Sunday, May 27, 2007


c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Losing a child to suicide is something most parents could never imagine. Yet for Carole Brazis, the pain of her son‘s death in 2006 remains very real.
While struggling to comprehend this loss, she remembered a personal dream – to someday purchase a home so that her child would always have a safe place to live. Now, the idea has become ‘Tim’s House,’ a place for those lost in desperation, or who have been touched by such tragic circumstances.
Supporters and friends gathered at Girdled Road Reservation on May 19th to show their love through the first annual ‘Tim Weed Pledge Walk.’ This memorial event raised over five thousand dollars to help make the house a reality. Future plans for fundraising include a Chinese Auction/Dinner at Hambden Town Hall on June 30th, and a Golf Outing at Chardon Lakes on July 29th.
Those interested in volunteering or offering donations can reach ‘Tim’s House’ at P. O. Box 1074, Chardon, OH 44024. Or, call 440-286-HOPE.


c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a sunny day in Las Vegas. My Corona Cerveza tasted cool and refreshing, with a proper hint of lime. The air carried pungent scents of fruit nectar and desert flowers. Conversations buzzed across the patio. Yet no one was in a hurry to go anywhere else. My poolside chair was oversized, and comfy. Reflections bounced from the water with restless squiggles of color. Quietly, I began to doze ...

My wife announced the break of sunrise like a bugler at dawn. "Good morning, Rodney! Good morning to youuuuuuuu!"

I was startled by her voice. "What? Morning already??" My oasis on the Nevada sand had gone away. IT WAS ONLY A DREAM!

Liz showed little mercy. She poured coffee, then pressed a set of keys into my hand. "Rise and shine, sweet pea! I need another load of
dirt for the yard!"

"You're kidding, right?" I protested. "We just bought one yesterday."

She grew impatient. "Your truck is empty. I need more soil for my flower beds!"

"Beds?" I whimpered. "Umm ... isn't one bed enough?"

Proudly, she opened her gardening notebook. "I stayed up late, brainstorming and designing a plan. Look at this! Our house will be beautiful!"

I nodded. "Of course."

Her irritation couldn't be hidden. "You didn't even read it!"

"Not true," I fibbed. "Your sketch looks fantastic ... "

She giggled at my mock-sincerity. "Liar! Drink your coffee! After I run to Chardon, I'll be ready for that dirt!"

I stumbled to the kitchen, in search of breakfast. Java tasted good, but it didn't match the tang of a Mexican brew. I needed something more substantial to scatter dream remnants from my head. Leigh and Soccer Fairy were leaving for school. Only Paddy, our playful Pomeranian, shared my unease with the abrupt intrusion of daylight.

"Yip?" he said, panting. His tail wagged like a curled shaving brush.

My-eyes burned. "Did you just get up, Padderson?"

"Yip, yip!" he exclaimed.

I felt vindicated. "Well, at least we're moving now ... "

"Yowf" he cheered.

I started a pan of bologna and eggs. "Want to share? This is gonna be tasty!" Carefully, I seasoned the dish with Tabasco sauce.

Paddy covered his eyes. "Yowwwwwl!"

"Okay, maybe not," I said.

He disappeared without another comment.

I had breakfast while at the household computer. Various e-mail messages flickered on our screen. Then, one appeared from the Davie Allan Internet fan group. We had been discussing 'Flower Power' and the merits of folk icon Bob Dylan. It was a diversion from typical
messages about King Fuzz, himself. Some had negative vibes about the former Robert Zimmerman. After pausing to read contrasting opinions that resulted, I offered a final word of my own:

"Great posts about Dylan (Sorry, a bit off topic?) I've been waiting to form a coherent reply of my own. I realize that Bobby Z. doesn't connect with everyone. But the man is a supremely talented songwriter. He is prolific in the tradition of artists from yonder days. Think of it,
50 years as a body of work? From a writing standpoint, it is nearly impossible to sustain that kind of effort. Few can be 'relevant' for that long. I used to call Dylan 'The Bridge' because he spanned the generation between my father’s music (Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Leadbelly, Robert Johnson) and my own 'modern' stuff (The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, etc) with great skill. His ability to sometimes mystify his own audience (going electric in the 60's, or the Christian themes in the 80's) is part of his unique personality. In a sense, he is still soul-searching, even after half a century. Unlike almost every other figure from the 60's, he has made no effort to mine gold from repeating himself. Dylan's success came strictly on the value of his writing, which is even more laudable. His voice? Cartoonish at best. His musicianship? Not exceptional. His stage presence? Not overwhelming in the sense of providing visual entertainment to compliment his music. It was and is about ... his ability to be a provocative wordsmith. Perhaps that is why he has endured for so long? I tend to think that
is why DAVIE has survived as well – because he has a consistent, passionate artistic vision. Those who seek favor with the industry (or fans) will typically be disappointed. Because favor can be given and withdrawn without reasonable cause. Those who 'make art for art's sake' are
destined to fare better, I reckon. Okay, just one more opinion. Thanks for listening!"

