Tuesday, October 30, 2007


This abandoned structure is behind the Geneva Filtration Plant mentioned previously in these pages. Incredibly, it dates to 1901. Though remodeled over the years, it remains largely intact, like its newer sibling.

As a historical relic, the water works offers a link to bygone days that has survived a century, and more. Looking inside produces a glimpse of life as it was... for generations that went before.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

“Sunshine at the House of Blues”

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: I am a product of the B. C. world – BEFORE CYBERSPACE. So please forgive me for clinging to the idea of vinyl albums, 8-Track tapes, and Rock ‘n’ Roll radio…

Much has been written about the fractured state of our modern music industry. Technology has wrought wonderful changes that offer democratic self-expression, the free sharing of ideas, and a potential for artistic liberty unknown in previous generations.

Yet unintended consequences have followed this Velvet Revolution.
The old structure of popular music has finally been broken, but in its place no new paradigm was established. So we live in a time of great decision.

As Ted Nugent sang, “It’s a free for all!”

Only twenty-five years ago, listeners were able to reliably discover popular tunes from FM radio, or MTV. Upon deciding to acquire a particular recording, a simple trip to any vendor of music would yield a wealth of singles, albums, and cassettes. CDs were still a cutting-edge innovation. No one could see the perfect storm that was brewing.

Today, music has become a universal commodity. Not released only to benefit artists and record companies, but also used to sell advertising, enhance product value, and enrich the cultural landscape. It is available anywhere, at any time, for any purpose.

But the vortex is gone.

In Century Twenty-one, there is no convenient focal point for Rock. No heavy-rotation center of the musical universe.

The flip side of this new reality is that music can come from unexpected places. Canadian artist Leslie Feist recently enjoyed a burst of popularity after her song ‘1-2-3-4’ was employed in a commercial for the newest i-Pod.

In my own life, the source for tonal inspiration has appeared from a new direction. I now owe allegiance to something more personal than WMMS or NBC’s late, lamented ‘Friday Night Videos.’

I call it ‘Wife-net.’

Liz had been searching her cyberspace networking site for a suitable profile track, when she discovered twenty-two year old singing prodigy Colbie Caillat.
After sampling ‘Bubbly’ she was enchanted.

“You’ve got to hear this!” she implored.

I was busy with a newspaper feature when she first mentioned the composition. “Colby? Like the cheese?”

My wife wasn’t amused. “C-o-l-b-i-e!”

“Oh,” I replied.

“Her songs are incredible!” she cooed. “And her bio mentions being the daughter of Ken Caillat. He co-produced albums for Fleetwood Mac…”

I almost fell out of my chair. “What? You mean she’s cultured cheese??”

Liz frowned. She pointed with a pink fingernail. “Stop it!”

I bowed my head. “Okay. So what else did you read in her bio?”

“Ken was co-producer for the ‘Rumours’ and ‘Tusk’ albums by Fleetwood Mac,” she said. “Colbie grew up around members of the band.”

“Quite an environment there,” I observed. “But I’ve never heard of her before.”

“This is her first release,” she said. “It’s called ‘Coco.’ And guess what – she’s playing in Cleveland this month!!”

Before I could comment, the room was full of gentle acoustic guitar strums, and a sweet vocal melody:

“I've been awake for a while now / you've got me feelin’ like a child now
cause every time I see your bubbly face / I get the tinglies in a silly place
It starts in my toes / makes me crinkle my nose
where ever it goes I always know / that you make me smile
please stay for a while now / just take your time
where ever you go”

My skin chilled. “That’s the best cheese curd I ever heard!”

“Rodneeeey!” she shouted.

I put aside my project. “Okay, you’ve got my interest. Where is she playing?”

Liz was triumphant. “At the House of Blues.”

She clicked on the song for a second time, while I listened silently.

“The rain is fallin’ on my window pane / but we are hidin’ in a safer place
under the covers stayin’ dry and warm / you give me feelin’s that I adore
It starts in my toes
makes me crinkle my nose…”

I took a deep breath. “That’s a fine fromage, I’d say.”

She paused while biting her lip. “So… how would you like to write a concert review, Mr. Reporter?”

I didn’t need to answer. We had tickets before I could finish my newspaper story.

Needless to say, the next two weeks passed with lightning speed!

