Thursday, August 31, 2006


c. 2006 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: I began collecting records at the age of seven. Like many kids, my buying habits were skewed by innocence, and meager funds. But this ground-floor approach paid dividends in the years to come. I was able to build a diverse library of musical artifacts, while gaining knowledge in the field. After taking up the profession of a wordsmith, this background in folk artistry became indispensable. Howling to the beat of tunes by Frankie Stein made everything possible…

In days of yore, even baby-boom kids from Ohio were overwhelmed by the unstoppable power of BEATLEMANIA. During that period, the ‘Fab Four’ were everywhere. Record companies went dizzy with the success of this mop-topped, British group. So anything even remotely similar was rushed onto vinyl. Popular instrumental bands of the day were waylaid by John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s incredible rise to fame. Combos like The Ventures maintained their creative integrity while affecting various guises of modern ‘hipness.’ Others, like Davie Allan and the Arrows, found strength by supplying distinctive work for the soundtracks of legendary cult films. Yet for many, it was a period of career-oblivion.
Some chose curious methods to move musical product in that heady era. Yielded were new variations on the basic rock ‘n’ roll formula. Seeking a new revenue stream, these unknown troubadours adopted a variety of pseudonyms. Their faux-selves were crafted to match pervasive market trends. Album categories soon developed that were easily recognized by young collectors:

1. Hot Rod/Drag Racing
2. Surfing
3. Monster Sounds
4. Motorcycle/Chopper
5. Pop Hits/Dance Craze (Sound-alike imitations)

Such vinyl treasures were produced quickly, and marketed as budget recordings.
Their production was meant to capitalize on the quirky nature of youthful tastes. Many were worn out on Hi-Fi sets of that age, while teen parties commenced.
My own introduction to the weird instrumental genre came through a childhood gift. When our favorite local retailer offered 99-cent albums as a special buy, I inherited a copy of “Monster Melodies” by Frankie Stein and His Ghouls. My parents were intrigued by the cover illustration. Depicted were three horrifying images - a rabid gorilla, a mummy dangling his pet spider in yo-yo fashion, and a gilled sea-creature. Because I had only reached the tender age of nine, it seemed to be THE COOLEST RECORD EVER MADE! I was spellbound by this goofy, low-buck platter. Watching its black and silver label rotate was particularly hypnotic. (The design boasted an eerie pair of eyes, surrounded by clawlike hands.) From my youthful viewpoint, Stein sounded no less important than The Beatles, James Brown, Johnny Cash, B. B. King, or The Rolling Stones. Howls, crashes, piercing screams, and ghost mumbling were combined with twangy, 60’s reverb-guitar. It created a potent mix of tonalities and rhythms. Fortunately, I was too immature to know that the prize was a simply cheap, semi-artistic knock-off. My pleasure made the 99-cent cost a worthy investment.
In later years, I would mention the LP among fellow vinyl junkies. But few had any knowledge of the Frankie Stein series. Then, the magic of eBay struck on a winter evening. I happened to recall my beloved, audio Frisbee while hunting search results from the virtual marketplace. And a surprising entry appeared:

CDED02 (Groovy Grinds Corporation) - "GHOUL MUSIC" and "SHOCK! TERROR! FEAR!" (Albums originally released on POWER Records.)

“Finally Frankie Stein and his Ghouls PRESSED and PRINTED and DIGITALLY remastered! ‘Ghoul Music’ and ‘Shock! Terror! Fear!’ both LPs on one CD… Not only are both in STEREO, the CD is individually numbered and limited to 1313… The sound is beautiful and crystal clear… Has 4 page booklet with photos and a fun review of the tracks, which is actually cool to read and listen to at the same time. It says put out by Groovy Grinds (with a bloody logo) CDED02. I truly love these jazzy blues numbers and even more with them being so clear. 25 tracks in all and a hour long. I had been waiting a long time for these LPs to come out on a professional CD and now I have another one to sell!”

