Saturday, April 28, 2007


BRADY QUINN - 2007 Browns Draft Pick (ND)

Fans in Cleveland have been through heartbreak like no other city in America. We remember 'The Drive' and 'The Fumble.' We remember 'The Shot' and 'One-out-to-a-world-series.' Perhaps it's appropriate for a place where both the lake and a mayor's hair have caught fire in public.

Sure, we've got the Rock Hall. But they still handle induction ceremonies out of town. We've got Great Lakes Brewing, but only after losing Black Label, Leisy, Erin Brew, P. O. C. and a host of others.

It comes down to this - DO YOU BELIEVE?

We do, because this is our town. we do because this is our team. We fought for the Browns, literally. If not for the fortitude and fury of fans in Ohio, orange-and-brown banners would be waving in Baltimore instead of our own Northcoast neighborhoods.

We are Cleveland. And we are the Browns. Brady Quinn, welcome to the DAWG POUND!

"Twelve Things I Like About Wisconsin"

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is roadgoing diary of our most recent trip outside of Ohio. Those of you with some connection to ‘The Dairy State’ may smile knowingly upon reading this column. And those who don’t are likely to raise an eyebrow… and grin while learning about a curious and different way of living.

Recently, Liz, Soccer Fairy, Leigh, and I boarded the family sedan for a trip to visit northern relatives. It was our desire to escape the foul weather of Cleveland in favor of brighter skies and smiling faces. Prevailing atmospheric patterns meant that traveling ‘up’ the map would temporarily liberate us from winter! Once we were west of Toledo, hope for a cheerful interlude began to grow. While our girls watched DVDs, my wife and I discussed plans for the voyage. It would be an opportunity for Liz to reflect on her roots, and share childhood stories once more. I couldn’t avoid chanting as we drove. "HERE WE GO CHEESEHEADS, HERE WE GO!"

As miles of highway disappeared, my thoughts drifted toward composing the next Maple Leaf column. Predictably, I was in a cheddar-ific mood! Echoes of polka music and Vince Lombardi were prevalent. I pondered details for a personal list of favorite points about the distant state. By the time we had reached Chicago, useful words were beginning to develop. I sipped Starbucks coffee as we left Illinois, and wrote phrases on the wind…


12: THE STUMPF FIDDLE – This fanciful instrument is said to have evolved from the ‘rhythm stick’ imported by immigrants from Old Europe. In the Upper Midwest, legends say that it was named for a mysterious, peg-legged fellow known as Harry Stumpf. Specifications of a proper fiddle vary, and they may be factory-bred, or homemade. But all encompass the idea of some sort of long handle, onto which various noisemaking devices are added. These may include wooden blocks, door springs, pie pans or beer trays, bulb horns, and bells. A ball on the stick’s bottom serves to give extra ‘bounce’ while expressive music is being played.

11: OLD-FASHIONED, NEIGHBORHOOD TAVERNS – In many places across America, such small establishments used to thrive. Each offered an authentically local interpretation of pub culture. But today, many of these iconoclastic ‘brewhauses’ have disappeared in favor of corporate operators. Wisconsin has successfully ignored this trend toward consolidation and efficiency, however. Traditional bars continue to thrive here, under weathered signs for Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Style, or Blatz. Typically, each watering hole exudes a specific character that is compelling and unique. In a single city block, one may discover a half-dozen friendly spots for adult beverages. The yield of barhopping in ‘Badger Country’ is pure refreshment and conversation on par with that enjoyed by yonder generations.

10: CHRIS FARLEY – This cheerful veteran of NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ passed away in 1997. He was a native of Madison, Wisconsin. Farley projected an extreme version of the ‘big guy’ persona popularized by John Belushi. Despite his weight, Farley performed a cartwheel on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno, when his Green Bay Packers reached Superbowl XXXI. Many fans remember him as Matt Foley, a motivational speaker and resident of ‘a van down by the river.’ Farley went on to appear in several films, including ‘Tommy Boy’ and ‘Beverly Hills Ninja.’

9: COOL CITY NAMES – Think of traveling through places like Baraboo, Kaukauna, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Menomonie, Neenah, Oconomowoc, Onalaska, Oshkosh, Peshtigo, Pewaukee, Sevastopol, Sheboygan, Waupaca, or Wauwatosa. Just learning to properly pronounce such destinations is an adventure in itself!

