Thursday, July 31, 2008


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Dual projects made life in the Icehouse Home Office exciting this week. Both were connected to the revival of postwar, pop culture. Each reflected ideas born in a different part of our vast nation. Yet taken together, these twin paths seemed to run parallel to each other. Eventually, I realized that they were lanes of the same creative highway. One could not be considered without the other.

A long-running effort for fans of outlaw guitarist Davie Allan has been to lobby the Fender Musical Instrument Company on his behalf. The upshot here – to convince this notable manufacturer that a signature model of their Jazzmaster guitar should be dedicated to the Chieftain of Fuzz, himself.

Allan retains a compelling history with the model that has continued since the mid-sixties. Like other instrumental performers from that era, he used the Jazzmaster to produce sounds that were unique and powerful. But his individualistic approach brought a new tonal palette into the public consciousness. Fans have long believed that this gave good cause for his official recognition as one who has helped to enhance the image of Jazzmaster players with skillful performances.

To help in the campaign, I sent a letter to Jeff Krause, in their corporate Consumer Relations Department:

8860 E. Chaparral Road, Suite 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85250

“Dear Jeff,
I am a writer in the Cleveland, Ohio area. I’ve been privileged to review works by many popular and successful musicians over the past twenty-six years, including the recordings of legendary guitarist Davie Allan.

This skillful player first gained national attention for ‘Blues Theme’ from the 1966 film ‘The Wild Angels’ with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. Since then he has amassed an impressive catalog of compositions that have helped define the very nature of modern Rock ‘n’ Roll instrumentals.

Davie still resides in southern California, and is active as a performer and recording artist. Fans revere him as ‘King Fuzz’ because of the tonal distortion that comprises much of his recorded history. In addition, he is familiar to listeners because of his signature use of the tremolo (whammy bar) to bend plucked notes into tuneful submission.

I mention all of this because Davie is also notable for one other habit – gigging and recording with a 1965 Fender Jazzmaster. His enduring history with this instrument is touching, and inspirational. One that I believe deserves to be commemorated by the company, itself. Your company, to be specific.

I make this observation as a Fender fanatic myself – owner of three precious Fender guitars and a vintage Fender amplifier. I am very conscious of the legacy that you hold as a manufacturer of great distinction. America reveres your products. And, those who have employed them to bring joyful melodic expressions to the general public.

I invite you to visit and consider the enduring career of Davie and The Arrows. You could do no better in seeking an advocate for Fender, and the Jazzmaster guitar. I believe that a DA signature model of this guitar would not only be cherished by musicians and collectors around the world, but indeed, would uplift the overall standing of your company.

Sincere thanks for your kind consideration in this matter!”

Soon afterward, I was gifted with access to the Harley-Davidson media website. This reserve for professional journalists offered a connection to ‘The Motor Company’ that was direct and useful. While searching through the collected news releases and graphic images, I found information about their new ‘Cross Bones’ motorcycle. It made me pause with desire, and reverence. This was a bike that could be authentically described as ‘like no other.’

I had first encountered Milwaukee’s ‘Cross Bones’ in February, while visiting the Greater Cleveland Auto Show. It was a raw, undiluted vision from bygone days of glory. I paced around the machine for several minutes before catching my breath. It constituted a moment of inspiration that continued to glow long after the event was over.

Viewing this custom cycle again, through virtual reality, revived the epiphany. I read and pondered, in awe:

“If riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a timeless experience, then the new FLSTSB Softail Cross Bones almost makes the clock stand still. The dark Cross Bones cuts the profile of an authentic custom bobber, a stripped-down-and-chopped custom with raw finishes. Cross Bones leads with the Gloss Black Springer front end and follows with other post-war styling cues, including a Gloss-Black round air cleaner cover, sprung solo seat, half-moon rider footboards and chopped front fender. The adjustable two-position pan-style saddle rides at a height of 26.6 inches. The rider rolls arm-high gripping Gloss Black mini ape hanger handlebars. The Gloss Black oil tank features a new Willie G. - autographed skull graphic. The bright chrome straight shot exhaust with chrome slash-cut mufflers contrasts with the dark frame and powertrain.”

In my brain, the wild, roller-coaster notes of Allan’s ‘Blues Theme’ were reverberating with each word about the bike. I could feel power-pulses doled out ninety-six cubic inches at a time. And smell hot bursts of exhaust that matched the smoky texture of fuzz wafting from the King’s Jazzmaster:

“As each Harley-Davidson Softail motorcycle declares its styling independence with exclusive components and inspired craftsmanship, the Cross Bones is a bold addition to an already free-spirited family. Many features of the Cross Bones and other Softails are reminiscent of restless riders of the past, whose defiant attitude resonates with those who march to their own beat in any generation.”