The online discovery awakened my ‘inner child’ from an eternal slumber. Continued looking yielded original, vinyl issues of “Introducing Frankie Stein & His Ghouls” and “Monster Sounds and Dance Music.” But most impressive was the sight of an unopened copy of my erstwhile relic, “Monster Melodies.” The record carried an unbelievable ‘buy it now’ price of $150.00!!
An eBay seller from Nieuwkerken-Waas, Belgium included liner notes with his ad that were hauntingly familiar:

"A record like this is enough to scare a body into dancing anything from the 'Twist' 'Watusi' 'Hully Gully' 'Swim' 'Frug' 'Surf' 'Monkey' 'Dog' 'Lindy' and even the lowly 'Fox Trot'. And without losing a DEAD beat. The monster maestro (Frankie Stein) is a graduate of the mausoleum of music at the University of Paris Green. He plays guitar with three hands and conducts with the other two. He is DEAD serious about his music. Many critics have hailed him as hideous ghastly horrormonius etc. etc. etc. This album was recorded with the fabulously eerie sound of Power Records new D.D.T-method. The die-namic sound with Dead beat that has everything to make your dancing-and-Popcorn Party a HOWLING success"

Spurred by the eBay listings, I began a web search for information about the elusive Mr. Stein. Available on a blog with the unlikely name of ‘SCAR STUFF’ ( I found entire Ghoul LPs posted for easy downloading. The tracks were chillingly authentic, complete with static and crackling delivered from the original platters! Also unearthed was Frankie's own page ( which offered tunes and images from the legendary Monster Maestro.
Who actually played on these sessions? We may never really know. One Internet rumor is that guitar hero Duane Eddy was part of the group. On the fan-site other possibilities are addressed. Were Joel Herron, Fred Hertz, Joe Thomas, Dewey Bergman, or Al Kooper members of The Ghouls? None of the information provided truly clarifies this subject. But personal messages from other Frankie Fanatics are thrilling to read. It seems that all across America, young listeners were having similar encounters with these spooky sounds.
For myself, finding others who bought the recorded works of Mr. Stein was enough. It gave validation to my secret passion for such rocking instrumentals, laced with echoing screams, ghost whistles, and kettledrum thuds. I celebrated, by burning a CD of monster classics including “Weerdo the Wolf” for drive-time enjoyment. It made the roadgoing hours something to anticipate… a genuine trick-or-treat experience, every day of the year!


Thursday, August 24, 2006


I found this on eBay, recently. It is a two-album CD that includes the original "GHOUL MUSIC" and "SHOCK! TERROR! FEAR!" LPs. At the tender age of nine (1970) I got a copy of "MONSTER MELODIES" as a gift from my parents. I was immediately spellbound by the cheesy twang of this faux rock combo. The liner notes still evoke memories of hearing the record on our Silvertone Hi-Fi:

"FRANKIE STEIN and His Ghouls - Monster Melodies / Monster Sounds and Dance Music.

A record like this is enough to scare a body into dancing anything from the 'Twist''Watusi' 'Hully Gully' 'Swim' 'Frug' 'Surf' 'Monkey' 'Dog' 'Lindy' and even the lowly 'Fox Trot'. And without losing a DEAD beat

The monster maestro (Frankie Stein) is a graduate of the mausoleum of music at the University of Paris Green. He plays guitar with three hands and conducts with the other two. He is DEAD serious about his music. Many critics have hailed him as hideous ghastly horrormonius etc. etc. etc.

This album was recorded with the fabulously eerie sound of Power Records new D.D.T-method. The die-namic sound with Dead beat that has everything to make your dancing-and-Popcorn Party a HOWLING success"

Monday, August 21, 2006

PEACH CRUSH / 59 cents

This soft drink is rare and precious (for us northern folk) like nectar. You won't commonly find it anywhere around the Great Lakes. But a 'Great Frieght' store in Brunswick happened to possess a dozen sixteen-ounce bottles, recently. (59 cents, each.)

Peach beverages are popular in the southern USA. There are also varieties made by WELCH'S, and NEHI. (Faygo and Vess offer versions that are not-so-tasty.)

If you happen to discover something like this while traveling, then taste - AND ENJOY!


c. 2006 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: The following story began on Route 322, somewhere west of Meadville, Pennsylvania. The station mentioned here is WYBL 98.3 FM in Ashtabula, which operates as ‘THE BULL.’ It is owned by media giant Clear Channel.

