Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year from The Icehouse

Here's a prayer for the New Year:

May you find greater peace and prosperity in the months ahead. May your life be filled with joy and generosity. May you love and be loved. May your path lead toward the fulfillment of dreams. May you grow in the knowledge that happiness does not come from possessions or places, but from within. May you be rich in friendships and family. May your heart be strong and your hands be calm. May the sun shine on you always. Amen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It has been said that "everything old is new again." Current interest in retro iconography seems to prove that adage. Witness the popularity of Volkswagen's New Beetle. Or Harley-Davidson's perpetual ability to mine its own history for reborn classics. Even the many vintage guitar reissues from Gibson and Fender seem to prove this truism.

Nothing ever goes out of style... for long.

One enduring idea in the Ice household has been to create a guitar manufacturing company, right here on The Northcoast. An institution founded on the rich, colorful traditions of postwar electric guitars.

In 1983, I first imagined dual brands from this upstart axe maker: 'Econotone' and 'Budget-Tone.' The first of those two names seemed more commercially viable. Years later, I began to create ads for the fictional corporation.

The Japanese have historically done well by imitating products originally designed in Europe and America. So it seems fair that we in the western hemisphere might be able to return this cultural favor - by recreating some of their classic imitations of our trasured items.

Many of the popular 60's Teisco models were undeniably Fender-ish in personality. This helped them gain acceptance for those rich in Rock 'n' Roll desire, but less gifted financially. A Cleveland re-interpretation of that style would be likely to evoke lots of pleasant memories for Baby Boomers, and younger fans of retro fashion.

Behold: The new Teisco Del Rey by Econotone! From the shores of Lake Erie, to a musical instrument purveyor near you!

Monday, December 29, 2008


We know the routine. Sadly, we've been here before. Again and again, as a matter of fact. But... that is life in Cleveland.

Let the rebuilding begin!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Above: Former Browns GM Phil Savage

Eric Mansfield (WKYC-3), Tony Grossi (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and Jay Glazer (Fox Sports) have all confirmed what we expected: Shortly after The Browns lost their final game of the NFL season at Heinz field in Pittsburgh, GM Phil Savage was fired.

The score was Steelers 31, Browns 0.

Further reports say that Head Coach Romeo Crennel will meet with the team ownership on Monday morning. Most observers expect that he will also be terminated.

Above: Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel

The Browns finished 4-12 after a disastrous season. They are 24-40 overall, during Crennel's four-year tenure.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

“Holiday Interlude”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was nearly five o’clock on a Tuesday evening.

I’d been at work in the Icehouse home office for several hours. And the day was about to end with a commendable ration of wordsmithing product. But now, my stamina was almost gone.

Even the aromatic signature of Colombian coffee could not hold my attention.

I had managed to catalog newspaper back issues from July to December, while writing a theatrical review of ‘A Christmas Carol’ as performed by the Thompson UMC Drama Group. Meanwhile, my personal reflections about owning a Japanese ‘Teisco’ guitar went online, at the ‘Thoughts At Large’ blog site.

It was an effort worthy of reflection.

I paused to take stock of my work. But the tantalizing breath of Java returned. Then, a delicate voice from the kitchen.

“Rodney, did you want a fresh cup of coffee?”

I jumped from my chair. “Liz? Heyyyyy, when did you get home?”

My wife giggled. She had already exchanged her work attire for a pink sweatsuit. “You were in a trance. I think that computer controls your mind!”

“Just working on some new material,” I explained.

“Work, work, work!” she complained. “You’re worse than Scrooge. Don’t you ever take a day off?”

“Well… no,” I said, after pondering her query.

“Do we ever go anywhere without you thinking of material for a story?” she hissed.

My face reddened with embarrassment. “Uhmm, no…”

“You wake up with the computer,” she observed. “You’re logged on throughout the day. And it’s your last thought before bed!”

I took a deep breath. “Yes…?”

“Rodney, you’re obsessed!” she concluded. “I think you need to relax for a change. Stop thinking about writing, and get in touch with your inner child!”

My redness deepened. “Ummm, but this is what I did as a child. I’ve had a home office since the age of ten.”

Liz shook her head. “Think about the holidays! And turn off that machine!”

I felt like a puppy that had been scolded for rowdy behavior. “Turn off the computer??”

Her pose was authoritative and confident. She gestured with a coffee spoon. “Yes!”

Suddenly, I felt short of breath.

My wife reached for the mouse. In an instant, she had maneuvered our desktop into ‘shutdown’ mode.

