Thursday, August 31, 2017

Deja Vu All Over Again

Strange days indeed. Opened one of our newspapers yesterday to a story of more reluctant development in The Rose of New England, Norwich Connecticut, where I live. I'm ten thousand percent positive that there's more to this story than fits in the paper, but there's a legal difference between what I know and what I can prove which is why a lot of folks around me are still slithering across the earth. Anyway, the more things change the more they remain the same as what follows is the very first entry in this space that I ever offered, back on Sunday, 14 October 2008. Somethings get better with age. Others do not.

Driving past Washington Street this morning, it looks a growth industry is the hardware business-selling neighbors large plywood sheets and paint so they can erect signs to yell at one another on the issue of spot zoning.

New signs insisting on the right to do with their property what they wish, possibly from those who've sold options to developers, angry at 'the select few' (as their sign says) who insist this commercial endeavor be turned away. 

Another sign boasts about the increase in tax revenues and the additional (service) jobs a new mini-sprawl, I meant mini-mall, will bring to Norwich (even though the pharmacy hailed as 'new' will be the existing one from across town.) 

Jobs, much like Einstein's matter, can neither be created nor destroyed, at least in development models. If we take six inches from the front of the blanket and put it on the back, the blanket is NOT a foot longer. Let's hope we do NOT need a thirty-seven-minute power point slide show Monday night at Norwich City Hall for that to be understood.

Everyone's signs ignore, or seem to, our inability to look ahead and plan accordingly.
When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

Right now, most of us think any movement, even the circles in which we are turning, is the same thing as direction. Most don't know the difference between smart growth and economic development (all ducks ARE birds but not all birds are ducks) and until we learn that, we're fated to waste a lot of time thinking we're having a contest between 'property rights' and 'NIMBY'. 

It's not really what it's about.

Meanwhile, those whose agenda is not and will NEVER be that of advancement and enhancement of Norwich's economic basis will prosper while residents remain reactive instead of proactive

-bill kenny  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Day, Familiar Problem

Today across Norwich (and elsewhere) summer ends for those families with school-age children. Classes convene and the rite and rote of education commences for everyone from the enthusiastic beginner who struggles to see out the school bus window to the older, if not all that much wiser, youngster who already knows more about everything in this brave new world than we ever learned about when we were in school. 

Our two are grown and gone, long removed from the crush and rush of anything to do with that first day of school but memories linger, some like Banquo's ghost, so good luck to you and yours as this day begins. 

All this first day business and new beginnings (not just for those in and going to school but for all of us) got me to thinking as we start to close the books on the summer of 2017 and return to work-a-day and realize (perhaps with a shock) that we are still struggling with some of the concerns we had before the lazy, hazy sunny days, most especially a state budget.

Yeah, this is awkward. Technically, the new fiscal year has already begun (1 July and you didn't send a card, did you?) except we're all just a little light in the wallets right now in that we still don't have a state budget. Our city council, and leaders in municipalities all across the state know all too well no budget in Hartford means cautious and educated guesses, at best, here on the home front. 

And that's frustrating (or should be) when you recall the struggles and warmth of the rhetoric we all lived through around here last spring into June regardless of which side you were on during those discussions. as work progressed on a 'living within our means' city budget.

Right now all of us are enduring what might be called "bowling without seeing the pins." We have the shoes and the shirts and are standing at the lane with the ball, but there's a curtain separating us from seeing the pins. Some of us go ahead and bowl. The ball hurtles down the lane, disappears under the curtain and eventually someone yells out "six" " and then "bowl again!" 

Except what happened? Did we knock over six pins or miss six? Which ones? Come to think of it, how much is the state going to reimburse us for all this and how much of the tab is ours? Except for the part about the pins (I hope) that's exactly what local leaders are facing everyday (but we do get to keep the shoes, right?). 

If I sound a little cranky about it, too, it might have something to do with the rush in the last week or more in our local papers by the folks we've sent to Hartford to, among other things, create a budget, telling all of us how it's not their fault there isn't one and lamenting how the other guys are responsible.

I read their explanations and I get it, except I still don't understand how the search for the guilty gets us a state budget so we can then also have a municipal budget (in case you thought/hoped the clock on property taxes was stopped). I don't care who put the hole in the boat except the part about getting it repaired, because we're all in the boat and I, for one, prefer my water on the outside and not in here with me.   