We were driving home after a weekend getaway by the Ohio River. Our conversation had literally continued across hundreds of miles. Green hills spread wide before us, against the azure horizon. Then, the land flattened into a familiar profile. We were almost back to Geauga! This closeness to home seemed peacefully satisfying. It quieted our banter over quirky loved ones. With lazy whispers, we watched the sun slip into oblivion. It had been a satisfying detour from everyday responsibilities.
Liz, my road partner, typically enjoyed napping while I handled driving duty. But on this occasion, she remained alert. We chattered a few minutes more about the differences between Gallipolis, and the Cleveland area. Then, a pause for fresh coffee blurred our focus. As we sipped the C-Store version of Dark Espresso Roast, our thoughts began to go hazy. I pointed her car west, and rejoined the traffic that was headed toward familiar ground.
Suddenly, she switched on the radio. A brief FM scan tuned the receiver to a local country music station. And our calm was shattered, immediately:

“There’s a million different types of girls,
All around the world,
And they’re all so beautiful,
No one knows any better than me,
‘Cause I stare so constantly

But I think I met my match,
Last night at the club,
She was sippin’ on a Bud,
Hangin’ with the friends,
On a Friday night

A five-foot-something Cherry Bomb,
She had everything goin’ on,
The first thing that caught my eye –

She was rockin’ the beer gut,
Well it’s just some extra love,
Around her waist

Rockin’ the beer gut,
She’s more than hot,
She’s everything

With the blue jeans,
A little tight around her butt,
She’s rockin’ the beer gut!”

Liz was speechless. She went numb to the barrage of commercials that followed.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop laughing. “Hey, there you go! More quality entertainment, yes sir-ee. Yee Haw!”
She glowed hot red. “That song is disgusting!”
I was reinvigorated by the thought of a musical debate. “Come on, that’s no worse than ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ or some other such foot-stomping classic!”
Fire grew in her eyes. “Don’t make fun of Trace Adkins, R-r-r-rodney!”
“No problem,” I agreed. “Just give up some love for… THE TRAILER CHOIR! Sheeeeee’s rockin’ the beeeeeer gut!”
Liz hissed like a cat. “Stop it!”
“This is really confusing,” I said. “You typically get excited about Earl Fred Foddertoss, or Wilma Jean Homespun. And any kind of ‘pop’ country tune strikes your fancy. Right?”
She folded her arms. “You’re such a poo! But, yes.”
“Yet this song offends you?” I asked, emphatically.
“It isn’t funny,” she replied.
There was a moment of disbelief. “It sounds like a slice of rural American culture to me… like a County Fair, a hot dog cook-off, or a Tractor Pull. I think it’s a riot! I’d even say it’s… A HOOT!”
Her reaction came quickly. “Who wants to sing about having a beer belly? Yuck!!!!”
“Hey, the song is being played with Shania Twain and Faith Hill,” I said. “Guess somebody at the station thinks it is cool! They’re ALL rockin’ the beer gut!”
“Rodney!” she screeched. “That’s enough!”
I was on a roll. “I’ll bet their tour is sponsored by Dodge Trucks. Maybe Jeff Foxworthy will introduce them to everybody…”
Liz snorted. “Stop speaking in stereotypes!”
“I’m talking backwoods pride here!” My courage was boiling over. “Better yet, Larry the Cable Guy could promote them, on behalf of Blue Ribbon Beer… GIT ‘ER DONE!!!”
She kicked the floorboards. “RODNEYYYYYYYY!!”
Our radio warbled Merle Haggard’s ‘The Fightin’ Side Of Me.’ I reckoned that it was an omen of sorts. Further discussion of ‘Beer Gut’ was likely to cause an unpleasant, on-the-road incident. So we finished our trip without another word about the song.

* * * * *

LATER, a bit of research revealed that ‘The Trailer Choir’ was a band based in Nashville, Tennessee, but grown from local roots. I learned that they were “Three boys, just trying to make momma proud.” The band includes:
Marc "Butter" Fortney- “Vocals, bestubiousness (check choir site for definition), songwriting and acoustic guitar genius!” He is a native of Ashtabula.
Gary "G-ray" Somers- “Amazingly talented with lead vocals and everyone knows he's otherwise known as Jimi Hendrix on the Fiddle!”
Vencent ‘Vinny’ Vanzant Hickerson- “Vocals, The BEST GUY EVER, dance extrodinaire with moves you never knew were possible, amazing singer/songwriter/entertainer.”
Details came from installments of their ‘Trailer Mailer’ that were posted on MySpace. I read with interest that the CBS Online program ‘Survivor LIVE’ was using one of their tunes as a theme song. Also mentioned were their efforts on behalf of Crohn’s Disease research. But most surprising was a quote from the very station that had introduced us to their music, WYBL! Program Director Roger McCoy offered a resounding personal endorsement for TC’s music:

“I have been completely blown away by the response to the song (She’s) ‘Rockin’ The Beer Gut’ and the response it has generated in the North East Ohio and North Western Pennsylvania markets. We first introduced the song… on the air, with our Clashing Country program that allows our listeners to vote both online and via the phone. For five straight weeks, The Trailer Choir blew everyone else out of the water (which included several major label acts). This earned (She’s) ‘Rockin’ The Beer Gut’ a regular spot in our regular country music rotation. For the record, out of twelve years in radio, I have never seen an independent group’s song inspire such a response…It doesn't matter if you're old school country or the next generation - it is hard to stop the urge to sing along with the energy and song(s) put out by the Trailer Choir.”