Colbie’s performance was pure, and soaring. Her voice shimmered with the playful goodness of a sunrise filtered through treetops. I was struck by the authenticity of her persona. There was nothing contrived about her emotive delivery. No popstar devices or electronic enhancement tarnished the show. She nearly evoked a whisper of Woodstock.

Her court of bandmates provided tasteful accompaniment. Justin Young offered a tease of electric ukulele in addition to guitar. Tim Fagan wielded a variety of axes, both acoustic and amplified. His solos were enticing, yet integral with the compositions. Mike White provided a sturdy, melodic foundation with his bass. Michael Baker kept a tireless stream of rhythms in motion. Dylan Charbeneau worked keyboard magic into the mix.

The audience responded enthusiastically to ‘Realize’ and ‘The Little Things.’ The soulful caress of ‘Magic’ made them sway. But ‘Bubbly’ was the gentle anthem that connected everyone.

Liz was breathless after the show. “Colbie is signing copies of her CD and promotional photos. Will you wait for me?”

My grin was wide. “Can I get an autographed wheel of cheddar?”

She stomped her heel. “Just give me a few minutes…”

“Okay,” I agreed. “There’s lots of cool stuff to see here.”

My eyes wandered over memorabilia until I stopped at a shrine dedicated to the original Moondog Coronation Ball, held on March 21, 1952. Alan Freed was depicted with the regal air of a monarch. Awe made me stare.

I had slipped into a yesteryear daze when my wife reappeared. She waved her compact disc, victoriously.

“Colbie signed it!” Liz cheered. “And this picture, too!”

I read the inscription carefully. It said simply - ‘Colbie Caillat, to Liz…’

“This was a fantastic night,” she gushed. “Thank you!”

“It’s only fair,” I observed. “You see, I’ve got a show of my own in mind. Something I’d really like to see.”

She went still. “Oh? Who would that be?”

“They’re called the Psycho Reverb Hillbilly Dragster Club,” I explained. “The members play guitar, bass, drums, and a rebuilt Chrysler Hemi V-8.”

Liz went pale.

“It’s at Von Krupnik’s, a new place in Parkman,” I continued. “The nightspot used to be a diesel garage…”

Her mouth dropped open.

“They’re bound to be a hit with music bloggers on the Internet,” I said.

My wife shook her head.

It was a long, quiet ride back to Thompson!

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

JUNKYARD EXPLORER - Harpersfield Relics, Part One

Off of Ohio Route 534

This forgotten architectural relic is in Harpersfield Township, behind the covered bridge park. Though deserted many years ago, it remains intact. One needs only to peer through the windows to imagine how busy this place must have been, fifty years ago. It's purpose was noble - to purify life-giving water.

Not only is the structure complete, but the pumps and mechanical hardware also retain their integrity. Nature has shrouded the plant in a cloak of green. Yet it stands as a testament to past generations. A bit of forgotten Ohio, right in our midst...

"What we keep says much about who we strive to be. But what we throw away says more about who we really are."
- Dean McCray

Monday, October 22, 2007


I made a second trip to HOG HEAVEN in New Philadelphia, Ohio, recently.

In the process of taking my niece Audrey back to school, along with her roomie Dawn, we paused at the eatery. My nephew Juztyn met us there.

We feasted on ribs, BBQ chicken, beef brisket, and brew city fries. Classic rock filled the air as we celebrated.


Audrey posed for a photo with the festive Hog Heaven neon swine. Juztyn did the same with an antique acoustic guitar displayed in the restaurant's Elvis Corner.

Dawn, Audrey, and Juztyn posed under the entrance sign.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

“Bee-lieve It, Or Not”

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

“A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it.”
- Arthur Baer

Once upon a time, taking up residence in a community meant living in harmony with those who shared the soil.

For generations that inhabited our neighborhoods during the mid-twentieth century, this idea was instilled soon after birth. Basic civility was the norm. Few needed instruction in the idea of cooperating with fellow citizens. The common-sense logic that inspired this lifestyle justified its inception.

Getting along meant basic tolerance, and respect. It was a useful habit, practiced openly across the land. The notion of neighborly goodness served us well.
Until bees became part of the equation.

I considered such thoughts recently, as summer days drew to a close in Geauga County.
Our socially challenged neighbor to the west had spent the season with a colony of stinging insects building a hi-rise condominium in one of his outside walls. The nest grew frighteningly large as holiday cookouts passed. We began to fear for the safety of children that used our yards as a cut-through to a nearby playground. Our daughters avoided the green space on that side of our home, altogether.

