Monday, June 29, 2009

CAR SPOTTER: 2007 Chevrolet HHR 'Panel'

This is a 'Panel Truck' version of the Chevy HHR. (Actually, the term 'sedan delivery' would be more accurate since this is based on a car platform.) The HHR shares its 2.2 liter, 4-cylinder powerplant with the Cobalt. A cool 'retro' look.

Supposedly, 'HHR' stands for 'Heritage High Roof' in GM-speak. It represents an attempt to capitalize on the retro appeal of Chrysler's 'PT Cruiser.'

Note: With our domestic auto industry in chaos, the PT Cruiser has been axed. So has the 'SS' version of the 'Panel' HHR. So the vehicle pictured here is part of a dwindling herd - rolling toward extinction.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Life in the 70's would not have been complete without this poster... it was part of my teenage world at Valley High School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Along with 'Frampton Comes Alive' and the Pontiac Trans Am, this Hollywood icon gave us hope.

Farrah Fawcett (Majors) will live forever in our hearts. Goodbye to an angel.

POSTSCRIPT: Recent days have seen even more celebrities venture toward oblivion. These are sad times, indeed:

Ed McMahon, co-host of 'The Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson

Michael Jackson - the gifted, yet troubled 'King of Pop'

Sky 'Sunlight' Saxon of The Seeds

Professional pitchman Billy Mays

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“Father’s Day Ride”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is an intensely personal reflection. The third Sunday in June is typically reserved for giving gaudy neckwear, power tools, golf accessories, and sincere affection to our beloved fathers. Yet this year, we marked the date with silent prayer and reflection. A new meaning for this custom had arrived in the Icehouse…

Chapter One

Father’s Day 2008 was a moment of triumph for our family.

In this newspaper, I pondered the good fortune that had visited our brood. My father, nearing the age of seventy-nine, had proven able to survive a dramatic encounter with cancer for over ten years. Closer to home, my father-in-law had just demonstrated his own resilience in the grasp of this woeful affliction.

It was a moment to celebrate, and give thanks.

Yet while traditional festivities ensued, I took a detour into Rock ‘n’ Roll history.
A childhood memory provided the connection:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I spent Father’s Day riding with Papa Cheesehead. My own ‘Hawg’ was no match for the modern, fuel-injected roadmaster that Western Reserve Harley-Davidson had provided. But I was glad to follow his lead. As we wandered, he reflected on growing up in Wisconsin. Each story of hunting, fishing, and black-powder firearms made me smile.

But one unanswered question lingered in the air like spent fuel and motor oil.

Who was ‘The Crusher?’

My father-in-law answered that Reggie Lisowski was a local hero in the region. A professional wrestler with the sturdy physique of a steelworker and the stamina of his Polish ancestors:

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

‘The Crusher’ held a regular job during much of his career, including a stint at Ladish Forge. It was a workplace that both of them had in common.

At last, I felt that my quest for enlightenment was complete.

Our adventure concluded over a feast of classic diner fare at A & W. Afterward, my wife decided to ride home with her mother. As they boarded the family Ford Explorer, Papa Cheesehead and I started our bikes. The night air felt cool. Yet both of us were eager for a handful of throttle, and one last run toward the horizon.

We made a wordless promise to continue this new tradition in years to come.

Chapter Two

In the months that followed our Father’s Day excursion, my father-in-law was struck by an aggressive return of his cancer. The disease reappeared with awful rapidity, despite immediate intervention. At first, chemotherapy had been a useful tool to combat this affliction. But now, it barely seemed to slow the wasting of his intestines. As the New Year arrived, hope had begun to fade.

Even ‘The Crusher’ couldn’t win a battle against such odds.

Liz and I visited for dinner, continuing a long-standing family habit. But frequently, her stepfather couldn't share our meal. We watched NFL football on their satellite TV. Yet a cold brew was out of the question.

In January, he entered Geauga Hospital through their emergency room. It didn’t take long for doctors to conclude that the best medical science had to offer would not be enough. The only tools left at our disposal were prayer and love.