Also posted was a list of ‘TrailerGating’ spots, where the band has been appearing at the U. S. Smokeless Tobacco tent during NASCAR Nextel races. The itinerary read like an honor roll of tire-shredding venues, such as Talladega, Bristol, Chicagoland, Darlington, Indianapolis, and Daytona. With a special trailer set up for visiting fans, the group promised much grub and conversation!
Enthusiastically, I shared the collected information with Liz. We commiserated over coffee at Mark’s Maple Leaf Restaurant, in Chardon. She was mildly amused by my detective work. But her opinion of the song was unchanged. “It’s just gross. They sing that she’s not ashamed of her big tummy. Gahhh! That it sooooo tacky!”
I smiled. “Come on, Miss Haybale. You always say I am too judgmental about modern country music. Well, this bunch takes me back to the authenticity of David Allan Coe or Johnny Paycheck. So think it over… who needs to open their mind now?”
She wrinkled her nose. “You’re a poo!!”
“Anyway,” I said cheerfully. “There’s a ‘Trailer Choir’ French T-shirt on the Internet. I ordered one for you.”
Her coffee cup just missed my right ear. I rolled out of my chair, and fell on the floor, laughing. “Just a joke, crazy girl! It was just a joke…”
The manager on duty asked us to leave after that. But I felt satisfied. While driving home, I made a mental note to contact the TC guys, directly. I would express my gratitude for their composition. And, ask them to send a publicity photo to a certain friend from Geauga County!



c. 2006 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Recently, vacation time offered a chance for this writer to revisit friends in central New York. Three years had elapsed since my last adventure in The Empire State. So there were many stories to share about life in Geauga. We met at a local pizzeria called NAPOLI’S, in Ithaca. This wonderful ristorante had been a favored spot for food and conversation, in yonder days. It was founded in 1976 by Emilio and Leo Sposito, immigrants from Fondi, Italy. Since my trip in 2003, Leo had retired from the business, and they re-opened at a new location. So I couldn’t avoid wondering: “Would their food still be the same?”
My first slice of the delectable pie overwhelmed any doubt. Olive oil dribbled gently as I lifted it from the baking pan. Mozzarella cheese stretched lovingly toward my plate. Our meal was a celebration! Twenty-two years in the Cleveland area had not dimmed the appeal of Napoli’s. I ate until my belly cried out for mercy.
Our conversation inevitably spun toward the subject of food. I spoke with admiration about barbecued ribs bought on the Thompson Square, during Fourth of July festivities. They were meaty and huge, prepared by the local Lutheran Church on a vast barrel grill. Eyes grew wide as I described the holiday feast.
Suddenly, one of my friends uttered a surprising observation. “We’ve got everything here. Traditional dining from India, Greece, China… but there is nowhere in town to get regular… uhm… American food!”
Everyone guffawed at his remark. Yet it was true! Such humble treats seemed unsuited to the fast-paced community surrounding Cornell University.
Still, I immediately thought of two exceptions. “What about Mano’s? Or the State Diner?” (Two mainstream establishments that typically cater to the off-hours crowd.)
He nodded. “Yes, but I mean a typical, middle-of-the-road restaurant, like you’ve got in Ohio. Not a diner. A Bob Evans, or something in that style. Ithaca is a culinary crossroads for the world. But it doesn’t have ‘down home’ food, anywhere.”
I rubbed my eyes, still laughing at the proposition. “Well… no. But you’ve got everything else. Isn’t that enough?”
Later, I pondered my Yankee friend’s observation. As a son of the Midwest, I took meat-and-potatoes cuisine for granted. With such satisfying dishes always on my kitchen table, I’d never considered them ‘special’ in any way. But… what if such delights were not easily available? My thoughts turned toward requisitioning recipes for this poor, NY soul. Soon, a roster of tasty vittles had developed on my computer:


15 oz can corn (drain and reserve juice)
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
Bacon grease or margarine for frying

Directions: Drain the liquid from the canned corn. Measure 1/4 cup of it, and discard the rest. In a medium sized bowl combine the corn juice you've just measured and the eggs. Use a whisk to beat them smooth. Add the salt, flour, baking powder and sugar. Mix really well, until there are no lumps. Add the drained corn and mix again. Heat about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease or margarine in a large iron skillet over medium high heat. When the fat is hot, it's time to drop in the fritters. I drop about 1/4 of a cup of batter for each fritter, cooking about 3 or 4 together in the same pan. Fry them just like pancakes, turning them, after the under side is crispy brown. They cook a little slower than pancakes, because they are thicker. After they have browned on both sides, transfer them to a plate to keep warm. Add more fat to the pan as necessary. This recipe makes about 8 or 9 fritters.