I had just finished sending my message when Liz pulled into our driveway. She cheered loudly, sending pets scampering in all directions. I could see great bunches of leafy foliage hanging from her windows. "Oh, did I find a deal on plants this year!"

My mouth dropped open. "Nothing but ... pink flowers?"

"Yes!" she chirped. "Pink petunias! A dozen flats in all!"

I was stunned. "I thought we were putting out the 'gazing ball' this year. And my flamingoes!"

"Plastic birds and a shiny ball!" she answered. "When you can have floral kisses from nature?"

"And how about a tire garden?" I said. "We've still have the spare from Uncle Zeb's '69 Ford F-150 ... fill it up with all the kisses you want!"

Liz frowned. "No! Stop talking like ... like a Hillbilly!"

"Show a little respect for rural culture" I protested. ''After all, you're the fan of country music in our household!"

She stiffened. "Rodney! Why do you have to make things difficult?"

I couldn't keep from laughing. ''I'm the man. It's my job, right?"

"Ohhh!" she squealed. "You're the biggest poo I've ever seen!"

After finding my baseball cap, I left to purchase another load of dirt from Hemly Trucking in Montville. If nothing else, the project seemed sure to put my wife’s enthusiasm to good use. Landscaping made her truly happy. It represented her own interpretation of 'Flower Power.'
By nightfall, Liz was exhausted. She collapsed on the couch after one cup of coffee. I waited until her restless whispers subsided. Then, my opportunity for stealth gardening arrived at last…

It was time to dig out my uncle's spare tire!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Many of you knew and loved Tim Weed.

He was a friend, brother, and co-worker to those in the Chardon community. Tim last worked in the produce department of Mikolsky's Giant Eagle. Though beloved by everyone, he felt a kind of loneliness that could not be nullified.

Recently, I received a letter from Carole Brazis, his mother. She detailed a new idea which is taking shape at this very moment:

"After Tim's death my world forever changed. My goal and dream was to buy my son a house so he would always have a safe place to go when I was gone. Now, my hope is that dream will become a reality in his name to help others. Tim's House, Inc. was formed to assist and support those suffering from the loss of a loved one to suicide. We are in the very early stages of making this dream a reality and can use all the help and support the community will offer. We are holding the 1st Annual Tim Weed Memorial Pledge Walk at Girdled Road Reservation (Radcliffe Road Entrance-where Tim chose to end his life) on Saturday May 19th at 9:00 am."

I also heard from Leslee Messner, a long-time friend of the family. She offered additional information about the project:

"Just thought I would keep you posted on the happenings of Tim's House, Inc. (the memorial organization remembering Tim Weed) We are now incorporated and tax deductable. An indoor yard sale has taken place already at the Hambden Town Hall and the next event is a pledge walk Saturday May 19th... Tim's House is making progress but there is still much to be done in the loving memory of Tim Weed and for others who may be contemplating a similar needless action. "

I can't think of a more positive way to remember this gentle soul. It is a wonderful representation of Carole's love for her son. I look forward to seeing Tim's House develop and grow!


Sunday, May 13, 2007


This beautiful specimen of 70's American automotive culture appeared recently on Rock Creek Road (SR 166) southeast of Thompson, Ohio - a pristine 1972 Ford Mustang. The vehicle is period-perfect in every way. It even features an original, in-dash 8-Track player!
This was a last gasp for tire-shredding roadburners from the Blue Oval. In 1974 the Mustang II appeared, ushering in the era of fuel efficient transportation. Things would not be the same again for many years. Only now has Ford begun to revive the true spirit of this historic car.
The Arizona 'Stang pictured here is priced at $11,900.00

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Done With Donald Trump"

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
- From the Christian Bible, Matthew 6:19-20 (NIV)

Twenty-three years ago, I was an hourly laborer. Though writing represented my chosen profession, the need for financial support meant that I always worked at some mainstream occupation. It presented a dichotomy that never went away. Which was the ‘real’ self – he who spun words for entertainment? Or the humbled soul that bowed in quiet servitude? Many might have passed over such a question without great effort. But I pondered the divide constantly. How would it be possible to join the two ‘halves’ of myself?

