Saturday, December 31, 2016

All the Years That I've Wasted with Nothing to Show

We've been here before-battered, bloody and bruised from too much of this year. We looked forward to 2016 with expectations that no decade, much less a single year, could have possibly fulfilled. and, really to no one's surprise, it didn't. 

But we soldiered on. And okay, we are here at the threshold of the end of the old year and some of us who started on this sojourn have vanished along the way, but that's alright because that's what life really is, a series of hellos and goodbyes with pregnant pauses between and among different people.

You'd think (hope?) with our big brains, our command of language and our use of tools that we might be a bit better at carrying over into the new year a little more of the insight we gleaned from the old one, but it doesn't seem to happen. 

Perhaps we get distracted by the bright and shiny stuff, not that we seem to do much with it and the timeless and treasured eventually just becomes part of the scenery and the machinery. It hides in plain sight and we don't see it at all.

Tonight's tolling of the (John Donne) bells at midnight that signal (and usher in) the Next New Year are neither a challenge nor a warning, they are the turning of a page. Not the closing of a chapter or the ending of an age.

Twenty-one years ago, today, those two remarkable cartoon creations, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, said goodbye forever as the first rays of the First Day of the Next Year were just peeping over the horizon.

They left quietly but with a prescient present that we can still employ to propel ourselves further along long after the mirror ball has dropped and the champagne corks have popped. There's a difference between childish and child-like that we would do well to remember when the confetti is through falling.

We're about to have a blank page to write upon. The moment to pen our first word is nearly at hand. Choose well, for all of our sake's, because for some of us that first word may prove to be the last one as well. That doesn't mean you should hesitate before writing; just the opposite!  Enjoy every sandwich.
- bill kenny

Friday, December 30, 2016

For the Last Friday of 2016, Ever

This is the time of year when so many of us make resolutions for our own and the betterment of others to be executed "in the new year" which starts (!!) the day after tomorrow. Talk about little cats' feet, eh? 

Some write them down, others post them here online. Considering how quickly some of them fall by the wayside, they should be on whatever on-line thing only allows them to exist for ten minutes or so. There's an application that actually does just that. I read about it and millions use it, but there are too many now for me to keep track of that kind of stuff. Besides, I have a memory that does the same thing, if you want to get technical.

Not sure how we decided this is the season for resolutions or how those who make them can minimize the all too real risk that many of them end up in the dustbin of history by this time next week.As you can probably tell, I've given up making them (not trying to get better or to be better just the whole "I Resolve" schtick) but I still have a great deal of regard for you if you make them (and even more if you keep them).

I've saved this from a while ago to stiffen and steady whatever resolve I may feel about trying to be better because I need all the help I can get and visual aids are always welcome.

I think it's enough incentive for each of us separately, and perhaps altogether, to dig a little deeper and try a little harder as one year ebbs into the next year's flow.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Spinning Out in the Madness of a Roller Coaster

I'm revisiting something I wrote some time ago not so much because my circumstances haven't changed (they have) but because who we are invites and incites me to dream the bigger dream of whom we might yet become. If we don't live large, what is the point of it all?  

This close to the Next Year, rather than rue and regret what has been, perhaps we might better prepare for what is to come (assuming we believe ourselves to have any control over what is to come). 

I've met those who see themselves as hostages of Cruel Fate or an Indifferent Deity as if we had been plopped down on this orb and abandoned to our own devices. I'm not sure I can articulate specifically or enumerate to any detail, but I respectfully disagree. Yes, we are each our own Captains, lashed to the mast of the ship that is our life, alone in an ocean of souls, but it's a big ocean and we've all found ourselves here somehow and, at least for me, coincidence isn't really going to ever explain the how much less the why.

Thornton Wilder's The Bridge Of San Luis Rey may have been his contemplation on the value of his own life, a speculation that there's a land of the living and a land of the dead and his belief (or hope) that the bridge between them is love. To his own question, would his death matter to God (Wilder was a veteran of World War I, with carnage and brutality never seen in the history of our species, who became in spirit, if not in fact, part of The Lost Generation), he was willing to ask the complementary question: how do we make our lives have a meaning beyond our own lifetimes?

Not the cheeriest of questions to ponder while the old year's days creep slowly to their appointed end and we embrace the next with the same wild-eyed frenzy we did the last, and look at how that turned out. And if the question disquiets you, what of the answer? "Between the idea and the reality. Between the motion and the act, falls the Shadow."

In New England, and across these United States, we are surrounded by memorials in stone, from monuments to buildings, dedicated to the selfless sacrifice of all those who have preceded us--who have set the bar, so to speak, for the rest of us to clear, each in her and his own way. Not all of us can be a general, but all of us can be generous. 

We each have the power to save the world, at least the small plot of it on which each of us stands. Where can we be this time next year if we strive to be great at this time this year? We are about to have a new year with which to work upon an answer and perhaps to make one another forget the question.

