Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Best Times Are Timeless

I had the luxury of time this Memorial Day weekend to reflect on a lot of things to include this place I, and about forty thousand or so, others call home, Norwich, Connecticut. 

By necessity, we tend to think about Norwich in statistics when we measure the miles of paved roads, inventory classrooms in schools, survey the in-service police cruisers and fire-fighting apparatus and monitor the total value of the grand list (which directly and indirectly drives nearly all the other things we count).

But if you've driven anywhere in the city, have a child in one of our schools or have ever needed public safety assistance, I know while you, too realize how important each of those separate numbers are, you also know that even when they are added together, they don't come close to truly reflecting Norwich. 

I mention that, in more than passing, because I had experiences this weekend that don't show up in any of those categories but are more real for many than the number of square feet of available rental office space (which is an actual statistic). 

The Rotary didn't have the greatest weather (again) for this year's carnival at Howard Brown Park but you'd never have known that from the enthusiasm of the youngsters who enjoyed every minute of it.

I wandered the fairgrounds Saturday evening admiring the smiles of the tall and small and drawing energy from the gleam in the eyes of children (of all ages) while the foot traffic across downtown never ceased as families descended on Brown Park and both the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Ferris Wheel did steady business.

Earlier on Saturday, I had met up with a large contingent of neighborhood volunteers who gave Lake Street a spring cleaning I think bordered on transformative but for them was just another day in the neighborhood. I'm a sporadic (at best) helper, as the St. Vincent De Paul Place along with Reliance House and the Last Green Valley, organize an outreach the last Saturday of every month from the spring into the fall and people from across Norwich, and beyond, roll up their sleeves and lend a hand (and trash bag). 

And then on Monday, to help me focus on the memory part of Memorial Day, I enjoyed an indoor ceremony of remembrance at Taftville's Knights of Columbus Hall marking the sacrifice of twenty-three Taftville residents who died in service to our nation. 

At noon I joined with friends and neighbors in a short parade from the Cathedral of Saint Patrick to Chelsea Parade for another annual remembrance of those who gave their lives so that we might all have the freedom of choice in our own lives we so often take for granted. 

Very little if any of what so many of us shared this past holiday shows up anywhere in a 'bottom line' when we speak of Norwich and yet in far more ways than I can count, all of it helps us every day as we strive to become the city we hope to be.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Petty Pace

I wrote this eight years and have taken a stab, sometimes more literally than I'd like to admit, at wrestling it to the ground and finishing it over all the ensuing years, (so far) without success. I keep looking for the only approval I guess I ever wanted and coming up a bit short. I suppose there's always tomorrow and tomorrow..... 

Time creeps up on you and once you're past a memory of an event, it just seems to disappear. I think, in this case, some of the memory loss is due to the Monday holiday law and how it affected when we observed Memorial Day this year because the memories are always tied to the Memorial Day that my father died.

Walking after dinner last night I realized, with a start, xxxxx years ago I was still in the US Air Force (don't worry, NOT as a pilot or anything even close to important; you know how movies with crowd scenes have 'extras'? I was one of those) and was standing Staff Duty watch at my assignment, the American Forces Network HQ, in Frankfurt am
Main, West Germany, before The Wall came tumbling down and peace, love, and harmony ruled our planet. 

It had just turned three o'clock in the morning, I had the radio on and Jan W (who pulled the ridiculously early shift Milt F had once worked while stringing for ABC Radio) had just played the sounder and started his cast in the newstank when the telephone rang at the switchboard. At three in the morning, not a lot of good was on the other end I feared and I was right.

It was an operator from the American Red Cross Family Notification Program in Mannheim and she asked for the newsroom as was the routine. Once connected, she would say the code of the day, verifying who she was, and then state the name, rank, and unit of the service member who did not yet know that s/he had a family emergency/death in the family 'back home.'

Everyone in Europe, it seemed, listened to us. We were so pervasive, I got mail from listeners in Scotland, Norway and in Iceland who would ask about a particular song I had played in the middle of a set of records. I seriously believed you could tune us in on a toaster. We were everyone's soundtrack.

I told the Red Cross lady the newscaster was on the air and offered to take the information myself. When she spelled the last name, I realized it was my last name and when the first names matched, I was able to tell her 'and he's asked to return home for a death in the family' and have her confirm that course of action.

She asked me to read back the notification, to assure her I had it and would relay it as was standard operating procedure. I told her I was the serviceman who had just learned his father had died. She apologized though I never figured out for what.

I waited for Jan to finish his newscast and carried the Red Cross log book back to him. I stood there while he read the one page summary of conversation, signed the receipt on the bottom and looked up at me. When he did, I nodded slightly, and with my shift now over, I went back to my desk to pull together my thoughts for the trip home.

When my boss, Bob M, came in later in the morning he was as kind as he could be while helping me depart on emergency leave, get a lift to the Frankfurt Flughafen and flying into JFK in New York.