The riddle kept me wandering. Successive employers found work for my hands, yet left my spirit in the dark. I penned songs and wrote stories that satisfied creative urges, without attracting a monetary reward. In the end, my split personality continued. Why couldn’t both worlds co-exist?

Eventually, friends offered advice that was breezy, but logical. They pointed out the need to brighten my attitude while taking on extra workplace projects. I was capable of more. Why not demonstrate that truism, visibly? The proposition seemed founded on good sense. A healthy dose of ‘volunteerism’ might create new opportunities! My devotion would become obvious. It was a moment of great decision. I made a conscious choice to alter my life philosophy after careful evaluation.

From that moment in 1997, ambition became my focus. I lobbied openly for a job in white-collar supervision. I reckoned it would be a route to genuine corporate success, and more complete use of my skills. In particular, the responsibility of developing and implementing training programs held an undeniable attraction. As a freelance writer, I was able to describe methods for improvement with plain prose. Business ideas started to flow freely. I identified strategies, and suggested how they could be utilized. Meanwhile, a few ‘rules of conduct’ developed that applied universally to any operation:

1. BUILD LINES OF COMMUNICATION – People who are able to converse openly are much less likely to engage in physical aggression. Groups that communicate are much less likely to reach the point of wasteful disagreement. If Time equals money, conflict robs us of time.

2. UNDERSTAND ‘VALUE’ – Everything has worth. Facilities, tools, and materials… yes. But primarily, PEOPLE. Teamwork and cooperation. Feelings of self-worth and achievement for associates. Don’t overlook merit in every piece of the puzzle!

3. FOLLOW-UP / FOLLOW THROUGH – Preparation is essential to accomplish any task. But the best game plan won’t survive poor execution. After the sale, service is even more important. Don’t throw away an opportunity to meet customer expectations beyond the sales floor.

Watching ‘The Apprentice’ on NBC became a favored pastime. I could literally ‘feel’ the emotion of candidates who sat in the boardroom. Their anxious moments resonated in my belly. I imagined verbally sparring with The Donald… fighting for career preservation as drama swelled the room. Growing confidence made me more authentically sure of myself with every day.
This positive mood liberated bolder thoughts. An expanded view of how business/customer interaction could take place soon resulted:


A new-age option for market success has been to promote the business itself to potential customers. Companies like Saturn have elevated this methodology to near perfection. Not only are products and services offered to consumers, but a sense of membership is sold. The corporation is touted as a lifestyle partner for those who buy products.

Milwaukee’s most famous exporter speaks about this plan in their company literature: "Functionally, a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle is transportation. But mechanically, it is an object of raw beauty that can be customized to fit any rider. It's no coincidence that Harley riders are as passionate about their bike as the ride itself." Their marketing strategy has helped make the company an overwhelming success.

Most recently, Toyota’s SCION division has represented such an approach. The brand is a complete departure from traditional automotive manufacturing. Not only are the vehicles designed for youth appeal, but the entire company has been tailored to match this outlook. Scion’s website even includes an online chat room for questions and interaction.

Our company has deep roots in the business. Yet we are also a cutting-edge enterprise. These qualities position us above and beyond competitors. We have grown from real community involvement, and personal investment. A progression from family cooperation to modern business practices has occurred. This means the corporation is ‘rooted’ in the places we serve. Our public image should reflect that history, along with the desire to produce innovation and excellence.

I was proud of my document. It reflected a forward-thinking approach benchmarked against procedures used by industry leaders. A framework for success in the 21st Century marketplace. Or so I thought…

And then came the sunset.

Like thousands of other service-industry laborers in Northeastern Ohio, I became unemployed, last year. This shift back to full-time wordsmithing arrived as a shock. It overwhelmed everything else, scattering plans and making daily habits obsolete.
Instead of a promotion, I got the ‘pink slip!’

Rapidly, I edited my resume, and crafted a cover letter with pertinent details. In the scramble to find another paycheck, I scribbled notes about myself:

"Available for Hire - Mid-40’s former retail supervisor seeking new career paths. Plenty of experience in store operations, risk management, maintaining P&L discipline, customer service and employee relations. Well versed in promoting a business-community partnership. Able to motivate and direct people."