"The Space Between the bullets in our firefight is where I'll be hiding, waiting for you."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Without Hope or Agenda

It (almost) feels like only yesterday we worried about remembering to write "2016" on our checks as the calendar pages raced ahead to embrace the new year. So, what happened? 

Life. We're down to the last seventy-two hours of that very same 2016 and here on Day 363, it bears a stark resemblance to Banquo's Ghost.

I'm not going to waste your time telling you what a turbulent year this one has been. If you're reading this, you already know that and your own adventure may have been far bumpier than mine. 

Hard to believe for so many of us this will someday be part of the Good Old Days. Seems like there's something wrong with that idea, right? I mean, don't you feel like we've been running in place? We're not even leaving a hole with each footfall-it just fills in as quickly as we lift our heel up and out to place it forward again.

So let's try looking ahead, emphasis on tryIf you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. This is how Norwich, Connecticut, (and much of our nation) finds itself today and many of us who live here are both surprised and disappointed that our results never seem to change. 

We choose to forget that you have to try something different to get a result that's different. I don't pretend to know if that's a universal truth, but I suspect it is. President Jimmy Carter offered his assessment almost three and half decades ago about a crisis of confidence that he called  an "American Malaise.

Norwich, like it or not, is a city still struggling at times to agree on a destination much less on a map and means of arriving where we want to go (and sometimes we don't seem to agree on measuring progress or determining the direction). And sometimes too many of us see government as something done to us rather than for us and when that happens, conversations about regionalization of services, mill rates, enterprise zones, zoning variances and all the other nouns, verbs, and gerunds of political grammar are reduced to just so many empty words. 
In November, we had a national election whose results may reverberate in a hundred different ways across a thousand different lives for a million miles or more. And we may never, ever, figure out what we chose or failed to choose to do. While this may be hard for some to believe and even harder to accept, that uncertainty is both a strength and flaw of our form of government and has been since our earliest days as a Republic.

In 2017, we should learn to work with one another and use ideas, ideals, and words to build bridges to join rather than walls to divide. "...(A)fter a while, you realize time flies. And the best thing that you can do is take whatever comes to you ..."

2017 begins Sunday. Ready or Not. Happy New Year?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Most Important Meal

I'm off from work for another week, so I sleep in until close to seven in the morning (which in light of my usual rise and shine routine really is late) and just have my breakfast later in our kitchen instead of at my work desk.

I eat cold cereal in the mornings during the work week. I realize, especially during the colder months, there's a lot of positives to be said about oatmeal, grits Wheatena or Maypo, but I've never been able to eat any of them. 

I can prepare hot cereals just fine and without hesitation. I focus on the tasks at hand--heat the water, pour it into the container and stir it around with the spoon until it has the consistency of wallpaper paste. So far, so good. Pause, dip in the spoon and slowly direct it towards my mouth. NOPE.

I cannot be tricked into eating it, no matter how good it smells, no matter how much I 'know' after 30 days it'll lower my cholesterol, enable me to leap tall buildings in a single bound, how it'll warm me up from the inside and get my day off to a brighter and faster start. Nope. 'Here comes the airplane and you're the hanger......oh, it's yummy and delicious Maypo....' NOPE. Not happening. Not in this life and not in the next life. 

As a matter of fact, to the bemusement of all members of my family, I eat cold cereal without milk and sugar, without bananas or strawberries or anything else. Just naked, the way it comes out of the box--the way General Mills and Kellogg's (Kay e double L oh double good) made it. 

I had a boss years ago in Germany tell me when breakfast cereals were introduced into post-war (West) Germany, Germans had NO idea how to eat them and poured orange juice onto the cereal, instead of milk and sugar. I guess these days it'd be 2% and Splenda.

My favorite is and has always been Cheerios-just the way they are-NOT covered with yogurt or flavored with apple whatevers, just plain brown Cheerios, looking like doughnut seeds. I never allowed myself as a kid to get seduced by the prize inside. 

That's one of the reasons I hated growing up: adults eat cereals with NO prizes! What kind of a deal is that? With all due respect to MJ and his marketing magic, what kind of a prize would you expect to find in a Wheaties box, anyway? Sweatsocks? 'Collect the whole pair! One each inside of specially marked boxes!'  Talk about a dilemma, Punky's or otherwise.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 26, 2016

Buy One Manger, Get the Other One Half Off!

Merchants across these states, united, are battening down hatches and rolling back prices even as you read this. Across this great land, racing faster than even the sun from East to West, the Day after Christmas sales have already started. 

Some stores, I've read, will have opened at six this morning or even earlier. As unconscionable as I find this to do to the people working in the store (many leading merchants NEVER closed last week leading up to Christmas) in light of the economic realities that drive our capitalist society, I guess faced with getting up two hours early to go to work, and the very real possibility that I might not have a job if we don't get close to earnings targets, I'd skip the shut-eye.