But with a good measure of willful ignorance, this rarely seen member of the community simply ignored his infestation.

I reckoned on spraying the vertical hive at night. But my spouse vetoed the plan as being predicated on an illegal trespass.

Soccer Fairy, our nine-year-old, agreed.

“You can’t spank somebody else’s bees, Daddy!” she observed.

Instead, Liz took a full-page newspaper article next door, to provide information on having these wayward critters removed professionally. She reckoned that it would provide a no-cost solution for the problem.

By August, it was clear that our neighbor had decided to embrace his ignorance with conviction.

The bee swarm continued to grow!

Finally, there was action from our hermit-in-residence, after a flurry of local complaints. He plugged the hole that had served as a point of entry for his uninvited tenants. But the hastiness of this plan made him block the opening during daylight hours.

This sent the colony into a frenzy of homeless agitation!

Amazingly, he had no fear of bee stings while accomplishing his project. The fellow spooned out a patch of discount-store goo with barb-tailed insects nearly dancing on his nose.

The entire street was astounded.

Now, the bees were circling our deck lights in the evening.

Mowing on the far side of our house became a tricky task. I wore bright clothing, and dodged the hive’s aerial maneuvering while on lawn-care patrol.

Eventually, the swarm massed near it’s original portal in our neighbor’s abode, and began a new construction project. They were undaunted by his crude plug of caulk.
Liz cried out in disbelief. “Why didn’t they call that telephone number?”

I responded in kind. “Can’t we call it ourselves?”

She was puzzled. “I gave them the article. We don’t have the number… anyway, it’s their property!”

We had arrived at an impasse. Only one solution seemed obvious.

In September, I went into ‘Commando Mode.’

Soccer Fairy protested as I tiptoed into the falling shadows of a Friday night, with an extra-large can of bee spray.

“Mommy!” she protested, with a flip of her blonde curls. “He’s going to spank the bees!”

“Hush!” I said, cautiously. “This is important work.”

I disappeared into the darkness with purpose as my guide.

The hive was huddled along the siding, under its erstwhile front doorway. I smiled while assessing the clump of winged bodies. It provided a perfect target.
My index finger paused over the can. It was a moment of battle and glory on a civilian scale. I crossed myself, then emptied the container of poison in a dramatic, foaming spray!

My pulse quickened with success. A mass of bees dropped to the ground, still thick with residue. The rank concoction ebbed along the siding, and filled every
crack. Bee-agony was palpable in the air.

When I returned to the kitchen, Soccer Fairy was silent. She had lost interest in the raid, and turned her attention to Spongebob Squarepants.

My wife folded her arms as I poured a cup of coffee. “Are you happy now?”

“It had to be done,” I answered in a whisper. “I was protecting my homestead.”

The coffee was refreshing - with a dash of victory for good measure.

Liz stifled a mocking giggle. Her pink mug steamed with fresh Java.
“Thanks for cleaning up this town, Sheriff Rodney!” she said.

I felt the spirit of George Peppard from the ‘A-Team’ in the air. “I love it when a plan comes together!”

My sense of accomplishment lasted about eight hours. With the first hint of morning came a spousal squeal of frustration and surprise.

“They’re here!” Liz screeched, from the front porch.

I was stunned. “Who? Alien invaders? Agent X??”

My wife wasn’t amused. “Look at them! They’ve gone crazy!”

I peered outside. A mass of bees covered both outside lights. They were groggy but restless.

“Your plan didn’t work, Sheriff!” she said tauntingly. “Now what?”

Unusually warm temperatures had kept the rowdy hive healthy and active. I flipped off the light switch. “Sunrise will tempt them away. Don’t worry.”

She stomped her heels. “All they had to do was call that phone number!”

I shrugged my shoulders. “That would bee to easy…but, hive got to say… this really has me buzzed…”

“Stop it!” Liz squeaked.

I took a deep breath. “Okay. Next time I’ll use two cans of bee spray.”

My wife growled like an angry cat. “No more after-dark raids! I’m calling the Neighborhood Watch Committee.”

Defeat grew bitter in my nostrils. It was even more rancid than the stench of bee-poison from my undercover escapade. I pondered the dilemma over another cup of coffee, and breakfast.

“There’s got to bee a way!” I exclaimed.

Our daybreak meal soon became an impromptu family meeting. Soccer Fairy was perturbed as her mother repeated the story of bee abandon. She rubbed sleep from her tiny eyes, and checked the porch from a kitchen window. “They’re still here! What can we do??”