The air left my lungs. “Please!” I croaked. “Don’t take it away!”

“Try to get in the spirit of the season,” she said with encouragement. “You can do it!”

I took a seat at the kitchen table. My hands were shaking.

“Leigh and Soccer Fairy are spending the night with my parents,” she said. “Just think, Rodney… we’ve got the night all to ourselves! How about some Christmas shopping?”

“Great,” I replied. “Could I check the Icehouse Books e-mail before we get started?”

She pointed her finger with indignation. “No!”

I folded my hands. There was no use in continuing the argument.

“Forget the coffee,” Liz smiled. “How about some gingerbread tea? That will get you into a festive mood.”

“Sure,” I agreed. My stomach began to churn.

Liz started the electric kettle. A song formed on her lips. “Oh, the weather outside is frightful… but the fire is so delightful…”

I nibbled on a snowflake cookie for relief.

“And since we’ve no place to go,” she continued. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…”

Now, the beginning of her familiar holiday tune was in my head. It swirled fancifully for a moment, then morphed into a creation somewhat different from the original composition by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. The song took on a bit of vintage ‘MAD Magazine’ flair.

I grabbed a pen, and began to write:

For dinner it’s ham and duck
After a ride in my pickup truck
Then maybe the Jerry Springer show
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

We’re almost buried here
But I’m stocked with snacks and beer
So as the cold winds blow
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

When I finally hit the road
I’ll be glad for my four-by-four
We’ll soon be watching a football game
With cheese dip and crackers, galore

We’ll gather around the Yule log
And mix our brew with eggnog
Thank God for O-hi-o
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

My wife raised her eyebrow. “Rodney, what are you doing?”

“Just jotting down a few notes,” I explained.

Liz puttered with mugs of tea. Again, she broke into song. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Jack Frost nipping at your nose…”

Once more, I felt inspired. Words flowed onto the page:

Bratwurst cooking on a propane fire
Snow piled on your SUV
Out of work and you can’t get hired
But there’s a Taco Bell down the street

Everybody knows a steak burrito
Helps to make the evening bright
Selling chalupas for a week keeps us out of the snow
And we’ll sleep good tonight

Can’t get TV with your rabbit ears
But the VCR will do
Living day to day on a credit card from Sears
And duct tape on my shoes

So I offer you this simple phrase
For tots up to one-hundred ten
Though it’s been hyped in the Information Age
Merry Christmas, again!

She brought our tea to the table. “You’re supposed to be relaxing!”

I flipped the notepad over. “Just scribbling to pass the time. Nevermind.”

“This is my favorite month of the year,” she confessed. “I love to get together with our families and reminisce.”

I nodded in agreement.

Her face brightened. For a third time, she began to sing. “He's making a list, he's checking it twice, he's gonna find out who's naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town…”

Something clicked in my brain. I excused myself for a restroom break. Behind the closed door, more lyrics came from my pen:

Oh, you better not whine
You better not crab
The big man in red
Doesn’t need a cab
Santa Claus is hitting the road

He’s making a list
Better pass his test
His reindeer sleigh
Santa Claus is hitting the road

He sees you when you’re crashed out
He’s got surveillance tapes
And a camera in his beard
So be good for goodness sake

You better not gripe
You better not moan
Or old Saint Nick
Will be forgetting your home
Santa Claus is hitting the road

Back at the table, I nibbled another cookie.

“Isn’t this great?” Liz purred. “No responsibilities. No job stress. Just… us and the holiday season.”

I tucked the notepad in my pocket.

“See, it wasn’t so hard to forget about work, was it?” she said.

I shrugged my shoulders. “You were right, as usual.”

She finished her tea. “Let me get freshened up, and we’ll be on our way. Mall stores, here I come!”

Once she’d left the room, I started skimming through my crumpled papers. There were song lyrics, stray observations, and flashes of inspiration…

Plus, just enough time to complete my last feature before the holiday deadline!

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



These low-buck Japanese guitars helped a generation of fledgling rock 'n' rollers find a place on the path to rebellious glory in the 1960's. Though inconsistent in both design and quality, these axes nevertheless managed to find a place in the iconography of Baby Boom culture.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


In 1996 I had an unusual idea - to compose a story as a gift for my niece, Audrey. At the time, she was ten years old. The plan was very straightforward. I wanted to write a fictional adventure based on actual details of her life in Chardon.