Soon afterward, Papa Cheesehead returned home. Time was running out for this friend of ‘The Crusher.’ But amazingly, my father-in-law met his danse finale without any sign of trepidation or fear. As we shuddered under the weight of circumstance, he peered into oblivion with courage.

Hours before he passed away, I leaned over his bed and remembered out loud that our Father’s Day ride had been a personal milestone. Because I had never ridden with my own dad, the experience was even more memorable.

Though he was barely conscious, and unable to reply, a tear rolled down his cheek. I ran to the kitchen to catch my breath.

Without words, we had just shared a loving goodbye.

Chapter Three

Father’s Day 2009 presented a contrast in emotions. I rejoiced in having another year with my own sire, who had given me such inspiration and faith. Yet anxiety filled my heart when the date arrived. Because I knew that there would not be another victory lap around Geauga.

In February, Papa Cheesehead had been laid to rest at the Thompson Township cemetery.
I couldn’t straddle my motorcycle during the season, because of a knee injury at work. But need quickly overwhelmed logic as the day arrived. I limped out to the ‘Hawg’ and stashed my cane in one of its saddlebags. The ride was refreshing.
Sunlight streamed through the thickening clouds. And then, my heart swelled with gladness.

I prayed over his grave, wiping tears from my eyes:

“Thank you, Lord, for the time that I was privileged to share with my father-in-law. I ask that you continue to watch over him, in eternity. And may you also guard all of us, as we wait for the wondrous day when our family will be together, once again… amen.”

A twist of the throttle filled the afternoon with mechanical thunder. I rolled away with a sense of purpose surging in my veins.

Now, it was time to ride!

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Today is Dad's 80th birthday... or as I like to call him, R.D. Ice, Version 1.0.

This incredible fellow has provided a benchmark quite impossible to reach with my own life. He has been a farm laborer, auto mechanic, artist, musician, television repairman, student, author, and a member of the clergy. All while raising three children and their offspring.

Without such a sire for inspiration, I would never have begun an ongoing project like 'Thoughts At Large.' So I dedicate this to him!

We love you Dad!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

CAR SPOTTER: 1973 Ford Ranchero 500

This stylish relic appeared recently at AUTO OUTLET, on Northridge Avenue in Madison. It is an example of the 'Gentleman's Pickup' that once comprised an interesting, if tiny, segment of the American automobile market.

Ford pioneered the car-based pickup idea in 1934, thanks to their Australian division. In 'The Land Down Under' such vehicles are known as a 'Ute.' They remain popular there even today.

The Ranchero was introduced to America in 1957, two years before Chevrolet's El Camino. Production lasted through 1979.

Friday, June 19, 2009

“Flatulence, Forward”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a one-act play about the subject of animal flatulence. Some climate experts have begun to believe that this little-known problem could have drastic effects on the lives of future generations across the world. Therefore, we humbly ask that you consider this topic with an appropriate amount of concern.

THE SETTING - A television studio in Geauga County, Ohio.

THE PARTICIPANTS - Carrie Hamglaze, a local elected official, and distinguished guests from across the county.

ANNOUNCER - “Welcome to the Geauga Tel complex in Chardon… for another episode of… HAMGLAZE & COMPANY!”

AUDIENCE – Responds with cheerful applause and joviality.

CARRIE HAMGLAZE – “It has been another busy week here in the hinterland. To discuss the week’s events, I have assembled our usual panel of experts: Kate Meffler, a former staffer for Rep. Dennis Kucinich; Dante Protoni, from The Geauga Progressive Thinkers Union; and Ezekiel Byler-Gregg, of The Burton Daily Bugle. Let us begin with Issue One – The American auto industry… is it dead, or about to be revived? What say you, Katy-Did?”

KATE MEFFLER – “I think we need to give the employees at GM and Chrysler a fair shake. It isn’t their fault that the industry has become a train wreck. Toyota and Honda should be unionized in the USA. Then we’ll all be on a level playing field!”

HAMGLAZE – (Raising her eyebrows) “An interesting suggestion. Mister Macaroni, what say you?”

DANTE PROTONI – “We need to reduce our carbon footprint as a nation. Bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler is a good place to start.”