Liz was fuming. She bit her lip. “Where’s the phone?”

“Isn’t it a bit early for Neighborhood Watch?” I said with a grin.

“Mrs. Dlezska is up at dawn, every morning,” she answered. “With her cell phone and a pair of binoculars at the ready.”

“Never mind,” I said. “We’ll get THREE cans of bee spray!”

Suddenly, there was a tuneful explosion of sound from the porch!

Liz and I raced outside. Her expression betrayed sheer panic. I juggled my cup, and a piece of toast. In only a second, my Ohio State sweatshirt dripped coffee.

Soccer Fairy had stationed herself on our front steps, with a pink, Barbie MP3 player. Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’ was echoing between our house and the neighbor’s insect-ridden abode.

“This will get rid of the bees!” she cheered.

My wife went frantic. “Little Miss, turn that off right now!”

“Maybe it’ll work,” I said hopefully. “Let her give it a try!”

Bombastic guitar riffs filled the air.

“Hit the road, buzzy bees!” The Fairy yowled. “You’re outta hereeeee!”

“Crazy Train, indeed!” Liz protested. “I’m living in a crazy house!”

POSTSCRIPT – Predictably, the experiment in audio warfare also failed to eradicate our neighbor’s bee infestation. Pleas from the Neighborhood Watch Committee fell on deaf ears. But with October came cold, rainy nights that hushed the nest of stinging vagrants. The cycle of nature won out, at last.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


was just released this week.

It is a second volume of holiday
classics, done rock style.

Inside, the liner notes were written by
none other than... me.

I still can't believe it. Davie even included a reproduction
of my signature to finish the text.

I am speechless! Thank you, King Fuzz!!!!!!!!


Davie Allan is a flesh-and-blood, six-string, artistic conundrum. He represents a past legacy of heroic proportions, yet has the passion and vitality of an artist who's best days lay ahead. He has proven able to channel electric fire like a wizard, yet can still speak with the subtle tones of a visionary. He is a troubadour, iconoclast, rebel, sorcerer, and plectrum-meister. One need only sample his vast body of work to realize that history will someday certify his prowess and magical ability. Though often victimized by fate, Davie has surpassed better-known guitarists by wielding a catalog of incredible compositions. He is an inspiration for anyone who would take up the electric guitar in a quest for authentic self-realization. The expressive story of this instrument can't be told without analyzing his portfolio. He is an immortal Pharaoh of fuzz, and a shaman of tonal distortion. Gifted and strong, he has soared beyond the limits of mortal musicians, and returned with a taste of oblivion for those too innocent to know the expansive nature of universal art.

I am speechless when listening to this recording. Quality work, very much an artistic statement - one that that transcends your fuzzirific legacy. I defy anyone to listen to FFTH + FFTH 2 and be unaffected. You've created a timeless masterpiece (or two) here! I mean that honestly.

You know, many 'Christmas' albums are lame and basically just an excuse to get more sales without much effort. But this one STANDS OUT. What a creative burst of artistry...!

Here’s a track-by-track overview of FFTH 2:

1. FROSTY THE SNOWMAN – Leaping across snowflakes while melodies meet in the white-draped forest. Sax and keyboards ride the sleigh. Frosty holds a conductor’s baton, swinging like a metronome. Elves dance to the beat. King Fuzz gifts the children with electric treats!

2. JINGLE BELLS – A bit of Yuletide bikerdom played out with winter’s glare off the snowbanks. Spinning tires melt the frost. Kick start prods boost the beasts to life! Off and away into the cold breath of day. A tease of The Wild Angels. Ride on, ye merry gentlemen!

3. BLUE CHRISTMAS – Malaguena! Strings rattle and hum. Rhythmic bursts prefigure T. Rex with a playful grin of musical mockery. The Earth trembles in 4/4 time. Elvis is laughing in his grave. Fuzz Daddy, make the reindeer dance!

4. I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – A promise made via satellite. Strutting through the snow. The Beautiful Loser is on his way with Heavenly Blues. Warbling doves sing to the heavens. Prayers offered through a fuzzbox. Sunset transpires at the glacier.

5. A WINTER SONG – Garage band experimentation. George Harrison whispers into the listener’s ear through a Silvertone amplifier. The tree is trimmed with a gnome’s pipe from Jethro Tull, and holly leaves left from an Everly Brothers romp. Squawk horns, squawk!

