race and then The Winterfest Parade from Chelsea Parade to Franklin Square.

We may not agree on any aspect of municipal government in Norwich, and that's our good right, but I'm absolutely sure we would agree that our City Hall is a gem, and when it's dressed up for the winter holidays, surrounded by throngs of happy faces and singers of seasonal songs, it's magic and that's what we had Friday. If you haven't yet had the chance to stop by City Hall after dark, you really should as there are no words to capture how lovely it looks this time of year.  

And you should also put an evening visit to Chelsea Parade on your itinerary because work crews, as they always do, finished constructing the Red Rose of New England prior to Saturday's Winterfest Parade. I made it a point to grab some photos of it in all of its illuminated glory on my way back from City Hall Friday evening.

The great thing about celebrations like those we had last week is that they are very much community events in every sense of the word. People just like the ones who live on your street and on my block join together months and more in advance to work on the hundreds and thousands of individual threads that when woven together, create the colorful and memorable tapestries we'll tell our children and grandchildren about.  

Memories are moments such as these and we are fortunate to have so many selfless and kindhearted friends and neighbors willing to both make and to be the difference. Whether you counted down the seconds at City Hall, one of the nearly five hundred runners in Saturday's Road Race or part of the sidewalk cheerleading crew later for the parade, or helped to make it all possible, thank you! You’re why Norwich is a great place to live.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Have Yourself a Merry .......

Have you started on your Christmas shopping yet?
I know, I'm supposed to say 'holiday' shopping in the interests of inclusion and that's very much what I mean, but I revert to what I called it when I was a kid and we called it Christmas shopping.

In trying to explain to our two now adult children where their old man grew up, I realized some time ago that until I went to prep school for high school I didn't actually know anybody who wasn't a Roman Catholic. I'm pretty sure that wasn't by design. It's just everybody I grew up with were the same people I went to Mass with.

I always smile when I think of Monsignor Harding, whose first name I never knew (I may have been a full grown-up before realizing he undoubtedly had a first name. I just never heard it spoken aloud by anyone, that's for sure.) as he heard Confessions every Friday morning in the basement of St Peter Church which is where Sister Mary Jean marched all of us from Class 8-A on a weekly basis.

For the life of me, I couldn't understand what this woman thought we did all week that we had to confess every Friday. Sometimes, I actually made stuff up because I wasn't sure I had enough sins. Yes, I know now that lying about sin is, in itself, a sin, but I was thirteen and working on mysteries without a clue. I grasped the sanctity of the confessional and was scared silly at how dark it was 'in the booth' when I closed the door. For a moment, it was just me and God.

I could always sort of hear, but very muffled, Monsignor talking to the miscreant at the other partition and when I heard that window slide shut, I knew the drill: Monsignor was pivoting on his chair to my side, and was sliding open the door. Release the hounds....

Sign of the Cross and Bless me Father for I have sinned.
It has been one week since my last confession.
What would I say to him now? It's been decades, Monsignor; funny how time slips away, right? Hilarious.

Monsignor would always assure us eighth-graders that when he exited the Confessional, he could remember NONE of what had gone on inside and yet......on more than one occasion, when I'd offer 'I fought with my sister' or 'I was mean to my little brother', I could hear him sigh as he'd then say, 'Billy, you did that last week! Will you never learn?' And I'd straighten up on the kneeler and near-whisper, 'you said you don't remember this stuff outside the box!' 'Well, I don't,' he'd say.'Then how didja know it was me, then, Monsignor?'

He may still be working on an answer for that one, I guess because I don't ever remember hearing it.
Perhaps another Christmas miracle? I meant holiday miracle.
-bill kenny

Monday, November 28, 2016

One of these Days

We'll have to go some to top the last half of last week, right? Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Today, Cyber Monday. And ??

Oh yeah, yesterday, the First Sunday of Advent. I knew one of these things was not like the other.

Feel free to use your tablet, smartphone or new computer purchased today to look up why.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Just Another Consensus on the Street

We had our annual Winterfest parade here yesterday and it was, as always, lovely and the weather was, too. I've gone to it in years past in short sleeve shirts and when it has been snowing so yesterday's light cloudiness and near fifty degrees with a touch of a breeze was about as good as it was to get, in my opinion. Saw lots of folks I know well enough to nod and mouth 'hello' and leave it at that though that exercise did get me thinking a little bit (not all that much because it hurts).   

Count the number of times in the course of your day (in person or on the phone) someone asks 'how are you?' or words to that effect. I think we use turns of phrase like this to fill up the silence between us. No one expects an answer and when you do your count, I think you'll be surprised as to how often throughout the day we reach for this conversational crutch.