HAMGLAZE – (Taking a deep breath) “Another creative viewpoint. Zeke the Sneak, what say you?"

EZEKIEL BYLER-GREGG – “I drive a 1981 Dodge pickup. It doubles as a delivery vehicle for my newspaper. Build ‘em like that today, and you’ll have more customers than you can handle.”

HAMGLAZE – “Issue Two – Bovine flatulence. Is it a global concern, or just fodder for the late-night TV hosts? Kate the Great! What say you?”

MEFFLER – (Speaking with a grin) “Cable news outlets are saying that a proposed tax would cost farmers $150 per head of dairy cattle, $80 per head of beef cattle, and $20 per head of swine. The result could be millions of dollars in new tax revenues. Our government could use that kind of income to fund programs proposed by the Obama administration.”

HAMGLAZE - (Nodding) “Boney Maroney! What say you?”

PROTONI – (Looking embarrassed) “If these stories are true, I’d be thrilled. But why not add a tax on horses? The Amish community is contributing greatly to our problem with greenhouse gasses. We need to take action right here, in Geauga County. Our plan could lead the world into better understanding of how animal flatulence affects us all.”

HAMGLAZE – (With mild disbelief) “A strong opinion, indeed. What say you, Zeke the Greek?”

BYLER-GREGG – “Well, if you’re worried about flatulence contributing to climate change, then I’d suggest a tax on drinking establishments in the county. That would be a truly courageous way to combat global warming.”

MEFFLER – (Looking stunned) “What did you say?”

PROTONI – “I’m all for new taxes. But… why??”

HAMGLAZE – (Baffled by her guest) “Okay, Peg-Leg Gregg, explain yourself!”

BYLER-GREGG – “If you’re really worried about flatulence, then what more consistent source could there be than a local tavern? Think of all the patrons consuming pizza, wings, ribs, and pickled bar sausages with their beer. I’ll bet the average amount of gas per square foot present during a sports event would rival the output of any family farmer!”

MEFFLER – “Ezekiel, are you serious?”

PROTONI – “I appreciate your courage, Zeke. But… are you for real?”

HAMGLAZE – (Looking flustered) “Let’s move on. Issue Three…”

MEFFLER – “Carrie, with all due respect, I want to hear his answer!”

PROTONI – (Undeniably curious) “I’ve got to agree. Speak your mind, Zeke!”

HAMGLAZE – (Red faced and slightly agitated) “This sounds like a mutiny!”

AUDIENCE – Begins cheering for Ezekiel to finish his thought. “Let Zeke speak! Let Zeke speak! Let Zeke Speak!”

HAMGLAZE – “Okay, Beer-Keg Gregg. Answer their question. Are you serious?”

BYLER-GREGG – “The real question is… are you?”

AUDIENCE – Gives the Bugle editor a standing ovation. “Beer-Keg Gregg! Beer-Keg Gregg! Beer-Keg Gregg!”

HAMGLAZE – “This place has turned into a mob scene!”

BYLER-GREGG – “Think about it. With all of the woes facing our greater society, we are seriously pondering taxes on aromatic animal outbursts. Doesn’t that make you feel just a hint of regret?”

MEFFLER – “Well, I suppose…”

HAMGLAZE – “It makes me think that we’ll still be on this crazy subject for next week’s show!”

BYLER-GREGG – “We’ve got unemployment rising, even here in Geauga. Some of our schools are desperate for funding. Communities are expanding more quickly than we can control. Power lines are cluttering the horizon. Traffic is becoming a headache in our population centers. Yet small businesses are closing. And healthcare costs are out of control. All these things challenge us to plan carefully for tomorrow… and what do we debate? Cows fouling the air!!”

PROTONI – “I’ve got to say… as progressive thinker, the thought of taxing both beer and its after-effects sounds really innovative!”

MEFFLER – (Perturbed) “Oh, shut up, Dante!”

HAMGLAZE – “Honestly, this is driven by the partisan squawking that keeps us too busy to tackle greater issues. Taking a stand on some kind of hot-button issue looks good for our constituents.”

BYLER-GREGG – “And in the end, it achieves nothing.”

MEFFLER – (With sadness) “Well… yes.”

