Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Everything Is Gonna Be Different

Gavin Newsom, who knows a fair amount about city life as a former mayor of San Francisco, California, once noted, “(T)he arts can play a vital role in revitalizing neighborhoods, using and improving vacant space, bringing new jobs and new sense of opportunity, and improving public safety by generating more foot traffic and more eyes on the street.”

I was thinking about all of that, if not actually about Gavin, Sunday morning when our daughter, Michelle, and I walked from our house near the Norwich Free Academy across town to have a look for ourselves at the Greeneville Mural Project that started a week today over near the Eighth Street Bridge.

The project is a cooperative effort of The Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee and Murals by Faith to revitalize and refurbish (and dare I say reinvigorate? I most certainly can) an oft-traveled gateway into the historic mill village of Greeneville along the exterior walls of Quercia Auto Repair at 499 North Main Street, at the intersection of North Main and Eighth streets.

Faith Satterfield of Murals by Faith is getting to be a go-to person for municipal murals and large scale works of art around Norwich. We passed one of her earlier works on the side wall of Mak’s Food at 240 Boswell Avenue and it always makes me smile when I see it while waiting at the four-way stop. But she was well-practiced by the time her paint and brushes got there.

She made quite a splash, maybe not the ideal term in connection with paint, this time three years ago with a round-the-clock 840 square foot mural on the side of what was then the Spirit of Broadway Theatre downtown on Chestnut Street whose evolution from a blank and bare brick wall to an idyllic garden scene with a watering can and a blooming rose was shared in real-time and real-life via a live stream video feed by The Bulletin.

In Greeneville, community projects are a year-round event. It is after all the home of an annual fire hydrant painting contest, among other events and a quick review of the Strategic Plan for the Revitalization of Greeneville adopted by the Norwich City Council in February 2001 makes it clear “(t)here is much interest in improving the quality of life and ensuring the continued vitality of the neighborhood as a place to live and work.” In other words: Posers need not apply.

The mural will be painted every Thursday and Friday until it’s completed. And you can lend a brush by signing up at And while the mural is a labor of love which is free, paint, supplies and everything else costs money. 

There’s already generous support from many local businesses, with some funding from “Norwich Creates,” an activity of the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition. And we can help out too, by visiting their Go Fund Me page at “Greenville Mural Project.” When else can you be a patron of the arts and a community supporter? 
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Controlling the Future

Do you remember English Lit in high school with the assigned readings? Yeah, the summer school list as well as the books during the year we were all supposed to discuss. That's where I first encountered George Orwell's 1984 (since I am a child of the sixties, born in '52, the impact of the book was/is different on me than it was for my children who may or may not have had to read it when they went to high school).

I'd read Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 was, to my way of thinking, a companion to Huxley's Brave New World, both filmed, we used to joke, in 'horror vision'. I loved and will always love Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and was surprised years later struggling, and failing, to fit in the US Air Force to realize Heller hadn't written a work of fiction at all. Probably not the first time I suspected I was part of God's punch line, but close to it.

The bleak, grey, joylessness of both 1984 and Brave New World, more so than the specifics of the narrative is what I can recall to this day. Community, IdentityStability, the point of the State in Huxley's narrative could be the yearnings we have here in the 21st Century. In my middle Sixties, I have a growing sense of unease as I watch those on the national political scene engage in zero-sum demolition derbies as the country I grew up in becomes another place where I don't fit in.

Not sure when I first flashed on it, but the United States has become Airstrip One as we have descended into Endless War. I saw a bumper sticker, 'we are making enemies faster than we can kill them.' When you have as much newspeak as we have, to stave off the dangers of thoughtcrime, a bumper sticker like that can eat at you. 

"Ignorance is Strength" suggested 1984 and we are the strongest nation, not only on earth but in the history of civilization. Can't claim to feel a swell of pride about that as it seems to be happening despite anything any of us can do or are doing.

Our current presidential campaign which started (when?) about ten minutes after the results of the previous one were announced (and denounced by Karl Rove) has already resembled 'the Two Minute Hate' and we have months yet to go. Lots of slogans, lots of posturing--not very many solutions and even fewer possibilities. I keep looking for our version of Animal Farm's Snowball, fearful I may end up becoming her/him myself, but all I encounter are Nests of Napoleons.

The world we Americans know changed forever on 11 September 2001. We caught up with the rest of the world (pick a continent, any continent) in that increased suspicion, unease in looking at the future and 'shoot first, ask questions later' seemed to take priority over 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' 

Within our version and vision of newspeak, the Patriot Act became the antithesis of what a patriot, as the founders used the word, could ever be. There are moments I can see Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson being fitted for orange jumpsuits and wonder how long Nathan Hale might have regretted having but one life to give if the last moments of it had been spent on a waterboard. 

