Friday, October 31, 2008


Driving through Cuyahoga Falls, I spotted a white Ford Explorer with some sort of message written across its expansive back window. Upon catching up with the vehicle, I realized it was a pseudo-political statement: "I AM JOE THE PLUMBER."

Joe has become a celebrity during the current presidential campaign, thanks to his brief interaction with Barack Obama on the subject of taxation. The Ohio native recently endorsed John McCain, and has been appearing at campaign events with J-Mac around The Buckeye State.

For Joe Wurzelbacher, speculation has begun about a future filled with political aspirations, or a country music career. At the very least, it seems likely that he will author a book, or be featured in a made-for-television movie. Though one might wonder if his media stardom will last beyond next week.

Still, for the SUV driver, this was probably a chance to be noticed for one fleeting moment, while paying homage to a home-grown folk hero.

See you on Election Day, Joe...


A recent road trip to Cuyahoga Falls uncovered the well-preserved remnants of their local Montgomery Ward department store. I'd encountered the slab-sided, discount tomb before, but had forgotten its location.

Montgomery Ward was originally founded in 1872. After decades of success in the marketplace, this chain fell on hard times and closed their store and catalog operations in 2001.

A retail relic - Montgomery Ward

The stylish Montgomery Ward logo

Gone, but not forgotten - the genius of Aaron Montgomery Ward

The modern-as-today 'Wards' banner on the front window

The modernistic MW image

The welcome mat is still out, but no one is waiting

Missing letters from the original eye-level sign make it a cryptic reminder of MW's glorious past

A closeup of the store front

The abandoned Montgomery Ward Auto Center

Silent and empty - the MW location remains intact

Amazingly, a new group purchased the name and intellectual property rights for MW and reopened Wards as an online retailer. Their products can be viewed at:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rock Hall Interview

The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is well known among attractions in Cleveland. I've visited the music temple several times in the past, but never like yesterday - because my latest pause by Lake Erie involved being interviewed for employment.

The day was windy and cold. Rain and light hailstones made my journey a curious episode through traffic on Interstate 90. Persistent gray skies seemed to sap the life force from travelers and pedestrians. Yet I felt buoyed by the moment. This was my debut at the Hall...

A windy day in Cleveland

Still glorious through the gathering hailstorm - The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame

Looking toward The Great Lakes Science Center and Cleveland Browns Stadium

Key Bank - still intact despite the national monetary crisis

The Key Bank Building towers over Cleveland

Looking back up East 9th Street

An Ohio Historical Marker, in front of the Hall

Rock Hall wristband

The Administrative Office had a waiting room with black leather couches, and a red coffee table shaped like a Grand Piano. Behind the receptionist's desk were television screens that flickered with videos from VH-1 and national weather reports. There were curios and framed, vintage photographs everywhere. Not one person could be seen wearing a tie.

My visit provided a glimpse of the Hall, underneath its festive veneer of cultural importance. Did I impress the staff? It was impossible to be sure. But if nothing else, I enjoyed the opportunity to peek behind the curtain... and walk away smiling.

“Bailout Bandwagon – Chapter Two”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a lazy weekend in the Ice Household. Cats, dogs, and children were still slumbering as daylight peeked over the horizon. Liz, my wife, drifted through a personal dreamscape of fragrant flowers and weeping violins.
But I… was at the computer.

My eyes were sore from reading news stories. Though I repeated this tedious exercise several times, the result remained negative. Our national hope of a graceful arc from investment to prosperity had disappeared amid the banking crisis.

Yawning, Liz opened her eyes.

“Rodney, why are you awake so early?” she groaned. “It’s the weekend!”

My face reddened. Paperwork was strewn across the desk. “Sorry. I was restless…”

“Okay,” she answered, brushing stray curls out of her face. “About what?”

“Money. The future. Our net worth,” I confessed.

She smiled, sleepily. “So early in the morning?”

“Listen to this statement on the federal bailout of our banks by Rep. Steve LaTourette,” I said, while reading from the computer screen:

“It’s unbelievable that the Senate chose greed at a time of crisis. People in Mentor and in every community in my district are sitting at their kitchen tables wondering how they’re going to come up with $300 or $500 this month to save their home, and they’re scared to death to look at the 401Ks and wonder if they’re going to be able to send their kids to college. And we’re giving hundreds of millions of dollars for rum and toy arrow makers? It’s unbelievable. I know something had to be done. But we had an opportunity to do a better bill, and one that wasn’t so costly to taxpayers. It didn’t have to be my way or the highway because there were many good ideas out there, but no alternatives were allowed. We had an opportunity to pass a clean bill that Americans could be proud of and we didn’t.”