It's odd how I cannot remember who picked me up if anyone did. I do remember a bus ride somewhere in Jersey to somewhere else in Jersey and eventually walking down a long and still-dark-in-the-early-morning-light-of-day-road on which my parents had built a sprawling house. A house, if not actually at the end of the world, was so close to it, you could see the end of the world from the backyard.

My dad and I did not get along if by 'not get along' you mean actively loathed one another. For many years, before and after his death, I thought it was because we were so different but I've realized it's more because we're so much alike. I think from the time I could talk I said 'no' to everything he ever wanted of and for me.

My parents' house was bedlam. Only the three youngest children were still living with my parents; the oldest, my sister Kara, a senior in high school was just weeks away from graduation, her younger sister, Jill, in one of the middle grades of high school and Adam, looking very solemn and all alone, I guess was in elementary school. I still feel bad about abandoning them for all those years, all those years ago. Sorry doesn't start to cover it and all I can offer is an apology and regret for my cowardice from then until now.

I had escaped and after me, a sister and a younger brother had all gone their own ways but, in candor, I had gone the farthest and fastest to another continent and another culture. I had met and married a person whose own family was as damaged in its way as I always thought mine was. But in my father's house, that night and the next day and the next night, I didn't know where the journey would take me.

The funeral director kept calling my mother, 'Mom', for (I'm sure) grief-management reasons. I remember nothing else about him except that he kept doing that until I felt compelled to tell him very quietly mine would the last face in this life he'd ever see if he did not stop doing that. I'm not sure my mother even realized the man was there.

I traveled in my uniform which was all the clothes I had brought with me. I don't why I packed only Air Force uniforms. It did make it easy to spot me at the funeral, at the graveside and at the wake where scores of people whom none of the rest of us had ever known, but who knew my father, stopped in to say how sorry they were and how, if there were ever anything they could do, to please call.

None of us ever did, but that's okay because none of you meant a word of it, so we're even except for where we got odd. The afternoon my father was buried, the day after I had returned to the States, a relative took me to the airport for the return flight. I checked in for the flight back across the ocean to where my heart and home was.

And I've kept all of those memories tucked away as if in a photo album or shoebox only opened once a year around the Memorial Day weekend in the hope, forlorn so far, that this time is the final time I try to exorcise the past.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 29, 2017

Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War

I couldn't find a picture of a barbecue grill so this will have to do, I suppose.

Memorial Day 2017.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 28, 2017

UnHappy Motoring

Driving home the other day, I passed a fellow in an electric blue Miata convertible with the top down on not the nicest day either of us might have imagined for top-down driving, wearing a large hat. The fellow, not the car. Actually, I knew the driver, not that I waved or gave any sign of recognition, though the 'You're #1 with me' gesture did come to mind. 

I'd worked with the man a really long time, and I suspect neither of us recalls that period with any warmth or fondness. He had the Miata then when it was a new and cute little car that sort of reminded fossils like me of a classic Lotus without all kinds of pieces falling off every time you drove it someplace. 

For over a century the sun never set on the British Empire and for many years the same was true of British Leyland Motors. The same nation that built Lancasters and Spitfires to thwart Hitler and his Horde cranked out Austin Metros and Triumph TR7's with seemingly little thought of tomorrow. From the two seconds that I saw the Miata, the years haven't been kind to either of them; and between us, he had far less to lose to start with. 

Anyway. What had caught my eye was, on a day with no rain he had the top down, to catch the sun's rays (I'll assume). Except, he had a large hat on in the car, behind the wheel. To me, that defeats the whole purpose of having the top down. If you wear a hat in a car with the top down, it should be the law you must also shower while wearing a raincoat. I'm sorry, some rules of the universe are needed here. 

If you have a sensitivity to the sun, put the top down only at night or when the car is in a garage; leave the top up when you're driving outdoors (and when you're driving indoors and the indoors is a car wash) or just sell the car and buy one with a permanent roof (We have a name for a car whose roof can be lowered or removed, a 'convertible.' What should we call a car whose roof does NO tricks at all and why doesn't that car deserve a name?). 

Or in this gentleman's case, trade in the hat that covers your scalp for one big enough to cover your head. Keep America Beautiful, bozo (and if it's of any solace, that's NOT what I started to type). 
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 27, 2017

How We Got Here

This will be complicated so I beg your indulgence. It can be argued if you show up in this corner of the Interwebz on a recurring basis you are already being indulgent. Fair Point (I'll wear a cap so you can't see it. Better?).

I live in an area of the USA where the phrase 'great radio' is never uttered. If you make your living on the air in my neighborhood, nothing personal; the stations aren't to my taste so I do a lot of CD listening to both really new music that often bewilders as it entices an old fogey like me as well as long doses of familiar music from people I know.

At some point along the way, I picked up a heavily annotated CD of "The Hollies- Epic Anthology from the Original Master Tapes" (Epic, in this case, being the subsidiary of CBS much of their US releases were on as opposed to well, you know the other epic).