Misgivings are no longer encouraged. Second thoughts can betray us. We follow the flag, even as we're swallowing our concerns as to what the flag stands for. Love me, love my dog. We all hope for the best, but plan for the worst and never speak of it because we know we never can. We hope, vaguely, for a better future and have no idea how to achieve it but convince ourselves that a particular candidate can deliver us from evil, Amen. 

Perhaps that's why more and more of our children only know of Kennedy as a former talking head on MTV, not that there's anything wrong with that, or that we have always been at war with Eastasia. He who controls the past controls the future.

Is that better than being 1984's Julia who explains to Winston the only way to save yourself from something you simply cannot endure is to make another person suffer? Perhaps. And as long as no one wonders about other choices, or why there don't seem to be any, we can always hope for Community, Identity, and Stability until Kingdom Come.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 29, 2016

Define Disability

I get our car washed near where I work. It's a great place to have them do inside and outside cleaning and it comes with a 72-hour rewash guarantee should it rain.

I'm told that got started in California, much to the surprise of Albert Hammond, and made its way East. I always get the full package because I'm lazy and they do a great job. I have never come back and asked for a do-over car wash if it rains.

The car wash is in a strip mall with a laundromat and a pawn shop that predates the two Native American casinos just up the road. I mention that because in the last twenty-plus years pawn shops have been a growth industry in Southeastern Connecticut for obvious reasons.

The other shop in the strip mall, perhaps putting the strip in its name is an adult bookstore and bar (I think they have separate entrances; I am not allowed to investigate and make sure). I am unable to report if you can check out a book and a raincoat and have a seat on the flight line while the girls take off on the runway but as you can tell from my fevered imaginings, I've given it some thought.

Driving past it on my way out of the car wash on Saturday, I noticed they now have handicapped parking. I thought about that for just a moment and decided I'm already on the short list for Hades in the next life and there's no need to start boxing with God, especially since it's not just my arms that would be considered short.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Days of Miracle Whip and Wonder Bread

From a number of years ago; consider this a re-visitation of sorts.
I'm old and this type of story doesn't do a lot for me except age me even faster. Do I wince because it's one of my idols? Of course but I return to Santayana's injunction and equation now that I'm on the receiving end of some higher math and read the news account of two twenty-somethings NOT knowing who Bob Dylan is/was. 

And then I take a breath and remember our Patrick and Michelle were at the time this story was written also twenty-somethings and realize that exhalation is a good thing (though not if you plan on seeking higher office, perhaps). In much the same way as I have little knowledge of and less appreciation for performers like Black Eyed Peas (I'm so unhip I thought there was a hyphen in the name and now I'm trying to figure out if Will and Sam I Am are related), there's been a generational changing of the guard, as is always the case, that has moved 'my' music to the back of the discount rack and shifted its broadcast location on the radio dial from "W-O-L-D" to that part of the frequency spectrum just above the police calls.

And of course, old coot that I am, I'd argue none of all that whipper-snapper music could've ever existed without Dylan or Lennon and McCartney (why does he get short shrift? Because he's still alive? Please. As one survivor to another, bravo, Sir! And well played) all of whom, when they were so much younger than that now, not only always carried ID but were asked for it by many of those my parents' age. 

And as excited as my generation's performers got over the chords they, and we, thought they had discovered, they were only building on the work of those who came before them, the (GASP!) older musicians that we had never heard of. I mean, Tabitha's right, who is the loneliest monk?

Rock and roll is, by nature, political. It's the music your parents love to hate. And it doesn't make any difference how I define rock and roll or how you define it, because each of us carries a dictionary and jukebox in her/his head (are there still jukeboxes or are they another victim of progress? I hope not. I don't recall seeing any in a very long time, but I lead a quiet life) and at a moment's notice any of us could have pushed B 52 and bombed 'em with the blues

So this old white guy is wandering around when a neighbor, God Bless 'em, calls the cops and the Law and Order Brigade puts the world right. Home Sweet Ocean Place Resort and Spa, bet Woody Guthrie never stayed, or got delivered, there in the back seat of a black and white. This Brave New World is, indeed an amazing place. If you're hungry from your hike, we've got all the fixin's in the kitchen--enjoy every sandwich

"These are the days of miracle and wonder.
This is the long distance call.
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo/The way we look to us all.
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky.
These are the days of miracle and wonder, And don't cry, baby, don't cry, Don't cry."
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Punching the Blacktop

“They say Jesus will find you wherever you go.”

In this instance, the question might well be asked, “but will He shake hands?” And if so, was He wearing gloves. 

Grammar School riddle: What state is round on both ends and HI in the middle? 
I knew you would know that one, Warren, sticky sidewalks and all. I do wonder about those “safety concerns.”