4-6 slices bread, torn into pieces
1 lb. sausage, browned & drained
6 eggs
2 c. milk
Salt & pepper to taste
1 c. mild cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions: Place bread in bottom of 13"x9"x2" greased baking dish. Spread meat over top of bread, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over bread and meat. Sprinkle with cheese, cover and refrigerate overnight. Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. This casserole can be baked as soon as it is prepared. Great for company breakfast.


Makes: 20 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ready In: 45 minutes

This bread is quick and easy to do!

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 can 12 oz warm beer

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl. Put into a greased bread pan. Let rise about 15 minutes. Bake in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown. This bread can go with anything…


14 hard shell corn tortillas
2c tomato sauce (2 standard cans)
1/2c chopped hot & spicy pork rinds
1/4c onion, chopped
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Oil for frying

Directions: Break pork rinds and tortillas into pieces. Set aside. In a medium pan sauté the onions. Mix about 2 cups of water with the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve: line bowls with tortilla pieces and pour the soup into 4 bowls. Sprinkle generously with pork rind pieces for a crunchy topping. Add cheese as desired.


Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 25 min
Makes: 6 servings, about 1 cup each

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen bite-size shredded seasoned potatoes
3/4 cup CHEEZ WHIZ Cheese Dip
1 cup Salsa

Directions: PREHEAT oven to 425°F. Brown meat; drain. Mix with remaining ingredients. SPOON into 13x9-inch baking dish. BAKE 20 minutes or until heated through.


8 1/2-oz pkg. cornbread mix
10-oz pkg. frozen broccoli spears
12-oz can SPAM, cubed 1/2" thawed and drained
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions: Heat oven to 400. Prepare cornbread according to package directions. Stir in SPAM. Spread into greased 9" pie plate. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cornbread is almost done. Arrange broccoli spears on top of cornbread; sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven; continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and cornbread is completely baked. Yield: 6 servings.


1 to 1.5 Pounds Ground Beef
3/4th Cup Frito Lay Brand Munchies Classic Mix, Smashed
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon McCormick Spice Blends, Montreal Steak
2 Cloves Garlic
3 Leftover Duck Sauce Packets

Directions: Place spices and Munchies Snack Mix with peeled cloves of garlic in a Ziploc brand baggie. SMASH!!!! Place meat inside bag, and form into a meatloaf…Take out and place in Casserole pan, cake pan or any deep welled pan. (Bake) about 45 minutes or so, in a 350-degree oven.

After compiling the recipes above, I realized my dietary rescue-plan was flawed. None of my comrades from New York would actually cook for themselves! Yet the exercise proved a point – In any language, food says ‘Eat and be happy!’


Thursday, August 17, 2006


My father has a habit of plain-speaking to a fault. He is fond of expressing great concepts with an economy of words. Tidbits of his wisdom were sprinkled throughout my childhood. But one particular saying continues to reverberate with meaning in a modern context: "Actions have consequences."

A clear indicator of wisdom is the ability to consider the results of a plan BEFORE moving ahead. Sadly, this kind of patient analysis seems to develop only over the course of time. It is why younger souls (like myself) become frustrated by seinor folk (like my progenitor) when they seem to be slow to act. While we focus intently on achieveing useful goals, out attention to related details is often lacking. This kind of 'tunnel vision' can cause unintended problems to develop as a result of our haste. In agrarian terms: What we plant will be our harvest. Care must be taken with the garden, or our reward will be naught!

Also, our plan must be pure. If we aim to succeed, but go forward with actions that wreak havoc for our neighbors, then we are condemmed to fail. No organization can survive without respect for the greater community in which it operates. Winning = losing when the cause is unjust.

The Christian Bible speaks clearly on this subject, with flawless logic:

Jeremiah 12:13 -
"They will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. So bear the shame of your harvest because of the LORD's fierce anger."

Job 4:8 - "As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it."