I should have paid more attention to the label affiliation since my favorite stuff, "Look Through Any Window" (from Graham Gouldman, he later of 10 CC), "On a Carousel," and, most particularly, "Bus Stop," isn't on this disc because the originators of the compilation couldn't/didn't/wouldn't get the masters from whoever owns Imperial Records catalog.

That's sort of too bad because, and I suspect I didn't pay full price for the CD (why do they still cost so much money, btw? Corporate Greed? Oh, yeah that would explain it), it is an uneven listening experience, to be as circumspect as I know how to be and am genetically capable of.

It does have "Sandy" my favorite cover of a Springsteen song (sadly, instead of its sales going gold, the song went Plywood in Indiana) but it also has "Everything is Sunshine," and "Do the Best You Can." The former was previously unreleased and was that way for a reason (just sayin').

A few years ago my wife and I caught Tony Hicks on stage at The Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts (The Big E is New England's version of a State Fair and is huge fun, especially if you like eating things that are deep-fried) and he looked and sounded well enough, though my ears had their nostalgia filters on so his mileage may have varied but the crowd really enjoyed him.

That's all really. Like most days in this neck of the woods, close to nothing is revealed but I did want to share a pretty decent and sort of unusual sounding live reading of "Bus Stop" with Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, co-founders of The Hollies, and David Crosby, for whom along with Steven Stills, Nash left The Hollies before Woodstock to go on to bigger if not better things. 
-bill kenny    

Friday, May 26, 2017

This Weekend Brought to You By.....

I hate to be the one who clouds the sunshine (notional and/or actual) of a three-day holiday weekend but why not just consider it as part of the service. We're so used to each of our days rushing past us in a never-ending stream we sometimes forget others, elsewhere, sacrificed theirs so we could do whatever we choose with ours.

Even, and especially, when we choose to do nothing.

Sometimes words are not enough like this time.

Thank you to those who served and sacrificed your lives for ours.

I hope we prove to have been worthy.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bright Lights in a Dark Place

The Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, should have been a memorable night for her and her fans. And it was, for all the most horrible reasons.  

Despite the torrent of reports about the attack and the aftermath, even as the search for victims continues and the hunt for those responsible intensifies, there are no words to console those who lost a loved one to yet another senseless act of impotent and indiscriminate violence so I won’t even try.

Instead I will mention Chris Parker and Steve Jones, men of the moment who at the instant they were needed to help, in every way and in any way they could amidst the carnage and the chaos, did all that they could and more.

When the last of the hate-filled horrors masquerading as humans who inflict death and destruction on innocents has finally been caged or killed and all evidence of their evil existence has been wiped from the earth, we shall speak of Parker and Jones and selflessness.

How even in the darkest moment, they were points of light shining to show us the way.
-bill kenny   

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Finding and Binding the Nation's Wounds

If last week's heatwave gave us a small taste of summer to come, a look at the calendar suggests we're a lot closer than we may have thought with this coming Memorial Day holiday weekend serving as the starting pistol before the announcer intones, 'gentlemen, start your bbq's!"  

But, just before you start packing for the picnics, or the shore or, closer to home, taking in the Rotary Carnival that starts tomorrow night at Howard T. Brown Park and goes until Monday, if I may have just a moment to offer some words, and what passes for thoughts, that you may recall from years previous when the topic is Memorial Day.

I'm old enough to remember when we observed/celebrated holidays where they fell on the calendar. That whole 'let's roll things to the nearest Monday and give everyone a three-day weekend' craze hadn't started. Sometimes I'm not sure we might not be better off with a return to earlier times, but that's a thought for another day. 

Meanwhile, I'm probably the first to wish you the best for your Memorial Day holiday, which will be observed Monday. 

And to help in that observation there's a remembrance ceremony 
at The Memorial Park in Taftville, around the corner from the Knights of Columbus starting at ten dedicated to a Taftville native son Army Technician Fourth Grade Joseph Andre Carignan who served during World War II and who died on October 18, 1945. The Taftville VFW Post 2212 and the American Legion Post 104 do a wonderful job of organizing this event, as they do with so many others throughout the year. I always find time to attend and hope you will too.

If tradition is any indicator, there will be some remarks by local civic leaders and those who served in uniform around the world in both war and peace and who lived to come home and tell about it, as well as words of comfort from a clergy person.

And if you're like me, you'll look around at the metal folding chairs, all neatly aligned facing the podium and try to figure out how many of those who were there last year made it this year. That's a tricky subject. The memory of sacrifice only survives until the last person who remembers has passed.

You probably have a ceremony very much like it where you live today and for all those who died in this country's wars so you and I could wear "Kiss the Cook" aprons and "I'm with Stupid" tee-shirts, cook raw meat over hot rocks and drink a little too much beer, it's never too late in the day to say 'thank you' so I hope you try to attend.

At the ceremony in Taftville Monday, there'll be a contingent of Young Marines joined by some Sailors, still in training, from the Submarine Base. They will serve as ushers and perhaps as the color guard and after about three-quarters of an hour, we'll have said all that we have to say and we'll all go our separate ways. It's not very much time to honor those men and women who spoke the seventy words which make up the Oath of Enlistment and meant them in their fullest measure.

