Sunday, August 31, 2008


We were shopping on a recent Saturday evening and happened to run across the SuperK Car Cruise, in Mentor. Ruth and Denny Burdick were there, our long-time friends from Chardon. The mood was festive, and there were cars aplenty...

Pink Fiat
Pink Fiat with small-block V-8
Pink Fiat (detail) small-block V-8 motor
How did it fit in there??
Soccer Fairy with AMC Gremlin street rod
Soccer Fairy with 1974 AMC Gremlin 'X'
1957 Chevy being inspected by my family
From left: Soccer Fairy, Liz and Leigh (in chair) checking out a 1957 Chevrolet
Old-school Ford street rod
Old school street rod
1964 Mercury Comet convertible
1964 Mercury Comet convertible
50s Chevy panel truck
50's Chevy panel truck
Vintage Lincoln
Vintage Lincoln convertible
Denny  Ruths Chevy Caprice convertible
Ruth & Denny Burdick's 70's Chevy Caprice convertible
Plymouth Superbird
70's Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird
Superbird graphics
Superbird graphics
Soccer Fairy with 1945 Army Jeep
Soccer Fairy with 1945 Jeep
Black flame 50s Chevy pickup
Black flame 50's Chevy pickup
A pair of vintage T-birds
A pair of vintage 50's T-birds
1960 Ford Galaxie
1960 Ford Galaxie

Friday, August 29, 2008


Tim’s House, a place for those left behind after a loved one completes suicide, is pleased to announce that September 20, 2008 it will be holding its 1st annual dinner and auction benefit. The benefit will be held at St. Mary’s Cafeteria and doors will open at 5pm and dinner will begin to be served at 6pm. Take out is also available beginning at 5:30pm. Tickets are $15 per person and include dinner, silent auction bidding number, and chances at door prizes. Up for bid are overnight stays at area resorts, golf packages, spa packages, and much more. Come early and make sure to get a chance to bid for an AKC Champion Blood Line Labrador Retriever, vet checked with papers. The benefit will also offer a Chinese auction; tickets will be sold at the door. Donations for items to auction or dinner items will also be accepted. Table, Auction, and Program sponsorships are also available. Most major credit cards will be accepted. Please contact Michele at 440-286-4673 for more information.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

“Letters from the Campaign Trail”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

“Drivers, start your engines!”

To many Americans, the lure of competition is strong. We are a nation obsessed with sports of all kinds. For baseball, basketball, and football, professional wrestling, high-stakes poker, or NASCAR racing, fans are ever present. It is undeniably part of our nature. We seek out victory and embrace those who have attained success. To be a champion of any kind is near holiness itself.

Yet the ultimate game is not seen in a college stadium, on a speedway, or at a Major League ballpark. No medals or trophies identify those who excel at this mode of play. It is not celebrated in Indianapolis, Canton or Cooperstown. Instead, this conqueror’s quest is focused on dominance in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol.

It is the ultimate contest – for the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

To voters, this battle of titans remains compelling. Much hope is invested in a changing of the guard at our executive level. But for journalists it represents a moment of opportunity, to opine as never before!

In personal terms, it seemed useful to sidestep this kind of self-serving prose, in favor of a more humble approach. I decided that a better plan would be to share a bit of Geauga County with those seeking The Oval Office, and wait for a response.

The result was certain to be interesting, unique, and worthy of appearing in newsprint.

Over the summer, I sent copies of the ‘Thoughts At Large’ book to both presumptive presidential nominees. And, to Governor Ted Strickland, who had sometimes been mentioned as a possible running mate for Mr. Obama, in the fall.