Is anyone NOT aware that Connecticut is looking down a very long road with a rough ride whose outcome is not known. If the state budget fight is designed to sharpen our senses as we approach local elections in November, I think its working. 

I'm hearing (and reading on line) from more and more of us about both expanding our pursuit of new businesses as well as being better at how we spend our tax revenue. I'm sure we'll have a state budget before Election Day (maybe) but I'm even more positive that this time around the ballot, we'll weigh where we are and how we got here as we decide on how we want to continue the journey. 

Elections are when we should paint our masterpiece so it's high time to listen to the color of our dreams.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

After the Headline

Hopefully, just like you, we here in Southeastern Connecticut had glorious weather this past weekend. Bright sunny skies, with just a sprinkling of some of those high, fair-weather clouds, delightful temperatures and a touch of autumn in the early morning hours before the sun was high in the sky. 

I mention the weather because every news report this weekend was about Harvey and the damage and destruction it is leaving in its path as it saunters at a petty pace its way across Texas. From what I watched, and probably you as well, before becoming a tropical storm (again) Hurricane Harevy reduced the fourth-largest city in our country, Houston, to rain-soaked rubble on a scale and scope no one in the National Weather Service had ever seen before or imagined was possible.

I don't want to talk about climate change as a possible cause for the ferocity of Harvey and what that could mean for those who live in Hurricane Alley. That's not what I want to speak about today. We each have a recollection of a picture or a video clip of some unknown (to us) unselfish act of bravery and sacrifice performed by someone on the ground in the affected area, underlining (again and it can't happen often enough) how good and how kind we Americans are as a people, especially towards those who need a hand, or an arm and a leg in this case. 

You don't have to have a helicopter or a raft to help your fellow citizens in their time of need. We can each help from the comfort of our own home. Right now, for the first time in months, no one is talking about red states or blue states because we're the United States and helping one another is what we do. 

Here's a how we do it guide so you, too, can be a hero to people who will never know your name, but will always remember what you did to help them. Thanks for being who you are and doing what you can.
-bill kenny      

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's the Fault of the Vault

I fell over this yesterday. I'd put it away for safe keeping and then forgotten where I'd put it. Typical. I called it, at the time, Days of Miracle and  Wonder (Whip or Bread). You may call it something entirely different and there will be little I could do about it.  

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

And then I take a breath and remember our Patrick and Michelle are two twenty-somethings and realize that exhalation is a good thing (though not if you plan on seeking higher office, perhaps). In much the same way as I have little knowledge of and less appreciation for performers like Black Eyed Peas (I'm so unhip I thought there was a hyphen in the name; now I'm trying to figure out if Will and Sam I Am are related) or No Doubt (the official state band of Missouri, by the way; I don't know if you knew that since I just made it up), there's been a generational changing of the guard, as is always the case, that has moved 'my' music to the back of the discount rack and shifted its broadcast location on the radio dial from "W-O-L-D" to that part of the frequency spectrum just above the police calls.

It's hard for me to remember that the kids in U2 are actually older than my daughter Michelle's cohort, who regard them as fossils. Huh? REM started touring at nearly the same time as my son Patrick started walking-but to me I can still hear the breezy nonchalant brilliance of songs like I Will Follow or It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) in other people's music to this very day. 

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

You Didn't Ask; I Didn't Tell

I'm hoping no matter what time you're looking at these words, the Mayweather-McGregor Fight, Scrum, Brawl, Arg-Bargy, What-Have-You, is over. 

Nope. Not a second of it (the answer to your 'didja watch it?' question). Maybe because I don't have the build for it or maybe because I lack the temperament for it, I haven't been able to 'appreciate' boxing as a sport from childhood onwards when heavyweight prize fights were on "free" (over the air) TV stations so the whole family could enjoy 'em. 

And before you ask, I don't think professional wrestling is real or a sport (which is too bad because high school and college wrestling most certainly are, and great ones, too). Same goes for Mixed Martial Arts (wasn't this street brawling when we were kids?) and Unlimited Fighting Championships (is that what UFC stands for?). And as supportive of women's equality as a man of my age and background can be, I don't feel any joy watching/reading about two women beating each other up in a ring. 