The United States has been doing memorial remembrances for those who served our nation for a long time--though not by other nation's standards, mind you. 

In comparison to the Great Nations of Europe, we are a snot-nosed kid (admittedly who saved the aforementioned great nations twice in the previous century) and who did a remarkable job of rebuilding enemies beyond both oceans, Germany and Japan, while serving as a bulwark against the Soviet Union for decades.

But in the Brave New World, it's long since become 'what have you done for us lately?' And new enemies, far more formidable than any we have encountered before, require vigilance and sacrifice.

These are times of turmoil in the Land of the Free. We have all manner of talking heads, 24/7 TV news stations and websites which pander to every political flavor in the rainbow and tolerance and accommodation are in awfully short supply. 

We've become heavily entrenched in and entranced with our own beliefs and are less interested than at any time since the Nativist movement in what anyone disagreeing with us has to say about anything.

Perhaps as a reminder to take into this holiday weekend and beyond, I can offer the seventy (and four) words which closed Abraham Lincoln's second Inaugural Address. 

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." 
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Judge a Craftsman by His Tools

I'm going to cheat (twice) on you in a single sentence; actually 'alt-fact' you might be a better and more in-tune with the times turn of phrase. Here goes: This is the most amazing thing I have read all week. It's oh-bright-early Tuesday and let's safely assume I wrote this at some point Monday so just how dramatic and sweeping a pronouncement is the one I made to start this paragraph, really?

Depends on how big you think voter fraud was last November when the losing candidate for the office of President received almost three million more popular votes than the person who won the Electoral College vote. How do you feel about Frederick Douglass, the Bowling Green Massacre, or how POTUS 45 has been 'treated worse or more unfairly in history'?

If you are related to or know anything about, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and/or Kennedy, perhaps your reactions shouldn't count here in the brave new world beyond the pleasure dome where it's every man for himself and every woman should mind her place.

Me? Well, you already know I'm no fan of Donnie Dorito but I am tired of fellow-travelers who dislike him and think somehow excoriating the people who voted for him will simply change their minds on the choice they made in November. It's not so much not only 'ain't gonna happen,' as it is magical thinking. I do, however, take some solace in a quote from Alexander Hamilton who, two centuries before Trump, called him out.

Unless and until the audiences Halpern's article speaks about experience the strain and pain of betrayal and/or are made to pay the cost of their misplaced trust, we will continue to have at least Two Americas who speak AT but rarely TO one another.

Perhaps if the sons and daughters of those who voted for Mr. Trump were caught in a classic Trump Trap like this one, we could have a dialogue. Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the back of patience and forbearance but I wouldn't put a lot of money on that bet.

As long as the Effetes and Elites are pitted against the Adorable Deplorables we'll all just continue to run to the nearest barricade for our side and hurl invective and abuse at one another while the late, great United States dissolves into three hundred million plus Republics of Me. By then it'll be too late for talk and anyway we won't be able to hear one another over the noise.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 22, 2017

Your Move, Hallmark

We could be so much smarter if we used the internet to do something other than take and send pictures of ourselves eating food or cats (that is, pictures of cats; I think pictures of someone eating cat might put the permanent kibosh on taking pictures of what we are eating), but because we are creatures endowed with free will, we choose not to become smart.

At least I don't (so far).
I'm six and half decades along on this ride and remain dumber than a box of rocks, not said with pride but, rather, with a keen sense of my own very real limitations. So I try to use the voluminous information available to me via the world wide web but have discovered I am working on draining an ocean of information with a teaspoon, meaning some of settling of contents in shipment may occur (most of mine have settled just above my belt).

Here's some "I did not know that" just for today: Today is National Vanilla Pudding Day; on a more serious note (as all the lesser ones were sort of already taken), it's also National Maritime Day (where all nautical gifts should be on sail; didja see what I did there <==? Oh, you did). And today, most fittingly (don't ask) is also National Buy a Musical Instrument Day.

I can tell from the sharp intake of breath that you are amazed at my adroitness and ability (or you have asthma, which also starts with an "A"), but you needn't be. Just click here, and sign up for the National Day Calendar, and you'll (almost) always be in the loop and before you mock me for finding something like that, let's remember which one of us clicked on the link, last.

That whole stone casting guidance applies whether we have rainy day women or not. And let a smile be your umbrella if you want to gargle snow. However, and  I appreciate the efforts of calendarists everywhere to keep me current, I still had to find out for myself that today is World Goth Day (pause for effect).

As the site itself notes, I have to assume enthusiastically and with fervor, "The party is NOT over yet, either..." At least not until someone large sings and with this crowd, that's not going to happen.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 21, 2017


I ended up suddenly with a new cell phone earlier last week. It was last weekend I figured out, almost by myself except for my son and daughter helping, that I had a really teeny-tiny memory card on my cell phone and that I, and the phone, would be better off with a bigger one.  