My first manuscript was called 'The Brain Stealer.' It centered around the notion that Stin, Audrey's brother, had been mentally co-opted by some sort of maniacal clown.

The lone story soon grew into a series. Eventually, I would produce ten in all, each with its own unique cover artwork. Here are the first four in this series:

In her childhood, Audrey was gifted and creative. Today, she is a graduate of Marietta College with an incredible knack for all things musical. But her connection with these 'Weird Adventures' remains strong.

I salute you, Audrey Emm!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Shopping and The Fourthmeal

Yesterday, whilst Christmas shopping, Liz decided to play the role of Mrs. Claus, and took us to EL RODEO in Mentor for a tasty feast of enchiladas. I added plenty of El Yucateco red sauce and slipped into culinary nirvana. We'd not been out to eat in weeks, so the occasion was worthy of celebrating. It also helped fortify us against the onslaught of freezing rain that was battering northeastern Ohio as we traveled.

We were successful in finding gifts for the family, in part because of a new store that popped up next to Gabriel's and Big Lots by Route 615. 'Ollie's Bargain Outlet' proved to be an interesting addition to the local retail mix. Sort of a less-organized version of our familiar MARC'S stores.

The buying adventure lasted nearly all day. So upon turning toward home, I was hungry again. Liz still felt full from dinner, but my own appetite had returned. It seemed correct to maintain the Latin flavor of my day, but options at such a late hour were slim. Still, inspiration appeared as we drew near to Chardon. I decided to procure a ten-pack of hard-shell tacos at The Bell.

Anticipation teased my senses as we drove toward the hinterland. But in our remote corner of the county, everything was still coated with a thick, unforgiving layer of ice.

With much effort, I negotiated the long incline of our access ramp, to the front porch. It had been turned into a ski hill by the creeping frost. Armed with a bucket of driveway salt, I retraced my steps. Now, it would be safe for retrieving gifts from my truck.

Inside, Riley and Quigley (Labrador Retriever and Pomeranian, respectively) were eager to share my fast-food vittles. But I fed them on pooch provisions, instead. Then, while my wife began to unpack our goods, I opened my 'Fourthmeal' and savored its tantalyzing aroma.

Eight of the ten tacos disappeared quickly, along with gulps of diet soda. My belly was immediately grateful. Afterward, I checked e-mail in the home office, and finally surrendered to fatigue. Our bed was inviting and warm.

But by 4:30 a.m. I was experiencing remorse.

What had I done??

The delectable 'Fourthmeal' had settled in the bottom of my stomach, like a brick made of Mexican clay. I felt groggy, and weighed down. Yet awake! Animals scampered for cover as I slipped out of bed. In the dark, I fumbled for the computer.

If I could not sleep, at least I could write...

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Our sincere wishes of good cheer and happiness to all of you. Thanks for reading Thoughts At Large throughout the year. May 2009 bring you much prosperity and peace!

Friday, December 19, 2008


(From left) Cal Williams; Stephanie Williams; Judy Andrews

CHARDON - Everyone loves pizza. Especially volunteers at Tim's House in Chardon.
This non-profit organization provides a valuable resource by offering a sanctuary for those affected by the pain of a loss to suicide.

Tim's House was created by Carol Brazis, after her son, Tim Weed, committed suicide in 2006.

Since the beginning, Cal and Stephanie Williams of Zeppe's Pizzeria in Chardon have supported the group with generous donations of fresh food. Their community spirit has helped to inspire other businesses in Geauga County to greater activism.

On December 18th, the couple were presented with an award of appreciation from Tim's House, by Director Judy Andrews.

"They've done so much for us, and we thank them!" she said.

Zeppe's is located at 211 Cherry Street, in the county's capitol city.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Message from Malaysia” (Part Two)

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Like most users of the Internet, my e-mail preferences have always been set to deliver ‘spam’ messages directly to a separate trash folder. But an accident of fate let one find my attention - the first message from Barrister Bhag Sulaiman of Kuala Lumpur.

He proposed a deal founded on an unlikely premise – that a deceased millionaire with my family name had lived in Malaysia.

After a bit of research, I conformed that someone with Bhag’s identity was indeed a law professional. Yet there was no proof that his offer had any credibility. Or, that my cyberspace contact was actually Mr. Sulaiman himself.

Still, the message had tickled my imagination.