In business, the consumer ultimately sits in judgement over those who drive our economy. Thus, the mightiest CEO is no more than a caretaker, at best. The ability to control wealth comes only by satisfying customers. Those who can not 'sell' dependably are doomed by the process itself. Registers must ring, every day!

This need to move product profitably often causes commercial institutions to operate with an aggressive approach toward cutting costs. There is no way around the need for fiscal discipline. The immediate yield of thrifty procedures may be admirable. But... what long-term effects are caused, as a result?

Here comes the echo: "Actions have consequences."

Improvement comes only through overcoming challenges. Yet nothing is gained from a harvest planted in vain. If the wages of success is to surrender our values, than we have foolishly paid too much.

And everyone will be poorer, as a result.


Monday, August 14, 2006


Pork Rinds are a staple of the American snacking experience. Whether enjoyed with soft drinks or beer, they offer a panacea of flavors melded into one crunchy burst!

This bag of RUDOLPH'S rinds was found at a local supercenter. They are a product of Rudolph Foods, Inc. - P. O. Box 509 Lima, Ohio 45802. As they say... "How do we make the perfect pork rind snack? With Mary Rudolph's secret recipe. That's how!" They were tasty and fresh, if not really outstanding.

Rinderosity Rating: 7 of 10

This vintage beauty was sighted recently at The Great Lakes Mall in Mentor, Ohio. I've got a habit of taking along a camera during every venture from the Ice Household. So, it was easy to snap a couple of quick photos when this car appeared. With gasoline at $3.00 + per gallon, it must be a challenge to travel with such a thirsty roadburner. But the sacrifice would be worth it!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ice Family Reunion 2006

One of the great things about being semi-unemployed is having extra time for family activities. We've had some sort of summer reunion for many years among the Ices. But until now, I've not been able to attend because of workplace responsibilities. Being in Gallipolis with these loved ones was truly surreal.

On the left is me, with my father. On the right, a group photo (Left to right) includes:
Me, Uncle Larry, Aunt Juanita, Mom, Aunt Carol, Dad, Aunt Rosey, Uncle Kromer, Darby (front), Cousin Mac, Laura (holding Ella May), Uncle Dale, Aunt Phoebe, and Aunt Mary.

Friday, August 04, 2006


In an ongoing quest to keep our readers up to date on the world of PORK RINDS, Thoughts At Large presents the newest household acquisition - CONN'S, of Zanesville, Ohio. This snack company is known for producing a full line of chips, pretzels, and cheese puffs. Their products can be found easily at stores in Southern Ohio and Northern West Virginia.

The rinds were fresh and tasty, but not exceptional. They are perfect for drive-time munching!
Rinderosity Rating = 6 of 10

“Merriment At The Medieval Faire”


c. 2006 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

One of the great benefits of living in Geauga is our proximity to other interesting venues across The Northcoast. With a metropolitan neighbor like Cleveland situated nearby, we are able to enjoy many colorful attractions, easily. In the opposite geographical direction, one may travel east to discover a wealth of off-the-beaten-path destinations. Most notable in summer months is The Great Lakes Medieval Faire. Until recently, I had not visited this unusual celebration. But encouragement from a friend changed my weekend plans. A search on the Internet revealed pertinent details about this unique happening:

“Come Live the Legend! Weekends July 8th through to August 13th, 2006. We're open 10am - 7pm, rain or shine! The Great Lakes Medieval Faire is a shaded, 13th century family fun theme park filled with fine continuous entertainment, juried crafts and artisans, rides and interactive games, and foods fit for a King. Step back in time to an age of romance and chivalry, where brave knights battle on the open jousting field for the favor of the Queen, fair damsels, and the roaring crowd! Experience the variety of entertainment: marvel at magicians and fire-eaters, gasp with dynamic swordplay, and guffaw at marvelous jesters. Enjoy succulent period delicacies, washed down with ice-cold ale or fresh lemonade. And between shows, browse through one of Ohio's largest open-air juried Artisan and Craft markets, displaying hand-made crafts such as jewelery, leather goods, and clothing from across North America. Our village marketplace boasts over 100 of the country's finest artisans and craftfolks as they create and sell their wares - jewelry, customing, candles, clothing, baskets, boots, silks, swords, toys, pottery, stained glass, trinkets, and more! The Great Lakes Medieval Faire is located 7 miles South of I-90 on State Route 534.”