Off to Memories R Us where I purchased a new card and put in it the phone all by myself, eventually, after understanding how to transfer what was already on the tiny memory card to the new one so that when I swapped them out, everything would be swell. So pleased was I that I sent my son a text to tell him I had swapped out the one GB card for a sixteen. His response puzzled me: 'since it's almost time for a new phone, that should be fine.' 

I pondered that line for some time. I had (note the past tense of the verb) a Note 4 whose capabilities far exceeded my expectations, and, to be honest, my capabilities as well. It allowed me to make phone calls (I have the phone for my convenience, not yours), take pictures and listen to music. Anything and everything beyond that was gravy. It came with a stylus I never even used.

And now I never shall. At some point in the morning Monday, the phone stopped working completely, never to function again. I was, truth to tell, really looking forward to this July and NOT having that monthly installment payment on the phone bill paying off the phone but I suppose I'll reset my sights on July of 2019 now and hope, as I always do, the phone expires before I do.   
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 20, 2017

When Penile Surgery Is Covered by Insurance

I woke up horribly ill this past Wednesday. I got up at my normal getting up time but within two minutes knew I was not going anywhere near work (which would have cheered legions of coworkers which was one of the reasons why I didn't tell them), so I called my boss and left an 'I'm not coming in today' phone message and went back to bed. 

A few hours' sleep later and feeling considerably better I walked to the market to get a salad for lunch and to check out how, at the intersection with Harland Road where going left magically puts you on CT Routes 2 and 12, the sidewalk repair is coming along. 

The answer seems to be: it's not, at least not very quickly. I walked past the site at close to lunch I suppose and the work crew was at a table under the shade of the trees in front of the Leffingwell House Museum while two (I counted them) police cars, one with lights flashing, hugged the sidewalk that you could still walk on. I couldn't tell you what the cops were doing as my ability to accurately detect 'protect and serve' is sometimes a little impaired. 

Less impaired, thankfully for the sake of telling of today's tale, is my sense of irony because on the walk back from the market, past the (Fantasy) island (with Herve V shouting, 'the cars! the cars!') rolling right off the connector like he had a deed to the road in the glovebox of the car (because he probably did) was someone, most certainly not from here, in a cranberry-colored Maserati Levante, a sport-utility vehicle for someone who already has a Lincoln Continental pick-up truck and whose Porsche SUV in the shop because the tires once touched the unpaved road.

Some of us have more brains than sense; sure hope he was heading to one of the casinos because they have just the thing for that cash-flow problem.
-bill kenny 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Willie Nailed It

We are having gorgeous weather where I live right now and deserve as much of it as we can get. It's why the Good Lord gave us two hands to takes as much as we want and two pockets to put it all in. I'm pretty sure that's in the Bible someplace if you know where to look and squint really hard. 

And yet despite the blue skies and green lights for you and yours and me and mine, I am still able to get my knickers in a knot over a story like this. It brings to mind a recollection I have about Steve Dallas the attorney (sort of) originally of Bloom County fame having traveled back in time as part of Outland, holding a trembling and broken Hitler in his arms, very much the worse for wear and war, during what is obviously closing time down in the bunker, all the while cooing "repeat after me, 'I'm a victim, too.'" 

Psychological damages. Seriously? You have an attorney who will be able to offer this complaint with a straight face? Adds new meaning to Dexy's C'mon Eileen
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Toast and Marmalade for Tea

I drove most of the way home Tuesday behind a plodding late-model silver Lexus with a license plate that read  "Tin Tin." It was one of the models that sometimes gets out of the factory with no functional directional as all the while I was behind her/him through two four-way stop intersections (and one that wasn't but we made it into one anyway), three left turns and two right ones, not a single blink was harmed or used. 

At first, I thought it was because the driver didn't want the sound of the directional to awaken Snowy but I was forced to concede in all likelihood there was no dog unless hair of the dog counted and for that, I saw no evidence.  

Not sure where they learn to drive without acknowledging other motorists on the road (or pedestrians on the sidewalk for that matter) but if the license had been issued in Borduria or were from Syldavia, I wouldn't have been a bit surprised, especially since the two backseat passengers vaguely resembled Professor Calculus and Captain Haddock.
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Desperate Times, Disparate Solutions

Desperate times call for desperate measures or so goes the expression. And for many here in Norwich, throughout Connecticut and across the United States these continue to be (close to) desperate times.

Our cities and towns, those who live in them and the merchants and businesses who serve them are struggling to stay afloat as governmental fiscal red ink spreads. 

Connecticut faces actual and projected budget deficits whose exact figures are still being discussed and calculated (and which seem to change nearly every day and never for the better) but whose impact should already be clear for everyone who lives here.

For those in elected leadership in every municipality across The Nutmeg State, blaming folks in the higher levels of government is all well and good, but blame won't get the education budget accomplished, put emergency services personnel on the street, get the roads repaired or help those in need of social services receive them. 