Bread and circuses. That's what pacified the masses of the late Roman Republic as their democracy crumbled and devolved into the heartless and heedless Roman Empire. And I have to wonder, Et tu, Donald? 

Fists have neither brains nor mouths, the two components essential for us as a species to figure out how to get along.
-bill kenny    

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Face Like a Fist

I encountered someone the other day whose facial expression was one of utter and abject defeat. I was struck by it, not so much that I felt compelled to stop and her ask why she looked the way she did, but with the relaization that had I done any stopping and asking, she still wouldn't have told me. 

We see (and yet don't see) people like this everyday and I'm not sure in the all the years I've been back in the Land of the Round Doorknobs that I'm not seeing more of them now than I did when the wheels went down at JFK on Columbus Day all those years ago. Now the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away and as the day dawns we realize there are two things we will do all alone, be born and die. 

We are social beings who form acquaintanceships, friendships, alliances with others of our kind sometimes so the days don't seem so long or the nights so lonely. I can still remember the total joy of holding my new-born son practically directly over my head with both hands in the delivery room. He was, moments into his life, my deal with God though my perception and belief in the latter (or should I capitalize Latter?) has shifted in the course of the last three and a half decades. 

My faith in my son, and later, at her birth, in my daughter, is unwavering, complete and all-encompassing. As I told them at various (and countless) times as they were growing up, things they do I may (and do) find hateful or hurtful, but that will never change how I feel about them, ever. 

The look in this woman's eyes haunts me as it was beyond weariness and wariness. It was cold and abiding hatred-somewhere, somehow the things we could and should do for one another, even as casual strangers, did not happen for her. The rest of us have been weighed and found wanting and I wondered, for the amount of time it took me to pass her by and watch her eyes take my full measure and then dismiss me, how we two could share the planet, and in our case, the same city of residence. 

We struggle to survive in our lonely life rafts oblivious to the vastness of the great ocean we actually share, striving to make a mark, a sound or a difference as the pageant and parade threaten to pass us by while we work to right the ship of our lives. We end up with Nilsson's anthem, though never a hit, and discover it's so easy to sing along with even when we don't know the words. 
-bill kenny

Friday, August 25, 2017

Truck Fump

I almost felt sorry for a lot of newspaper editorialists earlier this week who had struggled so hard to ignore the dark cloud that is POTUS 45 when writing about his Afghan strategy he delivered to a waiting world on Monday evening. Almost. But not quite because I knew the Whiner in Chief was in Phoenix, Arizona, later in the week to go through the Looking Glass with the resentful and angry dwarves and gnomes who hang on his every word. 

That behavior Tuesday night is my inspiration for Truck Fump which is my one person crusade to mock tiny hands and a small mind to match until he finally bugs out and quits, which he will do because spoiled brats like him, with a sense of entitlement visible from space, have no idea how to make or to do anything aside from a mess, and themselves as the center of any and all pity parties.  

He has a grievance with everyone about everything and the platform to vent his spleen every day for all the days that remain. And he has his minions in the millions who accept his every pronouncement as Gospel and some practitioners of the New Testament of the Gospel who see him as semi-divine. 

That perspective is another reason why I'm not inordinately fond of religion, since, by their lights, he and they will be in the Heavenly Kingdom for all Eternity and as far as I'm concerned that's an excellent for the rest of us to steer clear of it and to practice in this life. 

As for the Petulant Pantload, eventually, even an accomplished liar like him runs out of stories to tell you about why nothing is going as planned and how none of it is his fault. We're not at the end quite yet, but unlike Palin watching out for Vlad the Impaler from her house, I'm keeping one eye on ours at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue waiting for the vans to show up in the middle of the night. I'm counting the boxes just as you're counting the days, DJT. My money says you'll reach zero first.
-bill kenny    

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Without a Trace

On the Gold Coast of Connecticut, the state in which I reside (I live in a state of bemused bewilderment for the most part), the city of Stamford is considering a ban on cellphone use by pedestrians while crossing the street.

As someone who has always had difficulty chewing gum and walking at the same time, a ban like that might help save me from myself, to say nothing of saving you from me as well. I attempt on more occasions than I am comfortable in admitting to trying to walk while reading my cellphone screen and have repeatedly walked into other people or objects to include phone poles and street signs. Such a ban here where I live might save my life.