It was an imaginary tour indelibly seared into my consciousness.

I had to see the beast, eye-to-eye, once more…

At Western Reserve Harley-Davidson, in Mentor, I again commiserated with the ‘Cold Bones’ model, while my wife browsed through their selection of riding apparel. My own Heritage Softail was a stylish and comfortable ride. Very appropriate for a middle-aged writer, and his family. Yet the two-wheeled ‘Bones’ machine made my pulse quicken. It was a flash of yonder days. A bolt of lightning from the darkness.
Finally, Liz interrupted my cerebral flight with a question.

“I like these clothes,” she said, holding up a purple, lace T-shirt. “But does Harley sell music here? Your friend Davie ought to have his compact discs at the counter. They’d go well with the other collectibles…”

I bowed my head. Her suggestion made good sense.

But now, instead of two projects to finish in the Icehouse Home Office, it would be - three!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Famous George was someone who truly fit the description "one of a kind."

He was a huge fellow in physical stature and personality. Notably gregarious, outgoing, and proud of his Greek heritage. Some revered him as an iconoclast, while others were not-so-fond of his cheerfully bombastic style. But regardless of the opinions that surrounded this colorful fellow, he could not be ignored.

Visitors to his "Dinner Bell Diner" on Bank Street in Painesville were treated with the care one might reserve for close family members. George took pride in his restaurant, and every facet of its operation. He personally greeted patrons who had come for a meal. His food, atmosphere, and service were unmatched by any competitor. Eventually, the diner grew into a museum, meeting place, and cultural way-station. But the authenticity did not go pale with commercial excess.

Famous George dependably remained a humble, if vociferous, servant of the community.

For myself, visits with George were always exciting. When Johnny Cash played the Lake County Fair, the food entrepreneur appeared with a dozen boquets of red roses for June Carter. The audience cheered his presence as if he were part of the performance. The man literally seemed to be everywhere.

I paused at his restaurant frequently, while living just around the corner on Chestnut Street. It was a friendly place to meditate over steak tips with noodles, and a Feta cheese salad. Being treated to breakfast at his 'front table' by the cash register was an experience that will live forever in my memory. It was there that I first met radio personality Mike Trivisonno. Giddy with the moment, I introduced him to the Famous One. Years later, Triv still spoke lovingly of the diner and its memory. We both wished for one more meal at the venue.

Sadly, George passed away last week, in Massachusetts. His obituary was featured in The News-Herald and online at

George Andrew Diskes
October 9, 1938 - July 24, 2008

Birth Place: Peabody MA
Resided In: Ohio and Peabody
Visitation: Monday, July 28, 2008 Details
Services: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 Details
Cemetery: Harmony Grove Crematory Details

George A. Diskes, 69 of Peabody, MA, died Wednesday, July 23, 2008 in the Salem Hospital after a lengthy illness with his family by his side. He was born in Peabody on October 9,, 1938, the son of the late Nick Xenios and Irene (Stamation) Diskes and had resided in Ohio and California before moving back to Peabody five years ago.

He had been a salesman for Sears, Roebuck And Company and later for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

He then went into the restaurant business for over 30 years and was the owner of George’s famous Dinner Bell Diner in Painesville, Ohio where he hosted many parties featuring famous celebrities. He favorite was Zsa Zsa Gabor who he later became friends with. He also hosted the television program, “The David Brinkley Show” of which an episode was filmed out of his diner.

He was a philanthropist donating money and food to area food pantries and shelters. He would also bring a group of friends to visit children’s hospitals dressed as fairy-tale characters.

He was a veteran of the Korean War serving with the US Navy and stationed on tugboats in Philadelphia, PA.

He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Mariana Diskes of Rowley, MA, his daughter, Ellen Sauvageau of Peabody, his brother and sister-in-law, John and Patricia Diskes of Middleton, his sister, Evangeline Jones of Peabody, his five loving grandchildren, Sofia and Catalina Diskes of Rowley and Emily and Michael Sauvageau and Jack Pierce all of Peabody, his step brothers and sisters of California and many cousins, nieces and nephews.

A Visitation will be held on Monday from 4:00 until 8:00 PM at the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home at the 82 Lynn St., Peabody facility. A Funeral Service will be held at the funeral home on Tuesday at 11:00 AM. Relatives and friends are kindly invited. Expressions of sympathy may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 330 Congress St. 5th floor, Boston, MA 02110 in his memory.