Every time I go to a physician's office (and I see enough different doctors to have my very own Blue Cross/Blue Shield customer rep, 1-888-bill-sick), the receptionist asks me how I am. Well, I am in your office to see your boss, the doctor; so why not do the math and answer your own question. Not that I actually say that.

I'm certainly NOT here for the six-month-old magazines strewn across those low tables designed to bang my shins when I don't pay enough attention. And it's certainly not for that gorgeous view of the tops of the cars in the parking lot. And, as lovely as that wall clock from the drug company rep for one of the erectile dysfunction treatments may well be, I already have a watch and I'm not here to check the time. Besides the size of that sweep second hand on your clock makes me feel inadequate.

Perhaps, the person behind the desk feels they should do something for the co-payment. Fair enough. AAfter all, when I get in to see the doctor, I'm not going to get a complimentary tongue depressor and I've yet to be offered a special on a colonoscopy (BOGO 'buy one, get one-half off!'). Leaving me to wonder: how should you respond, "I'm fine" "I'm on death's door" "If I were any better I'd have to be twins to enjoy all the good health"? 

As if all the waiting room waltzing wasn't bad enough, after I get to the exam room when he walks through the door, my doctor invariably starts with 'how are you?' as well. But that's why I'm here! For him to tell me how I am. Perhaps I'm actually part of a carney act, where he guesses my weight or how much change I have in my jacket pocket.Thirty-eight cents, by the way, and none of the five coins is a dime. Hmmm......curiouser and curiouser. 

Tell you what: I'll check back in with you later on. And you'll know it's me because I'll ask 'how are you?' but I won't be listening to your answer.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 26, 2016

One Foot In and One Foot Back

Someone much wiser than I once explained to me that freedom of speech doesn't entitle you to shout fire in a crowded theater, nor does it afford you the privilege of sitting next to someone and whisper non-stop as the celluloid races through the projector gates. The danger, he said, each one of us faced was that 'sometimes the things you do speak so loudly I cannot hear what you're saying.' 

I thought about that yesterday as I watched people scurrying through malls beginning the search for low-cost holiday gifts for their mailmen and newspaper carrier, oil tank filling guy, coffee making person, and so on; a dozen or a hundred jobs that no one notices until they're not done. The trick is to make sure to find something that doesn't like cheap and when you start the hunt early, you have a better chance. 

I've had this conversation with neighbors in years past who have a very complex and complicated mental math they do to compute just how much to spend on a gift for a person whose name they, more often than not, do not know or for one who, if the job is done right, they rarely see (not at Adam's house, of course; he gets up so early he probably takes the news carrier with him for a jog). 

And in the case of the 'sandwich guy' or the 'coffee server' (and the like), it's a person with whom you would never speak, aside from 'please' and 'thank you', but if you crossed paths in a locale such as Borneo or even Boise, you'd chatter away like magpies who'd known one another your whole lives. The concept is called familiar strangers and many of us have a world populated with them and very few others. 

I've gotten better as I've aged (I'm not bragging; I set the bar pretty low) and I no longer immediately say everything I'm thinking, which I did for decades and then I wondered why I had tension-filled relationships with people. Turns out I had difficulties distinguishing between inside and outside voices, especially as I tend to hear both, and if you don't, it's your loss. Blurting is often hurting, a little tip from me to you about getting along here on the ant-farm. 

There was a time I'd ask people shopping for the knick-knack thank you gifts, 'why don't you just give the person money?' After all, it's a holiday whose primary colors seem to be red and green and since most of us are in the former why not share some of the latter? I think we give each other seconds of pleasure that are put away and forgotten or lost by the end of the holiday season because we can't stand the insulted silences if we didn't. 

It's not words, so much, that frighten us, it's the quiet between the words. That the words have, perhaps, sharp edges is all well and good as long as they keep coming, because that way we don't have to worry there might be time to think about their meaning and the last thing many of us want to do is find ourselves alone with our thoughts. 

I sometimes wonder if there's life on other planets and, like us, if have giant parabolic microphones to pick up the sounds emanating from this septic orb. If so,  if they've long since learned to turn the volume all the way down I suspect. We wouldn't mind, I fear. 

"Dumbed down and numbed by time and age.
Your dreams that catch the world the cage.
The highway sets the travelers stage.
All exits look the same."
-bill kenny

Friday, November 25, 2016

I Ran

Perhaps you never came back to the house after heading out to join a line at one of the Big Box Stores practically (but not really) giving stuff away in honor of the birth of the Baby Jesus at Santa Claus' house after dinner yesterday. Or are you heading out now, oh bright early, Friday to get yet another 35% off our already low-low price on that mahogany catamaran that sleeps four?