8: MILWAUKEE BREWERS – Poor weather in Cleveland as the 2007 MLB season began, meant that the Indians’ Home Opener was delayed, again and again… and again! Finally, a neutral site was needed to host Tribe games on a temporary basis. Miller Park in Milwaukee provided our hometown heroes with a friendly place to compete. It was a goodwill gesture in keeping with the Brewers’ cheerful approach to baseball. After all – this is a team supported by The World Famous Klements Racing Sausages! Named Bratwurst, Polish, Italian, Hot Dog and Chorizo, they offer a surreal compliment to each home game.

7: NESTLE’S CHOCOLATE – Burlington, Wisconsin is known as ‘Chocolate City’ thanks to the presence of this notable maker of dark-hued delights. Their summer time ‘Chocolate Fest’ celebrates the tasty treat in all of its wondrous forms. Visitors are able to enjoy a ‘Chocolate Kingdom’ complete with a prince and princess who reign over the ‘Chocolate Castle.’

6: BRATS & SAUSAGE – Consumption of these prepared meats is imperative in the Upper Midwest. Though bratwurst has gained national appeal during recent years, such hearty nourishment is devoured with extra gusto in Wisconsin. Want to expand your carnivorous expertise? Or explode notions of dietary correctness? Why not enjoy ring bologna, braunschweiger, or blood sausage? All are great with potato salad and garlic pickles… and beer!

5: CHEESE CURDS – Wisconsin is well known across America for solidified dairy products. But the true ‘curds’ made here are a snack not easily found elsewhere. They offer flavor and satisfaction, one bite at a time!

4: THE GREEN BAY PACKERS – NFL history could not be told without speaking of this venerable franchise. As the league’s only public-owned team, it can never be taken from adoring fans. Begun by Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun in 1919, the football club has survived incredible twists and turns of fate. It was named in honor of their original sponsor, The Indian Packing Company. Today, former coach Vince Lombardi is revered as an icon of the game by fans, everywhere. Their collection of twelve championship titles remains the league’s best.

3: TRADITIONAL BEER – Take your pick. First, there was Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, Pabst, Gettleman, and Blatz. Now, other brands have taken center stage. How about a frosty Leinenkugels? Or a Point Lager? The durable, blue-collar brew, Heileman’s Old Style? Or perhaps a tasty, LaCrosse Lager? In Wisconsin, down-to-earth brews are a must! If it can’t be chugged comfortably while tailgating, they don’t want it in the cooler!

2: HARLEY-DAVIDSON – Undeniably, this is Wisconsin’s most famous export. From the ‘Silent Gray Fellow’ of yesteryear, to today’s post-modern ‘V-Rod,’ Harley is a global phenomenon. Not only is the company unique for its products, but also its heritage and traditions. H-D’s ability to reinvent itself, and reinterpret old ideas, is remarkable.

1: LIZ – None of the above entries can compete with the best thing of all about Wisconsin… my wife was born near Milwaukee. If not for her, I would have no inspiration for columns like this… so sweets, let me say thanks to you!

Our stay in Badger Country went quickly. The days blurred into a single, rapid merry-go-round whirl! We barely had time to enjoy family gatherings, ham sandwiches, and sightseeing. But it lifted our spirits. The drive home reverberated with memories and song. Contentment made us mellow. It was a pause we’d needed.

By the border of Indiana, our stash of Usinger’s beef sticks and Henning’s smoked string cheese had been exhausted. Home waited for us, to the east. We were glad to be headed toward familiar soil. Yet everyone was equally satisfied to have enjoyed a few fleeting hours, away!


Friday, April 20, 2007


Here are photos from The Maple Festival in Chardon - delayed one week this year due to the unpredictable weather. Also, shots from the annual 'Battle of the Bands.'
The group is UNDS - featuring Cody Garrett on guitar; James Gardner on drums; and my nephew Juztyn Mihalacki on bass. They offered a variety of original tunes unlike anything delievered by other bands in the competition.


c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: The letters included here are fictional and imaginary. They represent a daydream-in-print about what a ‘letters’ section of this page might produce.