Comments from around the nation appeared in the CCB guestbook. They paid tribute to one who was incredibly pure in spirit, and yet able to conjure exotic visions of greatness. He was gifted. Yet he passed too quickly...

Farewell, Famous George. We always loved you!

Monday, July 28, 2008


When a weekend getaway is called for, nothing can suffice on a budget like Erie, Pennsylvania. They've got a taste of everything there, sandwiched in between Ohio and New York. Shopping, entertainment, fine dining (and not-so-fine) plus a wealth of roadside culture:

Presque Isle Downs & Casino

A bit of Vegas in Pennsylvania

A beacon of light in the darkness

Krispy Kreme on Peach Street

'57 Chevy at Steak 'n' Shake

Steak 'n' Shake neon

Burgers and donuts - what more do you need?

Kali's candy store

Habanero wings, anyone?

The Lube rules!

What'll you have - a steakburger, or wings??

Mr. Fudgie sign

Erie... "It's closer than you think!"

“Home From Hog Heaven”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was just after noon. I had been on the road for only a few minutes. But already, my mind had started to drift from its predetermined course. A CD of 1980’s pop music warbled from the dashboard. Its synthesized tones diverted my thoughts with unintended effect. Suddenly, my task at hand seemed insignificant. I wandered into a daydream reminiscent of an old Apollo Space Program adventure:

MISSION CONTROL: “This is the Control Center speaking. How do you read me?”

FORD F-150: “I copy you loud and clear, Control. We have clear conditions here, with a forecast for favorable launch weather.”

MISSION CONTROL: “Roger that. Do you understand today’s assignment, 150?”

FORD F-150: “Roger. I will navigate the 77 corridor to Marietta Station. Dock at Hermann Fine Arts Center, and pick up Astronaut Dree Emm, plus her supplies.”

MISSION CONTROL: “Roger, 150. Be advised that there is construction debris scattered along the way. We have slowdowns at Akronia and Cantonari…”

FORD F-150: “The ship is running with GPS fully engaged.”

MISSION CONTROL: “Godspeed, 150! Have a safe journey.”

FORD F-150: “Roger that, Control.”

Actually, my only source of guidance was a road map from the Circle K in Middlefield. But it didn’t matter. I was on the way to Marietta College, where my niece waited with four years of accumulated housewares, and a renewed desire to meet the world. She had graduated from the school in May. Now, her path would veer homeward, again.

Dree came into the world on Father’s Day in 1986, twenty-two years ago. I was a moment my sister and brother-in-law would cherish forever. Her first home was a small, two-story dwelling on Maple Avenue in Chardon. The spot was a secure, quiet place for beginning a family. My brother and I shared in renting the house, as a family group. Years later, that sense of closeness would remain in our hearts…

I arrived in the city just after three o’clock. Yet the familiar curve past Kroger Plaza made me sad with reflection. Instead of pondering the nearness of friendly, southeastern culture, I bowed with humility. It would be my last trip to the river town on Dree’s behalf. This portion of her academic voyage was at an end.

Suddenly, my cell phone chirped for attention.

“Yes?” I answered.

“Hi, Uncle Rod!” my niece sang with anticipation. “My volunteer work is over for the day. I wanted to see how close you were to the city…”

My excitement mirrored her own. “Actually, I’m already here. About one block from Hermann, if I remember correctly.”

She was impressed. “Woot! In that case, I’ll see you in a minute!”

I turned into the college campus, and drove toward the hall where her possessions were stored. A summer mood made the surroundings mellow with off-season ease. I parked on the sidewalk, and fumbled for the tarp and bungee cords.

Dree appeared from the lobby. She was a vision of independent womanhood, with paint smeared in her brown locks, and a tidy outfit inspired by Goodwill. We embraced, and then began to assess the scope of our project.

“Everything is upstairs, in the music room,” she said. “It’s been moved several times, already.”

I considered the multitude of stair-steps. “So… we bring your stuff to the ground floor… then down the hill to my pickup truck?”

She smiled. “Uhmm, yes.”

I took a deep breath. A bold lie seemed appropriate. “Great! I know this will go quickly.”

Hours later, both of us were exhausted.

It didn’t go quickly.

We had consumed a cool couple of gallons from the drinking fountain, and two large bottles of lemon Propel water. My truck was stuffed with mementos, books, and furniture, but leftover treasures remained in the lobby.

“Sorry, Dree,” I said in a whisper. “We’ve reached the load limit.”