6. O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL – Charge on, merry travelers! Parade and sing. The time for celebration is nigh. Pluck the tones of a breaking day, full with hope. The chorus is pleading for you to play!

7. SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN – A classic sonata, rendered in choppy waves of distortion. Skis slippery with ice. Faces ruddy with cold. The whammy bar steers through skies of frosted hues. A jazz backbeat bait-and-switch. The jolly old elf is riding high on sonic energy and the smiles of faithful children.

8. JINGLE BELL ROCK - Timeless, ageless, forevermore and again. The right time /is the night time / by the fire / with my electric lyre. In the game, lost in flames, reflected on the snow, all a-glow with the chime of inverted silver goblets echoing sound. Boots on the ground. A fist to the sky! Here’s crystallized mud in your eye.

9. DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR – Quietly the jesters skip into view. A quizzical verse on their lips. Do you, can you, will you? Flutes and fifes march to the drumbeat of history. Violas play. Pipers pipe. The King is plugged in and ready to wield his amplified sword. Be aware, he is mighty and gifted. His countenance kisses the horizon with cautious affinity. And then, he is gone from the throne.

10. SANTA ON THE RUN – Beach Boys, Christmas toys, the countdown has begun. Prepare for winter fun. Saint Nicholas has his chopper-trike loaded with presents. On a keyboard highway, Rudolph rides shotgun. Not a single kid shall know disappointment. Today is the moment when everyone will receive gifts and feel the embrace of love.

11. HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS – An invocation fit for mighty souls and humble folks, alike. Good cheer to you, kind neighbor! May the winter sun reflect peacefully through your windowpane, translucent with slush-drops from the wind. I am with you, again.

12. SEASONED GREETINGS - Flasks tipped toward the cosmos. A sassy retort to tidings of good cheer, given loosely. Reshaped through a vacuum tube pre-amp, boosted gain and quarter notes in flame. A gearshift kick, heel-and-toe. Punt the snowball into tomorrow. Eggnog with spiced rum and a snifter of old Noel. Highway lanes open through the muck. One notch down, and Santa is around a slow-moving pickup truck. This sled can rock!

P.O. Box 60055 Irvine, CA 92602

Fuzz For The Holidays 2

Davie Allan-Guitar
David Winogrond-Drums and percussion
Bruce Wagner-Bass
Arlan-Farfisa, Clavioline and Piano
Jack Chandler-Saxes and Flute
Lisa Haley-Violins

Produced by Davie Allan for ……Productions

Engineered and Mixed by Jeff Peters at
“Hot Pie” (Pasadena, CA) and LAFX (No Ho, CA) Assisted by Chandler Harrod

Liner Notes by Rod Ice

Thursday, October 11, 2007

“Liz Meets Liz: A Tale of the Backwards Gibson”

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Recently, Gibson Guitar Corporation has offered an interesting ‘Guitar of the Week’ series of instruments. These limited-edition items became collectable from their first day out of the factory. For example, week number 29 yielded a ‘Reverse Flying V’ with the traditional 1958 body shape inverted. Instead of looking like an arrow, the electrified twanger has the guise of a twin-horned, tonal antenna. I never expected to lay hands on one of these, since the production run was limited to 400 units. But something strange happened, one evening in Solon…

My erstwhile editor, Bob Lipkin, used to say of writing professionally: “It could be worse. I could have a real job!”

Such thoughts reverberated recently, as Liz and I made a journey to interview one of the area’s most enduring and prolific performers. It was another moment when duty and pleasure took a similar course.

Over the summer, I covered a local appearance by Dennis Chandler and the Stratophonics. Their show inspired a pair of newspaper features, and some entertaining cyberspace chatter about rock history. But our interaction produced something more – an invitation to visit the Chandler homestead in person.

My wife, Liz, was rightly impressed. She reckoned it was a great opportunity for wordsmithing on my favorite subject, music. It also seemed likely to help ease the effects of chronic G.A.S. – Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. By commiserating with a fellow collector, I would be less inclined toward seeking out expensive relics on eBay, to ease my symptoms. Her logic was persuasive.

Still, work responsibilities kept me from following through for several weeks. I was busy with a long-term project, in Jefferson. Liz continued to remind me of the offer, while suggesting dates to meet. I corresponded with Chandler, and spent clandestine moments searching for vintage axes in cyberspace. Fortunately, I was outbid on every item. There were no ‘accidental purchases’ I’d have to explain later.
Finally, the moment arrived on a Wednesday.