So goodbye, Columbus and in seventy-five minutes, say hello to Cleveland. In the meantime, keep your profile low
-bill kenny

As the Twig Is Bent

As school-age children across the USA start to reconcile themselves to the inevitability that the next academic year is beginning (for some) in a matter of days if they've not yet started back, I feel compelled to note, in the interests of good sportsmanship and fair play, the boys of summer (subject to the rules and interpretations of the respective national governing boards) are a weekend away from crowning the next Little League World Series Champion. 

Here's this weekend's schedule, so grab some couch as two teams will grab some pine after the games today leaving only two to tango on the morrow. In a world where we pay grown men (and some women) wages that approximate the gross national product of some Third-World nations to participate professionally in a sport our children play for free, there is something about the joy and exhilaration of this annual competition in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, that I find a tonic for the soul. 

The enthusiasm and engagement of the television announcers, some of whom as youngsters, played on these same fields in pursuit of a championship, is contagious and inspiring. If you can listen to the Little League Pledge, almost as old as I am, or even just read it, and not get goosebumps, don't bother checking your pulse, call your coroner, as you're no longer among the living. 

All you can be is reminded and refreshed about why you choose to follow baseball. Why, in an era of a dozen other sports all grabbing more headlines and worldwide attention, the simple beauty of a contest that, at its most basic, involves striking a small leather-bound and round spheroid with a stick, be it wood, metal or some kind of composite and doing it better than a like number of others attempting to do the same on the other team. 

For a few days, eleven-year-olds  have served as role models for grown men, for which I am grateful (and wonder where we can get battalions and boatloads more). An entire team, who've just been white-washed and whose run to the Series has ended prematurely and with a drubbing no one would wish on anyone else, stand one behind the other along the first and third baselines after the final out and shake the hands of the team sending them home and tell them 'good game' and really mean it, because the Little League World Series isn't just about baseball, it's about life, as it should be lived. 

"... I will play fair.
And strive to win.
But win or lose, 
I will always do my best." 
Somehow, it's always better than good enough. 
-bill kenny

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cal Would Approve

This time last week, we were readying ourselves for a trip to see my brother and his wife, DTS. We certainly had spectacular weather for the visit and it was beyond great fun. I surprised myself on the drive home Sunday (accomplished without any parking in Waterbury) by making such excellent time that my wife wondered if I had a lead foot.

Strictly speaking, no, I did not. What I did have were exceptionally crispy feet having failed miserably on the ‘make sure you slather your feet in sunscreen’ test. I didn’t even cover them in sand and never realized they were growing pink until they were glowing red.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina, I brought it on myself and paid the price for solar enjoyment. Besides we have all the ointments and creams you can imagine, with aloe vera, lidocaine and heavens knows what else while gobbling Tylenol (which I think is the critical part of all this). 

By Tuesday around the noon hour, I could actually put my big boy shoes back on and walk with hardly any wincing which thrilled my bosses as they have hired an adult, or what they believe to be one. And between us, I wince at work just being there (so do they, I suspect), so nothing new.

I came up with my own cheat when I popped out of bed on Monday morning having not walked on admittedly tender tootsies since the night before. Sort of a Hint from Heloise moment, or at least my homage to one of hers. I placed my (clean) socks in our freezer for about ten minutes and then put them on. The relief, though temporary, was most welcome; trust me on that one.

Six days after here comes the sun. 
All innovation has glitches and this one is no exception. My first attempt at the Big Chill, still somewhat asleep but ambulatory was to put my underpants in the freezer and the socks in the bathroom for my after-work-out shower.

I realized my mistake stepping out of the shower when my feet were still extremely hot and another body part, or two, was not so much. I may have inadvertently discovered how some of the boy bands hit those really high notes, and why none of them have fathered children
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 25, 2016

And Now You Do What They Told Ya

I keep a wallet filled with foolscap, absolutely crammed. It works out well unless you were to rob me, as there's rarely any money in it, though not necessarily because of all the foolscap. 

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was a little too tightly wound (that gasp of incredulity you may have just heard from people who've known me for longer than thirty seconds is legit). The me of Then makes the me of Now look positively comatose; I may have actually slept with my jaw ratcheted closed. I cannot imagine in hindsight why I didn't have a stroke sooner, unless, perhaps, it's because I'm a carrier.

I couldn't let go of my anger. The Air Force, to my relief as their employee, rather than dump me amongst the flora and fauna, decided to send me to the head of the Psychiatric Services Wing at the Rhein-Main (Air Base) Clinic, Colonel Doctor Robert G. He was terrific-and very funny (because he thought I was, if I'm being honest) and very willing to try to rescue a wild-eyed junior enlisted Sammy Glick impersonator who kept wading out into the deep end. 