A lot of talk and type about what could be a return to the Cold War in the coming years because of choices we made and or failed to.I really hope not as I did a reasonable amount of hide under the desk, turn away from the window and don't look at the flash, as a kid growing up and I'd prefer to not transition to my dotage in the same manner. 

And it's not just the Commies and their Mommies I'm concerned about, though Vlad the Impaler does disquiet me a not inconsiderable amount. I'm also trying to keep an eye on those whackjobs who yell about All In the Snackbar or something and who consider us and our beliefs as if we are polytheistic cockroaches

It's not God so much who frightens me, but Her/His followers. On all sides of The Book. I've been on this ride here on the Big, Blue Marble for almost six and half decades and the dangers change but the fear always remains and I'm awfully tired of living looking over my shoulder for something I've never seen while checking out the Homeland Security color codes as if Armageddon comes as a paint by numbers set now.  

Just something else to think about today while standing in line to return for store credit something you oohed and aahed over yesterday morning under the Christmas Tree. I told you those Size-44 Triple E jump boots were NOT slimming but did you listen? Hark the sales associates sing, take 15% more off everything. Alleluia.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 25, 2016

My Christmas Story

I tell this story every Christmas. I don't care if you have grown tired of it. I never shall. Roll your eyes, do a really big sigh and double-click. I don't care. My space, my rules. 

I first spoke to the woman I was to marry forty years ago tonight. I had seen her but hadn't worked up the nerve to speak to her a few weeks earlier but I already knew I would marry her (to this day, I have no idea how I was so smart. But I was). 

I had been in (West) Germany only about two months, arriving shortly before Halloween, which, back in the day, wasn't a holiday of any kind in Germany at all. It was strictly a Yank Prank like Thanksgiving only harder to explain to people who weren't American. 

Chris and I had started out drinking and feeling sorry for ourselves, me in the lead, (for being stuck in Germany for the holidays) earlier in the day in the Frankfurt am Main party district, Sachsenhausen, where millions of people, swarming like flies, made the passage from anywhere to anywhere else almost impossible.

Eventually, though I have no recollection how, we were to be more in mid-town, down the street from CBS Germany (though we didn't know that at the time) near Eschenheimer Tor. Because I'm relentlessly competitive, I got much drunker much faster than everyone around us and Chris had his hands full and a good job looking out for me since once I get my drunk on I'm never confused with Mr. Congeniality. Amazing I lived long enough to discover sobriety in light of the armies of people around the world I antagonized. Anyway. 

In the decades since all of this happened, I've tried to calculate the number of actions and activities that had to take place in order for her and me to meet. Since I chose to be a liberal arts major to avoid ever using math in my life, I cannot possibly execute the calculations.

I've long since given up trying to make sense of the world as it was or as it is. I will tell you I believe because that's how I was raised and habit is often more lasting than logic, that there is a reason for everything we do and everything we fail to do. As attractive as I find the 'we're all hostages from Hades/We're all bozos on this bus' approach to questions about divinity, humanity and the universe at large, I can't really leave it there.

If Christmas is a time of love, and this is the night when I found mine, how can I not encourage you to be of good cheer and renew your faith even if you've yet to meet the person who completes you? A more luckless, lunchless, loser than I could you not have imagined, but a miracle was still mine. Keep your eyes wide and your heart open, there's magic in the air, if you want it. Happy Christmas.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Look Back So I Can Remember Why I Am Grateful

I wrote what follows eight years ago-suspect it was near the start of what has proven to be my second career as a chronic malingerer. I am probably not alone in having a very short memory, not as short (yet) as a goldfish but pretty much the self-absorbed musings of an Obliviot. Think of this as my attempt to be both Clarence and George at the same time in reminding myself, and I hope you, as well, that It's a Wonderful Life. 

I spent about five hours on Tuesday with people who hoped to be elsewhere, but were happy with where they were, as was I. I've not been feeling well, or even fully wide awake since some yakking on Friday night, and my physician decided after one look the place for me was in the local hospital's ER.

I met Darryl who was hit and nearly killed by a drunken driver when he was eighteen and who never left the hospital for close to three months while he battled to stay alive. Now, not all that many years removed from that injury (I can't say 'accident' the drunk who hit him didn't 'accidentally' get his buzz on. It happened deliberately and I hope someone paid for the careless thoughtlessness that created it), he was an EMT and calling me 'bud' (which, for those keeping track at home, is one step above calling me 'chief'. It's a good thing I felt like fried crap, otherwise I'd have squared young Darryl away) and getting me started. 

Mike, took over--and he was also an EMT, and had wanted to be one since he was in high school. All I wanted to do in high school was graduate. It was happy to meet a fellow successful graduate. Dr. G. had been on duty when I came in through the emergency room in July for renal failure and pancreatitis. He is NOT short; he is gravitationally impaired and was quite good at getting the tests organized that were to consume most of my afternoon. 