My wife gasped. “Well said. But… how does that really affect us?”

“Just imagine one of those bankers coming to the Ice General Store for food,” I said. “He buys a case of wine, five pounds of gourmet cheese, and a dozen steaks. The transaction is based on mutual trust because we’ve done business for many years. But after the sale, his case of wine yields only seven bottles, not twelve. The cheese is actually processed spread made from vegetable oil. And the steaks are donkey fillets. What would you expect?”

Her eyebrows raised. “Well, I’d expect him to lodge a protest with you - the store manager!”

“On what grounds?” I said emphatically.

My wife grew agitated. “Well, because he was cheated! What you sold him didn’t match the purchase he desired.”

“Even if my store provided the consumables in good faith?” I said. “Even if there was every intention to completely serve his needs?”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’ve got to play fair with customers. Each individual deserves to get what they paid for.”

“Hmmm,” I pondered. “Yet when the banker delivers poor value for money… or no value… we simply cover his bad bets with another loan.”

She snorted. “Can’t I have coffee before you start talking politics?”

I continued with a grin. “We would be expected to ride out such a small-business calamity. That’s capitalism in a nutshell. But when the same thing happens on a larger scale, we are urged to support a government bailout. So much for free market principles. Does that make sense to you?”

She shook her head. “What makes sense is… coffee!”

“Okay,” I relented.

We adjourned to the kitchen.

While fresh Java percolated, Liz snuggled into her pink bathrobe. As we sat at the table, I revived our conversation.

“Think about it,” I said. “Last week, we drove to Seneca Allegany Casino in New York State. We invested forty dollars, and came home with one hundred and thirty-nine. In the process, both of us were entertained for an evening. And I got newspaper material for the future.”

My wife rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes…say, do we have any cookies?”

I rummaged through the cupboards for a package of Double-Stuffed Oreos. “That’s a better return than we’ve gotten lately from our national financial system.”

She brushed cookie crumbs off of her bathrobe. “Don’t tell me… you’re going to invest our life’s savings in a casino?”

“Would that really be so crazy?” I said.

Silence filled the room. She was not amused.

“Think about it,” I continued. “No politician would suggest betting taxpayer money at the blackjack tables, or the roulette wheel. Yet our elected officials handed a massive check to the banking industry, despite the fact that the same group of people had just ‘flushed’ billions of our dollars without a nanosecond of remorse. Doesn’t that qualify as an act of insanity?”

Liz turned serious. “I admit, it is very frustrating.”

I turned back to the computer. “Remember the comments by Steve LaTourette? Dennis Kucinich, his colleague in the House of Representatives, also opposed the bill.” Again, I read out loud:

“Some people will ask of this Congress, what were we thinking? Why did we give (a) $700 billion bailout to Wall Street without fixing what caused the problem in the first place? Why did we rig the free markets for security fraudsters? Why didn’t we explore alternatives to let Wall Street solve its own problems? Why didn’t we have (the) money save millions of homeowners, create millions of jobs, and a green economy? Why didn’t we stop the speculators? Why wasn’t there accountability? Why didn’t we take time to make an intelligent decision?”

“More strong talk!” she observed. “Still… what else could they do?”

“Perhaps, but where’s the outrage?” I laughed. “Both major parties supported this deal. Neither is free of guilt. Only a handful of rebellious spirits like these opposed the plan.”

My wife shrugged her shoulders. “So, what’s the answer, Mr. Wordsmith?”

I took a deep breath for emphasis. “Go back to the hypothetical example of a banker shopping at our store. Suppose it became apparent that he’d repeatedly been short-changed as a patron – that his bad visit wasn’t an isolated event. What would happen?”

She raised a finger. “At the very least, legal action would result. A business can’t operate without honesty toward its customers.”

My voice hushed to a whisper. “What if I claimed to be a victim of circumstance? What if I professed having genuine respect for my shoppers?”

“You’d still have to accept responsibility,” she chirped. “There is an implied promise of fairness that goes along with doing business in America.”

“Okay,” I cheered. “Hopefully, that is true. So… have you heard anything like that out of Washington? Any promise of a full-scale investigation? Or punishment for wrongdoing? Or… any guarantee that this bailout will actually work?”

“Well… not quite,” she said. “Just some partisan bickering and hand-wringing.”

I bowed my head. “Well then, are you ready to hit the road?”

“The road?” she said with puzzlement. “Why?”

“It’s time to get the rest of our money to a casino before it disappears,” I smirked. “So we can make a safe investment, for a change!”