She paced through the dormitory rubble. “Well, I’ve got to leave some of this stuff behind. Time to sort through the remains…”

I marveled at her courage.

“Okay,” she said with conviction. “I don’t need this, or that, or the other…”

In a brief instant, the pile was gone.

“That’ll do it,” I observed. The truck was bursting with collegiate cargo. Even the seat, dash, and floorboards were full. But we were ready to motorvate.

On the way out of town, I saw a banner advertising ninety-nine cent beverage specials at the Empire Buffet. “There’s a place we could quench our thirst,” I joked.

“Actually, I was thinking of Hog Heaven,” Dree replied. “If you’ve got a taste for barbecue…?”

My grin went wide. We would pass the restaurant while driving back to Cleveland. It was located off of I-77 in New Philadelphia – a favorite spot I’d discovered years before. “Oh yeah! I’ve been having rib-fantasies all the way from home!”

“How cool that we had the same idea!” she laughed. “Let’s go!”

Our pause for smoked nourishment came late in the day. It was after nine o’clock when we pulled into the restaurant parking lot. Spicy aromas met us at the door. I saluted the neon pig while walking inside. Hunger and fatigue made me less shy than usual. No inhibitions could stall my appetite.

I wanted a heaping plate of tangy, roasted swine!

While Dree studied the menu, I chatted with our waitress. She wore a company T-shirt that boasted a drawing of the famous porker.

“We’re from the Cleveland area,” I said. “But whenever our travels come this way, we always stop for a meal at Hog Heaven!”

“And you write for a newspaper?” she exclaimed.

“That’s right,” I answered. “My niece has been studying in Marietta. But she graduated this year. Now, it’s time to go home…”

“Well, this is your night to celebrate,” the woman smiled. “We’ve got thirty-five cent wings on special, and five-dollar half-racks of ribs.”

My belly grumbled. “Well then, I’ll take a combination platter, of both! With Brew City fries and Cole slaw on the side!”

“Ditto for me,” Dree cheered.

Before long, we were stuffed like the pickup truck. It put both of us in a reflective mood. Closing time passed, and the staff began preparing the venue for another day of business. But we lingered, and traded memories…

“I’ve always depended on you, and Uncle Bubba,” my niece proclaimed. “So once again, I’ve got to say thanks!”
I nodded. “Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“This is a bit strange,” she confessed. “To be going home again, after such a long time…”

My eyes were moist. “I can’t help remembering how I felt in 1983. After studying in central New York, I came to Geauga County. It was an enormous paradigm shift. A change that had my head spinning. I had tried to model myself after the Empire State Rock ‘n’ Roll scene. Yet soon, I would realize that here, in the heartland, was where I could develop my own creative identity. And be… myself.”

Dree shrugged her shoulders. “Really?”

“So, this isn’t the end,” I said. “Only a new beginning. Remember that…”

My niece lifted a saucy rib. “Yes, a new beginning… at Hog Heaven!”

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Saturday, July 19, 2008


This photo relic came from my niece. It is a photo taken by her mother on my twentieth birthday. The John Lennon T-shirt was a gift for the occasion - it had been less than a year since the icon of Rock music perished in New York City.

Though I didn't realize it then, my days in the Empire State would soon be drawing to close. I left only a bit more than two years later, never to return. But for that fleeting moment, I reveled in an uninhibited season of creative exploration and self-expression.

Reality...? Never heard of it... not then, anyway...

“She’ll Use The Music”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: I first discovered U.K. songstress Sazi Riot via the Internet. Her sound and style were immediately irresistible – a rockin’ blend of Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde mixed with the appeal and earnestness of a Medieval balladeer. Yet as I studied her work, my initial perceptions grew with understanding. While Sazi is a fan of edgy Rock music, her background comes from experience as a Christian performer. Instead of composing empty sonnets for cash, her voice speaks powerfully about positive living, self-worth, and love.

Sazi was impressed that a fellow from the heartland of America would be so touched by her work. Cheerfully, she sent a copy of her CD with an autographed photo to my address in Chardon. What follows is a review I wrote in response to her gift:

Sazi Riot: A Match-strike Against the Darkness

The darkness.

No one seems certain of when it began. But nearly everyone has an opinion. A foundation of logic, however slippery in nature… some intellectual nudge toward comprehension of a sort. Pure insight… or delusion? Both seem possible. One explanation is no better than another. Yet the happening is clear.

The light dimmed somewhere between Elvis and Britney Spears.