Monday, I took my Thelma and Louise to the doctor and, yesterday, turnabout was unfair play as they waited wordlessly (which is hard for my daughter; she is her father's child, after all) as they were joined by my son, Patrick, who left his work in New London to loom over me (he really is a much bigger person than I remembered him as a child) in much the same way as I walked the floor of the Offenbach Krankenhaus roentgen abteilung when he cracked his forehead open as a toddler. He wouldn't sit still for the x-ray and so they had me wear a lead vest and hold him while they stood behind the plate glass of the wall and irradiated both of us. He was no more than four and kept calling them 'feigling' (coward) though he couldn't have known what was going on.

I met Lorrie or Laurie, I apologize for the spelling, who had wanted to join the Peace Corps and they only had room for people who meant well and who had skills, so she had trained to be an x-ray tech, and by the time she was really good at it, she'd met and married someone and they had a family. So much for the Peace Corps. She had spent part of last summer in Haiti, helping people whose poverty is, by every account I've read, soul-shattering and returned, with a renewed sense of purpose that had caused her to accept an assignment to volunteer in a hospital somewhere in Mexico sometime this February. She has to do it, she told me. 

All of these people and a dozen more have lives that have nothing to do with mine, for 364 days and twenty hours out of a year. And yesterday when I needed each of them to excel and achieve for me, not because I was worthy of their effort but because I was a fellow traveler on Spaceship Earth pulled over in the breakdown lane, they were there doing what they had to do. Just as they had on Monday and just as they are doing today. 

It's Christmas Eve on the calendar. Mine came early.
-bill kenny

Friday, December 23, 2016

On the Eve of the Eve.....

The Christmas 2016 purchasing season is winding down rapidly, and the surest sign I've seen yet, aside from the calendar, is the size of the Sunday newspaper I have delivered to the house (or near the house, depending on the carrier's aim). 

For weeks, I feared I was going to have to ask one of the injured reserve professional athletes associated with but never proven to use HGH or steroids to lift and carry the newspaper and then, in all likelihood, I'd read about my escapade in the newspaper or Curt Schilling's comments about it on his blog. Oh, the ignominy.....

This week's papers have been lighter than since Thanksgiving (when the season which had already started around Labor Day stepped it up), and I, for one, am thankful for that. I guess many, like me, have gotten done all the holiday shipping we are going to do.The Amazon reindeer are still bringing stuff. I bought festive bags and colored tissue paper with stick-on bows to hold those presents since I badly screwed up the gift-wrapping option when I ordered. I was hoping to avoid the annual 'look! Another gift that Dad wrapped!' chorus of what I'm hoping is light-hearted derision.   Grinches have feelings, too.

(I'm working on a new Christmas carol, to the tune of "Merry Christmas to You"...

'Guys in ski masks pushing shopping carts

From all points West, North, South, and East. 
Folks stand in line for a very long time
To see if they can spend the least.
No one from Tin Pan Alley called to ask me about an option-imagine my surprise. 

I wish I had a large empty box to store some of the feelings of harmony and accommodation that are so prevalent this time of year for those times in the coming year when we could really use them and won't have them. 

It was a rough Presidential election and I find it ama
zing to look back to the days of the founding of the Republic and see all the people who were qualified to be President, and who weren't, and realize how quickly we moved from a free exchange of ideas and positions to a demolition derby and some variant of Lord of the Flies. 

Suspect the first order of business for the next Secretary of Education will be the banning of history as a subject of study. When you don't think about it, that makes a yuuuge amount of sense.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 22, 2016

It Wasn't a Tallest Finger Contest?

The game may be afoot if Sherlock Holmes is to be believed but at least for one (former) member of the University of Connecticut Women's soccer team, it's not the "beautiful game." Certainly not anymore and actually, not even close.

I love everything about what the rest of the world calls football and that we call 'soccer.' The strategy, the athleticism, the selflessness and the thrill of victory. I'm not a huge fan of the agony of defeat, having been on the receiving foot so to speak of the unforgiving boot of Dame Fortune once or twice but that is a part of the sport.

Soccer, like all sports, is competitive, and moments of triumph will cause you to verbalize and/or embody your emotions sometimes in ways that you might wish to take back if such an action were possible. Sadly, that cannot always be done.

For instance, when I close my eyes, this picture could almost be "we're #1."

Except it isn't of course. What it is actually is a still frame from live video on ESPNU of a 2014 American Conference Championship game between the University of Connecticut and University of South Florida, with the winner (guess who that was) earning a berth in the NCAA tournament.

This past Monday afternoon, the former UConn player, Noriana Radwan, seen above showing which of her fingers had roast beef, explained at a press conference that she is suing UConn for violating her right to due process, civil rights, her scholarship agreement as well as violating Title IX.