No matter. I'll be brief.

The graphic below will make more sense, especially in light of the title of today's epistle when you read/watch this. Or maybe not. (I learned that trick during the election cycle: pretend to make promises. They're easier to break that way.)

I was hoping there'd be at least one funny haircut between the two so I could smile at the constancy of the universe but that might be pushing a little too hard.

Anyway, enjoy spending money you don't have to buy things you don't want to impress people you don't like. And don't forget to hold onto your receipt. You'll need it to show something for today when it ends.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Too Many Blessings

Thanksgiving Day, 2016, United States of America

Well, a lot of things have happened
 Since the last time we spoke
 Some of them are funny
 Some of them ain't no joke.

 And I trust you will forgive me
 If I lay it on the line
 I always thought you were a friend of mine.

 And sometimes I think about you
 I wonder how you're doing, now
 And what you're going through.

 'Cause the last time I saw you, we were playing with fire
 We were loaded with passion and a burning desire
 For every breath, for every day of living
 And this is my thanksgiving.

 Now, the trouble with you and me, my friend
 Is the trouble with this nation
 Too many blessings, too little appreciation.

 And I know that kind of notion, well, it just ain't cool
 So send me back to Sunday school
 Because I'm tired of waiting for reason to arrive
 And it's too long we've been living these unexamined lives.

 'Cause I've got great expectations, I've got family and friends
 I've got satisfying work, I've got a back that bends

 For every breath, for every day of living
 This is my thanksgiving

 And have you noticed that an angry man
 Can only get so far?
 Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be
 With the way things are.

 Here in this fragmented world, I still believe
 In learning how to give love, how to receive it
 And I would not be among those who abuse this privilege
 Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.

 And I don't mind saying that I, I still love it all
 I wallowed in the springtime
 Now, I'm welcoming the fall.

 For every moment of joy, every hour of fear
 For every winding road that brought me here
 For every breath, for every day of living
 This is My Thanksgiving.

 For everyone who helped me start
 And for everything that broke my heart
 For every breath, for every day of living
 This is My Thanksgiving.
-Don Henley

-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Grateful for This Sheltered Place

I don't need the calendar or the weather as reminders 'the holiday' season is knocking at the door. I had my two indicators this Saturday: my first encounter this season with Ericka Gunther and her red kettle from the Salvation Army in front of the Norwichtown Stop and Shop and a great afternoon enjoying homegrown arts and crafts at the O'Tis a Festival downtown in The Otis Library.

It's in the air and everywhere. The brilliantly bright days of Autumn are giving way to darker skies with hints of snow in every brisk(er) breeze; the newspapers get a little plumper as merchants boost their advertising hoping to catch a shopper's eye and halls and other stationary objects find themselves bedecked in holly and garland.

Tomorrow, as you know, is Thanksgiving followed on Friday afternoon by the 25th Annual Light Up City Hall, starting at three with the Norwich Winterfest Parade stepping off from Chelsea Parade at one Saturday afternoon.

The Winterfest Parade ends in the middle of downtown which gives you a head start on celebrating Small Business Saturday which is a great way to support our local merchants.  

There's so much holiday happiness almost everywhere we look that I feel nearly Grinchy pointing out amidst all the cheer that both happy and hunger start with "h" and one in eight people living in our state struggle with hunger every day.

I'm not talking about 'gee, I was so busy today I forgot to eat lunch' hungry. I mean having to choose between paying rent or for heat and having money left to put food on the table for breakfast or dinner.

Here in Norwich, over 15% of our residents live at or below the poverty level, which means for those of us who aren't, in all likelihood we have family and friends who are.

Over three-quarters of our school-age children are 'eligible' for free or reduced price meals (I hate that word 'eligible;' as if those kids had won some kind of a drawing for Disneyland except in this case the prize is a grocery store) and over eight in ten participate in school breakfast programs.

I don't bring this up to harsh your Thanksgiving, but let's face it many of us have a lot to be thankful about and maybe, just maybe, we can share some of what we have with those who don't have very much.

And for those struggling, and often failing, to get by, it's a daily fact of life, not just on the fourth Thursday in November but every day. Hunger doesn't take a holiday but we can each help those whom it affects. It's not too late to brighten some one's Thanksgiving or holiday season.