Our voyage to The Realm of Avaloch transpired in mid-July. It was an experience well worth examining in print. The saga begins on a wet, Sunday afternoon …

* * * * * * * * *

Entering the Faire was undeniably strange. I felt as if we had embarked on a time-warp adventure. All around, there were signs of yonder days. A troupe of performers played bagpipes and traditional drums. Mystic ladies read Tarot Cards. The Pickle Queen sold her delicacies from an emerald throne. Human-powered carnival rides thrilled the children. Fairies and Knights were everywhere.
Eventually, we were approached by a tall fellow in a black overshirt, leggings, and leather boots. With one hand on the butt of his sword, he bowed carefully. His gray hair spilled in a gentle arc, catching the sunlight. “Good day to you, gentle people! I am Squire Ffolkes. Where do ye hail from?”
My friend giggled. “Good day! I am Maid Lizabeth. A purveyor of pink.”
I bowed in response to the Squire. “Good day, friend. I am Rodney, Lord of… uhmm…The Park of Trailers!”
He was puzzled. “Trailers? What manner of living is this? You talk in riddles!”
I tried to sound convincing. “In this place, the homes may move from one spot to another! Simply when we wish it to be so!”
The Squire laughed out loud. “You are not a Lord, sir! You must be a sorcerer to make such things happen! Tis magic of which you speak!”
Liz interrupted. “He jests with you, kind sir. Rodney not a Lord. He is a scribe – one who writes on parchment for a living.” She prodded me with an elbow.
“Ouch!” I exclaimed. “Tis true, I am not a Lord. But in my village, we gather to watch chariot races, while feasting on rinds of pork, and fine sausages, imported from Vienna…”
This time, Liz was not so gentle. I felt a kick to my ankle! Then, she shouted with irritation. “I pray thee… hold thy tongue!”
My observations continued. “And I ride a wheeled horse, proudly, on The King’s Road…”
She stamped her foot on mine. “Hold, I command you! Hold!!”
Ffolkes was amused. “Ho, ho, now I see! You meant to entertain me with this story of magic houses and different customs. Well done, Master Rodney!”
“Forgive my foolish tale,” I said, limping with embarrassment.
Liz smoothed her layered gown. “So… ahem! Will you bid us welcome to this fine encampment?”
“We have traveled from Geauga, a district not far in miles from this wood,” I continued. “Our hope is to find refreshment. And merriment!”
Squire Ffolkes gestured with his hand. “Indeed! Be ye welcome here!” He turned toward an exhibit of olden music. “Bard Nathan! Play for our guests from Geauga! Play for them, now!”
A scruffy minstrel appeared, toting his plectrum cheerfully. He looked careworn, in a suit of burlap rags. Yet his voice was strong and clear. After a chug of ale, he tipped his cap, and began to sing:

“Ohhhhhh…Sailor Sam was a burly man,
But Lucy was his match,
He looked her over with a grin,
And said ‘You’re quite a catch!’
But Lucy wanted none of him,
She did not like the sea,
And when he kissed this fairest miss,
She slapped him on the cheek!

Sooo… Drink till dawn, be merry,
Dee-Di, Dee-Di, Dee-Oh,
Give up the fight,
And grab a pint,
This pub’s become your home!

Ohhhhhh… Miss Wendy was so pretty,
She made the lads go red,
But none of them could get her hand,
She long refused to wed,
But when she met The Vintner,
It seems she changed her mind,
She married quick, her manly pick,
And grew fat on his wine!

Sooo… Drink till dawn, be merry!
Dee-Di, Dee-Di, Dee-Oh,
Give up the fight,
And grab a pint,
This pub’s become your home!

Ohhhhhh… Nigel was a soldier,
Who conquered foreign lands,
But what he sought, could not be bought,
By marching with the band,
He loved a lass from Edinburgh,
They call her Lonely Lill,
But she depends on all his friends,
To keep the glasses filled!

Sooo… Drink till dawn, be merry!
Dee-Di Dee-Di Dee-Oh.
Give up the fight,
And grab a pint,
This pub’s… become… YOUR HOME!!”

After the Bard finished his tune, a jousting match commenced. It was a grand display of living history. A throng of revelers soon gathered to watch. The performance was amazingly realistic. I marveled at the violent impact of their poles. Each blow seemed certain to knock a rider out of his saddle! But, it didn’t happen. Could the armor they wore really be so sturdy? I pondered silently as the game concluded.
Our day of yore ended with a treat of Irish Guinness. As the sun grew lower over our heads, we vowed to return. Our escape from the 21st Century had been memorable. Now, it was time to rejoin the mainstream of current humanity!