Amazingly, the Democrat and GOP campaigns replied in a timely fashion. Their letters differed in length, and style. But both expressed a positive outlook in the mission to succeed in November:

Senator Barack Obama

“Dear Rod, Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Your interest in my candidacy and participation in the electoral process is important to me and will help shape the future of the country. Since voting began earlier this year, the volume of mail we are receiving has exceeded all expectations. I have been impressed with the diversity and depth of the comments and questions I receive, most of which underscore the significant challenges the next president will face. And I have appreciated the candid observations about my campaign and policy positions… Some pundits, and my opponents, like to suggest that my two and a half years in the United States Senate are a liability for my campaign. Two and a half years may not be a long time, but I can assure you it is long enough to know that things in Washington must change. That is why I am running my campaign out of Chicago, not Washington, D.C., and concentrating on meeting with and listening to people who live outside of our nation’s capital. And that is why I believe… I will be best able to break the longstanding grip that vested interests and their lobbyists have had on the policy making process in Washington. I have been gratified by the amount of grassroots interest my campaign has generated. As I travel the country, my campaign headquarters is receiving thousands of personal messages a week from people like you. This volume of mail reflects the importance individual citizens place on this election… Again, thank you for writing, and for voting.”

Senator John McCain

“Dear Mr. Ice, Thank you for your kind note and sending me your book, ‘Thoughts At Large.’ Your support and encouragement keep me motivated every day on the trail. I appreciated hearing from you and wish you the best.”

Receiving these letters was a welcome surprise.

As a follow-up, I sent both contenders material about the ‘Thoughts For Our Soldiers’ program that involved members of the local community. I reckoned that the project was worth mentioning as an example of citizens reaching out to our military forces. It also helped to convey the durable spirit of our beloved Ohio – a state both candidates were likely to visit often during the intense fall campaign.

My third submission evoked a different response. One I had never considered when visiting the post office in Chardon. From the gubernatorial mansion in Columbus, an apologetic note arrived along with the same book I had sent, originally:

Wade A. Rakes II for Governor Ted Strickland

“Dear Mr. Ice, Thank you so much for your kind gift. The Governor is honored and humbled that you would think to send him this gift. On his first day in office, Governor Strickland issued an executive order tightening ethic rules, holding the Governor and his staff to the highest ethical standards. Governor Strickland and his staff are only permitted to receive gifts from close family members who are not lobbyists and have no contracts with the state. Directors and employees of cabinet agencies and those employed or appointed on state boards and commissions are also being held to these standards. Regrettably, the item you sent violates this executive order and we are returning it for that reason. On behalf of the Governor, thank you again for your thought. If there is anything we can do to assist you in the future, please feel free to contact us.”

I was saddened by the letter. Still, it seemed advisable to curb the spread of influence peddling. After puzzling over the returned package, I sent a message to Janet Carson, head of the Democratic Party in Geauga County:

“Dear Chairperson Carson, I am a local journalist and author, from Thompson. I have been with The Geauga County Maple Leaf since early 1998. After a decade of writing about the county, it was my pleasure to publish a collection of 'Thoughts At Large' columns in December of 2007. As a Libertarian, I thought it would be useful to share copies of my book with some of our candidates and elected officials. I sent the TAL collection to Barack Obama, John McCain, (and) Ted Strickland… Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain both answered with cheerful notes of gratitude... But Governor Strickland returned my book with an explanation that new ethics guidelines he signed into effect prohibit such gifts. I respect, and appreciate the Governor's intentions. Such a policy is long overdue in Columbus. Still, because I'd autographed the book to him, I wonder if there isn't some way to have him accept it without any perception of impropriety. Can you contribute any ideas? I appreciate your help.”

Taken as a whole, the exercise was a fruitful endeavor. In sports terms, I had scored on two of three opportunities, during the political pre-season. But soon, it would be time for big-league play, and the roughhouse nature of winner-takes-all competition.

I was excited. And ready to write.

“Let the games begin!”