There are agencies and outreaches we all know who will welcome any donation of time, talent or treasure we make. You could visit and not just make a difference but be the difference between another day and a real holiday for someone in need.
Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Black and White Memory

As I recall, we had already had lunch and recess on the closed off portion of Division Street. The grammar school had been built less than three years earlier in what had been a vacant lot near the high school on the city block in New Brunswick that St Peter's Parish owned.

The church, flanked by the convent on the far side and the rectory on the near side, was actually two blocks away, down the street and up the hill from the railroad overpass across from Makaronis' Town House Restaurant and next door to Albany Wines and Liquors, at the train station where my father and hundreds like him congregated workday mornings (and for my father, Saturdays, too) to travel first by Pennsylvania Railroad, later (after the merger of two failing lines), Penn Central and still later (when Uncle Sam 'rescued' rail travel in the Northeast Corridor) on Amtrak into "the city'. 

I was in fifth grade of St. Peter's School (I learned years later, despite the name carved in marble on the front of the building, the possessive case was inaccurate and incorrect. But no one has invented industrial Wite Out and when I first returned to the USA, I drove through my old hometown one weekend while my family was still in Germany, looking perhaps, for myself and the person I was then in the hopes of better understanding the man I had become. The school name, in all its incorrectitudeness was still there. There have to be some constants in the universe, I suppose.) and our classroom was in the basement, on the Division Street side of the building (as opposed to the courtyard side, facing the high school). 

We had been practicing our penmanship. Our school was a firm practitioner of the A. N. Palmer method of cursive writing. Those of us in third through fifth grade loved the name of the writing style and found it incredibly funny for what it almost sounded like. We assumed the Sisters of Charity (a misnomer of some magnitude I should note), our teachers, weren't in on the joke.

I can still see the classroom. Sister Rosita's desk in the front, centered and in front of the blackboard that took up the entire wall behind her, facing in the far corner, to her left, the entrance and exit door in the back of the classroom. Our desks faced her, arranged in academic order. That is, the student with the best report card was in the far upper left corner at the head of column with everyone to and through those who failed lunch and recess at the far lower right hand side of the room, as defined by Sister Rosita. Fifty two students of varying abilities and enthusiasms--all blank slates waiting to be drawn upon. 

Everything in that classroom was defined and controlled by Sister Rosita with the occasional support and intervention of Sister Immaculata, the principal, whose office was upstairs (no talking in the stairwells! no running in the halls!) who existed, aside from report card day, as a voice on the cloth-covered speaker in the upper left corner of the classroom, above the blackboard alongside the American flag to which we pledged Daily Allegiance. 

If you are left handed, as one of my brothers is, the Palmer Method is a trial since it assumes and presumes all of us write right (in Latin, left is the word 'sinistro' from which we have derived sinister; do you sense a bias here?) but even for right handers, the capital Q is challenging. It's a fine line between a cursive Q and a very pretentious number 2. There's also the two variants on the lower case 't', one for in the middle of a word like 'little' and the other for when it's at the end of a word such as 'variant.' When you're in fifth grade, these are matters of great concern. 

Earlier in the week, before lining up to board the buses that took us home (and there was always a snobbery of those who walked home, the townies from New Brunswick, towards those of us from the developments in Franklin Township, beyond the city's borders) we had all watched, again, the Civil Defense film on what to do in the event of an Atomic Attack. 

I remember the sound of the film threading through the projector gate almost drowning out the assault music soundtrack laid down by the 101st Airborne String Quartet over the ominous narration of someone like Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (no one had ever heard of Sr.; which being a Junior, I had more than casual curiosity as to how that had happened. To this day, I still use the Jr., even though my father died decades ago). 

Orchestra crescendo, vivid orange flash that filled the screen and turned it red and then black, and something about turning away from the windows and putting our heads under our desks. Most of us were ten and eleven and hadn't spent a lot of time confronting thoughts of our own mortality. We weren't thoughtless-we just hadn't thought about it. It made for a quiet ride bus ride.

All of that evaporated as the loudspeaker crackled as Sister Immaculata activated the microphone at her desk. We waited and then waited some more as, instead of her usual imperious summoning of a hapless miscreant student for a punishment for a real or sometimes imagined offense, there was the hum of an open microphone and the sound of a radio or television, whose volume was very low.

Sister Mary Immaculata was, for the first time in my time at St Peter's, at a loss for words. We all leaned forward, as if willing her to speak and perhaps thirty seconds on our efforts were rewarded. She started slowly and softly in a tone of voice I had never heard from her, or I think, from anyone. As I was to learn later in my own life, and use myself, it's the voice used to explain events and occurrences that have no explanations.