For a couple of days, I pondered writing a newspaper feature about the incident. Then, I sent a tongue-in-cheek request for clarification:

“Barrister Sulaiman,
With respect to you, let me reply that I am used to dealing with partners on a basis of mutual respect derived from some sort of first-hand knowledge. Since we do not know each other, there can be no authentic trust without some form of authentication shared between us as beneficiaries from a plan of cooperation.
I ask you to forward to me some kind of credentials which would indicate your professional standing as a legal representative in Malaysia. A business card, promotional literature, or other document, preferably with your photograph. In this way I could gain true comfort about our shared undertaking to retrieve the funds left by your late client… Once we have established a basis for trust between us, I believe we can work together in a fashion that will be rewarding in every sense of the word. My sincere thanks for your indulgence in this matter!”

His response came quickly. It demonstrated a somewhat garbled familiarity with the English language, and photo editing programs:

“Mr. Rodney Ice,
Thank very much for your ultrance base on trust and i am glad you analys the prospect in a preferable way, Harming on your errs of requirement in order to gain the trust in question, I have been lamenting on the issue because it is the most significant subtance that can enhance this transactioon to a greater measure, In a clear concept, I choose to sucomb on your request of the trust alarming and to establish comfort to both parties. In view of your request, It is not appreaciable for any lawyer to release his vital information for recent unknown individual but in order to conduct a sincere sinerio, I have to provide you my clear credential for the benefit of our upfronting partnership transaction, To enlise myself in quantum of trust and reputation,I hereby provide you my full adress first, My Name is Bhag sulaiman of bhag sulaiman & co., Attorney at law, My address is: Wisma Indah Apartment 500-6-19,Jln Tun Razak,55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To admire chronicle indulgence, I hereby attach my Passport Scan copy together with my certificate of call to barr in respect to your request and to gain the trust at stake, You are free to do whatever verification you wish to do on my accessibility and indicate the initaition of trust, Finally i am glad for your cogent ultrance and i look forward to work with you as we gain our full trust, Please Provide me your contact number so that we can discuss via wireless communication. Find the attachment. I wait for your prompt respond on the proceed of this transaction.”

Attached to Bhag’s message were two scanned images. One was of a Malaysian law degree. The other depicted his passport, front and back. Both were crude fabrications. I smiled with amusement over his sloppy work.

When I showed them to Liz, my wife, she laughed out loud.

Once again, I was moved to reflect on the famous Nigerian scammers, and their low-buck trickery. The photos had been altered with methods that were shoddy and unconvincing. Official type on the passport document was blurred from electronic reproduction, while the information below looked incredibly sharp. Cut-and-paste ‘ghost blocks’ lay behind each line of text.

It was not the work of a sophisticated professional.

Following Sulaiman’s message were new offers from other foreign suitors knocking with opportunity. Their names were even more surreal, and memorable:

1. Mohammed Alpha – Republic of Burkina Faso
2. Msabo Rabo – Republiq of Lome
3. Muhamadad Allauddin – Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Mr. Alpha’s communiqué was crafted with the same type reckless prose that made Bhag Sulaiman’s messages so entertaining:

“Dear Friend,
Please in the name of God i ask for your little time to read this message carefully to the excellency of our mutual benefit. So please read this email very gently and tell me what you think, if we can transact it together or not. And please after reading, if it does not interest you please kindly delet the mail and keep the secret of what you red within you.”

Still, the bogus solicitation from Malaysia was more intriguing. His patient methods made me pause with interest. I reckoned that at some point, Mr. Sulaiman would voice a need for ‘front money’ to facilitate the release of his deceased client’s funds. But when?

Instead of simply stalling for time, and perpetrating a reverse-scam of sorts, I wanted to do something more.

Inspiration appeared as I read about other scam-fighters who had gotten their overseas hucksters to send photographs, join fictitious religious groups, and even get tattoos in the hope of receiving money.

Since I was a journeyman wordsmith… why not try to sell Bhag some of my books?
I went to work immediately on a new message:

“Dear Mr. Sulaiman,
I received your documents by e-mail and feel that our trust has been greatly enhanced by this exchange. Let me ask that you now consider a good faith gesture to seal our cooperation completely.
I am a writer by profession, with three volumes that are available for public sale. The first of these speaks generally about life in the USA, through a series of short essays. The second is a child-friendly tale, with photographs by my wife. The third is based on sporting competition and the personal development of special-needs athletes.
Our partnership could become strong if you could appreciate the worth of what I do for a living. Therefore, I ask you to consider making a selection from Icehouse Books. If you would be so kind as to order one (or more) of my works, it would clearly demonstrate your integrity, and desire to find mutual benefit.”