One school of thought postulates that cultural darkness in the West began when Buddy Holly met the dirt of an Iowa cornfield with rude effect. Or through the domino-falls when John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Maybe, after The Beatles self-destructed at the end of a whirlwind tour through the 1960’s. Perhaps… even as a result of the failed conflict in Vietnam. Or the OPEC oil embargo. Causes are not difficult to find.

Some reckon MTV was the culprit, hand-in-lacy glove with Michael Jackson and Madonna. Or that commercialistic excess was responsible, personified by cliched Heavy Metal acts, Urban Cowboys, and the faux street-hype of wannabe Gangsta Rappers.

Technology is a suspect as well, with the iPod overwhelming every previous paradigm in a new age where vinyl records, cassette tapes, and compact discs have careened uselessly into oblivion.

For this writer, one truism remains clear. Rock ‘n’ Roll has stumbled on the path toward eternity.

A new roster of young, post-modern performers have disappeared with the sweeping hands of chronological motion. They joined the throng of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Marvin Gaye, and Janis Joplin. Rockers, rebels, and raconteurs they were. Too fast to live; too young to die.

But then… there was a murmur from the tomb.

In their stead came the next generation – a tribe empowered by Internet openness, and able to move without succor from corporate entertainment moguls. Artists once again directed by a single-minded passion for music, in the forgotten tradition of wandering troubadours.

A match-strike against the darkness… like Sazi Riot.

“There’s a drunk / there’s a habit / there’s some drugs / there’s the addict / but there’s a light…”

Sazi first caught my notice on the Yahoo! 360 network. Her page made me pause with curiosity, amid the clutter of personal journals, and blog-speak. Hungering for more, I discovered that she was also an avid participant on MySpace. There, in the growing community of cutting-edge composers, she had posted some of her original recordings. I clicked on a track, and became spellbound by her gentle fury:

“Sazi Riot / won’t be quiet / she’s got something to say / about your soul today / a punk rock princess / she has an interest / in letting people know / about the ‘end show’ / she’ll use the music / hey, hey, hey!”

I marveled at her persona. She carried the high-energy spark of a poetic, U.K. femme-on-the-loose, yet delivered her message with vocal poise reminiscent of an Old World siren. As a guitar-slinger, she seemed skillfully able to rekindle the energy once wielded by axemen like Mick Jones and Billy Zoom. Her breath, and faith, were strong:

“We are born into this life / a living trial where pain is rife / it gives us wrongs and gives us rights / to choose which side we want to fight / it penetrates our earthly minds / to hate and to make us feel dark inside…We gotta breakthrough / but sins that bind us begin to blind us / gotta breakthrough / we’ll get even and make that push / so breakthrough / don’t let those iron bars defeat us.”

We began to converse, through e-messages sent speedily across the Atlantic Ocean, via cyberspace. Sazi spoke of drawing on the support of friends and family to fashion the ‘Riot’ sound. Keith Harrop, her father, contributed harmonica work and inspiration. Others provided graphics for her Internet page. Soon, I learned that she not only had talent as a writer and performer, but additionally as a visual artist. Her colorful drawings depicted scenes around Great Britain and Europe with an impressionistic flair.

Sazi’s match-strike had paled a spot in the darkness. Daylight peeked above the horizon with a playful wink… and I became a believer.

Months passed between us, with other work come and gone in the interim. I listened, and pondered. She found a home on Byte Me Radio. Her tunes were available on Raw Rip. Yet generationally-inherited habits made me want a ‘hard’ copy of Sazi’s work. An album, or CD. Something tangible. Organized. Defined. A treasure I could collect… an artifact for future eyes and ears to behold. Finally, I wondered out loud. And in response, this songstress did indeed ‘use the music’ – to send a disc worthy of note in any listening library.

It was a revelation. I spun the platter again and again… while enjoying a day in the home office. Then, on the road to town, where I visited a local bookstore. And in the evening, with coffee and a blackberry dessert. My soundtrack for the day continued to echo, long after sundown:

“I see you there with a smile on your face / you say you’re open minded, but you’re a disgrace / you’re a cynic and an unbeliever / you’re the one they call a deceiver / all I can say is / you’re fooling only you.”

The darkness, I decided at last, was an illusion. A crafty deception used to dishearten those bearing candles. Though potent, it was not immune to the force of positive emotions:

“He’ll try to stop me doing good all over town / took the wind, the seeds of compassion he’s blown / with all the darkness there’s a weakness / in our souls and eyes / but you’ll never get me no / you’ll never get me down.”