She started by telling us that the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy with whom every child of the Roman Catholic faith in the United States had an unspoken and unbreakable bond; he was our President-the first Roman Catholic, the first President who didn't look like our grandfather, a President with a pretty wife whom our moms liked a lot with small children (younger than us in the fifth grade), had been shot in Dallas, Texas. 

All of us at St Peter's School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and (very probably) across the United States and (maybe) around the world, bowed our heads and clasped our hands as Sister Immaculata led us through The Rosary--the entire Rosary, not just a decade. That was how I, at least, knew something more horrible than what she was telling us had happened, was really happening.

I'm not clear if we had finished when she interrupted herself, struggling to remain composed, to tell us the President had now died. We said another Rosary for the repose of his soul, but my heart wasn't in it. I don't think I'd wondered until then why God didn't answer every prayer the way a petitioner wanted (I'm pretty sure I didn't use the word 'petitioner') but as the afternoon abruptly ended and we all went home to participate in the national seance provided by the three TV networks (no cable news, no satellite, no video on demand, no Internet) almost all in black and white (color television was a luxury), I knew, without knowing, the world as I had lived in it had ended, not changed. 

I looked at the calendar this morning with regret and incredulity, in equal measure. I and everyone who was born, lived and died, in the USA in the five plus since President Kennedy's murder, will never know what we and our world would have looked like had we prayed harder or longer or louder. I'm not sure I ever prayed again, or in the hope of my prayer being answered. And after so many years and tears, I'm not sure I no longer know how.

I do remember that child, head bowed, at the front of room and I envy him for the strength his faith gave him at such a dark hour, knowing, as he had to, that the darkness was not only beginning but winning
-bill kenny

Monday, November 21, 2016

Close Cover Before Striking

Last Thursday was the Great American Smoke-Out Day which went by for me who gave up cigarettes on 30 September 1996, in a puff of --well, you know what kind of puff. I smoked three packs a day for about twenty-two years. I started out smoking Pall Mall Reds (my father had smoked them for all the years I was growing up as a kid that he smoked until he quit). 

They were a cigarette other smokers (we were all in college and let's just say smoking tobacco was akin to a palate cleansing exercise and leave it at that, okay?) were reluctant to bum as they were unfiltered so you needed to dry lip them or you flossed to remove tobacco from between your teeth.

I'm not a former smoker-I'm a recovering smoker. I don't know if it was the nicotine, the tobacco or whatever chemicals were supposedly put in cigarettes, but I was, and am, addicted and always will be. To this day, I miss smoking a cigarette, despite everything I know and believe to be true about the health dangers associated with it. And, hand on my heart but also on my wallet, smoking now is a danger to my precarious financial health. 

I can remember back in the day, at the Air Force commissary at Rhein Main buying a carton of cigarettes for (maybe) six dollars. By then, I'd traded up through Pall Mall Golds to Benson & Hedges. Now, if I'm reading the signs correctly, it's close to and over ten dollars (American dollars? Yipes!) a pack with well over half of it in taxes, federal, state and whatever anyone can get away with. 

I was of the last generation to watch TV ads for cigarettes and remember slogans like "I'd Rather Fight than Switch!", "A Silly Millimeter Longer, 101," and "Come to Where the Flavor Is." Look at old TV shows, to include newscasts, and you'll see Chet Huntley (of Huntley and Brinkley) smoking on the news set, on camera. Cigarettes were everywhere; there were "Show Us Your Lark Pack" commercials that eventually provoked the genius who was Stan Freberg to respond as only he could. 

I try to take it easy these days on people who continue to smoke, because I appreciate how hard it is to give it up, even for a day even with all we know about what happens to us if we can't stop. So if you struggled with the nicotine monkey and was able to keep it at bay last Thursday, good on you and maybe soon you can take another step.

And if you tried but couldn't do it, don't worry-you have the power to make any day you want your very own smoke out day. And I hope you can succeed in kicking butts in the butt if you desire. Save your Zippos for those live shows now that you've sworn off cell phones.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 20, 2016

(Sad this Isn't) Fake News

It stands to reason that if anyone can be anyone else on the Internet then they may tell any story that they wish and if you believe it, it's your truth even if they made up the facts of the matter. That's why I'm still puzzled about the ongoing brouhaha between and among media outlets on the role of 'fake news' in the recent election.

If you read or watched a clip, online on something that caused your spidey senses to tingle but you didn't go to Politifact or Snopes or to a hundred other online fact-checkers, whatever happened after that is on you. BUT (all caps for a reason) if you Reshared, Reposted, Reboasted or Retoasted any of it and fanned the flames that kept it alive, shame on you.