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:
Visit us at:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Thomas Jefferson

"Government big enough to supply you with everything you need is big enough to take everything you have...The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases."
-Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, August 23, 2008






Consumer Relations Department
Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

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







Consumer Relations Department
Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

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

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Bob Irwin and I’m the president of Sundazed Music, which has been one of the world’s leading reissue record labels since 1989. Our catalog of over 600 titles covers all ends of the rock, pop, country, jazz, blues, and soul music genres and includes classics by such vanguard artists as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, the Byrds, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, and Buck Owens. One other immortal name that we proudly feature is that of Davie Allan, by whom we have released six exceptional albums on both CD and vinyl.

As the leader of Davie Allan & the Arrows in the 1960s, Allan blazed a bold new path for the electric guitar and influenced generations of guitarists to come. Allan’s aggressive, largely instrumental style is the missing link between the surf and psychedelic periods, and his pioneering use of supremely overdriven distortion—best heard via his 1967 smash “Blue’s Theme”—paved the way for heavy metal and punk, earning him the well-deserved title King of the Fuzz Guitar.

Davie Allan’s guitar style is one of the most recognizable, revolutionary, and widely imitated sounds in the history of rock ’n’ roll. It is my understanding that there is an effort currently underway to persuade Fender to manufacture a Davie Allan signature Jazzmaster guitar. I can think of few other musicians—and few other makers of musical instruments—more deserving of such an honor. I sincerely hope that Fender will consider this proposition.

Best regards,

Bob Irwin
President/CEO, Sundazed Music


To whomever is cool this may concern,

I would like to respectfully ask you to consider, and I would enthusiastically recommend, a Special Edition Davie Allan Signature Jazzmaster.

He is without a doubt one of the most exciting, accomplished, and inspiring guitar players that has ever lived and remains tirelessly active, having been recently featured in the prestigious opening position at our International Garage Rock Festival. His legendary instrumentals remain a staple of my Underground Garage format, heard 24 hours a day on Sirius XM Channel 25. Davie also has the theme song on my syndicated show, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, heard by over a million listeners in 200 markets in the USA alone, plus over 50 countries worldwide.

Davie’s classic Christmas collection, Fuzz For The Holidays, remains everyone’s favorite holiday party record and will be re-issued this year worldwide. We would be happy to include any announcement of a Fender Jazzmaster Davie Allan Signature Edition in the massive publicity we have planned for the holiday release, and would lend our considerable publicity machine to your efforts. Have your head of marketing contact my executive assistant Nicole Barsalona for any assistance we can give you.


Little Steven Van Zandt

(main guitar - Fender Stratocaster)
Underground Garage
Wicked Cool Records
E Street Band

Friday, August 22, 2008


Here are a few pictures from my ride to Geneva and Austinburg, on Thursday. Note the retro "Mr. C's Restaurant" sign, still a fixture at Route 45 and I-90:


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is satire, not a genuine news feature. As Reader’s Digest used to say: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Thank you. Thank you very much!

It was a late night in Chardon. I had just completed meeting with friends about a new book project. Though satisfied with the result, my body throbbed from fatigue. As the radio crackled away, I drove down Water Street, past the Geauga Theater. Darkness clouded my consciousness. A neon glow from storefronts along the strip lit my path.

With a shrug, I noted the absence of McDonald’s. The familiar fast-food depot had been completely demolished, to make way for a new version of the Golden Arches. My belly hungered for a double cheeseburger, and a sweet tea. But it was not to be…

Not tonight.

A glimmer of moonlight flashed to my left. I realized that a familiar pickup truck was parked across the street, in Chardon Plaza – a green, flatbed, 1981 Dodge. Inside sat my erstwhile friend, Ezekiel Byler-Gregg, a veteran of the defunct Burton Daily Bugle. He seemed to be in a trance.

I waved in passing, but my cohort offered no response. He seemed to be transfixed by an invisible force. Puzzlement made me turn at the stoplight. I circled back, toward the parking lot.

Why was he here on Water Street, alone?

I pulled into a space beside his truck, and rolled down my window. “Zeke! Are you okay, brother? You look like a zombie!”