After composing the letter, I wondered about shipping costs to Malaysia. Would the postal fee be greater than the price of a book by itself?

There was little time to consider this issue in detail. When I read my reply to Liz, she reddened immediately. Her voice took on the characteristics of a weary schoolteacher, offering correction. Words flew from her lips like shrapnel.

The answer was… NO!

Silently, I bowed my head.

The freewheeling conversation with Bhag Sulaiman had come to an end.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008




Welcome to the unofficial home of vintage Teisco guitars!

My first Teisco is still entombed in it's fiberboard case, in the back of a closet somewhere. Over the course of time, I had to replace the tuning machine assembly (a one-piece affair) and rewire the innards.

Years after getting better guitars, I began to read about many other musicians that had crossed paths with the infamous Tye-sko. It made me smile to think that other lives had been touched by this Asian manufacturer of quirky relics.

Ask yourself this simple question:

If so, you too have been touched by greatness.

Monday, December 15, 2008

‘A Christmas Carol’ Comes Alive in Geauga


THOMPSON – Charles Dickens’ classic tale ‘A Christmas Carol’ is familiar to most as part of the Yuletide holiday season. This compelling story carries a message that is both meaningful and timeless. Against the backdrop of modern-day economic chaos, it demonstrates the everlasting value of kindness and gentility. But in eastern Geauga County, the classic parable took on new life when revived by local performers at the Thompson United Methodist Church.

Typically, Ebenezer Scrooge has been depicted as an exaggerated caricature of miserly disdain, when rendered on stage. Yet through the talented portrayal of Hap Howle, this character glowed with honest believability. Much insight was delivered into the formative process that shaped Scrooge’s penchant for business over all else. The resulting depiction of his loneliness in the midst of great financial means deepened the authenticity of Dickens’ work.

With a strange bit of theatrical magic, Howle helped the audience pity Scrooge, while loathing his indifference to the customs of Christmas.

In equal measure, Quincy Wheeler brought the late Jacob Marley to life with a level of passion and urgency that lifted the entire play. His intense performance brought some of the night’s loudest applause from those in attendance.

Interestingly, Wheeler seemed to draw on Michael Keaton’s phantasmagoric “Beetlejuice” for inspiration. The result was undeniably successful.

In contrast to Scrooge’s dutiful but flawed reliance on the capitalist ethic, Marley was offered up as a human sacrifice of sorts. His agony at having chosen a path toward self-alienation and spiritual ruin rang undeniably true. The similarity and contrast between these two characters underpinned the story with useful realism.

Angelina Huber appeared delicate and radiant as the Ghost of Christmas Past. She seemed to literally pluck Scrooge from his solitary mood, beginning a journey through scenes that were touching and evocative. Hearts ached as Belle Tennant, played by Nadia Wheeler, surrendered to the realization that Scrooge would never love her above financial gain. And a breathless moment transpired as Kyle Markgraf, in the role of Young Man Scrooge, turned away from love, forever.

Machia Wheeler and Liz Abrams brought earnestness and joy to the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Cratchit. Their ability to carry this good-natured spirit throughout the play helped weave the progression of dramatic scenes into a useful tapestry.

Indeed, points of light were everywhere, in the cast.

The theatrical troupe was comprised of local residents from the Thompson area. As a team, they brought zest and zeal to the shared performance. Each helped make Dickens’ prose leap from the printed page, into reality.

Megan Webber summoned the sweetness of Fan, Scrooge’s younger sister, like a professional. Colin Simpson displayed courage as Fred, the nephew who diligently tried to think the best of his humbugging uncle. Betty Smith, as the cantankerous Mrs. Dilber, pilfered the main character’s bed curtains with humorous care.
Meanwhile, Pastor Harley Wheeler exuded confident mastery as the taunting Ghost of Christmas Present.

In the graveyard, at the tombstone of Ebenezer Scrooge, Kirk Fowler gave a chilling performance as the unspeaking Ghost of Christmas Future. This terminal moment of self-realization resonated powerfully with the audience.

Howle seemed to be channeling a weary soul on the precipice of judgement when he shouted: “I will change! I will change!”

As ever, Scrooge’s conversion came as a moment worthy of cheers and applause.
Dickens’ holiday tale was first published in 1843. It carried a message of social justice that was pointed and direct. He prefaced the text with a personal message that voiced his intentions: “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”

The original book was one of a series that included “The Chimes,” “The Cricket on the Hearth,” “The Battle of Life,” and “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.”
Visitors were delighted to see the play performed in a local setting, by members of their own community. It would have been difficult to choose a favorite from among the group of actors and actresses.