I can't even imagine how Mr. Clemens would have offered that observation had he lived in the here and now (aside from amending the last part to say "sports shoes" because that's how we do). And I say that, after having read this, realizing we're all gonna read a LOT more stories like it for years to come.

I'm old and will read even older when I offer this: where are these young people's parents (plural deliberate). I understand how complex our society in which we now live actually is; I helped it get this stupid and complicated. You're welcome. And I appreciate it takes a village to raise a child but it takes two parents to do the heavy lifting.

There are a million places this trio could have picked up on the whole 'hate others who are unlike yourself' mindset but I'm still not willing to let Mom and Dad off the hook. We are all in this world together but parents have more skin in the game. How much more, you ask. Only that amount that's required to completely cover the body of a child for whom they are responsible.

When we choose to be silent when confronted by horrors, large or small, we are showing our children by our example that all of our kind words have no meaning. That is a lesson far too many pick up far too quickly because they are so carefully taught.
-bill kenny


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Turns Out He Is with Her

I've mentioned that I'm hoping to retire in the coming year before it and I get to be a whole lot older and a big concern, not just for me, is how much gold I've got saved up for my golden years (and the answer is, too often, 'not enough.'

So imagine my delight the other morning to have an email from James Comey, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; I'm sure you've heard of him. He was in the news a lot just before the Hillary Rodham Clinton 2016 Presidential campaign bus got t-boned on the way to the coronation by a yuuuge Cheeto-colored bad haircut (with small hands). Yeah, that James Comey.

Calm down. I'm not going launch more poor sport histrionics at our miracle of democracy. As soon as Mr. Trump produces the long form of his birth certificate, I'll be silent.

Actually, I'll be quiet as I count my money because as I said, I had great news from Mr. Comey who is now working some kind of a side-gig in a boiler room operation in Lagos it seems.  But in case this isn't really a scam, I've blackened out parts of the email and phone numbers because I don't want to share my happiness with anyone. Ever. 

Speaking of which, here's Jim's tidings of great joy:
"From: James B Comey mailto:"Dx."  8:51 AM

"This message is coming to you from FBI office here, We write to inform you that your (Inheritance winning awarded funds of $ 2.4 million) has been totally converted into an ATM Master Card and it's to be deliver to your address via courier service, Be inform that the courier delivery company will deliver the card with all the manuals and instructions both with the PIN code to access the Card upon receipt.

"It's the best option to receive this amount since every attempt failed, therefore you will need to call the Barrister that helped in re-claiming the check back and converted it into an ATM Master card and ask him how much it will cost you to obtain the the two documents which is (THE CERTIFICATE OF MERIT AND FUND RELEASE ORDER CERTIFICATE) that backs up your ATM MASTER CARD because the Barrister is the one who will obtain the two documents for you.

"The barrister is the one that is in charge of your ATM MASTER CARD now and he is the one that will issue all the necessary documents to the delivery company with your ATM MASTER CARD for registration, but you will pay for the two remaining documents which is (THE CERTIFICATE OF MERIT AND FUND RELEASE ORDER CERTIFICATE) he have already obtain the other documents for you with his money,

"Without you paying for the two remaining documents he can not obtain them and as a result your ATM MASTER CARD can not reach your designated destination because of the two remaining documents. So contact him and ask him how much the documents will cost you to obtain.

"And try and follow up with his instructions. please also note that with all honesty i assure you that after he obtained the two remaining documents you will surely receive your ATM MASTER CARD without paying for any fee again trust me and you will not be disappointed okay.

"Contact person: Barrister D****l N****r
Email Address:
Barr Telephone Phone: +2XXXXX164XX

Contact him with your current address where the ATM MASTER CARD should be deliver to and also your current telephone number so that he will also register your address and telephone to the courier delivery company and remember to indicate the Reg: code of ATM to him when making contact with him.

Please also choose the courier delivery service you would like to deliver the Card to you, either SKY COURIER or DHL COURIER COMPANY, Post office is also working but could take the card much time to get to you.

"Try and call him with his number +2XXXXX164XX immediately you have sent your address and telephone number to him and ask him how much the remaining documents will cost you okay."

Don't know about you, but Jimmy had me at okay. Okay?
-bill kenny

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Read the News Today (oh boy)

Amidst all the #safetypin, #notmypresident, and the ten hundred thousand other variations of reaction, ranging from revenge to revolt, in the aftermath of the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America, one of my very favorite people in this world, Gwen Ifill, a lifelong journalist and most recently a co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff, quietly took her leave of life here on the ant farm this past Monday.