At first, I struggled to regain my membership in the capitalist continuum. But my initial reaction came from sheer separation anxiety. As months elapsed, the profundity of what transpired became more evident. Episodes of ‘The Apprentice’ passed by, unwatched. I did not simply ‘lose my job.’ Circumstance had forced a life reassessment. Again!

Trump no longer exuded the appeal of a heroic figure. Instead, I saw him clearly, without the tint of personal expectation. He had been reduced to common humanity, like regular folk. I chortled over his appearance. It was that of a cartoon figure, locked into self-parody. Poorly coiffed, and opportunistic. With narrow eyes, and a bent for garish neckties.

I realized that personal wealth had come in a new way. The yield was something far superior to coinage from commerce. I felt rich in having a wife and children to share my earthly journey. Because of our colorful extended family, I would never be poor in spirit. They were with me, always.

Faith and family had brought a victory that The Donald could never bestow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


This is Chardon City Councilperson Mary Bramstedt. If you don't already know her, you aren't paying attention! I am proud to call her a friend. She embodies the dynamism and positive spirit of Geauga County. And, she looks stylish in a hat!

Predictably, her appearance at the 2007 Maple Festival drew a crowd of enthusiastic supporters! She is well known locally as a teacher, coach, author, and politician. Our community has benefited greatly from her tireless stewardship.

Mary was a long-time contributor to the late, lamented WEEKLY MAIL. Her Chardon News column can now be found in the Geauga County Maple Leaf.

(Photo by Randy Vanek)

Monday, May 07, 2007


We found these goodies during our recent family adventure in Wisconsin. Our pause for shopping took place at the SENTRY on Pine Street in Burlington. Our intention was to find sausage, cheese, and local beer. (The three main food groups of life in 'Badger Country.') But a cart full of brew wouldn't be complete without... potato chips!
This product comes from OLD DUTCH FOODS, INC. of St. Paul, Minnesota. The dill pickle flavor offered here is spectacular - easily comparable to the Pennsylvania HERR'S
variety we know and love. Lesser examples of the 'dill' chip may be pumped up with salt to hide their lukewarm character. But not OLD DUTCH! They are zesty without the harsh aftertaste of brine. A perfect compliment to bratwurst and LaCrosse Lager!
Their company history is compelling:
"The Old Dutch story starts with one word-quality. Since 1934, we've been delivering our finest snacks fresh from the heart of the Midwest. Since the very beginning, we've made our chips with care, consideration, the highest quality ingredients with absolutely 0 trans fats and preservatives. It's a recipe that's stayed pure for over 70 years and the recipe that made Old Dutch the Midwest flavor favorite. From bags to our signature box, from our classic potato chips to the authentic Southwest taste of Cocina del Norte, Old Dutch has the perfect flavor for any occasion. We are proud to have been a part of some of people's best memories here in the Midwest, and we look forward to creating many more memories by continuing to make a chip everything it should be."
They can be contacted at: Old Dutch Foods, Inc.P.O. Box 64627St. Paul, MN 55164

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"8-Track Fever"

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: The following text contains numerous references to a form of audio storage media that went out of production many years ago. Those under 35 are strongly advised to seek out an older person for help in understanding the appeal of this outdated, technological relic.

It was early on a Tuesday morning. The wonder of spring had begun to appear, making it a glorious day filled with bright skies and chirping songbirds. Liz, my wife, busied herself with a fresh cup of Mc Donald’s coffee, and a crossword puzzle in the newspaper. I devoured a tasty Mc Griddle, while enjoying the moment of dietary abandon.

"Since we’re already on the road," she said, suddenly. "Why don’t we visit some thrift stores?"

The suggestion made me sit up straight. "Oh yes!"

Leigh had ridden her bus to school, as usual. But today, Soccer Fairy needed to arrive with two trays of cupcakes. It was part of a birthday tradition in her class. And she had just turned nine. So we made the journey together, in my truck. Then, stopped for java on the way home.

"We haven’t ‘gone junking’ in a long time," Liz said. "It’ll be fun!"

Our hunting journey began soon afterward. While the sun crept higher above us, we drove around in search of collectable junk. Each shop seemed to offer more than the last. First, a preserve of salt & pepper shakers appeared, for my wife’s collection. Next was a promotional LP by Danny Kaye, which had been given out at dealerships of Rambler automobiles! Then, we stumbled upon a trove of antique kitchen gadgets. But the final discovery took my breath away. It was a table brimming with glorious… 8-Track tapes.

Liz raised an eyebrow as I huddled over the display. "Oh my!"