I use my cell phone a lot to listen to music while I walk which I concede can make me less aware of my surroundings (deliberately on my part) than may be good for me but I never even have the cell phone near me while driving my car, because that kind of distracted driving is just crazy.

And if you doubt that, consider this your teachable moment. Definitely proof that 'you don't have to tell me twice,' mainly because I'm not sure anyone survived that unscathed, once.
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Okay, We Seem to Be Lost

I originally offered these near-thoughts eight years ago. I don't know whether to applaud the consistency my life has or to be appalled by the unrelenting sameness of it.  Contrasting circumstances of then and now suggest the more things change the more they stay the same. Your mileage may vary but I suspect the challenges of life here on the ant farm will remain pretty steady (beepers sold separately).

You try to take a couple of days off from the noise of the news and you get so far behind they're piping in daylight to you. I thought I was closing my eyes for but a moment but when I opened them, the political topography nationally and (I suspect) locally had changed, again. 

We spent most of the summer simmering in fear of coming to a boil over health care coverage, for whom and how much. There was a lot of yelling not just in DC but in the pages and websites of local newspapers across the country as we loudly called one another the other "L" word until we discovered almost none of us have sore throat coverage in our own health care insurance. 

Aside from agreeing to disagree (and I'm not sure we even agreed on that, to be honest), it's just one of the fundamental disagreements we are having with one another right now on any number of issues, none of which (I'm pretty sure) have only one correct answer. In theory, no one is ever opposed to going to Grandma's house, but the route you've chosen, or the speed of the journey or the radio station we're listening to in the car are all points of contention. And we haven't even left the driveway yet.

I have the funny feeling we're still a good distance away from Grandma's house on healthcare, equal rights, immigration, climate change, and national defense to name just some hot button issues and when we pull up in front and try to sort out exactly whose Grandma's house we're at, oh boy, won't that be fun? (And all those cookies and milk going to waste.) 

We do this a lot around here, here being the United States on most days of the week. When you read our history in school, we seem so streamlined, so possessed, so driven. And then you dive beneath the surface, and the movie's a lot different.

We stumbled towards and into Independence--some of the Founders who traveled to Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 weren't firebrands yearning to be free. Some of them got hijacked on their way to the Jersey Shore--some were Steve Carlton fans waiting for the founding of the Phillies. KIDDING! (about the Carlton part), but you can guess where this is going, right? Accidental Excellence. When we get it right, we don't know how we did it and we can't seem to do it again. 

Doesn't mean we should give up or just settle for what we've got. If we used that mentality there'd be BILLIONS of people on the shores of Western Europe, and Africa as well as Eastern Asia (standing on one another's shoulders by now, I suppose), staring across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans trying to figure out what was going on 'over there.' (And a really, teeny-tiny group of indigenous peoples on the North and South American continents looking nervously over their shoulders.)

And it's the not-giving-up, the-how-does-this-part-go-on-to-that-part line of inquiry that's also part of who we are. We're a nation of loudmouths (I got a megaphone one year for my birthday; I use it to demand pony rides for my next one) who don't always listen to one each other's words but who, at the end of the day, somehow, can look into one another's eyes and see the heartbeat behind the polemic and understand that the person with whom we are disagreeing isn't evil or ignorant, but just different (and maybe a knucklehead, or is that just me?). 

And he/she is looking at us in exactly the same way. Walt Kelly's Pogo was on to something, and we could offer to buy him a beer, but there's a lot of resentment about those uneaten cookies and milk from Grandma's house....
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

You Never Can Tell

I stopped smoking almost twenty-one years ago and if I were honest, I'd admit I miss it every day. Perhaps, if I thought about it, I could concede I miss it every (waking) minute. It's why I should be a little easier on those with other substance abuse issues, because of the nicotine monkey I have on my back. But, I'm a world-class hypocrite and two-faced phony so I'm smugly righteous in my indignation and opprobrium. 

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

Even though I no longer smoke, I still make it a point to take a break at some point in the morning, when I've reached a logical halt in whatever I'm working on, to get outside and walk around the block. Everywhere I walk has sidewalks and folks driving respect the rules of the road so it's not like they chase me across the street when they find me in a crosswalk while I scream 'catch and release!' at the top of my lungs (and boy, does that get old in a hurry). 