He sat stiffly in his seat, more wizened and gray than I remembered. A moan ebbed from his lips. “It’s gone…”

“Gone?” I said quickly.

“Gone,” he repeated. “The house that Ronald built. It’s gone…”
I laughed out loud. “Well… is that what you’ve been staring at? I’ll admit, a double cheeseburger would hit the spot right now. But it’s worth the wait to get a new set of Arches here in the capital of Geauga County.”

Ezekiel widened his eyes. “Worth the wait?”

“Sure,” I said impatiently. “They are remodeling McDonald’s locations all around northeastern Ohio.”

My friend snorted with defiance. “This is ground zero,” he observed. “The first of many targets for radical elements of the ‘Foodie Fringe’ in their secret campaign…”

My jaw fell open. “What??”

He whispered, angrily. “The ‘Foodies’ hit Ronald with a clandestine strike, right here at home. But no one in the media will speak about it. They’re terrified that the anti-burger activism will spread. And, it will…”

I went red. “Zeke, they just closed for new construction. I read about it in the newspaper, last week.”

Ezekiel pounded his dashboard. “I thought you knew better, Rodney!”

“Knew better?” I sputtered.

“The truth is out there,” he exclaimed. “But not necessarily in the mainstream news. Haven’t you heard of the movie ‘Supersize Me’ by Morgan Spurlock?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But I doubt he’s ever been to Chardon.”

“No,” my friend agreed. “But the message has spread across America. The ‘Foodies’ have become bolder, and better-organized.”

My face burned. “Look, I agree that the movie was a propaganda-style rant. But I don’t think very many people took it seriously. If anything, it was a good way for Mr. Spurlock to avoid having to get a job at Wal-Mart…”

Ezekiel shook with frustration. “An entire fast-food restaurant just disappears, overnight, and you think it’s funny?”

“Oh, Zeke, take it easy!” I said.

He produced a bundle of newspapers.

“From USA Today,” he began. “California… became the first state to prohibit restaurants from using artery-clogging trans fats in preparing their food. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will ban restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats. In a statement, Schwarzenegger noted that consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease. ‘Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California,’ he said.”

“Right or wrong, it’s a law with good intentions,” I reflected.

“Ronald’s foes have been strengthened by the food police!” he grumbled. “I’ve heard that the new-age Big Mac will feature tuna patties and kelp! This is cultural violence. Hamburgers are America on a bun! Wake up, Rodney!”

I took a deep breath. “Zeke, I agree that setting a precedent for the government to regulate personal conduct isn’t wise. It lays the foundation for a kind of artificial social engineering. But you’ve gone over the edge…”

“Read these again!” he stammered. “McDonald’s locations are vanishing across the nation. From Geauga, Lake, Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, and everywhere!”

I sighed. “It’s their renewal plan, Zeke. They want to update busy outlets to better serve their customers.”

“They’re rebuilding alright,” he agreed. “But… why? The story has been silenced before it could be told. Ronald McDonald is on the run.”

“Good luck getting away in those big red shoes,” I said.

Ezekiel burned with irritation. He unfolded another newspaper story.

“From the New York Times,” he read aloud. “The McDonald's Corporation said yesterday that its fourth-quarter earnings would fall short of earlier forecasts…for the last three years, the company has been struggling to compete against its traditional fast-food rivals while facing new competition from healthy-food chains like Subway.”

My patience was exhausted. “Look, I’ve always been a fan of Mickey D’s. But I don’t mind having the free market provide alternatives as well. We just need to maintain our balance, without interference from the legal system…”

“The sky is really falling this time,” he said. “Look up, Chicken Little!”

“Let’s forget about the House of Ronald for now,” I continued. “Are you hungry? Why don’t we just go to Burger King, or Wendy’s? It’ll be my treat, old buddy.”

“Run!” he growled. “Run like a frightened bird! But you’ll find that there is nowhere to hide…”

“Okay, speaking of poultry… how about Wing Street at Pizza Hut?” I said.