I fumbled with my notepad, pens, camera, and spare batteries, while we headed for Solon. It was a comfortable, fall evening. Nearly surreal in its stillness.
Liz was amused as I sorted tools of the trade. “Why are you so jumpy?”

I snorted. “Just want to do a good job on this. Ask the right questions, and take good notes. Don’t you understand?”

She giggled. “Stop worrying, Rodney. This is your kind of story. Hometown rrrrrrock ‘n’ roll!”

“Yes, it is,” I agreed. “But I just want to get it right.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Of course you’ll do well, Mister Roving Reporter! Take a deep breath. This will be fun!”

We arrived soon after her admonition for calm.

Dennis Chandler met us at the front door. He was gracious, and relaxed. A fit, physical example of rock as a positive lifestyle. I remembered his confident ease from the show in June. But now, he spoke with the directness of a true ‘edu-tainer.’
Liz squeezed my arm. She whispered into my ear. “Here we go!”

We followed him to the living room, which boasted a 1904 Sohmer concert grand piano. My eyes widened as I recognized the instrument from a photo on his website.

“This all began during my stint in the Army National Guard,” he reflected. “They say you’ll never forget your first Platoon Sergeant. Mine didn’t like music. During my first weekend off, I was at the Koppel Service Club, on base at Fort Knox. They had a piano, plus a 1965 Gibson SG guitar, and a Falcon model amplifier. I played tunes until a senior guy approached me, who looked to be in his forties. He wore a business suit, so I didn’t recognize him. He asked if I could give his thirteen-year old daughter lessons, and I agreed to teach her for an hour on the following Saturday. When his car arrived, it carried the I.D. plates of a ‘Bird’ Colonel. My Sergeant was not happy!”

By now, Chandler’s wife had joined the conversation. She was maternal, yet elegant and hip. Her voice buzzed with energy.

We all laughed out loud at the story.

“After that, I gave the girl guitar lessons through the remainder of basic training,” he said. “My Sergeant would say ‘Look, there goes Chandler the musician!’ whenever I was nearby. I ended up winning awards for best individual entertainer, and best combo, with a bassist and drummer. Besides the musical recognition, I was named best military trainee. Later, I went on to Officers School. I do the best I can in everything.”

He gestured toward his wife after finishing the tale. “Goo Goo, do you remember where my awards are? I’d like to show them off!”

She returned quickly, with an armload of vintage trophies.

“They wanted me to re-enlist for three years, and continue to entertain my fellow soldiers,” Chandler said. “But right about then, I met Liz…”

My wife was speechless. But her surprise was visible.

An instant of silence passed as everyone considered the strange coincidence.

My wife, and Mrs. Chandler were both named… Liz!

Somehow, I found a puff of air still in my lungs. “I don’t believe it… Liz meets Liz! What a story!!”

Once again, everyone laughed.

“I still support the National Guard,” Chandler concluded. “Their people give freedom to everyone.”

I was scribbling notes when he shifted gears.

“So, you’d like to see some guitars?” he smiled.

Liz and Liz began a conversation of their own, about WJW, and local celebrities like Big Chuck & Little John.

I dropped my pen with anticipation. “Guitars? Uhhh… yes!”

Chandler disappeared for a moment. He returned with a long, black Gibson instrument carrier in hand.

“When they released this one, I had to order two,” he admitted. “Tell me if you’ve ever seen one like this before…”

Dramatically, he opened the case.

My mouth dropped open. It was a beautifully recreated ’58 Flying V, but tweaked with a dash of ‘Weird Science.’ The body had been reversed, transforming its tailfins into jutting, sculptured horns.

“This is sort of like Link Wray’s Danelectro Longhorn,” he observed. “Call it a Shorthorn!”

I pondered their similarity. The guitar felt finely-crafted, and solid.

After regaining my composure, I returned to ‘journalist mode.’ “So, having worked for Gibson, how do you feel about their current products?” I asked. “Do they match the instruments from Kalamazoo?”

I knew the question would spur deep consideration. Gibson had endured a period of ownership by a company called Norlin, between 1969 and 1986. Their quality and designs suffered during this dubious era. Eventually, the original Michigan factory closed. All production transferred to a newer facility in Nashville. Thankfully, changes at the boardroom-level rescued this storied manufacturer from ruin.
Budget-conscious templates were scrapped immediately. Confusing models like the S-1, Marauder, and Sonex received a quick dispatch toward oblivion. Their presence had cheapened the brand image without attracting much revenue. Those at the helm were determined to erase the memory of Norlin from consumer consciousness.