Thoughts At Large has existed for more than nine years. In that period, the subject matter here has varied, widely. Many sources of inspiration have helped drive the creation of new wordsmithing episodes. In a sense, it has been an ongoing writing exercise with no editorial limitations. Yet one area of interest has never been addressed in this space - reader mail. What follows here is a brief overview of public comments about the column:

Dr. Edward Claire, Burton – "Dear Mr. Ice, Your columns are entertaining, but I note a constant theme of poor eating habits. Could you consider writing more about dietary health and exercise?"

Dr. Claire, I would gladly compose more articles for this newspaper about enjoying balanced meals and healthy living. If only… I could get my mind off of fried bologna, Buffalo wings, gravy over home fries, bacon sandwiches, smoked cheese, barbecued SPAM, and pizza with Italian sausage! Seriously, I was raised on traditional cuisine. So my ability to adapt has been somewhat impaired. Still, I hope to someday discover authentic enjoyment from a meal of yogurt and lettuce. Until that day… bring on the bratwurst!

Judy Sopko, Montville – "Dear Rod, I heard from my neighbor that you once wrote an entire column about Pork Rinds. Is this true?"

Yes Judy, it is true. The installment was called ‘Pork Rind Fever.’ I included cultural references, a brief history of the snack, and recipes. Also analyzed were the social and political implications of consuming such an infamous treat. In the process, I learned that this crunchy pork delicacy is popular throughout the world!

Jebediah Pfront, Middlefield – "Dear Mr. Ice, I remember that you wrote about running for political office in the past. Is this still something you consider?"

Well, Jeb, the subject of competing for elected office frequently arises in the Ice Household. I’d enjoy a chance to revive the kind of independent thinking and strong values that once defined our nation. Since my wife is staunchly opposed to any such activity, I doubt it will happen, however. Another problem is my personal outlook. I am not generally a fan of modern political parties. And getting elected without their financial endorsement is all but impossible. Still, it is an intriguing prospect.

Margie Cartoni, Hambden Township – "Dear Rod, You often mention Liz, Soccer Fairy, and several other characters in your columns. Are they real people or just personalities created by your imagination?"

Margie, everyone mentioned in my features about the household is real. I use fictitious names to protect their identity. Keep in mind that while these adventures are based in fact, I tend to ‘embellish’ the truth for enhanced artistic merit. It is a habit many writers use regularly.

Joe Mrowca, Newbury – "Rod, I really enjoy reading your columns about beer. How many times have you written on this subject? Do you plan to write more about local breweries in the future?"

Joe, I’m glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts about adult refreshment. It is a beloved subject in this space, surpassed only by music or automobiles. Yes, it is very likely that brews will again be mentioned, in future TAL installments. But I have no plans to create anything of the sort at this moment.

Mary Byler, Parkman – "Dear Rodney, Your funniest columns are about cooking. Is this really something you enjoy, or is it just a gimmick for the newspaper?"

Mary, the obsession with kitchen projects is real. Being in a busy household, I learned at a very young age to cook for myself. Initially, the sort of meals I created were frighteningly artistic… a favorite used to be fish sticks, covered with scrambled eggs and seasoned by a dash of liquid smoke. But eventually, I began to understand the proper relationship between fruits, meats, grains, and vegetables.

Dick O’ Lonigan, South Russell – "Mr. Ice, I am the Geauga president of the ‘Chevette Road Association Project.’ (C. R. A. P.) Some of my members read that you once owned a version of this thrifty GM automobile. Is it still in your possession? We’d love to invite you to one of our curbside, ‘hatchback’ picnics!"

Dick, my Chevette was a tan, 1981 four-door model. The car ran erratically, and began to fall apart immediately upon leaving the dealership. Still, it would get nearly 40 mpg on the highway. I’m sorry to report that the last bit of life in this car was exhausted at 77,640 miles. It served as a storage shed for dog food until we finally had it towed away in the late 80’s.

Carol Wzendski, Troy Township – "Dear Rodney, Your adventures in radio with ‘Val the Polka Gal’ were fun to read. Have you ever thought about a real career on-the-air? If so, would you stick with the polka theme?"