I understand her attorney's point: male athletes have done worse and been punished less. And I can understand how that treatment makes her feel. I hope you don't think too poorly of me when I wonder just how much money her lawsuit wants to assuage her feelings.

And I would hope you don't hurt my feelings by telling me how little you think of me for voicing that kind of cynicism. Trust me when I tell you my lawyer assures me that you can't afford it.
-bill kenny


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

We Are Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Today has the least amount of daylight we shall experience for the next six months. Yes, the first day of winter, not a favorite of mine, in all honesty, is, actually a signal that we are slowly turning a corner. 

Where that takes us has a lot to do with how we choose to go, but I had an epiphany about personal responsibility (and the lack thereof) over the weekend so I’m a little cautious as to how I walk.

I went for a short walk during the almost summer day we had Sunday and navigating snow and ice covered sidewalks helped me realize why we still are who we are and where we are.  

If you were to visit the Otis Library and pull up copies of local newspapers from the past five through twenty-five years, you'd read Letters to the Editor about the same Large Issues we speak of today.

It's human nature. There's something soul-stirring about issues we can reduce to 'us versus them', or David and Goliath, or perhaps Laurel and Hardy (okay, perhaps not), especially when the villains are vague or hard to identify.

That's what made me so sad about my two and quarter mile slog on Sunday. There was more than enough opportunity for personal responsibility; just not a lot of takers. I walked on the sidewalk from our house on Lincoln Avenue down Broadway but gave up on the sidewalks after a pair of houses, more or less across from the Lutheran church, were unshoveled.

The clincher was when I almost went ass over teakettles on the thin layer of ice at the walk signal at Broadway and Broad Street. Glad my struggle to keep my balance provided the drivers in the two cars at the light with some amusement; it's comforting to still be good for something. 

After crossing onto Main Street and then back up to Washington, there were uncleared sidewalks across from the Sweeney Bridge practically all the way up to School Street.

A bit farther along and closer to my home, the sidewalks across from what once was our children's first school, Buckingham, were a mess as were those of the houses across from the Congregation Brothers of Joseph. 

What did I learn from my ice-capade? The people who lived in all of those houses were, perhaps, unaware we had snow. Or perhaps they thought like one of those carnival rides, the snow must be This Tall in order to be shoveled. Or, and most likely, they didn't care what Chapter 19, Article 1, had to say. They couldn't be bothered to clear their sidewalks because it was the right thing to do, even though it was so they certainly didn't care if it was against the law. 

But if "the City" had not plowed the streets even those where sidewalks hadn't been shoveled, we'd have heard howls from now until the next snowfall. Everyone wants to change Norwich for the better, but we won’t change ourselves and do the same.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I Found a Postcard the Other Day

Our son, Patrick, sent this to me not that I am not already the most jovial Christmas Spirit-filled person he will ever, Ever, EVer, EVEr, EVER meet.Yep, I am mystified.

I hope that's clear. ;-)
-bill kenny

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ghost of Christmas Future Passed

A week from today, Christmas will be past tense. 

We'll be gathering up the wrapping paper and ribbon and sorting it out for the recycling bins. 
Those of us NOT doing this will be heading to shops and malls to return what we got and didn't want or to gobble up a 'post-holiday' bargain. Or both. There'll be a raft of situations where 'you're not the only cuddly toy' (Thanks, Harry N) and why not take advantage of it? 

Most importantly. We can stop wishing one another 'happy holidays.' 

I've always been troubled that people who for 50 weeks out of the year will cross the street to avoid me, will wish me 'all the best for the holidays', either unheeding or uncaring of the contradiction of the rest of the year. For those who celebrate something other than Christmas, or who don't celebrate at all, what do they make of this synthetic snowglobe world we create (and then casually, and callously, discard)? 

Are they impressed or discouraged by how quickly, like the passing of a fever, 'normal' returns with all its petty frustrations and intrigues? Should they, and we, spend more time and energy truly making the 'holiday season' fifty-two weeks long or concede the Christmas we get we deserve
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 18, 2016

They Say It's Your Birthday

Today, Pope Francis is 80 years old.

I borrowed today's title from The Beatles, and you can quote me.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bad News on the Doorstep

This is the time of the year when you notice or are reminded of, people who provide the goods and services that (for the most part) appear without your ever thinking about them during the course of the year. It's nice to be remembered, especially for the right reasons.

Everyone says happy holidays to the mail carrier even though, in an irony I'm sure Mr. Zip would enjoy, we are over burdening out mail carriers this time of year with, among other items, the card or small parcel of appreciation we send to them. In my house, my wife makes sure to give the carrier a present when the mail is delivered because we have no idea of a good mailing address (and I, for one, suspect the item would 'get lost.').