He came up with the foolscap. Every time something angered me, I was to write it down on a piece of paper and put the paper in my wallet. But every time I'd write something down, his rule was that it had to be on its own, separate, piece of paper. No doubling up, no lists. By the end of the day, I could, and did have hundreds of slips of paper in my wallet. 

No worries-I had to review ALL these slips each night and put on a different sheet of paper, all those items I was still ANGRY about (I could put those on a single piece of paper) and then I'd put that list on my nightstand. The night before I would go to see him at the hospital, I had to review the (six) pieces of paper, and transfer anything I was still angry about, to yet another piece of paper and bring that one piece out to our weekly conversation. 

Within a month, I had no lists, simply because I'd review all the slips of paper of all the things that made me angry in the course of the day and realized I had no idea what the heck was written on most of them or what the words I could read actually meant or concluded (after reviewing the note and thinking about it, which the Doctor told me later was the key point) whatever had happened to spin me up wasn't that important after all. 

How about this week or real soon (and I mean real soon) we all decide to use that same solution. No matter who you're backing from President, or Congress, or whatever your single issue is. Watch the TV news, read a newspaper, check out a column online--we are REALLY CRANKED about a lot of stuff. It's a miracle that sales of boxing gloves haven't skyrocketed. We all know, or know of, someone who wants to "fix" things by looking to punch someone else in the nose. 

I know of people who tune into certain TV programs just to yell at the talking head in the vapor box who is making a fortune by yelling at them. I guess they watch because it feels so good when the show is over (explains the uptick in cigarette sales I guess). There are others who insist on reading columnists' words out loud and follow every line of the writer's argument with a scowl, or a gesture or a deprecation. And we just keep getting louder and angrier about more things, and more people every day. We don't know how to get off the aggression escalator, and most of us don't even know we're on one. 

Passion is fine and necessary. If our ancestors back in the ooze didn't care if they evolved to have legs that carried them from the pond and helped us grow lungs, every day would be Friday, if you follow my drift. It's the grinding, though, that is wearing out us out, the pitched battles we are waging to benefit who knows who or for what purpose. You wanna feel silly about how we now get along with one another, but you don't want to use the foolscap? 

Okay--tell me five things this country was PO'ed about at eight AM on September 11th, 2001, the day this country finally realized there's a world beyond our world. Go ahead, I'll wait. Too hard? Gimme three things, then. How hard can that be? No? You want to take a break from all this head noise and hate to concentrate on the real and important tasks at hand instead? Go ahead, I'll make a note of where we were and we can get back to it sometime real soon.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Riding the Rails with Teddy Roosevelt

Today I’m revisiting some thoughts, such as they were, from over a half decade ago. I’m not sure what to say about how little things have seemed to change.

Because we've spent so many years struggling to manage economic development the way a horse runs, looking no more than one footfall in advance of where we are, we've allowed ourselves to be managed by events rather than mastering them. Collateral damage in our continued inability to enhance revenue streams and increase the Grand List has been the death by degrees of many of the school enrichment initiatives some of our older children had when they were students.

Saying “we should do more with less” sounds fine in theory but can only go so far in real life. Quite simply, the limitless possibilities a quality education is supposed to provide every child at every desk in every school have been sharply reduced. We are a city sending children in the primary grades into schools that lack the tools and talent to enable them to fully succeed, and it's not going to get better unless we do.

This isn't going to be a tough year for our children--this is another year in what will be a tough life. As Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel write in 21st Century Skills "(o)ur current Knowledge Age is quickly giving way to an Innovation Age, where the ability to solve problems in new ways...and invent entirely new industries will all be highly prized."

But if our children are going to be the wave creating new ideas and offering fresh solutions to local and global problems, we need to prepare them better than we're doing and better than we're able, at least right now. We need to rethink how we "do" school if we are to help our children become successful in the Brave New World Order with which so many of us have had problems. That's why the Board of Education should work with the City Council to redefine our schools and teachers’ relationships with our children and our community.

We’ve talked about the roles and relationships for what seems like forever but now is, in the fullest sense of the word the moment for doing. This isn’t just a Board of Education problem, or a City Council concern. We are talking about our children, all of our children. It’s on us.

As is so often the case, there are no quick fixes, no drive-by solutions or instant corrections--right now, those whom we've elected to leadership are finding out what they don't know, before they can start to craft a new approach and partner with all us of across the community, and beyond, to provide our children with the greatest of all gifts, a brighter future.