Carol, Yes the desire to try professional broadcasting has persistently held my interest. Sharing a microphone with Val was entertaining and educational. At the time, workplace responsibilities would not permit me to explore the idea further. But in this post-retail period of life, I could actually consider taking to the airwaves. My own slant would be different… more inclined toward a ‘talk’ format, or exploring vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll recordings by Link Wray, Davie Allan and the Arrows, or Dick Dale.

Nagel Krupp, Chesterland – "Rod, Who is Al Luccioni? You’ve written about him twice. Was he your friend in Pittsburgh? Is that your hometown?"

Nagel, Al Luccioni was a fictional character created by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. I had an ‘Al’ sign once in my collection of beer relics. He reminded me of the kind of father many kids from my neighborhood had in the 1970’s. It was easy to pretend that he was a real person… so easy that I had imaginary conversations with him, in print. We argued the merit of Browns football versus Steelers, just as I did with friends from school. My family traveled extensively, so I graduated in New York State, after pauses in Southeastern Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania. But Columbus is my birthplace.

Hazel Stumpf, Thompson – "Rodney, was that you playing an apostle in the ‘Living Last Supper’ at our United Methodist Church on Maunday Thursday?"

Hazel, Yes, it was I. It was I! I performed the role of Matthew, a tax-collecting publican. My speech was only one page of text, but it required hours of practice to remember. Fortunately, I was spared the role of Judas. His role is one I would not want to inherit.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Are You Smarter Than An Eight Year Old?"

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: The following is a one-act play. With TV producers struggling to develop new ideas, brainstorming is very important. Any notion may be considered. The current season of programming offers some truly inspired attempts to create authentic family entertainment. Depicted here is one such example…