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I admit it - when Sarah Palin was first announced as Big Mac's running mate, I flashed on the 'other' Palin... the one famous for his membership in Monty Python's Flying Circus. It seemed logical that someone, somewhere would make the same connection. And now, they have...

While he may not be eligible as a native Brit, Palin would still offer more level-headedness in the nation's highest office, and a sense of humor to boot.


Monday, October 27, 2008


In April of this year, I created a Yahoo! group to encourage discussion about pop culture, Rock 'n' Roll music, and beer. (Three staples of American life.) I reckoned that this new forum would handle off-topic discussions that were occasionally spilling over from Internet spots like the Davie Allan fan site.

The idea didn't bear fruit, however. In polite verbiage, the joke fell flat. I promptly forgot about the group... until now.

With Joe 'The Plumber' Wurzelbacher making election season headlines, suddenly any reference to 'Joe' yields lots of results on Google. A budding crop of pretenders to the fame of this Ohio resident has appeared on the Internet:

Perhaps it is time to revive 'Joe Six-Pack?' If nothing else, having a post here titled 'Joe The Plumber' will point many searching for information about this blue-collar fellow toward the 'TAL' blog.

Make your selection now...

Send message:
Join group:

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Thanks to Liz, Our household has been decorated in the Halloween spirit for a couple of weeks now... but tonight, we carved Jack-o'-lanterns to celebrate the season of ghouls. Each represented one of the family. We were pleased with the result:

Liz & Rod

Witch's Broom

Soccer Fairy




The whole family, from left: Leigh, Liz, Rod, and Soccer Fairy

All the pumpkins in a row

Our grub for the evening

Punpkin light on the porch

We finished the day celebrating Cleveland's win over Jacksonville in NFL football. Vittles were provided by Zeppe's in Chardon - a great place for pizza and Buffalo wings on any Sunday, haunted or not!

Friday, October 24, 2008


One of my many ideas for a cool album cover concept was to issue an LP with the title "Rod Who?" in bold lettering. Featured would be some of the many famous 'Rods' and 'Rodneys' from popular culture. Like many of my ideas, it never came to fruition. Yet the kernel of inspiration has remained... tucked away in a file drawer somewhere inside my brain.

Here are a few that might have been included in such a project:

Legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield

Rock hero Rod Stewart

Noted actor Rod Steiger

TV icon Rod Serling from 'The Twilight Zone'

Rodney D. Ice, Professor of Pharmacology in Oklahoma

Child star Rodney Allan Rippy

Rod Piazza of The Mighty Flyers

Television evangelist Rod Parsley

Rod Morgenstein, drummer for The Dixie Dregs, The Steve Morse Band, and Winger

Rod McDonald, folksinger

Rod Woodson, veteran NFL athlete

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Thursday, October 23, 2008



October 2008 - The Clothesline Project (An ongoing exercise in self-expression)

All survivors are encouraged to visit and create a T-shirt. You design your shirt to express your feelings. These shirts will be put on display at future events to symbolize how suicide impacts a life. T-shirts will be provided free of charge as well as paints. If you wish to add something else to your shirt please bring it that evening. Call Carole or Sandy for more information @ 440-286-4673.

November 22nd, 2008 - Candlelight Vigil (5:30 p.m. on Chardon Square)

In memory of all those left behind. On the National Day of Suicide Survivors, we remember you... Sponsored by Tim's House, Inc.

December 6th, 2008 - Christmas Tea (3:00 p.m. at Rosepoint Cottage in Chardon)

An afternoon tea event for survivors of suicide, to benefit Tim's House. Tickets are $35 per person. Mystery prizes will be awarded.


During the current political contest, I've sent several copies of the various 'Icehouse Books' to some of our most notable candidates. Earlier in the year, I wrote about receiving letters from both Barack Obama and John McCain regarding the 'Thoughts At Large' book. This week, I got a card from the office of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, in response to my third book, Popcorn Season:

Last but not least is Joe Biden, VP candidate on the Democrat Party ticket. Hopefully, he too will respond on being gifted with Popcorn Season, completing this quartet of national office-seekers during the 2008 competition.

“The Team Next Door”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is the story of my third book, ‘Popcorn Season.’ Composing this work permanently changed my life for the better, and proved John Lennon’s observation that ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’

Writing is an open-ended journey.

Reliably, the craft of wordsmithing seems to produce unintended consequences that can be productive, or baffling. Part of the adventure is to manage these after-effects skillfully, and use them to their full potential.