But at the end of this festive night, perhaps the one who most directly connected with those in attendance was Eden Wheeler, as the diminutive Cratchit child Tiny Tim.

Her youthful energy in delivering one of Dickens’ most memorable phrases, was intriguing.

“God bless us, everyone!”

Quincy Wheeler as Jacob Marley

(From left) Hap Howle as Scrooge and Angelina Huber as The Ghost of Christmas Past

(From left) Terry McDevitt and Jamie Ice as Businessman and Businesswoman

Megan Webber as Scrooge's sister, Fan

(From left) The Cratchit family prays while The Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge (in background) watch them intently

(from Left) The Ghost of Christmas Future directs Scrooge toward his grave

(From left) Liz Abrams as Mrs. Cratchit; Machia Wheeler as Bob Cratchit; Hap Howle as Scrooge

The cast of 'A Christmas Carol' at TUMC

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Traveling along Route 2 in northern West Virginia, I spotted this incredible watering hole... Tressie's Bar, located in a warehouse next to a pair of trailers in the hills.

Though the weather was cold with frosty breaths of December, the vibes from Tressie's were warm, indeed. The sign out front read: "Got beer?" It was a friendly message to all passers-by... "Rest your weary boots here, and enjoy a cool libation!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

“Message from Malaysia” (Part One)

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Journalism requires prodigious amounts of study and patience to produce a worthy result. Yet the successful wordsmith must also keep an eye on the clock while composing creative prose. Deadlines in this business are ever-present. One must inform and excite the reader, but do so in a timely manner. This truism keeps the professional writer in a constant state of motion. Squandered time will yield lost opportunities. There is no substitute for hard work when slinging ink for a living.

Yet even after such dutiful efforts, the best stories still seem to write themselves.

I was reminded of such things recently, at the Icehouse home office. Through my ‘Thoughts At Large’ e-mail account, I received a message from a city thousands of miles away – Kuala Lumpur:

“Dear Rodney Ice,
I am Barrister Bhag Sulaiman, a legal practitioner in Malaysia, with many years of practice. I was an attorney to a deceased client of mine who died in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia of a heart related condition in 2001. My reason of sending you this email is to help secure the funds left behind by my client before it is confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this fund valued at ($8.7Million) was deposited.

Since you do have the same surname with my late client, I would want to present you as the legitimate beneficiary with all legal documents required to back the claim up. The holding bank has issued me a notice to contact the next of kin, or the account will be confiscated, and so far, all my efforts to get hold of someone related to this man has proved abortive.

This is my proposal; I am asking for your consent to present you to the bank as the next-of-kin and beneficiary of my late client, since you have the same last name, so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to you. Then we can share the amount on a mutually agreed-upon percentage. I do have a good standing in Malaysia, it is my assurance that this transaction will be successful and that I will make sure every transaction is done within the applicable laws to guarantee full legitimacy.”

My first thought was of Nigerian Internet scammers who had gained notoriety a few years ago. The note made me grin. A share of $8.7 million would be wonderful, but… could someone named ‘Ice’ really have lived in Malaysia?

I decided to investigate this overseas lawyer to determine if he actually existed. Surprisingly, results for his name appeared quickly:

Bhag Sulaiman & Co
ADDRESS 6th Floor, Wisma Indah
STREET Jln Tun Razak
CITY Kuala Lumpur
STATE Wilayah Persekutuan
PHONE 03-9282 2577

Predictably, this information soon had me thinking of a potential newspaper feature. I was curious about what form his attempt at deception would take. It seemed tempting to answer his solicitation with questions of my own. So after a moment of reflection, I composed a reply to the message from Malaysia:

“Dear Mr. Sulaiman,
Your e-mail message comes as a surprise, particularly because persons with my family name are unique and rare among world citizens. It is indeed likely that anyone who shares my surname is a distant relative of some sort. Therefore, I am intrigued by your proposal.

I operate under a strict code of ethics as a gentleman and Christian. Nevertheless, your offer is interesting to consider. As a good faith effort, allow me to ask that you provide more details in the following areas:

1. Your own legal practice
2. The practical intent of your proposal
3. The methodology we would employ to achieve our shared goals
4. The benefit yield I could expect from our partnership

My sincere thanks for your indulgence in this matter. I pledge faithfully to maintain discretion and confidentiality in this discussion.”