“Run, run, run, my feathered friend!” he barked.

Frustration made me shudder. “I’m not running anywhere, especially on an empty stomach!

“I expected more from you, Rodney,” he said with exasperation. “Food means nothing… without liberty!”

I bowed my head. “Right now, I’d settle for that McTuna with kelp!”

Ezekiel twisted the ignition key of his Dodge. I heard its Cummins diesel motor rumble to life.

“First they came for Ronald, and I said nothing,” he exclaimed. “Then they came for Mayor McCheese, Captain Crook, Grimace and the Hamburglar, and I kept silent. Then they came for me, and I was alone…so terribly alone…”

Scorched rubber filled the air.

Like our local McDonald’s location, Ezekiel was gone!

As wisps of diesel exhaust faded away, I stood silently in the streetlight glow. Thoughts of the new book project had been shattered by encountering my ornery friend. Now, there remained only a raw hunger in my belly. Not for steak, crab legs, enchiladas, or barbecued ribs, but instead… a humble bit of ‘Mac Tonight.’ The sensation left me perplexed while considering the construction site that used to a favored spot in the community for speedy dining. But then, I realized hope waited, just over the hill…

It was time to drive to Middlefield!

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:
Visit us at:

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Found in Ashtabula County, Ohio, for fifty cents: DOC BAGBY doing 'Crazy Chemistry.' A promotional 45 on the vaunted OKEH label.

A bio of Doc B. reads as follows:

by Eugene Chadbourne

"A name like Doc Bagby has the ring of an insider and the keyboardist who is sometimes credited as the less-distinctive sounding Hank Bagby was the perfect studio insider, the session man's session man. A detailed account of his comings and goings would eventually have the dramatic impact of an elevator inspection certificate, but rock & roll would have never made it to the top floor creatively without him. He was the type of superb session player who makes early rock & roll and rhythm & blues oddities such a delight and he also had strong roots in country blues, even playing on some of the best records of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. If the subject is recording any of this type of genre material in New York City in the '60s, Gotham studios would have been one of the doors opening, with the imposing figure of Bagby no doubt standing behind it. In 1964, he was regularly at this 46th Street recording facility with accompanying players such as guitarist Larry Lucie and the fine bassist Doles Dickens. Bagby was cutting in the same studios where store owner Sam Goody had produced legendary sessions in the '40s before opening his department stores, an era when Bagby himself was still in his native Philadelphia, but had also already begun his involvement with Gotham. He started with the label as a piano accompanist at sessions, but by the spring of 1949 was listed as musical adviser to label owner Ivin Ballen at Billboard magazine. The real meaning was he was also working as a talent scout and A&R man, as well as the guy scribbling down chord changes while the reels of tape were being changed. Bassist Dickens was a partner back then as well, gigging and recording as a member of Doc Bagby's Orchestra. This group often backed up rhythm & blues recording artists such as Thelma Cooper and Steve Clayton. A standout Gotham session with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in 1954 resulted in titles such as the engaging "Baby Let's Have Some Fun," the timely "Four O'Clock Blues," and a disturbing "Harmonica Rumble." The following year might have been considered to be fraught with "bad vibes," had this been the '60s. Bagby's boss Ballen had doolah problems and had to unload the company's prize pressing plants, while Bagby himself got in a legal tussle with Bill Haley over the hit "Rock Around the Clock," claiming authorship. Grown men fighting over lyrics that come from nursery rhymes was a sad state of affairs, but it's only rock & roll. While never matching Haley's popularity in the record bins, Bagby himself has a discography that would curl a hipster's hair, earning himself a place on exotica websites thanks to his appearances on groovy organ records such as the tasty 1957 "Dumplin's" or the 1959 "Doctor Rock." Other record collectors swear by the Doc Bagby Trio's 1953 single of "I Surrender Dear" coupled with " When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" on the Gotham label, of course, available in red vinyl, naturally, while jazz fans will want his sides with Eddie Davis on Bethlehem."