Classic instruments were lovingly revisited and recreated by the modern Gibson company. The Les Paul, SG, and Firebird were built with care and affection for their legendary personalities. The ES series of hollowbody guitars were offered with a taste of yonder glory. Custom items from their ‘Guitar of the Week’ program reverberated with commitment to fully revive the make.

Chandler bowed his head while considering my question.

“They are very close now,” he answered at last. “Very close.”

I felt electrified by our conversation.

Liz and Liz were busy discussing details of the household. My elation made their discourse echo like splashes of rainwater in a barrel. I was on a natural high.
Suddenly, Chandler broke the spell with his voice.

“Are you ready to see some more?” he said.

My senses were overloaded. “More?”

Liz C. connected with the thought, immediately. She pointed toward the doorway. “Oh yes! Take them to the studio!”

With surprise, I realized that our class in rock history had only begun!

Questions about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

HOG HEAVEN BBQ New Philadelphia, Ohio

I discovered this restaurant by accident, after taking my niece to college in Marietta. During a pit stop for gas & coffee, I saw HOG HEAVEN just across from the Sheetz at I-77 and Route 250. It looked very inviting, but I was alone and needed to get home.
Later, I wanted to visit with my nephew. But predictably, my memory was fogged after the passage of months. I couldn't recall the name or location of this interesting venue.
Finally, I re-discovered the BBQ haven with my wife. It was everything I'd imagined, and more. We ordered a full slab of ribs and a plate of twenty Buffalo wings. The food was more than satisfying - it was CRAZY GOOD!
I actually ordered a second full slab of ribs. They were INSANE. I've never been so satisfied.
Needless to say, we'll be back. Whoo yeah!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Evans Goes Whole Hog

Cantini's Market is located in the village of Rock Creek, Ohio, on State Route 45. I visit the store frequently because it is my neighborhood's closest full-selection grocery store. The emporium has an incredible variety of goods for being such a small venue.

Recently, I noted these Evans pork rind snacks while passing through for beer, milk, and donuts. They had an eye-catching design that instantly grabbed my attention. Though not gifted with great taste, they satisfied my porcine craving. If bags of Brim's Old South had been on the shelf, I might've been tempted to overlook these fried treats. But they were good enough for the moment...

Later, my wife bought our black Lab puppy a sack of pig's ear treats. She observed rightly: "The pooch likes his kind of hog, and you like yours."

Truer words have never been uttered.

Who Rules the Schools?

c. 2007 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a report on the Geauga School Funding Forum held recently in Thompson. Guests like Ledgemont Treasurer Leanne Ashby-Sidley, Scott Peipho from Ohio Fair Schools, and State Representative Matt Dolan helped participants understand the complexities of this issue.