Obviously, I avoided mention of writing for a newspaper. A few days elapsed, and then the barrister sent a second message, offering more cryptic thoughts about his plan:

“Attn: Rodney Ice,
In relation to my proposal mail to you, I had a client who was a mineral resources merchant in Malaysia here, born by two migrant workers in Malaysia which made him a Malaysian permanent resident holder. My client died in 2001 of Pulmonary infection (heart Related Condition). My late client lost his parents about 10 years ago. He was not married nor did he have kids. As the attorney to my late client I reliable knew that he died intestate (sic) because he did not have any Will before his demise…
As I told you in my proposal mail, I contacted you because of your last name which is the same as my late client's name. It is not that you are really his relative nor the legitimate beneficiary. I only want to present you based on your last name (and its only you and I knows this because the Malaysian High Court has to accept anyone that I present to them as the beneficiary). Honesty is another issue that I wish to emphasize on because I do not know you and I do not have any option than to believe that I am choosing the right person for this transaction. I got your information via internet when I was searching for people that have the same last name with my late client and i am greatful you reply to me.

There is no risk to this transaction as we will process all the required documents by law for a beneficiary claim. I have personally studied all applicable laws and found out that this is a transaction that we can do successfully without it backfiring as far as we go with the plan I have set down and that we kept it secret.

In this transaction we will go step by step, first with the legal documents to back up the claim and secondly, the monetary documents for the transfer. I will provide all the necessary legal documents that will back you up as the bona fide beneficiary of my late client, all I need from you is to cooperate with me and be honest in this arrangement and after a successfully claim has been made, the bank will transfer the total fund into the account provided by you as the beneficiary account after which we will share the total fund as follows; (1) I will take 60% of the total amount. (2) You will take the remaining 40% of the fund. (3) In case there is any tax applicable when the fund is transferred to you, we will settle the tax from the total amount before splitting it according to the above sharing formula.”

He asked for my home address and a telephone number, but no money. I was intrigued by his unhurried pace as a con artist. Sending any personal information was unadvisable under any circumstances. But my post office box was already available on the Internet.

In silence, I pondered… how much of a story could develop from Mr. Bhag’s proposal?

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Thursday, December 04, 2008


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a snowy, quiet afternoon in The Icehouse.

Riley, our black Labrador Retriever, had already surrendered to mid-day laziness. He burrowed into a heap of blankets on the couch. Our television flickered with local news reports and year-end predictions. Yet he seemed unconcerned by thoughts of the outside world. The ornery dog put a paw over his face.

It was time to snooze...

Despite a full pot of coffee, I had also begun to nod off in my chair. A fresh breakfast of Italian sausage and eggs waited in the kitchen, growing cold. But I blinked with fatigue. Food held no attraction for me now…

Oblivion was close at hand.

Suddenly, a flash of pink went by the office doorway.

“Rodneyyyy!” my wife cheered. “ I’m home early today!”

I spun in my chair. “Hello, Liz!”

She did a pirouette in the dining room. Her spandex jumpsuit glowed with the intensity of a Barbie Doll Corvette. “You were on the computer when I left this morning. Don’t you ever get tired of looking at that little box?”

“Of course,” I replied. “But right now, it’s my livelihood.”

“Boring!” she squeaked.

My irritation was obvious. “I’m working on a newspaper feature for Thursday. Isn’t that a worthy task?”

“Oh, Rodney!” she chirped. “Don’t you ever have fun on the computer?”

I puzzled over her remark. “Fun?”

She snorted with disbelief. “On Facebook, you can adopt pets now. Wouldn’t you like to have a virtual puppy?”

A long moment of silence ensued.

“Adopt a pet on my computer?” I said at last. “We’ve got two real dogs!”

“Yes,” she cheered. “But you can name your cyber-pet, feed it, play with it, and network with other owners in the online neighborhood.”

Her suggestion made me sigh. “Liz, you sound like a high school teen. Grow up!”

“Well… you sound like an old man!” she warbled. “Don’t you ever think about anything but work?”

“Work pays the bills,” I said.

“Borrrrrring!” she said again. “Wouldn’t you like to do something different for a change?”

“Sure,” I answered. “How about a family trip to the library?”

“I said something different!” she hissed. “How about a trip to the Cleveland Ballet?”

My attitude hardened. “Uhmm, how about an informational picnic at the Geauga County courthouse?”

Liz groaned. “You’re hopeless. I give up!”