SETTING: A television studio in New York City.
DESCRIPTION: A new game show debut is taking place, on network television. The contestants are a grade school child, and a college professor.
ANNOUNCER: (Over a fanfare of jubilant tones) "Hello and welcome to CROC TV’s newest game show - ‘ARE YOU SMARTER THAN AN EIGHT YEAR OLD?’ I’m Todd Toddy. Today, our contestants are from Geauga County, Ohio. Friends, please introduce yourselves!"
CONTESTANT NUMBER ONE: "My name is Clifton Swann. I graduated with honors from Ohio State University. I have an I. Q. of 180. Currently, I teach archaeology, drama, math, philosophy, and nuclear physics. My hobby is collecting artifacts from ancient Mayan temples."
CONTESTANT NUMBER TWO: "My name is Soccer Fairy. Our house has three cats and a dog. And I like pickles."
HOST: "And I’m Skip Ricochet. Welcome to our show!"
AUDIENCE: Responds with applause and cheering.
TODD TODDY: "Today’s winner will receive the new ‘Charmaster 3000’ outdoor grill. Its twin propane tanks mean they can cook from sunrise to sunset with no interruptions! The ‘3000’ also features an umbrella, sound system, iced tea reservoir, self-contained party lights, a Tasti-Fresh barbecue sauce applicator, and an onboard fire extinguisher! It’s the next generation in grilling excellence!"
AUDIENCE: ‘Oooohs’ and ‘Ahhhhs’ echo repeatedly, followed by more applause.
SKIP RICOCHET: "Our questions are on a range of subjects. Each has been selected by our panel of experts. We begin with science. On what planet was possible evidence of water recently discovered?"
CLIFTON SWANN: "Aha! Too easy! That would be our neighbor in the solar system, Mars!"
SKIP: "Well done! Ten points for you! Our next question is about music. What famous composer had the middle name Amadeus?"
FAIRY: "Give me a hint. Was his daughter Hannah Montana?"
CLIFTON: "Again, too easy! That would be… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!"
SKIP: "Yesssss! You’re right again! Ten more points!"
AUDIENCE: Responds with polite clapping.
SKIP: "Next question! This is about art. Who painted ‘The Scream’ in 1893?"
FAIRY: "You mean they painted somebody’s mouth??"
CLIFTON: "This is tooooooo easy! It was Norwegian artist Edvard Munch!"
SKIP: "Wonderful, Cliff! You’ve got a total of thirty points!"
AUDIENCE: Whispered ‘boos’ sound through muffled chatter.
From the crowd, a young mother appears. She is dressed in a cheerful, pink sweatsuit. Her auburn hair is tied back with a purple Disney scarf.
LIZ ICE: "This isn’t fair! It doesn’t prove anything!"
SKIP: "Hey, get off the stage, lady! You aren’t part of the show!"
FAIRY: "Hi Mommy!"
CLIFTON: (Trembling) "D-don’t let her get near me!"
TODD: "Oh my! It looks like we’ve got a new… contestant??"
LIZ: (Waving a handful of notebook paper) "Why don’t you use some different questions? Try making it a fair game instead of a slam dunk for Mr. Spawn?"
CLIFTON: "That’s SWANN not Spawn, you crazy woman!"
SKIP: (Reluctantly accepts the papers) "Uhmm, okay. Did you know these are written in crayon?"
LIZ: (Narrowing her eyes) "Actually, that was done with a red Crayola marker. Now just read them!"
SKIP: (Obediently) "Okay! From the world of… cartoons. What is Squidward Tentacles’ favorite snack?"
CLIFTON: "What did you say?"
TODD: "He’s a character on Spongebob Squarepants!"
SKIP: "Here’s a hint. We’re looking for something other than a Krabby Patty!"
CLIFTON: "If he’s smart, it’d be something like a lobster tail in wine sauce, with parmesan linguine, or…"
FAIRY: "Squidward likes Canned Bread! Yuck!!"
SKIP: "Yes! You now have ten points!"
AUDIENCE: Erupts in wild applause.
SKIP: (Shuffling the notebook paper) "Next question. About cartoons, again. What is the name of Jimmy Neutron’s dog?"
CLIFTON: "Rover? Spot? Pug??"
FAIRY: "It’s Goddard, silly!"
SKIP: "Right again! You now have twenty points!"
CLIFTON: (Frustrated) "Let’s get back to the real game! No more cartoons! This is stupid!"
LIZ: "Watch your tongue, Egghead!"
SKIP: "Our third question is about… food."
CLIFTON: "That’s better! Let’s have it!"
SKIP: "What is the universally beloved restaurant item that every eatery must have on their menu to please a family?"
CLIFTON: (Befuddled) "What? Uhmm, spaghetti with meatballs? A garden salad? Or Steak??"
AUDIENCE: Explodes into chanting and applause. "FAIRY! FAIRY! FAIRY!"
SKIP: (Gesturing with a raised thumb) "Our score is tied at thirty! Looks like we need one more question!"
CLIFTON: (With irritation) "I want an adult subject! This is insane!"
TODD: (Whispering) "We’ve got to be even handed, Mr. Ricochet. America is watching!"
LIZ: "I won’t ask anything more than that… just make it fair."
SKIP: (Returns to his original index cards) "For the grand prize, here is your last question. From the world of music - what popular song begins with laughter and a conductor’s invitation to board his vehicle?"
CLIFTON: (Surprised) "Wait a minute… is that in music from ‘The Polar Express?’ Or is it in a song by Brownsville Station? No… wait… ‘City of New Orleans’ by Arlo Guthrie!"
FAIRY: (With a broad smile) "Ha ha, you got it wrong! The answer is ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne!!"
SKIP: "You are CORRECT!"
AUDIENCE: Reacts with a thunderous ovation.
LIZ: (Puzzled, but happy) "How did you know that?"
FAIRY: "Roddy has the CD in his truck. We listen to it when he takes me to school!"
CLIFTON: (Shaking his head) "Arrrrrrrgh!"
SKIP: "Miss Soccer Fairy, you are our GRAND PRIZE WINNER!"
TODD: "Each of our contestants will also receive a solar-powered lawn statue from ‘YardCool’ Incorporated. These dandy, hi-tech ornaments beautify your lawn while providing nighttime illumination! And, they come in a variety of popular designs. Get COOL today! YardCool!"
FAIRY: "Mommy, can we stop at Dairy Queen on the way home?"
LIZ: (With a smile) "Yes, that sounds like fun!"
FAIRY: "I’ll race you to the car! Let’s goooooooooo!"
SKIP: "From New York City, this is Skip Ricochet saying remember friends, feed your fish regularly! Hunger neglect is the leading cause of mortality for aquatic pets! So long until next time!"
AUDIENCE: Claps in time to the theme music. Confetti falls from the ceiling while everyone dances. The show is over!