OKEH is one of those labels that ooze vintage credibility. Anything on this label is worth owning. Screamin' Jay Hawkins? Big Maybelle? Yes, yes, yesss! Buy it now. Buy it and listen... whenever you can. Vintage vinyl is like aged wine or cheese... it's getting better, all the time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Classic VW Encounter

Recently, while on the road to Mentor, I encountered this rolling artifact on Ohio Route 86 - a genuine VW Beetle. The car sported a primer paint job, roof rack, collector exhaust system, and retro 'BOSCH' window graphics.

Once upon a time, such vehicles were common on American roadways. Mine was a 1973 Standard Beetle, done in white with a black interior. Though spartan in appointments, the car provided cheap transportation with a Hippie-Era ethos. I loved the Bug, despite design flaws like its lack of a competent heating system.

In this age of 'correctness' gone wild, gasoline-powered automobiles of any kind are suspect. Yet during days of yore, there were proletarian buggies like this... efficient people-movers with style:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wisconsin Brew Stash

What could be better than having a wife from Wisconsin? Family visits put us just minutes from the Harley-Davidson factory. Not to mention attractions like The Brat Stop. And in the midst of cheeses, sausages, and beer varieties that are plentiful and pleasing.

But this summer, one new entry appeared on my personal list: having a spouse from The Dairy State also means interaction with relatives that have collected vintage beer cans from the golden age...


In the words of Miller Brewing, "Life is good!"

Saturday, August 16, 2008



Actually, the whole building left as well - in the case of Chardon, Ohio's McDonald's location, at 430 Water Street.

If you call the familiar 440-286-6010 to order ahead, it is doubtful that anyone will answer. There is no telephone. Or menu counter. Or anything that resembles an outpost of the Golden Arches... only the dusty residue of a construction site.

McDonald's in the midst of a renewal program for some of their high-volume locations along the Northcoast. The Lake County restaurant at 8775 Mentor Avenue will soon follow in this cycle of demolition and rebuilding.

The company plans to re-invent itself with new-age designs that will be more attractive to modern customers. Divided seating plans will cater to those wanting a 'fast' visit, and those looking to linger for a 'family' experience. The company has already been modifying its meal items to strike a healthier balance in view of the success garnered by chains like Subway.

Still, it is likely that staple choices like the Big Mac, Double Cheeseburger, and French Fries will continue to dominate sales in the House That Ronald Built.

Old and new, under one roof - "I'm lovin' it!"

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Recently, I sent autographed copies of my 'Thoughts At Large' book to some of our political leaders and candidates. It seemed like a way to share 'Geauga' culture with those beyond our county borders.

Barack Obama and John McCain both responded cheerfully. But Ohio Governor Ted Strickland sent a surprising reply... that he was unable to accept my gift.

Strickland formulated new ethics guidelines after the troubled Taft administration. They prohibit gifts of any kind, unless they are from family members not connected with lobbying or holding state contracts. A worthy rule, it seems. But it is sad to think that the TAL book couldn't be exempted. I'm a small-town newspaper journalist, after all, with no friends in high places...

Still, as they say: "It is what it is."

So now, I've got a copy of 'Thoughts At Large' autographed to Ted Strickland. Hmmmm. What should I do... list it on eBay??

“A Greek Odyssey, Completed”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a late night in the Icehouse home office. So late that morning had come with the promise of a sunrise to be, once twinkling stars finished their dance in the sky. I sipped burnt coffee, reluctantly. My body yearned for the feel of our bed. But there was work to be done in the stillness before dawn. So I toiled on, alone…

I was composing a feature about the late ‘Famous’ George Diskes, who owned the Dinner Bell Diner in Painesville. This nearby attraction drew many customers from across Geauga. The task had me reliving old memories that were sweet, and persistent:


“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 bouquets 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”