The other day I watched someone in one of those EXTREMELY large pickup trucks (its size reminded me of a house, with rubber wheels), seeking a parking place. We all do it the same way-where ever you're going, you aim at the building, drive around it to see if today is the day where that 'reserved for (your name here)' sign has finally been erected and when that fails to happen, we slowly work our way back from the building in ever-widening circles in search of a space.

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

The hugely large pickup trucks, large enough to have their own zip code, are an American invention, sort of like clogged arteries and poor medical health insurance. Yeah, maybe other nations have something similar, but  this is how we roll, like it or not. They all sound the same, like a Cris-Craft outboard engine idling in honey, and their owners will NEVER have careers as getaway car drivers because you can hear them coming three blocks away.

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

As I walked by, the vehicle door opened and out and down (way down) dropped a woman of perhaps five feet in height, perhaps weighing ninety pounds. She was so incongruously tiny in comparison to her vehicle I at first thought she was a child, but I was mistaken. She made eye contact with me as she hit her key fob to electronically lock her behemoth and smiled. "I end up over here, every day," she sighed, "it's just too hard to find a big enough space any closer." 

I asked her why she didn't just head to the far lot in the first place and save herself the time. "Because you never know," she said, "you never can tell."
-bill kenny

Monday, August 21, 2017

Everything Under the Sun Is in Tune

We're in for a treat today (I guess) if you like celestial phenomena (when I type the word phenomena, I always think of this, but that's just me, I'm sure). Today's Total Solar Eclipse last happened in 1979, so if you have the opportunity to observe (choice of verbs deliberate) do so carefully, mindful of the risks but grateful for the moment.  

If you'd like a preview, check this out. 

And if you'd like confirmation that you and I aren't the only two people in the history of the planet who find this whole notion cool almost beyond words, click here

"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact, it's all dark."
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 20, 2017

It's Not Just a Game

This is one of my favorite weekends of the summer and not just because I get to watch so many other people’s kids get dragged to stores for back to school clothes, though (of course) that is looming at least around here for next week.

Curmudgeon that I am, nothing warms my heart quite as well as watching a gangly young person who elevated barefoot to an art form since school let out in middle June having to get used to wearing shoes and socks again. As an adult with a list of required wear apparel (almost) longer than Trump’s reasons for why nothing is his fault, I say ‘welcome.’

The 2017 Little League World Series is in full swing (it started on Thursday) so make the time and find a chair to watch baseball as it should always be played, for the sheer love of the game and for all the other people on your team. Here's the schedule (and yeah, the kids from Fairfield, Connecticut, are in The Show but I would talk about little league even if they weren't).  

I love professional baseball beyond any beats and bounds and I am always loyal to where the wellspring of the game actually is, on the sandlots across this country and around the world. With all the hell and hurt going on just about anywhere you stick a pin on the globe, I am looking forward to being able to watch some of today's contests before my work week returns tomorrow and drags me away. (But I'll sneak a peek during the week, trust me)

There are always so many great 'aw, shucks' stories and magical moments in the course of every tournament. As much as I love the start, I hate to see it end, not only because I enjoy the energy, enthusiasm, and engagement these young people bring to my favorite sport but because someone, somewhere ultimately has to lose for someone else to win.

The dog pile that goes on at home plate when the last out is made (next Sunday afternoon) is balanced by a sadness from the other dugout whose team struggled through an entire season to come up just short at the final moment. There’s no shame in losing-only if you didn’t play every second of every game to win and when you get to Williamsport, there’s no danger of that.

Little League baseball, in my jaundiced opinion, is how life should be. People take turns and say please and thank you. They respect the rules and those who enforce them. They try their hardest and give their all. They say ‘way to go’ to team-mates and competitors alike and really mean it and when an umpire says ‘that’s a ball’ or ‘that’s a strike’ they say yes, sir, and nothing more.

Little leaguers are us before all that adult stupid stuff gets installed. Check it out, if you have the chance and remind yourself of the way we were when summer days went on forever and you played baseball until mom called us in for supper. Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game. Batter-up!.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Terrorism has paid another visit to Spain. Another version of the same, sad movie, playing over and over, never reaching the end because it lacks a conclusion. Fueled by fanaticism and a hatred of the other, people who have nothing to live for bury themselves deeply into a cause that gives them something to die for. And they are only happy when they make others die for it, too.

