Thursday, January 08, 2009

“The Rearview Mirror - Chapter Two”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers – With the Old Year drawing to a close, here is a second look at the material that comprised ‘Thoughts At Large’ for 2008. Thanks so much for your support!

When school children are asked “What would you like to be when you grow up?” most choose from a familiar roster of career occupations. Many aim to become doctors, firemen, teachers, or astronauts. Some ache to experience military combat or the intense competition of professional athletics. Others find appeal in public service and volunteer work. Yet few would be likely to choose writing a weekly column as a preferred avocation.

Still, for this writer, such work has always been worthy of pursuit.

My first love as a kid was the habit of radio broadcasting. In particular, the personality of ‘Wolfman Jack’ always provided inspiration. But as a close second, creative pounding on a typewriter keyboard seemed undeniably attractive.

While reading the work of Mike Royko, I often imagined my own journalistic flight into the intellectual cosmos. But it seemed unlikely that I could ever reach that point of wordsmithing prowess.

Then came The Geauga County Maple Leaf.

From a humble beginning in February of 1998, this column inherited a place first occupied by the late Lee Rogers. He opened the way for those of us not so gifted in years or experience. Even today, I remember his legacy with fondness.

‘Thoughts At Large’ developed from a primitive writing project into something more enduring. With each installment, I began to discover new ways to connect Geauga to the world.

Today, thanks to the Maple Leaf website, this column has graduated to a useful place among Internet readers. But its primary focus remains… to connect with friends at home.

What follows here are a few more examples of TAL pages from the past year, and the responses that followed:

DOLLAR MENU MOTORVATOR – While watching owners of Detroit’s ‘Big Three’ automakers visit Capitol Hill in search of an industry bailout, I was moved to reflect on the Chevrolet Chevette of bygone days. A 1977 advertisement stated that EPA mileage estimates for the car were 43 on the highway and 31 in the city. I remembered that my own four-door ‘81 model was just as thrifty. This had me wondering… how had GM lost their way while rolling toward the 21st Century? I sent a copy of the column to Rick Wagoner, CEO of the corporation. Shortly afterward, a message appeared on my cell phone:

“Good morning Mr. Ice… I’m calling from General Motors’ Executive Office in regard to the… article you sent in. Thank you very much for that. It was very interesting reading. And I wanted to let you know that we have received it, and we do appreciate when the consumers do take the time to write us and give us their opinions. I will make sure that it gets on to Mr. Wagoner and the board. And, if you have any questions or concerns you can call me… your file number here Mr. Ice is 716… Once again, we do appreciate it and thank you very much… Have a great holiday season!”

- Lisa Watson, General Motors

HOME FROM HOG HEAVEN – While traveling between Thompson and Marietta to visit my niece, I discovered a distinctive restaurant in New Philadelphia. It was a barbecue palace blessed with biker décor and incredible vittles. Once my sister’s daughter had finished her studies at Marietta College, these trips came to an end. But I wrote a column to celebrate our final pause at the eatery off of I-77. One week later, I received a message from the ‘Head Hog’ himself:

Thanks for the nice write up. We have three locations and are very proud of
our food and service. It is nice to hear that our customers enjoy what we
offer… on your next visit… please leave room for desert and try our Hog Log. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Thanks again.”

- Byron Rosenthal, founder of HH

MC DONALD’S HALL OF FAME – After visiting the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania McDonald's during a southern adventure, I became hopeful over Chardon’s new ‘Golden Arches’ location. The Keystone State Mickey D’s I’d patronized had bronze busts of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, two favorite sons of the city. With anticipation, I pondered who might be honored at our own fast-food emporium. Responses to the column were upbeat, and plentiful:

“Hey, Rod--my goodness, thank you so much for the honor! I'm astounded to make your Top 10 list. Glad we crossed paths at the PO recently--nice to see you on your bike. Keep on keepin' on, eh? Cheers.”

- Grace Butcher, noted Geauga County writer, educator, and athlete

“It was very nice of you to include Ron in your top ten! Thank you.”

- Thalia Hutter, Hutter Racing Engines, Ltd.

“Rod, thank you for including me in the ‘Hall of Fame’ story. What an honor!”

- Mary Bramstedt, Chardon City Council

CROSSED BONES/WILD TONES – Working on dual projects helped inspire this column about motorcycles and biker music. I connected the recordings of guitar hero Davie Allan with a ‘retro’ cycle that had just been introduced in Milwaukee by Harley-Davidson. The result produced a quick response from ‘King Fuzz’ himself:

Oh my.............. Fabulous article (and not just because I'm in it).
It blows my mind that you have featured me again… I think you will be up for another liner note session if I can do the ‘Retro’ album… I do have the track listing and one of the tunes is a bit of a ripoff of "Blues Theme" with the working title (if I can get away with it) "Heavenly Blues"!
Thank you, thank you and to make sure it comes through............thank you!!!”

- Davie Allan, Legendary guitarist from southern California

HOMETOWN THOUGHTS – After publishing the ‘Thoughts At Large’ collection, it seemed proper to send copies of the book to our soldiers stationed overseas. In a cooperative effort with the Thompson United Methodist Church, I was able to have local citizens write their own messages inside these volumes before they were mailed to military personnel with a Geauga County connection. The idea had been inspired by an Akron native who was busy sending guitars to our troops through his own charitable organization. A positive reaction came quickly from this former Marine:

That sounds like a GREAT idea!
Words of support and inspiration are needed for our troops just as much as anything else... your books would raise a lot of peoples spirits in the Sand Box.
With your permission I will post this on my Marine website and see if some of the northern Ohioans on the site would like to support your efforts. Thanks."

- Paul Hickman, founder of Guitars for Grunts

Postscript – My best wishes to everyone from Geauga, and beyond. May you find peace and prosperity in the New Year!

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