A second visit to the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home website yielded their online guestbook, with comments about the late entrepreneur, from many former patrons. It was there that I discovered a note left by Andrew Diskes, son of the restaurant hero:

“Thank you to the many people who have expressed their condolences to my family. We are grateful for all of your thoughts and prayers at this time. We will proudly post your comments at his visiting hours and service so everyone can see how much he touched people's lives… When he moved to his little apartment in Peabody, MA he brought so much memorabilia with him from the Diner. There were ‘GET THEIR GOAT, GIVE GEORGE YOUR VOTE’ signs as well as other plaques and signs and photos all over his apartment. He would never give up those memories. Even though he was glad to be near his family in Massachusetts the last several years, his heart was truly in Ohio with all of his friends and customers.
I am thinking about doing a service or dinner for my father in his honor to celebrate his life in Painesville for all of his friends and supporters and patrons. Perhaps on his 70th birthday which would be in October. If anyone thinks that would be a good idea and would be interested in getting involved in that please feel free to contact me at or by calling 978-500-8832. Thank you.”

I felt buoyed by seeing his message. Quickly, I added a thought of my own to the memorial roster:

“George - I revered you from the beginning. Because of your fabulous ‘Dinner Bell Diner’ but also because of your iconoclastic outlook, vibrant personality, and zest for living. You were a friend, and mentor to so many in this region. I can only give thanks to God for having shared a part of your existence. My prayers go out to your family, and friends. May God cradle your soul with love!”

As a new day arrived, Andy and I connected through the Facebook social networking site. He expressed the joy of growing up with such a unique father as a guide, and friend-for-life. Eventually, these reflections became overwhelmingly powerful with echoes of yonder days. My heart was breaking.

I needed to see the Dinner Bell, again.

A day later, in the midst of family chores with my nephew, I detoured to Painesville. Revisiting George’s empty diner was like viewing The Parthenon against a backdrop of history. Walking around the parking lot constituted a spiritual experience. I took photographs, and remembered out loud…

Then, we discovered a makeshift memorial in front of the restaurant. Someone had left a sheet of orange poster board over the real estate sign, with roses and a balloon. It proclaimed in large text: “YOU ROCKED, GEORGE.”

I felt humbled by this pure expression of love.

After sunset, I posted my photographs in cyberspace, including a special note about the makeshift Dinner Bell tribute:

“This was incredible to discover - a homemade memorial for the late George Diskes, owner of The Dinner Bell Diner on Bank Street in Painesville, Ohio. Though closed for several years, this icon of local culture remains a spot of interest to tourists and local residents. 'Famous George' served many satisfied patrons here - from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Elton John to Governor Voinovich to radio celebrity Mike Trivisonno to... everyday folks from around the corner. A trip to the Dinner Bell not only guaranteed fantastic dining, but also gifted visitors with a tour through collections of Coca Cola merchandise, copper cookware from Old Europe, a set of New York City taxicab doors, a stuffed horse, Three Stooges collectibles, Greek treasures, and other unusual trinkets. This was a happy place, in every sense of the word.”

Andy Diskes responded soon afterward. His words had me looking forward to a Dinner Bell reunion that might come to pass, with stories of the diner and its legacy in northeastern Ohio:

“Hi, Rod, Thanks for the great commentary and photos. My dad would just love this. Thank you very much. I look forward to meeting you in person.”

The project ended where it began, with the household lost in slumber. I was at the computer again, working intently on another manuscript. Yet my soul had been satisfied - by paying tribute to ‘Famous’ George.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:
Visit us at:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wet weather fails to dampen spirits of Special Olympics athletes

JEFFERSON – Build an ark, and they will come. Especially on an August weekend at the local fairgrounds.

Just ask ‘Noah’ Jenner – captain of the Ashtabula County Special Olympics honorary ship. He has become a skilled navigator, on behalf of his group.

The final day of festivities at this year’s county fair was dominated by a deluge of nearly biblical proportions. Rain remained persistent throughout much of the day.