You will never win. Never
-bill kenny

Friday, August 18, 2017


Amidst all the noise this week of the most recent edition of American Nazis in the News, I thought (at first) I'd only imagined a story about the Governor of Arizona publicly stating his state's Confederate statues would NOT be removed (as the one of Robert E. Lee was slated to be in Charlottesville, Virginia, before all those brave Aryan warriors took to the street). Like so many (POTUS 45, I'm looking at you) public officials, he offered no explanation. And didn't need to.

As I said, I thought I'd imagined it because Arizona was hardly more than a territory much less a state at the time of the Civil War (I didn't think it was much of anything) but I hadn't. Seriously. So the state song has lyrics like "I wish I was in the land of cactus, where our cowboys don't need no practice. look away, look away, look away, et cet era?" Actually, nope, not at all.

I pictured Rhett telling Scarlett, "Frankly, I don't have any chaps, or spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle, as I go antebelluming along" but that's NOT how Arizona came by its Sons of the Confederacy club membership, sadly. Turns out, for an area west of the Mason-Dixon line, Arizona has a bunch of Confederate memorials and I can't claim to have a peaceful heart as to why.

I appreciate Curt Tipton's reaction, quoted in that story, to taking the memorials down since, without putting too fine a point on all of this, Arizona was on the wrong side of that history. I lived a long time in Germany and don't recall any parts of the autobahn being named for the Linz Lunatic from the more recent German past, but the list of US public spaces dedicated to the Confederacy is lengthy.

I certainly hope that assertive desire to preserve and remember "our past" means the Equal Justice Institute can count on the generosity of hearts as well as wallets as its project continues. After all, history never looks like history when you are living through it.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Uncelebrated Holidays

Last Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the death of Robin Williams about whom never enough can be written or said. I want to expend a few words on someone else who died almost a decade ago earlier in the month of August. Indulge me as the two would be the first (I believe) to agree they complemented one another.

Actually, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died on 3 August 2008. He was a gaunt, humorless fiercely angry man who looked like someone out of the Old Testament. When I was going through college, in the early Seventies, as we were raising hedonism to an Olympic event, he was writing books that I found utterly fascinating and assumed had to be fiction as I had no context in which to place his writings.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich wasn't just a grand and rambling story in the tradition of The Brothers Karamazov or Dr. Zhivago, it was a full frontal assault on what a glow in the dark white preppie from Central New Jersey knew about the world. It wasn't interested in discussing my experiences within its context--it reported the facts as it saw them and left me to rebuild my world view. 

The First Circle and The Cancer Ward were amazing and then came Gulag Archipelago, of such sweep and scope and overwhelming cynical horror that any notion, no matter how misguidedly romantic I might have had, about 'all power to the Soviets' disappeared as I turned the pages. How ironic a devoutly Russian Orthodox writer, practically from the century before mine, could have served as the incentive to persuade me, no longer a faithful son of Holy Mother Church, that Evil was palpable and real and not only deserving of a capital letter but of a vigilance that will drive me the rest of my life. 

So eloquent and beyond refutation were his indictments of Russian Communism, that the Soviet Union had no choice but to kill him or expel him. Realizing we in the West have short memories and shorter attention spans, they wisely chose to dump him rather than make him a martyr. One need look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for proof of failing memories. 

In remarks accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 that he dared not leave the country to accept from fear the Soviets would bar his return he wrote while an ordinary man was obliged “not to participate in lies,” artists had greater responsibilities. “It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!” He spent nearly twenty years in Cavendish, Vermont, growing less happy with his port in a storm and remaining unhappy about his own country.

Nothing that went on in the Soviet Union, the Confederation of Independent States or any of various permutations that the USSR splintered into ever convinced him that those who chose personal gain over common good had been eliminated (I always loved Tank McNamara's imaginary nation of 'Carjackistan). The longer he lived, the more of a scold he became-and included us, the USA, in his growing circle of unhappy disappointments. We were spiritually weak and materialistic and vulgar, he said thirty years ago and if the shoe fits..... 