I could fill the rest of this page/space (I don't think the Interwebz have pages per se) with links from print and broadcast outlets of every stripe and from all points on the map of this nation about her passing but they all come down to pretty much the same thing: a really wonderful professional who showed up on time and ready to do her job every day is now no more.

You wouldn't have to dig deep (if at all) to learn she was a woman, a woman of color, a woman of color starting in a profession when she did where she was one-of-a-kind, a 'unicorn' as I heard a PBS colleague characterize her Monday evening, battling back tears as the realization she was dead started to sink in.

The PBS NewsHour is my refuge on work nights. I give my time to total strangers for a living and spend much of every working moment agreeing with contradictory positions on often esoteric issues about which others care passionately which leave me cold for the most part.

I cannot handle clowns and clownettes with gaudy graphics shrieking slogans and buzzwords from the box of electric fire as shaky video, in the biz called 'B' roll, fills the screen, briefly, while I, the viewer, struggle valiantly to understand what I'm seeing and why. Just as quickly, it's gone, usually chased by more noise.

The PBS NewsHour is an hour's summary of world events created by adult professionals for an audience they assume has some passing familiarity with people and places not always in a Facebook trending news stream. They don't rush through yet another massacre in a war-torn spot in the Middle East where bleeding and blasphemy are the primary industries but strive to provide me a 'why' behind the 'who' and the 'what.'

Very few people, for my taste, in recent years on broadcast (and don't get me started on cable), did that better than or even close to as well as Gwen Ifill. I'll miss the 5000-watt smile she offered so generously and often to guests on, and viewers of, The NewsHour, behind which lay a keenly analytic mind, an occasionally acerbic tongue and a ferocious insistence on the pursuit of the truth of the heart of the matter every time.

I see days of trial and travail ahead filled too often I fear with victims rather than victors for my country (more so than for myself) and my North Star has been removed from the heavens creating a darkness almost, but not quite, lost in the blackness of baleful knownothingness that has replaced comity and civility in our political intercourse, leaving us heroes and villains and nothing in between.

And I wonder how we'll find our way home. And who will tell us when we are there.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cool Whip in My Hair

I have always loved rock and roll. When I was a squirt (and I have it someplace), I insisted my mom buy me Danny and the Juniors, At the Hop. Even then, I was a 'rest of the story' guy and flipped it over for Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay.

I still hear that B side when I read tales from the vinyl jungle of  how the business of business overwhelms the joyfulness of music. And the title today is my homage, of sorts, to misheard lyrics (not always rock and roll by the way), known as mondegreens, of which the best known to me is also a pretty funny visual (again, your mileage may vary).

Though kidding aside, or attempting to, and coming back to my point about money and music, is this news item, very much underscoring as that fellow from Hibbing, Minnesota, once observed, 'money doesn't talk, it swears.'

The surviving Aleem brother, TaharQa, the plaintiff in this lawsuit, and his late brother, Tunde Ra, were part of rock and roll history as The Ghetto Fighters collaborating with Jimi Hendrix on material that was released as Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, and War Heroes. This is an interview from almost a decade ago with both brothers and it's a terrific read.   

There are few rock and roll musicians who left a more disorganized legacy in terms of unreleased material than Hendrix and no one, and I've thought about this long and hard, more financially exploited than he was so I don't pretend to know where any of the money that anyone might sue anyone else is for, could be located at this point in time.

It's often preached that money fixes everything, but sometimes whatever repair it pays for is more of a cover-up than a correction and all we end up with are echoes of what could have been.
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Community Center as a Trust Fall

If all you know about the former Norwich YMCA at 337 Main Street is what you've read in the last month to include the police and fire reports, a news article on a meeting by the Board of Review for Dangerous Buildings, and an editorial last Thursday, some history may be in order. 

Almost from the moment the YMCA closed in the spring of 2009, there has been a lot of talk about reinventing it as a community center with the discussions always highlighting the Y's location at a city gateway and the belief the building's two swimming pools could be a source of income for a center (coincidentally, or not, foreclosure proceedings have started on the Martin Luther King Jr. Center on Fairmount Street; though no one seems to be particularly interested in that building, perhaps because it has no swimming pool).

I have a well-earned reputation as a Norwich cheerleader, and I do love happy endings, so with that as a disclaimer allow me to slow but certainly not stop, momentum and movement for a downtown community center with some words of caution that I'd love to pretend aren't necessary, except we all know better.. 

Enthusiasm and optimism are important in any and every endeavor, especially in what may prove to be a private-public partnership with lots of moving parts. To me, all of that makes having a fully-developed plan before we start absolutely paramount. Hope is a very good thing and very necessary. But hope is NOT a plan. 