I felt guilty watching her walk away. “Wait, honey! Let’s compromise…”

“Great! So, we’re going to the ballet?” she wondered out loud.

“No,” I explained. “I’ll… adopt a pooch.”

She turned on her heel. “You need a Facebook account.”

I nodded. “Not a problem. So many journalists and TV reporters use the service that I had to join. It’s like a neighborhood tavern for wordsmiths and on-air personalities.”

My wife giggled. “Okay! Let’s find your doggie!”

Reluctantly, I clicked through the site.

“Go on the ‘Pokey’ application,” she said.

“The… what?” I grumbled.

“Pokey!” she repeated with a grin. “Don’t you ever look at your own page?”

My eyes narrowed. “I use these networking sites to spread my written material. It’s a great tool for self-promotion…”

“Oh, Rodney!” she pleaded. “Don’t you ever take a break from wordsmithing?”

“Well… no,” I admitted. “Nothing would get done if I wasted my time playing with virtual critters!”

“Stop it!” she howled. “Click on ‘adopt a pet’ and choose your new buddy!”

I sighed. When the online kennel appeared, there were puppies available in all the traditional AKC varieties.

“Mine is a Golden Lab,” Liz boasted. “I named it Docker!”

“Docker??” I coughed.

“He’s the color of tan Dockers pants,” she explained. “A perfect brother for Riley!”

From across the room, our genuine pooch began to snore. He seemed disinterested in the thought of having a cyber sibling.

“Why don’t you choose a Chocolate Lab,” she said with enthusiasm. “And name him Corduroy?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Corduroy?”

“A perfect brother for Docker,” she sang, brightly.

My cooperative mood was fading. “Can’t I just post something about the financial crisis instead? It’s a subject with lots of angles to be explored…”

She folded her arms. “Stop thinking about work! Either adopt a puppy, or we’re going to the ballet!”

I was cornered.

“Okay, but his name will be Pibber. That’s more original,” I insisted.

Her confusion was obvious. “Pibber?”

“In honor of Mr. Pibb, the legendary soft drink,” I said.

She snorted. “Oh, quit already! Nobody drinks that stuff.”

“It’s Coca Cola’s answer to Dr. Pepper,” I observed. “Their slogan is ‘put it in your head.’ Isn’t that creative?”

Her face reddened with the moment.

“We used to buy it in the south when it wasn’t available around here,” I reflected. "It was a staple beverage in the household.”

“Stop arguing with me,” she begged. “Just call him Corduroy and be done!”

I fell silent. Once the process had been completed, a dark brown pooch appeared on my computer monitor. He barked playfully.

“Okay, canine completed! I said.

“Not so fast!” she interrupted. “Now you’ve got to feed your pet. And give him water.”

“Come on!” I said. “This is childish!”

“Listen,” she squawked. “Corduroy needs attention just like any pet. You’ve got to feed him and play with him…”

“What, and take him outside to ‘go potty’ too?” I barked.

Liz was stunned. “Wow! You know, they didn’t include that part…it would have been more realistic…”

I grew bolder. “Maybe I need to buy a virtual fire hydrant?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Rodneyyy!!”

I clicked through options listed under Corduroy’s image. “All he gets to eat is dry dog chow. Yuck! I give Riley pork rinds when we watch television together…”

My wife gasped. “You give our dog pork rinds?”

“Of course!” I laughed. “He likes black olives, too. And boneless wings. It’s a shared experience – man and man’s best friend, enjoying brotherhood and game-time snacking!”

She shook her head with disbelief. “Oh, Rodney…”

The virtual puppy stood up on his hind legs. He panted for attention.

“Throw the Frisbee for him,” Liz insisted.

My eyebrows tightened. “I thought we were done with this…”

“Corduroy wants to play!” she said, forcefully.

“Look,” I argued. “I’m in the middle of a story about GM, Ford, and Chrysler. The domestic auto industry is a tailspin. Something needs to be done.”

“You’re supposed to be having fun!” she hissed.

I logged off of Facebook. “We’re talking wall-to-wall thrills here. Yes mam! But that’s enough for today.”

“Fine!” she fumed. “I wanted to see the ballet anyway!” She skipped lightly out of the room like a sure-footed waif. “Dance, dance, wherever you may be! I am the Lord of the dance said heeeee…”

Riley curled up next to my chair. It felt good to share the home office with a genuine mutt. The Lab yelped softly. With folded paws, he cuddled against my feet.

“Thanks for taking my side,” I whispered.

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