He had no use for either Gorbachev or Yeltsin and when he returned home in 1994, he seemed even angrier than when he had lived in exile. He was unwilling to bend and unable to break and so he came to be inconvenient in our lives, where we take a stand against terror and injustice by looking away ('look at all the schools armed faction X has built') and there he was, until the end of his days at 89 years, unblinking and unwavering. 

How lucky he was to be able to spend all those years living here in the USA, where we never persecute tists, but just ignore them. There's a Russian saying, 'we believe in peace and flowers-in the grave' so I hope the flowers that were placed in his memory were lovely and that if there was peace to be found, perhaps Solzhenitsyn did. He deserved it.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Healing a Case of the Apolitical Blues

I do a large amount of walking. That I continue returning to my point of origin often creates some strain in my circle of acquaintances but you can't have everything. And that was actually what I was thinking about last Wednesday walking home from last week's Rock the Docks show at the harbor making my way towards Chelsea Parade up Broadway because, as I always joke, it's as close to Broadway as the likes of me are likely to ever get. 

I threatened mentioned last week that I would serve as a one-man reminder/countdown clock for our municipal elections and on my way home I encountered a fellow-passenger here on the spaceship who mentioned he'd seen my words and offered Mark Twain's alleged quote, "if voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it." 

I didn't argue his point (I know, 'how out of character') but only because I don't respect the perspective it purports to offer. I never can figure out who the 'they' in these situations is supposed to be, except it's always (supposedly) someone other than us. But if not us, then who? And if not now, then when?  

How about instead, a little something to think about while nodding in desultory agreement with a neighbor on something we both know requires vastly more than just a thirty-second quip or quote to rectify? And if any of this angers or annoys you just remember I was walking up hill towards home and your mileage may vary.

Does anyone vote for anyone any more or do we project our hopes, fears, desires, and anger on to those seeking office, forming alliances of convenience on what we choose to define as issues rather than on life principles and then exacting our vengeance on these same candidates when our interests diverge? 

I'm not a historian but many of my points get old in a hurry but I can't help believe that there's never been an easy time to serve on a City Council or a Board of Education, be it here or anywhere else across the state or the country. 

We tell one another these times are the toughest our city has ever known, and then realize we've been telling one another that for years and years. Maybe we need to focus more on the blessings than the blame of how we have come to be here, in this time and in this place.

I have no illusions that, by myself, I can save the world. I have trouble saving to buy a soda--but, humor aside (yeah, that was an attempted joke)--the best I can do, the best any of us can do, is to save the piece of the world upon which we and our loved ones stand. 

And if enough of us are doing that, those pieces knit together forming a whole greater than the sum of its parts and we raise up one another and cannot only reach for but also grasp, the stars because we are standing on one another's shoulders. 

How about this November we concede this time our vote does matter and spend half as much time looking at candidates as we do when we buy a car. Or studying the dessert menu. Does that sound fair enough? 

I'm willing to agree I owe you that much time and courtesy, candidates for office whoever you are because we need all the good ideas we can get. We are taking on water at an alarming rate and instead of navigators and visionaries we keep choosing to heed angry and fearful voices who do little more than rearrange the deck chairs. 

We are all we have so grab an oar and put your back into it. It's a long way to shore and we dare not let our arms tire in this dark and stormy sea.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Approximating Zero to No Good Purpose

I first offered these words seven years ago. I have the feeling the need to mark today will outlast my 'best buy' date by a wide margin. Not knowing something, in this case, history, isn't bad but it's not good (see American Nazis, in Virginia, over weekend). Being proud of your ignorance is arrogance and that is not good. Let's hope it remains a point of pride to not forget today, ever.

Today is the seventy-second anniversary of the ending of the war in the Pacific, often called VJ Day and that image is what many Americans, even the unborn at that time, think of when we speak about the end of World War II in the Pacific. If you're of Japanese ancestry your visual is more than a little different but the beginnings are of more consequence, if less visual than the endings. 

My mother and father raised six children in the aftermath of the Second World War (the first having been fought as the War to End All Wars fell a little short in that regard) and their children, my brothers and sisters, in turn, had children of their own, some of whom now also have children (I'm getting a little dizzy from the math of it all) as well.