If you think because you don't have school-age children, you have no stake in this effort, this would be the moment to rethink that assumption. The time to question everything will be here in a moment; brace for impact.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Never Can Tell

I stopped smoking almost twenty years ago (don’t worry I’ll let you know when we get there) and I miss it every day and perhaps, if I thought about it, I should be honest and concede I miss it every (waking) minute. It's why I should be a little easier on those with other substance abuse issues, because of the nicotine monkey I have on my back. But, I'm a world-class hypocrite and two-faced phony so I'm smugly righteous in my indignation and opprobrium.

One of the nice things about smoking (there's a sentence you don't read all the time) is the chance to be outside and gather your thoughts before heading back to work, or in my case just stand outside until someone yells out the window to come in. It's like a short vacation with less to pack and to store in the car.

Even though I no longer smoke, I still make it a point to take a break at some point in the morning, when I've reached a logical halt in whatever I'm working on, to get outside and walk around the block. Any place I would walk has sidewalks and folks driving respect the rules of the road so it's not like they chase me across the street when whey find me in a crosswalk while I scream 'catch and release!' at the top of my lungs (and boy, does that get old in a hurry).
The other day I watched someone in one of those EXTREMELY large pick-up trucks (its size reminded me of a house, with rubber wheels), seeking a parking place. We all do it the same way; where ever you're going, you aim at the building, drive around it to see if today is the day where that 'reserved for (your name here)' sign has finally been erected and when that fails to happen, we slowly work our way back from the building in ever widening circles in search of a space.

Many of us are very attached to our vehicles and if only someone was willing to hold both doors open at the building entrance, we'd take them in with us. I'm never sure what we'd make of the stairs, but, I for one, have an all-wheel drive vehicle and no fear of angular computations or challenges. Turn the radio up, that's my motto for Happy Motoring.

The hugely large pick-up trucks, large enough to have their own zip code, are an American invention, sort of like clogged arteries and less than universal affordable health care. Yeah, maybe other nations have something similar, but we got here 
fustest with the mostest (if a tree falls on a different Forrest, does it make a Gump?) and this is how we roll, like it or not. They all sound the same, like a Cris-Craft outboard engine idling in honey and their owners will NEVER have careers as getaway car drivers because you can hear them coming three blocks away.

I watched the large pickup truck approach a parking space suitable for a 
Smart car, or one who had done really well on its SAT's, and go through the motions of attempting to work its way into a spot far too small for it. It filled up the time and made the morning go fast, but didn't do squat for the driver who now had to contend with what looked like a somewhat confused mailman attempting to deliver a package but who was unable to find the mailbox (on the truck). Eventually, the driver conceded the obvious and actually moved to the adjoining parking lot where with only a small amount of maneuvering, the truck was parked.

As I walked by, the vehicle door opened and out and down (way down) dropped a woman of perhaps five feet in height, perhaps weighing ninety pounds. She was so incongruously tiny in comparison to her vehicle I at first thought she was a child, but I was mistaken. She made eye contact with me as she hit her key fob to electronically lock her behemoth and smiled. "I end up over here, every day," she sighed, "it's just too hard to find a big enough space any closer." I asked her why she didn't just head to the far lot in the first place and save herself the time. "Because you never can tell," she said, "
you just never can tell."
-bill kenny

Monday, August 22, 2016

Putting the Auto in Auto-Erotic

Spent a lot of time behind the wheel this weekend. I was auditioning for getaway driver for a new breed of lower tier felons who specialize in robbing 7-11s. They’re easy to spot because they have heavy-duty straws in their shirt’s right breast pocket for making short work off Slurpees as they speed away.

I didn’t start driving until I was graduating from my senior year at prep school. No especial reason, as I recall, I just didn’t get my license probably because I didn’t have the money for a car. I have in the four and half decades (!) since then more than made up for lost time (in terms of driving, not money).

I have no idea who invented the car, which as you’ll discover here, is a tastefully tortured tale that twists and turns.  And while we in the USA always associate Henry Ford and his Model T with mass production of vehicles, it’s a lot older than that with many hands involved in tweaking the process.

I love reading about cars because so much of the history gives me a better appreciation for the names of so many automobile lines and models.  That said, I’m betting we’re not going to see any cars or trucks (more specifically, vans) named for Michael Henson. With all due respect to the eye-witness, I’m thinking Mr. Henson was trying to jump-start the van. Perhaps his Triple A membership had expired?

Certainly adds a whole new meaning to getting all up in somebody’s grill (and thanks as well for that visual, Mike; couldn’t dislodge it from my frontal lobe with a fork if I tried). And it’s as good an incentive for requesting the deluxe car wash as I've read in quite a while.

-bill kenny   

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Can't Fix Your Brakes

I've been needle dropping the Summer Olympics on TV, not really following anything or anyone and (of course) rooting for Americans even in sports I didn't realize were in the Olympics (beach volleyball; seriously?) or that I don't understand in any way (almost all the rest).