Sazi’s match-strike had been a joyful beginning. It pierced the black void with a sharp steel of goodness. Now, only one task lay ahead… to build on that tuneful foundation.

And to believe.

Postscript: This writing exercise proved once more that even a small town newspaper can reach out to readers who are far from home. Sazi’s work can be heard by visiting, or her page at:

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“Hometown Thoughts”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Contained here is the story of my proudest moment as a professional writer. It is no exaggeration to say that sending ‘Thoughts’ to our soldiers overseas has transcended everything else that has comprised this twenty-six year adventure in journalism. For that, let me simply say ‘Thank You!’ I am truly indebted to all of you.

Last year, I had the privilege of speaking with Paul Hickman about his ‘Guitars for Grunts’ program to benefit our soldiers. The interview came during a weekend when I had promised to cover stories in geographically divergent directions. So our conversation was a brief telephone encounter amid happy chaos. Yet his authenticity and zeal were captivating. Even as I scribbled notes on the run, the passion of this former Marine continued to reverberate in my consciousness.

Veterans of the Corps say: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Hickman seemed to reflect that mindset by staying focused on those serving in the military.

He remembered that having an instrument to play during off-duty hours helped lift his spirits, while on active duty. It was a lesson he translated into civilian life through the ‘Grunts’ organization. The mission was simple – collect guitars, refurbish them when needed, and send the instruments to our troops as a gift of love.

For months after our long-distance meeting, I pondered Hickman’s idea. My own affinity for music made the plan seem doubly compelling. But I needed a personal slant on his project. A new way to provide the flavor of ‘home’ for those stationed so far away from America.

My revelation came in the early months of this year. While driving through deep snow to reach the Thompson Post Office, a ray of sunlight twinkled hopefully from the sky. I was about to mail copies of the ‘Thoughts At Large’ book to be readers around the county… and then… inspiration came through the peeking sun.
The light seemed to say: “Send your book to the soldiers!”

Over coffee, I proposed the idea to Liz, my wife. She reckoned that it sounded like a logical plan of action. An appropriate gift from someone involved in the craft of wordsmithing. Yet the donation required a broader pen-stroke. Something that would cheerfully include neighbors and friends in the effort to remember our troops.

Liz had her own visitation of sunlight: “Why not have members of the community write their own ‘thoughts’ inside the books?”

I was stunned. Her suggestion could not have been more perfect!

We presented the idea at a meeting of the Thompson United Methodist Church Council. Neither of us had been to such a meeting before. So we trembled at the thought of making our proposal in front of the group. But support from parishioners was immediate, and overwhelming. This touched our hearts and gladdened our spirits.

Our mission was underway!

The first 'Signing Sunday' happened on June 8th. With a typical measure of creative flair, my wife designed a three-sided display board that explained our goal in detail. We placed five copies of the book on a table in the church gymnasium, with a bundle of pens. Magically, messages began to appear after daily services had finished. They ran from cover to cover, with warmth and authenticity. We repeated the exercise on Father's Day, June 15th. The result was an outpouring of encouragement and love for those in the military.

I felt humbled to be part of the exercise.

Wine Country Books, a local retailer, pledged to support our program by shipping the books free of charge. Once the signing was completed, I delivered them to the store, personally. It was a memorable moment. A demonstration of citizen action, and a positive yield! Later, I composed a news release to explain what we had accomplished:


THOMPSON – The tradition of sending mail to soldiers serving in faraway lands is one well known to most Americans. But this week, members of the Thompson community sent messages with a difference – they were contained inside copies of a local book.
'Thoughts At Large' was written by Rod Ice of Thompson. Published in late 2007, the collection contains columns written about regional history, music, and pop culture. In cooperation with Thompson United Methodist Church, the author donated copies to be given to military personnel.
'Signing Sundays' were held at TUMC on June 8th and 15th, where residents of the area were encouraged to write 'thoughts' of their own inside the books. Messages included offerings of support, gratitude, and prayer for those serving in the Middle East. Each entry added meaning to the gift from home.
Pastor Harley Wheeler observed that his congregation constantly strives to support loved ones who have been sent to distant lands.
"We pray that God will keep them safe," he said. "And bring them safely home to us.”
Wine Country Books in Geneva helped by providing free shipping for the books. They have been vending readable goods to the area since last fall.
"We gladly offer this as a service for our customers," said Jane Miller, co-owner of the store. "Anyone can purchase an item here, and we will ship it overseas, free of charge. The soldiers deserve our gratitude."
Paul Hickman, a former Marine who operates 'Guitars for Grunts' to send stringed musical instruments to soldiers, said he was delighted with the project.
"Words of support and inspiration are needed for our troops just as much as anything else," he explained. "(These) books would raise a lot of people's spirits."
Those interested in joining the effort may contact:

Thompson United Methodist Church - P.O. Box 29, Thompson, OH 44086
Phone: 440-298-3033 /
- or -
Wine Country Books - 24 North Broadway, Geneva, Ohio 44041
440-466-1925 /

After the books had been mailed, Liz and I began to brainstorm about expanding our project across Geauga County. I wondered out loud about taking the idea to other churches and community institutions in the area. Or to local elected officials. Maybe some of the public libraries in our county. Perhaps even the VFW?
While reflecting on our possibilities, I contacted Paul Hickman to report on the success that had come from his inspiration. He reacted with pure leatherneck joy:

“Rodney, That sounds like a GREAT idea! With your permission I will post this on my Marine website and see if some of the northern Ohioans on the site would like to support your efforts. Semper Fi!”

Once again, I felt humbled. We had completed the first step of a long journey. Now, it was time move forward, and build on this foundation of hometown love!

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c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Father’s Day: A moment to pause in reflection… and cheerfully give neckties that may never again see the world outside of a dresser drawer.

Predictably, this moment of manly celebration arrived as I was in the midst of a writing project. My research centered on an obscure Rock ‘n’ Roll group from the 1960’s. They were a mysterious bunch with an anthem of historic note called ‘The Crusher.’ Yet after forty years of collecting, I still didn’t have a copy of the single.

The record haunted my thoughts, like a pirate’s chest of buried treasure.

Still, our household gladly welcomed the special occasion. As ever, I thought about my own dad – in his late seventies, and still active as a gospel advocate. A Renaissance Man in plain clothes. I pondered the influence his dual nature provided for my life. He had grown up on a farm outside of Columbus, building radios, hot-rodding cars, riding motorcycles, and playing music. Yet his passion to explore soon turned toward duty, and faith. He instilled this zeal for living and learning into each of his children, in different ways. It was the fertile soil from which I grew.

Liz, my wife, also reflected on her father. He had been able to overcome cancer during the year, an achievement attained through patience and prayer. She thought a unique present was needed to express our joy over his good health. The result came from a divine burst of inspiration – to rent him a brand-new Harley!

Her dad had also been an avid rider in days of yore, while growing up outside of Milwaukee. It was a habit that fit perfectly with my own heritage. But fiscal needs had forced him off the road, many years before.

Now, our gift would revive that freewheeling lifestyle, for a weekend!

While Liz made the arrangements, I continued investigating my wordsmithing task. A package arrived from New York City. It contained a vinyl re-issue of the tune I’d been chasing for so long. Immediately, words began to flow from my computer:


Thank you, Norton Records.

I've sought a copy of this 45 for years, after first hearing the song courtesy of 'Doctor Demento' in the early 70's. At the time, it was barely eight or ten years old... a novelty recording from the recent past. Yet even then, mystery had fortified their legend. WHO WERE THE NOVAS?

All we knew was that they came from Minnesota. Information on the band was tantalizingly scarce. The track ended up on a couple of vinyl collections throughout the years. But an actual copy of the single eluded my grasp.

Then, I stumbled across an ad for the Norton Records catalog. Yes, true believers, an honest-to-goodness newsprint catalog on paper! Just like in the Hippie-Era that preceded technology's overwhelming information tide.

There, amid the small-type entries was... a NOVAS EP! (Okay, I actually saw it first on their website, but the 'feel' of their printed literature still evoked many pleasant memories of those bygone days.)

I was spellbound. Soon enough, I had ordered the 7-inch, vinyl platter. It was a revelation to receive!

In the process of locating this record, I learned that the group had only been together for a couple of years. And, other bits of Novas trivia:

1.) Their inspiration was - Reggie 'The Crusher' Lisowski, a real pro wrestler
2.) Their historic anthem was recorded in the summer of 1964
3.) They were high school kids from Edina, Minnesota
4.) Drummer Jeff Raymond was only 13 at the time!
5.) The tune made Billboard's Hot 100 for three weeks in a row, selling around 250,00
6.) They were inducted into the Minnesota R & R Hall of Fame on April 28, 2007

My vinyl thrill-ride had been completed, at last.

Thank you, Norton Records!