PROTONI – “I must admit… you’ve nailed it, Zeke.”

BYLER-GREGG – “So why not sidestep the grandstanding? Why not get down to the issues that affect our everyday lives?”

AUDIENCE – Offers another standing ovation. “Zeke for governor! Zeke for governor! Zeke for governor!”

HAMGLAZE – “Next week on this show, we will debate the topic of partisanship, and more! But we’re out of time for now. So it’s ‘bye bye’ from Geauga County, USA!”

ANNOUNCER – “The opinions expressed on this program are not necessarily those of Geauga Tel, or its subsidiaries. Until our next show, this is Rod Ice wishing you all the best from the capital of our county… Chardon, Ohio!”

Postscript: Enough interest developed in this episode of ‘Hamglaze & Company’ that a full transcript was eventually offered for $9.95 plus shipping + handling. Officials at Geauga Tel later confirmed that it was the highest-rated program ever broadcast on their local network.

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1969 Ford LTD Country Squire

When I was growing up, one friend's mom drove a Chevy Kingswood with the paneling and roof rack. The whole neighborhood could fit in there. Later, I got my driver's license in a '69 Ford LTD Country Squire. It was like a living room on wheels. Ours was dark green. It had the 390 V-8 and all the power options... including the airplane cockpit dashboard.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


'UNRETOUCHED PHOTO #1' - McDonald's in Chardon being swarmed by UFO invaders. Hey, even aliens dig the dollar menu.

'UNRETOUCHED PHOTO #2' - UFO flyover at the 2009 Geauga County Maple Festival. We've always been told that a good Maple Stir was 'out of this world.' Now we know that is no exaggeration!

Friday, June 12, 2009

CAR SPOTTER: 1987 El Camino

Seeing vintage cars for sale in the summer is always a treat. But I've becomed used to seeing such vehicles in out-of-the-way places like Thompson, or Jefferson, or Rome. This bit of 'real steel' came from a more heavily-traveled location, though - Water Street in Chardon.

The El Camino debuted in 1959, two years after Ford pioneered this kind of copue/pickup design with their 'Ranchero.'

The automobile pictured here is a 1987 model. It was the Bowtie's last attempt at building a 'gentleman's pickup.' Sadly, production ceased after this year.

The owner of this El Camino posted a selling price of $5,000 for their car-based truck. Further information can be obtained by calling: 440-286-8677 or 216-426-1700.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Above - my nephew at The Star of India Restaurant in Parkersburg, WV.

I admit it - curry powder is one of my favorite spices.

While returning from a visit to Philippi, Justin and I stopped for a meal at the 'Star' and were treated to a dining experience one might not expect in Mountaineer Country. We ordered the Tuesday special, which was a combination dinner featuring curried chicken as its main course. Included were all sorts of Indian treats, like 'nan' bread baked in their tandoori oven. One sauce even seemed to contain the diverse elements of mint, cumin, and hot peppers. Our experience reminded me of the long lost Indian Buffet that once operated in my erstwhile home base of Ithaca, New York.

Justin is a student at nearby Ohio Valley University, so he will be able to frequent this interesting restaurant with ease.

After returning to Cleveland, I did a bit of Internet research and discovered that The Parkersburg News and Sentinel had done a feature about this eatery, in 2007:

It made me resolve to have a closer look at the Indian cuisine available here on the northcoast.

“Knee Go Boom: Part Two”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a second installment of my adventure in ‘cane therapy.’ Having to depend on such a low-tech implement to walk has been an experience colored with humility. Yet it has also provided a sort of philosophical enlightenment …

- ONE -

Injuring my knee did more than simply interrupt the day at work.

It also caused an unexpected shift in our household priorities.

Suddenly, the summer schedule that we had imagined was gone. Replacing this wish list of activities was a more realistic regimen. One governed by basic requirements associated with living. A need for sustenance. A need for shelter. A need for everyday comforts.

And above all, a need to be well.

With my employment at Thompson Thrift & Sundries on hold, I once again returned to the computer. Working on writing projects offered a measure of relief. Yet I yearned to be fully mobile, again.