The games (which are deadly earnest at a number of levels for almost everyone involved so 'games' is a truly inappropriate choice of words) cost oodles of billions of dollars to stage and host and broadcast and whatever else we can do with something.

But, in the games' defense, most times they make even MORE money for everyone involved through the magic of advertising. Here in the USA we watch most of the Olympics on TV all brought to us by the usual suspects who pay, and handsomely, for the rights to use the five rings in the various and sundry forms of advertising.

That's why McDonald's is exercising (literally and metaphorically) their sponsorship connection and putting activity trackers in their Happy Meals. Yes, the same meals we have been grazing on for two plus generations and that have helped us become bigger if not better people.

And no good deed, or clever marketing tie-in, goes unpunished. I could have never guessed how many injuries would have been are blamed on the activity tracker if McDonalds hadn't withdrawn it nearly as quickly as they first offered it. I am curious in just how large and long the judicial activity trackers take to light up and burn brightly, sort of like the cherub face of a wee tyke with a fistful of french fries, a mouthful of Big Mac and clutching an ice cream treat.

The last thing we need is to have anyone on a truth squad tell us we're obese and suggests reasons why. We have mirrors and drive-thru's, pilgrim, we sure as hell know why. Hips don't lie.  
bill kenny

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This Is Awkward

My initial reaction the other day to the reports of the US swimmers' assault and robbery in Rio de Janeiro was 'what do you expect?' I have never been to Brazil or anywhere in South America. I have never allowed my lack of knowledge to keep from having an opinion and my entire view of South America is based on written and televised reports and the occasional update from Artie & Paul.  

Of course they were robbed! Made sense to me because....well, because, umm, I am ashamed to say, because it fit the predetermined notion of life in Brazil that I have formed supported, in no small part, by the stories on the water and the poverty and the chaos and the list goes on and on.

If there were similar reports from when the Summer Games were in Los Angeles or the Winter Games were in Salt Lake City, I choose to not recall. Besides, we would never do stuff like that, right? Nope, not ever.

And here I am, working very hard to be an open-minded liberal-hearted bi-ped of European ancestry and when I get a little itchy and you scratch me, what do we have here? Looks like a narrow-minded smug landshark, officer.  Expecting the worst from people about whom he knows nothing because that's really my default position.

If it's of any solace, and it shouldn't be. I'm not alone and I'm not unique. I'm disappointed in me but today is another day and I'd hope to take two steps forward for the one back I took on this.

Meanwhile it took someone with a special kind of stupid to catch me up by my short hairs, and I'm not talking about my haircut. Thanks, Ryan for how easily and more importantly, selfishly, you overshadowed every achievement, joyful moment and accomplishment of everyone at the Rio Games, not just on your team but all of us. It really is true about what happens when you assume, sadly.
-bill kenny    

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Aurora Is Rising Behind Us

Will be doing some serious (at my age) driving later today, heading south of sorts for the Jersey Shore and a short visit to see my youngest brother, Adam and his wife, Margaret. 

Aside from not losing my cool or loosening my tongue too often behind the wheel in both directions, I don’t really have an agenda or anything that looks squad goals (thought I’d throw that in there because I see it all the time; no clue as to its meaning but so what) by the time Sunday’s return trip rolls around.

Hopefully, we’ll have some sun, sand and a sea breeze whose aroma will linger in my memory even as I steer my prison on the road northward on Sunday. All highlighting and, I hope, complementing good conversations and great times with my brother and his wife. 

Madam Marie has offered her assurances of blue skies and green lights and that’s more than good enough for me. 
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Look in the Mirror

My hometown newspaper, The Bulletin, asked  of its on-line readers this past Monday the following: "Do you think the media is to blame for Donald Trump falling behind Hillary Clinton?"

Don't laugh. We've had days where the questions were closer to "if you were a cloud what kind of cloud would you be?" so I appreciate the newspaper, part of Sarah Palin's so-called 'lame-stream media,' putting itself out there, unless, of course, we're smarter than we often appear.

Except we're not. At 1805 Monday, only 247 folks had responded (that number included me). The answer was to my dismay but NOT disbelief, 61% said 'definitely,' 8% said 'maybe a little,' (that is 69% of the readers blaming the messenger for the message, two of every three on-line respondents). Exactly 2% (I guess me and my shadow) said 'probably not' and 29% said 'not at all.'  

Over the weekend, there were similar numbers when asked if Hillary Clinton wanted to do away with the Second Amendment. This from the same people, no doubt, whose candidate is on record saying the Bill of Rights has thirteen amendments. I'm disquieted thinking there are this many sarcastic people not just in the world but in the readership of the local newspaper.