When I came home Thursday I had a card on my home desk from the motor carrier (as they are called) of one of the two newspapers to which we subscribe (note to Rick "Oops" Perry: I use my eyeglasses to improve my vision so I can read; you should try it sometime).  We get both daily newspapers, one 'real newspaper' on Thursday through Sunday plus 24/7 online and the other year-round as an actual newspaper. In light of my manifest unhappiness with the home delivery service, I admired the cheek it took to send me a thinly-disguised solicitation for a gift.

I mentioned in the paragraph previously 'motor carrier' because when he was still in grade school Patrick, our son, was a newspaper delivery person. The delivery people whatever their age get a raw deal from the newspapers because they regarded as 'independent contractors' (= no benefits of any kind; pretty clever, eh?). Newspaper people are pretty stupid in that regard as it's the carrier most of us associate with the paper, not the reporting staff or editorial board.

Anyway, in the case, the newspaper subscription is really only because of habit. It's a lousy paper and I get most of my news about where I live from the other one, and most of that on-line. I'd have long since canceled home delivery but I do enough stuff in the course of our lives together to anger Sigrid already without adding to the list over a local newspaper.

Anyway. The thing with motor carriers and newspapers is they drive down the street and throw the paper out their car/truck window and count on momentum or luck to get it to the address. Heave and hope seem to be their watchwords. I'm paying for home delivery, emphasis on the home and as I made clear seventy-one times this calendar year, so far, when I ask for the newspaper to be delivered on the porch, that's where I want it. Forgive and forget are NOT my watchwords, in case you had wondered where this was going.

We had a week in early November where I had to call for a 'replacement' newspaper every morning for the entire work week and then on that Sunday there was NO paper at all. Before and since then there have been days where the newspaper was delivered to the sidewalk in front of my house or to the lawn abutting my porch, to the walkway from the sidewalk to the steps leading to the porch and to those steps. Every once in a while, it was even on the porch. I guess I appear to some folks as a guy who just doesn't keep track; some make that mistake a lot. I can think of one less, now.

I should tell you I'm a guy who buys coal at this time of year even though we have an oil furnace and I was VERY tempted but ultimately tempered in my response in the holiday card I sent in reply to our paper carrier. I gave extended and careful thought to using a mailing address close to but not quite theirs, with a note on the envelope explaining to their mail carrier that even though the house number/street name was inaccurate I figured I was close enough.

But that isn't what happened. I guess the spirit of the season just got to me. Hold on to your warm and fuzzy feelings as you will not be needing them here. No, I didn't put a little something in the envelope after all and just decide to let bygones be bygones (my mother raised crazy children, not stupid ones; at least all those born AFTER me).

Actually I'm feeling pretty good at how I handled it, though I'm also hoping for a really slow news year in 2017 especially since I have a hunch it might be one around my house.
-bill kenny    

Friday, December 16, 2016

Still Need a Scarlet Varsity Jacket

I went for a brief walk yesterday afternoon rushing to get it in before the darkness arrived as part of my feeble regimen to maintain some control in my battle with diabetes. Yes, I have been told repeatedly that running would be more effective but with degenerative arthritis in both knees (technically not true; I've had a partial kneecap replacement for my right and a total kneecap replacement for my left), walking is the new running.

During the dark and cold months, I choose indoor tracks over treadmills because on the latter, the view never changes. I will admit to admiration and a touch of jealousy for those who can read a book or a magazine while treadmilling (treading? milling? What gerund should we use for what we're doing?). Not all that long ago I watched a woman immerse herself completely in concentrating on her PDA for the half hour she was devoting to the treadmill.

Just some idle thoughts on a crisp, and getting windier by the moment late December afternoon in the Rose of New England. We've had a couple of threats of snow so far this season with maybe more coming over the weekend. Right now the weekend's promise is for wind chills at or below zero so the earth around these parts is cooling down meaning anything that falls from the sky will stick (two birds just looked at one another nervously).

Snow would, of course, be a Godsend for me as I've got my heart set on a new sled. While I may be too fragile for running, hurtling down a hillside could be just what my diabetic and arthritic knees have been looking for. Or not.

We have an ordinance in Norwich that directs property owners to clear the snow from their sidewalks and about this time each year, a box reminding everyone of that shows up in the two daily papers. The ordinance is as well-followed and enforced as our state's prohibition on using a cell phone while driving.

Actually, as I tread with some care while walking, I realized the same self-absorbed cretins who did not clear November's fallen leaves from their walks will certainly not remove any snow that falls on those leaves which are still on top of their sidewalks.

I have to admire that "I'm the Center of the Universe" worldview that dictates only you matter and the rest of us can take the hindmost. In the meantime, for many of us, our idea of Large Fun is a silent sulk. Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of New England's literary treasures, would be as proud of us as we would be of him if we ever thought of him at all anymore.

Small solace, Nat, in that I do think of you and recall too many hours struggling with The Scarlet Letter in Mr. Moriarity's English Lit class to have ever appreciated it as art. I must admit I never saw Hester Prynne as Demi Moore. Perhaps if I had, high honors would have been mine.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 15, 2016

So Many Different Worlds

I wrote this a couple of years ago and the sentiment, like the event it talks about, is an evergreen and a calendar fixture. So thanks for the indulgence.