Here in Norwich, even as our City Council struggles to dot the I's and cross the T's on yet another annual budget that no one is happy about, from either the ‘too many cuts’ or the ‘too little reductions’ camps, the alderpersons have found themselves saying no to services and functions of municipal government to which they might otherwise have said yes.

When they listen to 'we, the people' they hear two distinct and different messages. Many residents feel Norwich cannot afford to spend more money on any aspect of city government but what if we need patience and political courage more than just dollars?

Can we afford to not invest in ourselves? Our schools, a vibrant downtown, historical and recreational opportunities, a low-cost mass transportation system and quality emergency services we all agree are needed to attract new businesses and growth, where does that start if not with us? How can we continue to hope for a White Knight to do for us what we are unable and unwilling to do for ourselves? 

There is no advantage, and less reason, to live on our knees. Obviously, times are tough and no one has any idea about when they may improve, or by how much. While we continue to live hand to mouth, we are slowly eating our own fingers--businesses close, families walk away from mortgages and houses, schoolrooms slowly empty as children disappear. And still, we're unwilling to put our own money where our mouths are and believe in ourselves. 

If this cycle of despair and disarray is to stop and be turned around, it has to be here, and it needs to be now. All we can do is our best and choose to not only believe we can make a difference but to decide to be that difference. The City Council no matter who voted for them must take a leadership role for all of us in the city. And we, restive and restless must learn to believe in them as in ourselves

If not now, When? If not us, Who?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Back Page

I wrote this nine years ago. I thought it was important. I still think it is.

This time last week my wife and I were traveling to Maryland, with all but one of my brothers and sisters and our mom, to bury her brother, our Uncle Jim. He was a year and a day younger than Mom, which means she knew him his whole life. 

Growing up we knew Uncle Jim, too. He and his wife, Aunt Dot, and their three children, Patsy, Michele and Dori spent their summers at Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania and after a false start (of sorts) in the Poconos, we, too, ended up in a summer house on The Lake (as we called it). Uncle Jim and his family lived in Kingston, Pennsylvania, about twenty-five minutes from The Lake all year round and we arrived from Central New Jersey after the school year ended in early June.

My mom and Uncle Jim were city kids. They grew up in New York City. They had many brothers and sisters though not many grew old with them. Anne died years ago from cancer, John from the after effects of a stroke that left him a shell of man in his middle thirties and dead before he turned forty and their youngest brother, Paul, died from leukemia or cancer (I'm not sure I ever knew exactly) in California at home with his large and loving family surrounding him. 

Mom's husband, my Dad, died of a heart attack in 1982 and left three of my brothers and sisters, the oldest nearly our of high school, to sort out a world turned upside down that Mom managed to put in order. Uncle Jim's wife, Aunt Dot, who always said 'mayan' when she meant 'mine', died suddenly in 2004. Their children and my parent's children each made their way in this world as best they could. 

My wife and family used to see Mom and some of my brothers and sisters at least once a year at Christmas when Mom still lived in Princeton and we would drive down. That seemed to work out okay when our kids were smaller but as they got older (and more significantly, as I got older) the long drive, the house not your own, the people you were related to but didn't know very well, all combined to end that annual jaunt. Not that long afterward, Mom, having gone back to work after Dad died (since her charming smile didn't pay the mortgage) and now retired, decided that New Jersey in winter had lost its charm for her and she flew south, nesting in Florida. 

I've seen my brothers and sisters sporadically in the years since. Assuming, as we all do, that there's plenty of time to say whatever needs to be said and to do whatever needs to be done. Uncle Jim's passing has persuaded me otherwise. Almost fifty years ago, I was thick as thieves with Patsy, Michele and Dori (Uncle Jim called them his 'Pat, Mike and Ike' and it echoed with me as our two children are named Patrick and Michelle and you can guess what I call them) but waiting at the funeral home this time last week, I realized how many decades it had been since we last saw one another. 

Standing alongside my youngest brother Adam, whom my son, Patrick, strongly resembles, I watched as each of the three girls (in my eyes; all three are women, of course) crossed the threshold, saw Adam, and smiled, thinking it was me. And when we each realized what had happened, the pain of lost opportunities and the echoes of unspoken words were nearly as real as the sense of loss at the passing of Uncle Jim. When we attempted to console one another, for just the briefest of moments, we were back at the dock on The Lake when the most serious issue was who would water ski, who would spot and who would drive the boat.

There are so many incidents and accidents that shape our lives and make, and sometimes unmake, our paths to becoming who we are. Uncle Jim influenced family and friends by being who he was and where he was. He didn't make a difference in my life, he was a difference. I watched his sister, my mother, hurt like I'd not seen in many years and saw a look in the eyes of my cousins, his daughters, that I know well but had hoped I'd never see on another's face. Uncle Jim's passing left a hole in our hearts, but the good news in that pain is because we can feel it and do mourn him, we are still alive, especially for one another and for whatever tomorrow brings
-bill kenny

Monday, May 15, 2017

And the 9 PM show is completely different

We'll all seen people with sweatshirts or tee-shirts that say 'ask me about my grandchildren.' I at some point in the past unknown to me have been fitted with one that says 'tell me about anything-I don't mind.' 