A plan for a community center, wherever it would be located, will require talent, time and treasure in large amounts (along with almost endless supplies of patience, transparency, open communications and a willingness to work together). I don't think I'm out of line if I suggest historically we've often not had quite enough of any of those things and then as one and then the others start to run out we wind up with a really good idea poorly executed that no one wants, needs or can afford. 

In 2010 the late Luis DePina, then the Recreation Department director, responded to the community’s desire for “someplace the kids can go” by proposing the city take over the Y and require reasonable membership fees from the general public, and partnerships with public and private agencies, to create and maintain a more focused (leaner, though certainly not meaner) operation. The idea was to appeal to a broad enough spectrum of people across the city that it could operate on the incomes it generated itself without costing taxpayer money.

The swimming pools were and still are highlighted in discussions about revenue generation but my recollection is that the YMCA offered far more than swimming pools and that it was a lot of those 'other programs' very much in high demand in a city with our demographics and needs which also had high operating costs that weren't being successfully offset by enough profitable programs to allow the YMCA to break even. 

This process is still very early. Rallying supporters and identifying resources are just getting started. Before we can draw the map to where we're heading we need to agree on what that place is. We have talent within our city, like the Youth and Family Services Department for ideas on programs' development and implementation. 

We have the Public Works Department starting with the director whose running shoes pound the pavement on the lookout for areas to improve, to and through engaged employees on every single work crew painting and patching every day. 

And we have helping hands, like Tariko Satterfield, with a head full of ideas and a heart big enough to pump enthusiasm into every corner of Norwich and an army of residents and neighbors who can each of us, do a little something that at the end of the day is a big something.  

A lot of this election cycle just passed was viewed as a referendum on trust at the national level. But here in Norwich we know and trust the neighbors we've chosen to act on our behalf in local government. And if we don't trust them, we should choose new ones. We're all we've got and trust is our shared currency. We can build a sense of community while we build a community center. As a matter of fact, we'll have to create the former if we ever hope to have the latter.   
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why Not Make Like a Tree

Wrote this some years back and either I'm prescient or things change a lot more slowly than previously advertised and not just around here....

One of the downsides to living where there are four seasons is the transition from summer to autumn, especially for the trees and their leaves. I am very much of the 'live and let live' persuasion which translates to the 'lie and let them lay' position on leave gathering. 

I've noticed this year in my neighborhood, some of us have gathered so many, it's as if we're waiting for them to fall from the trees and nab them on the first bounce. We rake them up and some of us, maybe you have the same kind of neighbors where you live (maybe you are that neighbor where you live) place them in black plastic bags awaiting pickup by the trash folks. Not me. I live in a house not my own with technically no trees on the property so I have less than zero interest in collecting fallen leaves. 

If it happens around here the way I watched it happen yesterday in Waterford (the home of the speed bowl, not the crystal), the dustmen empty the plastic bags into their trucks and discard the bags. Causing me to wonder what the point of the plastic bag was/is. Elsewhere I've seen these VERY large paper bags filled with the leaves-in theory because the paper is biodegradable, all of it can go directly into the landfill--or do you think they're headed for incinerators? Around here we have trash to power incineration units though I've no idea how much energy we get from such an operation.

For millions of years, I estimate, we as a species did nothing with the leaves as they fell. You see all that dirt all around us? I have a funny feeling where some of it might have come from and I'm not sure what we think we''re accomplishing by how we're operating now. While I wasn't looking compost has become a lost cause, it seems, perhaps even a dark art. 

In its place, we have created a first class annoyance, the leaf blower. We went from devices that looked like vacuums and picked up fallen leaves and plopped them into bags (do you remember those?) to a gadget that hangs from your hip and can be used to blow leaves that have fallen on your property into someone else's yard or out into the street.

I think leaf blowers are a much more accurate and contemporary symbol of America in the 21st Century than either the Bald Eagle or the Stars & Stripes. There's nothing that says "Wha?!" more than a guy on a Saturday afternoon working a leaf blower wearing dark shades with Ibuds in both ears. And I'd ask him why he's doing what he's doing, but he's as oblivious to me right now as I am to him for the rest of the year. 

Ahh, Sweet Suburbia. We've got Mother Nature on the run--now what?

"This is my street, and I’m never gonna to leave it,
And I’m always gonna stay here If I live to be ninety-nine,
’Cause all the people I meet, Seem to come from my street.
And I can’t get away Because it’s calling me, (come on home)
Hear it calling me, (come on home).
-bill kenny