School funding discussed at Geauga County meeting

What is ‘fair’ about school funding in Ohio?
A variety of educators, representatives, and concerned parents gathered at Thompson United Methodist Church on September 22nd to discuss this emotional subject. The forum was designed to identify concerns and possible solutions in a local setting.
Sponsor and host Pastor Harley Wheeler said that the formal dialogue was initiated at the urging of Reverend John Hopkins, Resident Bishop of the area.
Leanne Ashby-Sidley, Treasurer of the Ledgemont Local School District was first to address the meeting. She provided valuable insight into the challenges faced by our educational institutions.
“I encourage everyone to find the answers they seek by talking to their public officials. Whether it is the Ledgemont, Chardon, Madison or any other school district or your city or township, as residents these are ‘your’ buildings and entities and you have a right as well as an obligation to be involved.”
Sidley spoke directly to those who have suggested that business principles might help improve the process of public education.
“Imagine you have a store,” she said. “You order red grapes, but also receive green grapes that you did not need. Your response would be to send them back. But in the schools, we can’t do that. We must teach red grapes, and green grapes. Everyone has the same right to learn.”
Scott Peipho from Ohio Fair Schools was next to offer input.
“Leo Tolstoy wrote that every happy family is the same, but unhappy families have many different reasons for their sadness,” he explained. “In the same way, successful school districts are the same. But failing districts are in trouble for many different reasons.”
Peipho noted that Governor Strickland is working behind the scenes to facilitate useful school reform.
“He is making sure to get major constituent support from the business and farm sectors across our state,” he said. “Two big issues are vouchers and charter schools.”
Peipho also analyzed the State Supreme Court rulings that declared our system of funding schools to be unconstitutional.
“The DeRolph decisions were more about adequacy and sustainability than fairness,” he observed. “Revenue is static, but costs go up for the districts. They have a problem with ‘phantom revenue’ – money lost in the process of funding. In general, there is an over-reliance on property taxes. Bringing everybody together and getting agreement on solutions is more difficult than it sounds.”
The group discussion period covered three basic questions: First, what would a strong and just educational system in Ohio look like? Second, what are the barriers to achieving this goal? And third, What can we do to make this a reality?
Opinions and emotions varied on what would constitute a fair educational system.
Chardon Board of Education member Larry Reiter said that students in Geauga should be filled with knowledge to their own potential.
“A basic education ought to prepare kids to grow into productive citizens,” he said.
Yet Reiter observed that the current plan hinders the performance of excellent schools. The mechanism designed in Columbus uses a student ‘head count’ along with local economic factors to decide how money is appropriated. “We are punished for being successful, not rewarded,” he reflected.
Parent and writer Robyn Dill expressed her anxiety over the state of poor districts in southern Ohio.
“I know of places where there are classes of students graduating from trailers,” she said. “It is very sad.”
Tonia Fowler, a local resident born in Croatia, said that European schools focus more heavily on the basics. This streamlined approach puts more emphasis on core needs with less focus on peripheral classes.
“Everyone learns one or two foreign languages there,” she recalled. “There is no basket weaving.”
Barriers to reforming the school funding system were much easier for the group to identify with agreement. Everyone seemed to echo the sentiment that unfunded mandates from the government were a source of difficulty for all districts, across Ohio. Hiring qualified teachers was another shared concern. Lastly, the inability of some schools to maintain their facilities under the current financial structure was identified.
For implementation of new ideas, the assembled guests expressed a desire to look at other states for inspiration. But Reiter remembered that the idea had been tried before.
“Numerous groups have done this,” he said. “We must communicate with our legislators. They need to hear from us.”
State Representative Matt Dolan concluded the gathering with his own careful observations.
“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue,” he said. “Governor Strickland’s current plan would offer the lowest funding amount in the last five budgets. It is a very different, very conflicted issue. Remember that if we were having this conversation in southeastern Ohio, it would be very different.”
Dolan offered statistics that were both meaningful, and surprising.
“Thirty-seven states have school funding systems that have been ruled unconstitutional by their supreme courts,” he explained. “We are fifth in the nation for spending on K-12 operating costs.”
The representative said it is an issue to be addressed as a team.
“We own success together, and we own failure together,” he said with conviction. “Our goal is to make sure that Ohio educates children – to make sure that they do better than their parents.”
But Dolan argued that focusing on revenue alone is a mistake.
“In New Jersey, a 1970 lawsuit produced higher taxes and more money for all districts,” he said. “This produced more lawsuits, and a formula where the bottom thirty percent were given revenue that matched the top thirty percent. Low-income districts had no incentive to generate taxes. The result was no progress in the bottom thirty percent. (So) Don’t get bogged down in thinking that money is the only reason (for improvement).”
In closing, Treasurer Sidley repeated her call for help with the business of maintaining our public learning institutions.
“Open enrollment, and charter schools are killing us,” she proclaimed. “Money is leaving the district every year.”
Pastor Wheeler concluded with an admonition for home schooling as an important part of the state’s educational resources.
“Each of us needs to take an interest in educating children,” he said. “A formula of some kind is needed so as not to penalize districts like Ledgemont.”
The yield of this productive, local discussion was a simple message, in three parts:

1.) Fair and just means that students in every county should have access to a safe and competent learning environment, with opportunities to grow.
2.) Barriers to achieving this goal are diverse, but typical. Funds are limited. Counties in the state vary in their own economic and social composition. Perceptions of fairness are not always universal. Needs in one community may not mirror those in the next. Political structures resist change. The task of reform is never easy.
3.) To achieve fairness, one requirement outshines all others – participation. Parents, teachers, and legislators must be involved if they are to make a difference.

There is nothing simple about the issue of public education, whether viewed from the State House in Columbus, or the pew of a community church in Geauga County. Yet the only way to guarantee failure on this issue is not to try new ideas.