Last year, I took on seasonal work covering sports events in our neighboring district to the east. By chance, this undertaking put me in touch with a team of special needs athletes. Their representative was a man named Bill Jenner.

He invited me to attend a Special Olympics softball game at a place called Massucci Field, where ‘The Ashtabula Lakers’ were scheduled to compete.

The group played in a league that included MR/DD clubs from other counties, such as Geauga Metzenbaum. Because press coverage for the events had been non-existent, my visits soon became a familiar topic of on-the-field conversation.

Athletes on Jenner’s team called me ‘The Reporter.’ It was a nickname I wore with pride.

The Lakers carried an impressive roster of pitchers, who were stingy and unflappable. But their ability to hit was even more impressive. Eventually, I reckoned that every inning sounded like a kettle of popping kernels dancing over a fire.

‘Popcorn’ was the buzzword I used to describe this phenomenon.

My new friends made it to state competition that year, but missed out on winning a championship. Yet their courage was undeniable.

The buttery essence of Lakers softball lingered into winter. Somehow, I needed to recapture that spirit of optimism and teamwork.

In January of this year, I began to collect stories from their summer campaign. These reports formed the foundation for an inspirational book called ‘Popcorn Season.’ Publishing this manuscript was a personal blessing. But then, the law of unintended consequences took hold, once again.

With warmer days came new assignments!

The Lakers were scheduled to appear in a benefit event at the county fair. With my notebook and camera, I slogged through rain to cover this entertaining event:

Wet weather fails to dampen spirits of Special Olympics athletes

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

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.”

With the season drawing to a close, Jenner and his crew once again battled their way into a playoff spot among teams from around the state. But this time, the result was a league championship, in Division III.

The title caused a countywide celebration. Gleefully, I wrote about their success:

Special Olympics Team Cultivates Goodwill

Visitors to the 45th annual Geneva Grape JAMboree… received something extra with their fruited delights – a dose of goodwill, thanks to the Ashtabula County Special Olympics.

Athletes from the ‘Lakers’ softball team were on hand to celebrate their Division III State Title, won after a lengthy season of dramatic competition and sheer endurance. It was the first time they had taken the crown in their twenty-four year history.

Bill Jenner, a Coordinator of the ACSO, said it once again demonstrated how a positive attitude can open doors to success.

“This championship is all about what the athletes can do, not what they can’t do,” he observed. “All of the athletes worked very hard for this, and we are proud of them.”

Instrumental in supporting the team throughout their season was Truckers Helping Hands, a group organized to provide assistance of all kinds to the handicapped athletes. Scott Carlson, a long-term member of the organization, said that the effort has exceeded even his own expectations.

“We started with a few trucks, and an idea,” he recalled. “But it kept growing with each year. It has been incredible!”

The softball season had ended. Yet one more contest remained on the team schedule. It was a match between The Lakers and constables from around the county. This would be my farewell report for the year:

Lakers meet law enforcement for goodwill game at Massucci Field

ASHTABULA – Typically, police officers need to possess many different skills as part of their everyday routine. They must be physically agile and strong, with the stamina of a professional athlete. Additionally, their ability to observe and recall incidents is constantly tested on the job. Often, these public servants are called upon to calmly negotiate disputes. And they are required to make quick judgements based on limited amounts of information. All of this must be rendered with a polite demeanor that will inspire confidence in the public.

But in Ashtabula, officers were recently asked to demonstrate a new skill as part of their service to the community.

Familiarity with the game of - softball.

On Saturday October 4th, a personable posse of peace officers from the county met to compete with the Ashtabula County Special Olympics softball team at Massucci Field.

It was the new Battle of ‘Bula – Law enforcement versus The Lakers.

The Special Olympics softball club was still fresh from winning a state title in Division III competition. So they took the field with lots of energy, and pride. Adrenaline seemed to fill the air.

Think of the ‘Popcorn Season’ with a dose of Tabasco.

The first game ended with those in law enforcement besting The Lakers by a wildly prolific score of 19-12. A second match featured mixed teams comprised of both police officers and Special Olympics athletes.

After the meet had concluded, competitors from both sides looked happy, but exhausted.

Tim Hosken, an officer with the City of Ashtabula Police Department, was glad to have participated in the event. He and the other police officers had formed a genuine bond with The ACSO Lakers softball team. But as he left Massucci Field, there was a touch of fatigue in his voice.

“Now we’re all ready for a mineral bath,” he said with a smile.

These journalistic entries helped to fulfill the promise of ‘Popcorn Season’ with a renewed sense of hope. I felt humbled by the team and their ascension to glory…
And grateful for unintended consequences.

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