I babbled nonsensical phrases while looking through the assortment. "Yes yes yes, somebody had good taste here… this isn’t your typical pile of stuff. No ‘Captain and Tennille’ or ‘ABBA’ tapes… woww, everything is in mint condition…I wonder how much they cost?"

My wife tracked down an employee, and asked about their prices on music items. But the frazzled woman had no idea. There was nothing posted in the department.

"It doesn’t matter," I said. "These are worth taking anyway. What a lucky find! They really bring back the memories…"

My wife shook her head. "Oh, Rodney! Do you even listen to these things anymore?"

I frowned. "Do you use all those salt & pepper shakers?"

She hissed like a cat. "Stop being a poo!"

"I’ve got a Radio Shack tape deck, somewhere," I laughed. "And a portable player by General Electric. Everything still works."

Liz shrugged. "I still don’t get it! But if it makes you happy…"

"It was part of the era," I explained. "The 1970’s. Like a Ford Torino, or a ‘Pet Rock.’ 8-Tracks were clunky, and didn’t last in the marketplace. But they ruled that moment in time. For those of us that remember, they still represent coolness and fun."

"Tell me more, old-timer!" she said.

"Heyyy!" I protested. "Take it easy!"

We checked out with a full cart of goodies. Our cashier was a grizzled, but pleasant woman named Trixie. She smiled while ringing up my stack of tapes. "I’ve still got a bunch of these myself. They say 8-Tracks are coming back, you know!"

"Really?" I said with disbelief.

"Oh yeah," the cashier replied, enthusiastically. "I’ll be glad to get some more. I’ve got Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, George Jones…"

I nodded with amusement. "Hours of listening pleasure, at your fingertips!"

Trixie brushed locks of gray hair out of her eyes. "You still see them everywhere. Think about it!"

"You’re right," I agreed. "It’s remarkable, actually. They must’ve sold millions of 8-Tracks before the fad ended."

Liz began to giggle. "And I’ll bet you’ve got several thousand at home!"

I disagreed. "Not quite. But more than a few…"

Our cashier had finished the transaction. The tapes were 25 cents, each. She reloaded the cart with overstuffed bags. "Just remember, you can never have too many! Come back, and buy more!"

My wife folded her arms. "Don’t worry. He will!"

Later that evening, I unpacked my bundle of oddball sound cartridges. It had been a joyful adventure. Now, I wanted to study the yield of our trip:

RY COODER (Reprise / M8 2234) "Chicken Skin Music" - Cooder was well known for session work with groups like The Rolling Stones.
BLOODROCK (Capitol / 8XWW-11038) "Bloodrock Live" – This band scored a hit in the 70’s with "D. O. A." about an airplane crash.
BREWER AND SHIPLEY (Kama Sutra / KAM F 82039) "Shake Off The Demon" – This folk/rock duo was best known for their hit "One Toke Over The Line."
CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD (Invictus / ZA 32526) "Skin I’m In" – Familiar to listeners everywhere for "Give Me Just A Little More Time" which was a classic tune from the soul era.
THE SWEET INSPIRATIONS (STAX / ST8-3017) "Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia" – Anything on the STAX label is worth having. Anything!
CANNED HEAT (Liberty UA / 8 8961) "Hallelujah" – This hippie blues band is still fondly remembered for "Goin’ Up the Country." The song has appeared in numerous places, including an episode of The Benny Hill Show.
OTIS SPANN (Vanguard / 8VM 6514) "Cryin’ Time" – A much beloved blues artist who worked with Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy besides performing with his own band.
DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND (RCA / APS1-1504) – An odd wrinkle on the disco phenomenon. The group featured vocals and orchestration that were a nod to music of the 40’s.

After reading each label, I paused in reflection. The tapes were strewn over my desk. It was an impressive bunch of recordings. I sat back in my chair, and breathed in the aura of 70’s culture. For that instant, I felt truly at home.

Liz couldn’t hide her disbelief. "Do you realize that an iPod is smaller than one of your 8-Tracks?"

I chuckled. "I guess you’re right. Soccer Fairy’s MP3 player is barely bigger than a box of matches. The progression has been amazing… from wire recorders, to open-reel tapes. Then 8-Tracks, cassettes, compact discs, and now, audio files. Somehow, I can’t get used to the thought of having music with no container… no cover… you know? I need to be able to hold it in my hands."

My wife snorted. "You’re a stubborn creature of habit, Rodney. This is the 21st Century. Remember? Get moving! It’s time to see the future!"

"No problem," I said. "As long as I can drive there in my Torino!"