We are only slightly more than waist deep in that most wonderful time of the year where far more than just the halls end up decked with holly (and tinsel and eight different kinds of lights (all LEDs and flashing) and ornaments) and most of us wouldn’t know a fa-la-la-la-la if it bit us on the figgy pudding.

Because of the hectic head noise that is part of our Yuletide preparations for celebration, we end up staring at the trees often without seeing the forest. I hesitated while typing ‘trees’ in case it serves as a trigger that you have yet to get yours, adding another chore to your to-do list.

Between all the hurried holiday greetings and in the midst of the manufactured merriment, you may wish for a moment you could use to catch your emotional breath rather than another big box store bargain, collect your thoughts and count your blessings instead of gathering your purchases and pocketing your change. Something, anything.

If you need a pause from the holiday if only for a few minutes, I have a suggestion courtesy of the City of Norwich’s website calendar for an event but really more of a moment, this Saturday at noon in Taftville’s Sacred Heart Cemetery. But it's not a unique-to-Norwich event, not by any means.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Wreaths Across America whose three-fold mission is to Remember, Honor, and Teach. Every year this national outreach coordinates wreath laying ceremonies on veterans’ graves on a Saturday in December (this one coming up) at Arlington in Virginia as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in each of our 50 states, at sea, and in over two dozen cemeteries in other countries where US military members have been buried.

I’ve attended the Sacred Heart ceremony and while I admire the power of words, I’ll concede I don’t know enough or the right ones to adequately describe an event that is a heartfelt and homegrown acknowledgement of the lives of our departed veterans (of all services and from every conflict and era of our history). You should experience it for yourself.

It is both a gathering and a reflection of our community in remembering the fallen, honoring those still in service and teaching one another that freedom is free only with sacrifice. I’ll look for you Saturday at noon.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Between the Lines of Fear and Blame

Some Wednesdays are easier than others when it comes to writing about “Norwich politics” which was my charge from Ray Hackett, the Bulletin’s editorial page editor in January of 2010 when these musings and meanderings first saw the light of newsprint.

It’s usually pretty easy to do. Perhaps I could suggest putting a renovated Reid and Hughes building inside Chelsea Gardens by Kentucky Derby Day, but I’m not looking for a quick laugh today when I remember an event four years ago, today that didn’t happen here but at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Four years already?

Through all the means of mass distraction in the 21st Century we have long been aware of the seemingly ceaseless stream of random violence and calculated carnage in every corner of our country but with Newtown, I realized and maybe you did, too, I had never thought such a horror could happen here in our  state, home.

Even those who question the existence of God can have no doubt that evil is real and in the world because it came to a place that offered safety and security, an elementary school filled with adults who gave the last and fullest measure of devotion to save those least able to save themselves, the children.

Four years on I don’t pretend to have insights into why what happened in Newtown happened at all. All I can offer is to hold the parents, siblings, and friends of those who were murdered in my thoughts as the survivors hold them in their hearts. I'd pray for better days for them and us but hope for better days may have been among the casualties at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Newtown should remind us to examine our lives and decide what is truly important. And by that, I mean 'pressing issues' such as our rancorous presidential election, the ongoing state budget shortfall, and the economic challenges we face in our own city. All important and requiring serious and sincere efforts by people of every political persuasion working together to do what we know needs to be done.

But that’s even more true about Newtown. We see every incident of inchoate violence as an isolated singular event, rather than as larger and unending episodes of anger and rage so profound we still dare not speak of causes and solutions because our emotions are still too raw or ‘it’s too soon.’

Except, it's not soon; it's too late, much too late for six young teachers and twenty even younger children and grieving relatives who put very small coffins into the cold, cold earth, during the holiday season four years ago and who will carry until their dying day a hole in their hearts that time will not ever heal.

We’ll have other days in Norwich to argue. Today is a day to pause and hold our loved ones closer and see in their eyes a reflection of who we must become the difference in the world,
today and every day.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Refurbishing Room 101

During the demolition derby that masqueraded as the 2016 Presidential campaign, the victor railed against speeches, at hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop, his opponent gave at meetings of the same Wall Street concern whose executives are now populating his Cabinet. Some of that action may require the true believers to take two hits of the Kool-Aid to get the appropriate bellyfeel.

He pledged to drain the swamp of cozy collaboration and to end the revolving door employment exchanges between the 1% and other 99% (to include those learning, somewhat with a shock on a daily basis, that they are now in that 99%) but has instead accelerated the revolutions per minute at which the door turns.

He's populating Cabinet positions like MiniluvMinipax, and Miniplenty with characters and actually caricatures of characters who appear to have minimums of ability in critical areas that proles such as I would think were helpful in what I would assume should be the faithful discharge of their duties.