Yet benefit events sponsored by the Truckers Helping Hands organization and motorcycle legend Jesse James made the downpour a minor distraction.

The day offered a truck and motorcycle show like no other.

Celebrated were forty years of competition by members of the ACSO teams. Also remembered was the late Russ ‘Boss Hog’ Starcher, who had been instrumental in motivating the professional drivers to do greater things in the name of goodness.

Truckers Helping Hands has supported the ACSO faithfully, with a network of blue-collar heroes across the region. Olympics Coordinator Bill Jenner observed that their involvement has been a priceless gift for his athletes.

“I don’t know how they do it,” he said. “They top themselves every year. We thank them so much.”

Central in the 2008 event was Mary Kehoe, a four-decade veteran of the Special Olympics. Her participation in the games has endured since the first formal gathering in 1968. Mary’s presence offered a sense of continuity to the meet.

“Yes, I was there,” Kehoe remembered, fondly. “That was a long time ago.”
Her career as a competitor has been unequalled in ACSO history.

Ashtabula photographer Mike Adley reckoned that she was a genuine inspiration to everyone in the group, simply by staying the course.

“When you do anything for forty years, it is amazing,” he said.

Adley himself was recognized by Truckers Helping Hands as a tireless advocate of the Special Olympics. With an endless contribution of resources and labor given to support the group, he has figured prominently in its success.

Jesse James, well known as ‘El Jefe’ of West Coast Choppers, helped draw many thousands of visitors to the judging, with a new line of workwear. Guests lined up at his booth despite the soggy conditions, for autographs and handshakes.

Before long, his black bandanas were everywhere. Even on members of the ACSO team.
Athletes from the group were asked to judge a fleet of trucks and motorcycles during the afternoon. Dozens of participating vehicles in tip-top condition made their task a challenging exercise. But it constituted happy work.

Cheerful competitor William Griswold particularly liked a Ford pickup painted with red-white-and–blue graphics that included the silhouette of a soldier.

“I know the owner,” he boasted, with a grin. “He’s a friend of mine.”

Other rigs displayed football themes, family portraits, and patriotic messages. Some recalled the vintage era of over-the-road transportation. A few displayed the sleek profile of modern highway cruisers, shaped by the wind. Each had a unique personality.

A crowd favorite was the ‘Mystery Machine’ van made famous in Scooby Doo cartoons and big-screen films. Also popular were two and three-wheeled cycles powered by V-8 automobile engines. A stagecoach trike evoked ‘Old West’ flair in the show.
Long-and-lean custom cycles teased the judges with style.

The proliferation of excellence made it difficult to choose.

Yet the sight of James’ own West Coast Choppers semi had the grandstand crowd on its feet. The applause was thunderous – even against the backdrop of storm clouds and uneasy skies.

Awards were presented under an open tent, as Mother Nature blustered away. Rain water poured from every fold and crevice. Yet truckers and athletes alike seemed indifferent to the weather. It was a time to celebrate the spirit of cooperation.
As Bill Jenner said, “It’s about what they can do, not what they can’t.”

Predictably, sunlight peeked through the clouds as final awards for the day were bestowed.

Even after the ceremony had been completed, Jenner was still working. His cell phone rang incessantly. Lists and documents crowded his notebook. Passers-by crowded the ACSO tables. He struggled to concentrate amid the chaos.

“I’ve got more sports coming up,” he exclaimed. “Swimming, bowling, and so on. The paperwork has been coming in, now. There’s so much to do.”

Then, he added, with a smile – “It’s lonely at the top!”

The Ashtabula County Special Olympics athletes for 2008

The Jesse James stand, with promos for his new line of workwear

A patriotic rig

The 'Mystery Machine' van from Scooby Doo

ACSO athletes inspecting the motorcycles

ACSO Coordinator Bill Jenner (left) helping to present an award to photographer Mike Adley (center) for his service and generosity