In the years immediately following the end of World War II there was little reason for optimism to believe your children's children's children would be alive in a world with a mushroom cloud. But perhaps of more significance is despite some close calls (Korea 1949; Hungary, 1956; Cuba, 1962) there's not been a third use of atomic weapons.

Historians argue the seeds of the next war are always planted in the waging and conclusion of the previous war. Perhaps that means we learned something, maybe not much, from the calamity and destruction we unleashed upon one another during World War Two. It's certainly not a bright and shiny world in which we live in the ever-dwindling days of the summer of 2017, and sometimes it seems the LWH, Lunatics Who Hate, are multiplying like hobgoblins.

More and more of the world, despite our efforts to the contrary, born, live and die without a chance.  We must, as a civilization, apply the same ingenuity and steadfastness of purpose that created Little Boy and Fat Man to shift the shape of the society in which we all live if not for humanitarian then for the most pragmatic of, reasons--those who have nothing to live for soon find something to die for. And then they want everyone else to die for it, too. 

Between the desire and the spasm; between the potency and the existence; between the
essence and the descent falls the shadow. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang
but a whimper.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 14, 2017

Aus Aktuellen Anlass

I'll get to what today's title means in a second unless all the persecuted little, white boys both at and NOT at Charlottesville Virginia this weekend already looked it up. Okay, you win, here you go. These are the same folks, the exact same folks, whose calendar assures them every morning that Tomorrow Belongs to Me and have 20 April and 11 May circled and are always angry that the Hallmark stores don't have cards. Blut und Boden, mein arsch.  

Remember when we all used to live together in a shared country? (Together being the operative word) We didn’t always get our own way (some of us spent a long time trying to figure out exactly who voted for McGovern, and then, later, for Dukakis; then, even later, for the SECOND Bush), and there was that birther kerfuffle over Obama and then the car crash of the 2016 Pick Your Poison, Krebs oder Cholera Election.

It was awkward, NEVER close to okay that as the years have accelerated in this decade and the reach, though not the depth of Social Media has created bubbles and cocoons that no longer overlap in any way, but we're waaaaay beyond that now. This was the chum in the water that brought the scum to the pond. Admit it: We no longer disagree with one another in the abstract, we kill each other in the physical universe. 

Heather Heyer was flesh and blood; NOT an abstraction
We have clenched jaws and hard eyes and hardened hearts, but that shouldn't mean we can't talk-it just means we won't, I fear. Somewhere we decided two diatribes now equals one dialogue and I GET TO GO FIRST! (sorry). If we yell AT one another long enough, from a distance somewhere in space it will look like we are talking to one another. 

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

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

Now all we are is disagreeable when we disagree. And we engage in preemptive shouting matches with one another in forums supposedly designed to let us exchange ideas and views. The longer the meeting, the louder the yelling and don't even get me started on the understanding.

We once talked things out and arrived at consensus through reasoned discussion and debate. Now the line between gee-willikers and jihad makes it almost impossible to discuss anything. And when you have a President of some of the people not sure how to lead all of us in moments of crisis, like this one, so he doesn't lead at all and forfeits not just the moral high ground but all ground, we're heading jaw-jacked and head lowered directly into a catastrophic calamity.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Feels Like a Prayer

Not all prayers involve kneelers, church pews, organ music, and stained glass windows. At least I hope not.

I'm told, of all the words of a prayer, the most powerful is the first one.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hallelujah, You're Home

My mother was a part of my life for every single day I lived until her recent passing. Today, I and my family drive to the Jersey Shore and with her children, my brothers and sisters, and as many of our (and their) kith and kin as could come will say goodbye, for one final time.

Mom died in early June, less than two weeks short of her 89th birthday. She lived life on her terms and she left life on her terms, and there isn't a day that's gone by since her death that I haven't missed her. I tell myself I've gotten used to that ache of absence but I am lying because I don't know how you get used to that and I'm trying to steel myself because I fully expect to feel it a lot more as today unfolds.
Mom's high school graduation photo (mooched from Adam)
"Oh, I'm in pieces. 
It's tearing me up but I know a heart that's broke is a heart that has loved. 
You were an angel in the shape of my mum.
You got to see the person I have become.
Spread your wings and I know that when God took you back
He said, "Hallelujah you're home."
-bill kenny