Sunday I wound up behind a fellow carrying a lot of stuff in his bare hands, without benefit or a shopping cart or a basket. I've had that happen, where I get ambushed in the baked goods by freshly made oatmeal and raisin cookies while I sort of have my hands already full (A reach exceeds grasp kind of moment). Have there been times I've parked the item I originally came into the store to get and bought a lot of other stuff, taken it all out to the car and then returned for the original item? Yes, guilty as charged.

Not sure what happened with this guy. He was pushing a bag of charcoal briquettes in front of him but did not seem to have any meat you would normally associate with grilling in his hands (and I don't care to imagine where else he might have put it). I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I've never been hijacked by briquettes when I'm Lost in the Supermarket, so I didn't have the highest regard for this fellow traveler on the Big Blue Marble.

When he started mumbling, from where I was behind him (I scrupulously enforce that ATM space rule when I'm in line. It will never be my hot breath you feel on your neck and vice versa) I thought he was talking to the scandal magazines alongside the gum and candy. One of the most sobering aspects of growing old is how, as I've aged, less and less of the headlines or pictured celebrities mean anything to me at all. 

The fellow in front of me wasn't talking to Me, as it happened. I looked up to realize, as he stacked his stuff (and '12 Items or less' became a suggestion, exactly when? I missed that memo) as high as he could on the smallest possible amount of space on the conveyor belt, he was actually talking at me. There was a reasonable amount of frantic head nodding and eye-blinking, not a lot of contact, which was of no help at all in understanding a single word of whatever he was, or wasn't, saying. 

All the while the cashier was scanning his stuff, he had his back to her, addressing me. I always get these guys so I just bided my time. When she announced the total, I had to point him, using the smile and nod technique (and NO sudden movements) in her general direction so that he realized the ride was just about done. 

Of course, he wasn't prepared to pay and went through his pockets looking for cash, paper and coins, before defaulting to a credit card, shuffling off with enough plastic bags to choke a landfill all the while jabbering away to anyone (else) who made eye contact.

When I handed the cashier my sole item, she remarked that she hadn't seen me 'in here with that guy before' as if I made it a practice to collect strangers in the night. I thought about telling her just that and then decided silence, in my case, was golden. Besides, if I dawdled, I'd be late for the Anonymous and Like It That Way BBQ, and that would never do.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 14, 2017

An Ounce of Mother Is Worth a Pound of Clergy

I've offered these thoughts before and am doing so again today because I'm a devout believer in recycling. And because they are even more true now (truer?) than when I first wrote them with the birth of my brother and his wife's first grandchild just days ago. Truths, self-evident and otherwise, become truisms when enough of us have them as shared experiences.

I stole the title from a remembered proverb and with it being both Mothers Day and a Sunday I couldn't resist. After all, I am my mother's son, as well as the husband of my son's mother (and of my daughter's mother as well, but I was on a roll and wanted to balance the sentence).

I've read "The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." And the image that came with that quote is a beautiful bonus, like one of those 'it came with the frame' pictures we all have in our homes.

Families look to a mother the way the fingers on the hand look to the thumb (said the middle finger of our family, me) so I hope wherever you are today you can reconnect with your family, however you see them, and celebrate both mothers and Mothers Day. I have one, my Mom, in Florida,  (she's very peripatetic and the the last time I looked that's where she was) and one, my wife's Mom, in Offenbach, Germany.

Each of their husbands passed away years ago after being married to them for a very long time leaving them alone, but never lonely, and even from the long distances we are from them, I can feel their attention, their concern and their love in every waking moment. 

I see in their eyes what I see in my wife's eyes when she speaks of our children and I know that all mothers' hearts are the same, not just on this day but on all days. Happy Mothers Day.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Get Up Each Day, Put on Your Uniform

The forecasts for this weekend, at least here in the North Least are nothing to get excited about unless you're a duck or a farmer. Or perhaps a farmer who raises ducks. I understand the rainfall deficit of recent years and the resultant drought conditions and so, yepper, I'm thrilled that we've battled back to almost straight-up even but I don't seem to have a whole lot from whatever this meteorological victory is supposed to be about.

Tomorrow is Mothers Day so for those who have one, something a little on the drier side for outdoors would be nice but whatever you're doing for your mom tomorrow, assuming we get enough dry weather to matter, make sure you're near a television, and ESPN, at half past eight tomorrow night for the final game of a four game home stand against the Houston Astros.

Believe me, baseball fan that I am and Yankees fan in particular, calling your attention to tomorrow's ESPN air time of 7:30 has precious little to do with the Astros. The Yankees will be retiring Derek Jeter's #2 uniform (they've now retired so many uniforms I think the current roster shares the five jerseys still available) and I want to make sure you don't miss it.

Haters need not apply and don't bother to tell me about how you disliked him/the Yankees/New York baseball or sports in general/whatever currently has your knickers in a knot. I'll ignore you not just tomorrow night but for all time.