Blog –

“Local Resident Aims High”

c. 2006 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

School age children are often encouraged to ‘Aim High’ in their personal outlook. Retired Hambden resident Bob Curtis took such advice literally. Though he is a former tradesman with thirty-nine years service in the IBEW, another passion filled his life. From the age of eight, he was determined to soar toward new horizons. “I grew up around a small country airport in The Carolinas,” he remembers. “I got my license in 1967, at the old Chagrin Falls Airport. It was once used to train people from the Kent State R.O.T.C. program.”
This love of going airborne prompted Curtis to join the EAA (Expiremental Aircraft Association) and participate in events like their ‘AirVenture’ in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Touted as ‘The world’s greatest aviation celebration,’ this festival of flight regularly attracts many thousands of visitors. Workshops, vintage planes, celebrities, air shows, and related exhibits provide a thrilling diversion from everyday fare.
But simply experiencing the miracle of flight was not enough for Bob Curtis. Persistent was the dream to build an aircraft for himself. However, he approached the task with a determination to enjoy giving his creation life. “I wanted to have fun. Not look at it as a program of work!” He fully realized this vision by completing a Van’s Aircraft RV-8. Richard VanGrunsven of Aurora, Oregon owns the company responsible for providing everything in kit form. His reputation with aviators has been impeccable, since the early 1970’s. Powered by a hefty Lycoming 390 motor, the vehicle is stunningly beautiful to behold. With a cloak of polished metal, the two-seater plane exudes an undeniable sensation of speed, even while at rest. It carries forty-two gallons of fuel, and can travel approximately eight hundred miles at 75% horsepower. Capable of cruising at 212 mph, the ‘8’ carries a full compliment of instruments and communication gear. Even a transponder is on board, to make locating the aircraft easy for those who control our airways. As he lovingly observes, “The plane is set up just like the big guys!”
Curtis says flying has helped him meet others with varied personal backgrounds. “It is a close-knit community. There is no class division here.” Dentists, attorneys, and business executives from across the area share an interest in flying. As an example, Ralph Wilson from The Classic Auto Group is a frequent guest at local events. This pursuit may be less obvious than building ‘Hot Rods’, or custom ‘Choppers.’ Yet it is present throughout the county. “You never know what you’ll find in a man’s barn in Geauga County,” he observes with enthusiasm. “You don’t have to be a mechanical whiz to build a plane!”
If you spot N341RC in the air, don’t hesitate to give ‘One Romeo Charlie’ two thumbs-up, for a job well done!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Is this ketchup a take-off on the classic BIFF-BURGER restaurants? I discovered the item at MENTOR FAMILY FOODS, 7294 Lake Shore Boulevard, in Mentor-On-The-Lake. Label text provided by the producer reveals little about its origin, except for a postal address: "Distributed by Biff's Burgers, p. O. Box 1531 Taylor, MI 48180-5931"

BIFF-BURGER was a successful chain during the postwar, 'baby-boom' era. By incorporating a number of unique features in their operation, the company achieved impressive sales all along the eastern United States. Hamburgers at B-B were cooked on a 'Roto Grill' (a revolving oven with upper and lower heat elements) and then dipped in a special sauce. The original W-design buildings were modular, and intended to be portable. (They could be transferred to a new location, if needed.) Franchise opportunities were attractive for potential investors of that period. Indeed, the corporate moniker said it all: "Best In Fast Food."

Like BURGER CHEF, and other beef-pattie outfits from the Golden Age, B-B faded as Mc DONALD'S ascended to quick-serve supremacy. But their legacy remains in our culture.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Once upon a time in America... stores like the Marysville, Ohio RED & WHITE pictured here were a familiar part of the domestic landscape. They provided access to grocery goods in a customer-friendly format. The 1950's business model was directly opposed to that of today - many small stores served the needs of individual neighborhoods. It was an efficient, community-oriented mode of operation. Store managers were able to relate directly to their shoppers. There was no need for a real-time corporate datastream to provide direction. Workers who were productive on the sales floor eventually moved upward to positions of greater responsibility. The end result was a company structure populated with those who were intimately knowledgeable about the industry.

Today's food retailers offer a much broader selection of items than their prececessors. Display techniques, marketing schemes, and promotions have all taken a quantum leap from those used during the 'Golden Era.' Yet the customer interaction of yonder days has disappeared from most modern stores. While Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have made a concerted effort to reverse this trend, it seems sure to continue for the immediate future. The marketplace remains dominated by mega-sized operators like Wal-Mart. Still, as consumers, we can dream. "What if... our neighborhood stores came back again?"