And despite having dined out almost every day for eight years on the insistent and persistent canard that his White House predecessor was actually a citizen of Kenya, he chooses to not believe any of the evidence gathered by professional agencies whose job is to report the very items he disbelieves on deliberate interference by a foreign power in the recently concluded national election.

Next Monday could be the grand opening of the place where there is no darkness.
It may look frightening but as the Minitrue minions will explain, who are you gonna believe, your own eyes or someone else's. Don't think before you answer.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 12, 2016

Readying for Winter

We had a threat of snow for today and we'll see how that forecast worked out once we get some daylight in these parts. I feel like it really is winter though the calendar reminds me that technically it is still autumn so I won't complain too much except I really dislike snow and let'sleave it at that, more or less.

I have enough snow shovels so that if I had an army of friends, we'd be covered but since I don't have any friends, I'm just fine forever in that department. I do have a snow blower I got a couple of years ago at an end of season sale (do you know there are model years for snow blowers and lawn mowers? Amazing stuff). I didn't need it last year, which was good since my wife gets angry when I shovel snow or use the snow blower. But wishing the snow away has yet to succeed so here we are.

My problem with the snow blower is it makes a lot of noise (It's gas powered; I've seen electric ones and they make me laugh, they really do) and I hate to bother people early in the morning which is when I go to work even if everyone else technically refers to that time of the day as the middle of the night. Po-ta-toh, po-tah to. 

And I have no mechanical ability (I accidentally learned that my car has an alarm after arming it while in the vehicle, sitting in the parking lot at the grocery; I have no idea how I did that so I can't really list it as my super-power though I am tempted) and so just finding where you put the oil in and where the gas goes took forever when we got it. But I'm ready now 

Dear people who make stuff like snow blowers: Yes, I know they are for manly men and, as such, laugh in the face of common sense but let's face it, lots of the engine parts are made out of plastic like the crankcase where the oil goes and the gas tank. Why must this always be made of the darkest, blackest plastic you can find? Why can't they be clear so a talentless goober like me can see, with a glance, was is los in the lubrication and fuel departments? Is this too much to ask? If it is, sorry. And maybe it is fortunate that I didn't pursue chainsaw juggling as a career.

If previous years are any barometer, with very little effort I'll get the snow blower started and move forward. If I recollect correctly, it has five forward speeds and two reverse which is slightly more of everything than my car has. In previous years I get slightly overcome perhaps by the fumes or the dispersing snow or some combination of both and become a person I do not much care for in normal life, except, of course, it's winter and I'm Bill the Outdoorsman (flannel shirt sold separately). 

I hope to not have a repeat of a recent winter where I had so fallen in love with the technology I had at the end of my outstretched arms I decided why not go ahead and try to clear the ENTIRE backyard with the snow blower? Thank goodness I ran out of gas.
Perhaps I should see if this year there's a patch to prevent that sort of thing like for smoking?
-bill kenny 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

On with the Countdown

I'm fascinated by online polls from newspapers, TV stations or for all I know from overachieving high school kids in Mesopotamia trying to figure out if their fake news items have grown legs. It matters not what the survey is about: it's a less than scientifically collected assortment of opinions on anything and everything ranging from "Who should be the next President? (already? Sure why not)" through "What's your favorite dessert topping?" (and I'm often surprised how often those two answers are identical). 

Here's the thing: not only have I never been a part of one of these surveys, I've never known anyone else who was, either. And neither have they. How about you? (And does this count as a survey, if I'm asking you about surveys? Hmm...) 

And after you've read about the results of a survey, or seen a report on TV, does it change how you feel about whatever the issue is? When there's a story about the decline in consumer confidence I've gotta tell ya there's always a definite a lack of spring in my step (and all the other seasons come to think of it). Never mind after you read the fine print you discover the survey was based on how people were feeling about purchasing 'big ticket items' in the course of the next quarter (houses, furniture, automobiles) whereas I'm preoccupied with affording groceries in the here and now, In the spirit of helpfulness and neighborliness, I'll pretend I can feel their pain as if that were possible for a plebe and dweeb like me to do.

I smile when I read letters to the editor where their authors talk about where "Wall Street" stock prices are since So and So was elected to Such and Such. Some of that palaver reminds me of W. Edwards Deming and his red bead experiment. Sometimes I think of King Canute watching the tide roll in despite his insistence to the contrary.And of course the There's a joke to the effect of 'Cheer up, things could get worse. So I did, and they did!' Where is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale when we could really use him? Not here, not anymore and I'm positive about that. 

Have we confused cause and effect? Do events take a specific course because of how we feel about them or are our feelings on a specific course shaped by the events? And this is just the challenge with faith! Don't even get me started on hope, charity or whatever the other Spice Girls are called. Two more Sundays and then we can stop being nice to one another. Again.
-bill kenny