I don't know about you, but I would give half of what I ever hope to own to be able to do something, anything, as well as Derek Jeter played baseball. Not just the way the game should be played, but the way it must be played.

I offered here one time that if baseball is religion then Yankee Stadium is Saint Patrick's Cathedral. I'm not sure what that makes Derek Jeter, but I'm glad tomorrow night's events will make me sad again celebrating how he played so well and so long.

Thanks, Jete!  
-bill kenny      

Friday, May 12, 2017

It's a Wild Hurricane

I drive a Subaru Impreza. It is not a turbo. It doesn't have a hemi in the boot for added torque or anything like that. It's a pretty straightforward, vehicle that right now is lacking one license plate light because I have no idea how to slide open the doo-hickey like the YT mechanics show to replace the bulb.

I drive it rather unadventurously back and forth to work five or more days a week. Perhaps the greatest thing about not having a life is there's little to interfere with being a drone and I have been a Drone's Drone for decades (and have the trophies on the fireplace mantle now that you ask, but you didn't).

I putter the twelve plus something miles from my house to my work in the oh dark thirty of the early morning, somewhat successfully between the casino shifts at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun before the first shift at EB takes to the road.

More often than not I use the state highway to go to work. It's two lanes, a lot of repaved less than a lifetime ago so it's in pretty decent shape unlike so much of the infrastructure these days with which we surround ourselves, and traffic, at the hour I drive it, is okay and not too much of a problem.

Coming home in the afternoon, because now, psychologically we're on 'my' time, I bang the left at the Mohegan Pequot Bridge which has been the subject of constant expansion discussions for more years than I care to think about (to include all the time the Mohegan Sun casino on the far shore of the Thames River has been open) and yet despite all that talk, the inadequate bridge has remained exactly the same. Imagine my surprise.

The drive home is a LOT more intense, because for the most part all of us are now on our own time and see one another as an obstacle to getting home. The other day the guy one car behind me in the right lane, the lane that disappears as you head over the bridge  after you make the left at the light, I believe, based on his outrageous roadrageous behavior, thought he had a Testarossa. From where I was it looked a lot more like a Tiburon.

And that, my friend, is why you only saw the back end of my Impreza all the way over the bridge, no matter how much skittering and darting you did back there, but also why I offered you a from the bottom of my heart rigid digit salute as you passed me horn honking but then missed your shift gate and fell off the pace, badly.

Laugh?  Moi? Not even the half of it. I thought I'd die banging my head on the dash.
-bill Kenny

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bryan Adams, Pick Up on Line Three

Some days this stuff just about writes itself which is a good deal for me since my fingers tire quickly from typing and a better deal for you and your eyes since there's almost nothing left to read except it's a tough life everywhere but most especially in Plant City, Florida

Oh yeah, because I mentioned Bryan Adams: na-na-na's sold separately.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Right Now

I overheard in a grocery store near the produce department last week two shoppers expressing frustration at the city for ‘not living within its means’ and annoyance at ‘how this happens every year.’ Yeah, there’s a lot of that going around, much like pollen, this time of year and it can be about as irritating as those seasonal allergies but only if you choose to let it.

I’ve cut back attending public meetings, but between newspaper accounts and published minutes and video archives of City Council meetings available on the city’s website, feel informed enough to agree that the more things change the more they stay the same when we look at our city’s finances, but to also suggest we may be looking at the wrong side of the ledger.  

Short of a national declaration of war, I think we’d all agree nothing done at or by any level of government has a greater impact on us than decisions made at the municipal level on taxes and expenditures. Because democracy is a contact sport, there should be nothing more desirable and beneficial than having as many residents as possible engaged in every aspect of the budget process.

Yes, that engagement can make for long and protracted evenings as those neighbors we’ve elected to the Board of Education and to the City Council listen to what we, the people, think our spending priorities should be, especially since so often we take turns contradicting one another on what to do and how, but still expect their decisions to reflect our thinking.

I heard someone else the other day offer, “well it’s an election year,” I’m guessing for why some paths and directions were being picked over others. Except, it’s almost always an election year and we can be mighty hard on the folks who seek office. There’s a half-remembered (by me) expression that goes “it’s only after you’re elected to a position of power that you first realize how little power you have.”

It seems to me we've wasted decades pitting teachers against policemen, struggling to balance human services versus road repair while measuring brick and mortar infrastructure support instead of (rather than in addition to) human resources development.

We view the city budget as some kind of a zero-sum game because it always has been. We have more wants than wallet. But that doesn’t mean it needs to continue to be that way. What if…

Our elected leaders and professional city management talent devoted XX% more of their time to the development and expansion of our community’s quality of life, not just talking about economic development but actually doing it? That would (not so coincidentally) enhance our municipal revenue stream that we so often define our Grand List.  

Why not try it? What’s the worst that could happen? I think we already know that answer, and live with it every day. If we want different results for our city and ourselves, then we have to agree to do things differently. Right Now.
-bill kenny