I took a two-wheeled tour with Liz’s father on Sunday. His bike was appealingly similar to mine, yet faster. It carried the new ninety-six cubic-inch motor. Later, after a family meal at A&W, I returned to my home-office work. Upon finishing the music update, I looked for personal information about Mr. Lisowski. Enlightenment came from Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post, who reflected with care on his legacy, in a 2005 obituary:

“Reggie ‘The Crusher’ Lisowski, 79, a professional wrestler whose blue-collar bona fides made him beloved among working class fans for 40 years, died of a brain tumor Oct. 22 at the Bradford Terrace Convalescent Center in Milwaukee. A 6-foot, 260-pound specimen with a cement-mixer voice, Mr. Lisowski performed in the days before vitamin supplements and anabolic steroids were widely used. Dubbed "The Wrestler Who Made Milwaukee Famous," the barrel-chested bulldozer bragged that he worked out by running along the Lake Michigan waterfront with a keg of beer on each shoulder, building his stamina to polka all night with the local ‘Polish dollies.’ He was often photographed relaxing before a match by drinking a beer and smoking a cigar. He was marketed as a villain, but the public loved him. He once drew 8,000 fans in the 1970s and often sold out arenas a week in advance. Earlier this year, Mr. Lisowski was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame with his most famous tag-team partner, the late Dick ‘The Bruiser’ Afflis. The pair collected five American Wrestling Association world tag titles; Mr. Lisowski, paired with other wrestlers, won three more. He also won the AWA's world heavyweight title three times. ‘I think working people identify with me because years ago I worked when I wrestled, too,’ Mr. Lisowski told the Milwaukee papers in 1985. ‘I worked at Ladish, Drop Forge, Cudahy Packing House. I was a bricklayer. But finally, I got away from punching the clock.’”

I was struck with a gentle bit of irony. The weekend had been filled with stories of Wisconsin and its most famous export, Harley-Davidson. Additionally, I had ‘The Crusher’ playing in my head as we rode. But now, I had stumbled across the compelling story of this folk hero from the Dairy State, with a steelworker’s physique and pride in his polish ancestry… a coincidence I couldn’t ignore…

“Ladish?” I said out loud. “Didn’t Liz say her father worked at Ladish?” Founded in 1905, the company had long been a provider of specialized forgings, to customers around the world. The name reverberated in my head, like words from The Novas’ timeless classic.

“Do the hammerlock, you turkey necks! Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Later, a telephone conversation finished the story. My wife’s father confirmed that he had indeed worked for the notable Wisconsin company. And, that he’d been fortunate enough to see Lisowski in person:

“He would go from bar to bar with a beer keg on his shoulder,” Papa Cheesehead remembered. “To hear polka music, and be with his people. And his voice really sounded like gravel.”

Contentment made me grin. His quote finished the story, perfectly.

Rest in peace, Big Reggie!

Postscript: Our prayers and condolences go out to the family of NBC ‘Meet the Press’ host Tim Russert, who passed away on June 13th. He embodied the positive spirit, work ethic, and devotion that helped build America. We are better for having shared his journey.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


THOMPSON – The tradition of sending mail to soldiers serving in faraway lands is one well known to most Americans. But this week, members of the Thompson community sent messages with a difference – they were contained inside copies of a local book.

'Thoughts At Large' was written by Rod Ice of Thompson. Published in late 2007, the collection contains columns written about regional history, music, and pop culture. In cooperation with Thompson United Methodist Church, the author donated copies to be given to military personnel.

'Signing Sundays' were held on June 8th and 15th, at TUMC, where residents of the area were encouraged to write 'thoughts' of their own inside the books. Messages included offerings of support, gratitude, and prayer for those serving in the Middle East. Each entry added meaning to the gift from home.

Pastor Harley Wheeler observed that his congregation constantly strives to support loved ones who have been sent to distant lands.

"We pray that God will keep them safe," he said. "And bring them safely home to us."
Wine Country Books in Geneva helped by providing free shipping for the books. They have been vending readable goods to the area since last fall.

"We gladly offer this as a service for our customers," said Jane Miller, co-owner of the store. "Anyone can purchase an item here, and we will ship it overseas, free of charge. The soldiers deserve our gratitude."

Paul Hickman, a former Marine who operates 'Guitars for Grunts' to send stringed musical instruments to soldiers, said he was delighted with the project.

"Words of support and inspiration are needed for our troops just as much as anything else," he explained. "(These) books would raise a lot of people's spirits."

Once again, those interested in joining the effort may contact:

Thompson United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 29 Thompson, OH 44086
Phone: 440-298-3033


Wine Country Books
24 North Broadway
Geneva, Ohio 44041