Sarcasm and Orgasm, concepts many people never seem to correctly identify or appreciate. Otherwise, there'd be more smirking when I type 'I hope you have a happy ending'.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Arriving Somewhere

I had an interesting on-line exchange with an old friend on Monday afternoon, which was and is about as close to the middle of August as you can get. I wanted to mention that because the subject we were typing/chatting about was where is the "middle of New England," as he phrased it.

The geographic center of New England, according to (and if they don't know, with a name like that, who would?) is Dunbarton, New Hampshire. And because you'll be sick with worry otherwise, let me share that Norwich is 143 miles distant from Dunbarton.

I met him decades ago when we both worked in Germany; I was a member of the US military and he was a contractor who supported various military units in a variety of ways. He's been living in Italy for quite some time, and enjoying every minute of it, except as he told me 'when we get overrun by tourists, who get in the way.'

As someone who enjoys being the occasional tourist elsewhere, I decided to not take his criticism personally, since that's not how he meant it, I hope. I sort of smiled and suggested it must be a nice complaint, to have so many people coming to see your city and area that you regard them as a nuisance rather than as a novelty.

I was thinking about the efforts so many groups, agencies, and committees in and around here make and how they, too, would love to have that kind of return on their investment of time and talent. He expressed surprise that I lamented our comparative lack of tourists since, as he pointed out 'You're in the middle of New England where all the American History comes from.'

I'm thinking of suggesting to the folks who operate Bradley, T. F. Green, and Logan airports that they add that to their signs in the arrival terminal, but as we continued to talk about historical tourism, a phrase I have heard a lot at various times here in Norwich, he pointed out that it's more a mindset and state of preparation than simply a marketing strategy.

He's seen my pictures of various places in and around Norwich that I've posted to a Facebook page I created for just that purpose, perhaps overly optimistic, entitled Celebrating Norwich Connecticut and his less than delicately phrased concern was about what he called 'the support structure for singular, but single, attractions.'

He pointed out that what he and I might agree are 'touristy places' such as London, Paris, New York City or Boston, had a large commercial operation ranging from transportation through hospitality tying it all together from a visitors' perspective, creating opportunities for employment and investment at the local level.

He closed by suggesting a series of moments unless organized and, to some extent, mechanized were less meaningful and marketable as memories if there weren't hotels to stay at, restaurants to dine in and other nearby attractions to complement the main draw.

He concluded a lot of history is nothing more than incidents and accidents. A successful tourism industry that depends on history, on the other hand, is anything but.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Out with the Old

This is going to be a busy week if not a very productive one personally. I'm hosting colleagues, of sorts (they might be aghast to read that I would use such a phrase and I would be taken aback to learn they know how to read) for a project at work all week.

They arrived on Sunday and will be leaving (fingers crossed, even the middle one) at mid-morning on Friday and I, in turn, will be bailing out around noon that same day so we can visit Adam and Margaret DTS.

The only thing I know how to do with my car, any car, is to get the oil changed every three thousand miles. Many years ago, Eric my neighbor, told me to always do that and I always do. It seems to work out great as I've never had a car break on me since then.

So when the postcard from oil change place came in the mail last Thursday I realized, yep I'm due but the only day I could hope to get the oil change accomplished was this past Saturday. I got up late, for me, Saturday morning and got to the shop a little after nine. All the racks were full and the place was humming with activity.

I sat in the customer lounge, which is a waiting room alongside the plate glass window that faces into the three bay garage so you can sort of watch them work on your car. I have now learned, from looking through the window that I have a double-hinged hood which means when you open it that it stays up by itself and doesn't need one of those metal rods that's clipped about the radiator to prop it open.

Saturday I sat across from a woman working away on a tablet while also checking her smartphone in her lap. Seated next to her was a man with a smartphone that he kept yelling into while having telephone conversations about third parties who had sex with one of their parents, judging on what he kept calling them, despite glances of disapproval and annoyance from the rest of us.

My smartphone was in my pocket. I don't ever turn the ringer on and I leave the vibrate thing off because I can see how that might get addictive. People get angry at me because I never respond to their calls or texts which I think is hysterical since I have the phone for my convenience, not theirs. When I want to call or send someone a note, I can and I do. What they might like is mir scheiss egal but thanks for playing.

The other person in the waiting room was reading the newspaper which I thought was quaint and made me think of throwback Thursday something that happens a lot on social media.

Actually, I realized he was studiously reading the employment ads, information which I kept to myself as he got up when his car's service was completed and paid for with a check before leaving. Wonder if the shop looks at shocks and if his car might bounce less than his check.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 15, 2016

Welcome to the Republic of Me

Remember when we all used to live together in a shared country? (Together being the operative word) We didn’t always get our own way (some of us spent a long time trying to figure out exactly who voted for McGovern, and then, later, for Dukakis; and then, even later, for the SECOND Bush) and we tended to favor the notion of having one political party in control of the White House while the other one was in Congress. 

We also had infinite shades of gray, anatomically and otherwise. Now we have the most abrupt, bruising and brusque form of non-nuanced conversations in all the years I've been carrying around this belly-button.

To review, and the list is by no means exhaustive or inclusive: 
we have birtherscut and runnersstay and kill ‘em allstake your hands off my health care, make the bankers jump from the highest open windows, wall builders with yuuuge mouths and celebrities of every stripe weighing in on topics ranging from world hunger (hello Bono!) the environment (Hello Leo) to every issue in between (Chuck Norris; yes, that Chuck Norris).

And it's almost fine. We have clenched jaws and hard eyes and hardened hearts, but that doesn't mean we can't talk; it just means we won't, I guess. Somewhere we decided two diatribes equals one dialogue and I GET TO GO FIRST! (sorry). If we yell AT one another long enough, from a distance somewhere in space it will look like we are talking to one another. 

Respectful disagreement has gone the way of the dodo bird. If you don't agree with me you are the most awful person in the history of the planet, as is everyone else related to you, everyone else related to them and everyone any of them that you know. Wait a minute; when I do that much finger pointing some of the fingers on that hand point back at me. Hmmm.

Labels such as 'liberal' and 'conservative' are now pejoratives hurled like discount store invective at opposing viewpoints, appropriate or not, and the reaction to the labeling obscures quite nicely any opportunity to see the person we've just tagged. Now all we are is disagreeable when we disagree. 

And we engage in preemptive shouting matches with one another in forums supposedly designed to let us exchange ideas and views. The longer the meeting, the louder the yelling and don't even get me started on the understanding (the smoker you drink, the player you get).

Back in the day, we talked things out and arrived at consensus through reasoned discussion and debate. Now the line between gee-willikers and jihad makes it almost impossible to discuss anything

I mention this because this fall, in addition to the Presidential election, we have countless thousands of local elections across these United States and we owe it to those whom we've nominated for office to speak in coherent and complete sentences about what we want and what we feel we need and how we propose to work together (that's a key phrase in my house) to achieve rebuilding our country.

You can't shake hands with people who have balled fists and maybe it's just me but this knuckle bumping horseradish is so ten minutes ago. We need to learn once again to speak in complete sentences and respectful tones to one another, one at a time and then move on to larger groups. 

Eventually, we might get the hang of how we used to do all of this, back when we all lived in the same country at the same time. History needn't be a mystery.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Sweat Beaded Brow

Watched from my office window the other day as someone in sweats walking towards a building that I know has a fitness center, was smoking a cigarette, which she finished and put out in an ash tray very close to the front of the building she was entering. 

I smoked two/three packs of cigarettes a day for twenty-two (plus) years and have my own definitions of insanity and dependence, as does each of us with a vice, but for Kafkaesque humor, you'd have to go some to top that. I'm thinking perhaps trying to wolf down a Haagen-Dazs giant ice cream cone before crossing the threshold into the fitness center, assuming the H-D guys are still in business and make such an item. 

We like the routine, the assurance of the rote drill (I think) and maybe that's where we believe the benefit accrues. It's like small children learning the Pledge of Allegiance long before they have any idea what allegiance means (for some of us that's still true through old age). A whole generation now hits the fitness centers in the same way previous ones frequented the bars and clubs on Saturday nights or the churches on the Sunday mornings that followed. 

But for what purpose, and to what end? Behaviorists refer to an obesity epidemic in the United States and it surfaces for its fifteen minutes on the electronic vapor and vapid box in the corner of the living room and then we have another double cholesterol-and-bacon burger from the neighborhood drive in and don't forget to supersize the fries and, what?-oh yeah, the drink? Gimme a diet cola, no ice. 

Instead of studying and attempting to learn the lessons from research like this, we watch day-time talk shows  and dream of the day we can be in the studio audience and under our theater seat is a ......pair of Nike Running shoes(?) I think not. There may not be a free lunch, like the teachers in school told us, but the hostesses can give us healthy eating tips and the napkins are recyclable. 

I'm wondering if we're not better off just eliminating the middleman and cutting out the white space. Put a cigar bar in the fitness center--or set up one of those luxurious dessert places in the lobby; call it "Cool Whip and Curls", no one will snicker. Those who wish to indulge can and the rest of us can pretend to not see any of it as it'll all be out of sight. 

Look at how often we've used that trick to handle world events that should and could have numbed us. Besides, it keeps us from walking around with our eyes closed. People can get hurt going through life like that.
-bill kenny