With the aid of my sister’s cane, I could navigate the rooms and hallways of our home without great difficulty. But going further seemed to sap my endurance.

A restrictive knee immobilizer helped improve my stability. It increased the stamina I could muster, as well. Still, there was a limit to what therapeutic appliances could accomplish with the injured limb.

Thus, a surgical repair was recommended by our doctor.

My wife and I discussed this prospective procedure with gusto. But each of us fell into our traditional roles. She expressed confidence in scientific analysis of the problem. Meanwhile, I attempted to stall for more time.

“Liz, there is no need to be hasty,” I said to her over the dinner table. “There are many factors to consider when discussing surgery…”

She narrowed her eyes. “Rodney! You are such a procrastinator!”

I fumbled for words. “Not at all. I’d just like to make an intelligent decision here…”

Her face reddened. “You are such an actor! Give it up!”

“What if I’m on crutches and my parents have a crisis?” I asked. “What if you’ve got to take one or both of our daughters to the Cleveland Clinic?”

“What if?” she mocked. “What if? What if?”

My frown could not be hidden. “You’re not listening to me.”

“Oh, but I am,” she explained.

“Then admit it,” I said. “We can’t afford to have me on the disabled list.”

“You’re on the list already!” she said.

My protest sounded immediately. “Sure, but I can function for now.”

Liz rubbed her eyes. “Rodney, you’re hobbling around like an old man!”

“It’s not that bad,” I snorted.

She grew irritated with my defiance. “Why can’t you just get it taken care of without an argument?”

- TWO -

Later that evening, I began to do some research. My specialist had said that I suffered from tears in the meniscus. Information from the Center for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine helped me understand what this entailed:

“Medically speaking, the ‘cartilage’ (inside a human knee) is actually known as the meniscus. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of fibrocartilage which is located at the peripheral aspect of the joint. The majority of the meniscus has no blood supply. For that reason, when damaged, the meniscus is unable to undergo the normal healing process that occurs in most of the rest of the body. In addition, with age, the meniscus begins to deteriorate, often developing degenerative tears. Typically, when the meniscus is damaged, the torn piece begins to move in an abnormal fashion inside the joint. Because the space between the bones of the joint is very small, as the abnormally mobile piece of meniscal tissue moves, it may become caught between the bones of the joint, femur and tibia. When this happens, the knee becomes painful, swollen, and difficult to move.”

The description seemed to fit my condition perfectly. I had also been diagnosed with the onset of arthritis. Both of these afflictions were conspiring to overwhelm my ability to motorvate around Geauga.

Feeling ever more curios, I scrolled through a further description of this little-known part of the human knee:

“The meniscus has several functions. (First) Stability - As secondary stabilizers, the intact meniscii interact with the stabilizing function of the ligaments and are most effective when the surrounding ligaments are intact. (Second) Lubrication and nutrition - The meniscii act as spacers between the femur and the tibia. By doing so, they prevent friction between these two bones and allow for the diffusion of the normal joint fluid and its nutrients into the tissue which covers the end of the bone. This tissue is known as articular cartilage. Maintenance of the integrity of the articular cartilage is critical to preventing the development of post-traumatic or degenerative arthritis. (Third) Shock absorption - The biconcave C-shaped pieces of tissue known as meniscii lower the stress applied to the articular cartilage, and thereby have a role in preventing the development of degenerative arthritis.”

I pondered the descriptive text in silence.

During my years in the retail industry, I had often spent long hours kneeling on concrete floors. This transpired without any padding or guards for protection. Older co-workers often cautioned me to consider how this activity might be detrimental in the long haul. Yet I ignored their warnings.

Now, a reckoning of sorts was at hand. Years of neglect were making their effects known.

Continuing to read, I considered how my doctor had arrived at his diagnosis:

“When a physician is evaluating an injured knee, a history is taken to determine the specific problems that a patient is having with the knee. Next a physical examination of the area will be performed to determine the site of the pain, the presence or absence of physical findings that are known to be associated with a torn meniscus, and x-rays are performed to identify other abnormalities that may give similar problems to those of a torn meniscus. In some instances, additional diagnostic tests such as an MRI may be ordered. If the history and physical findings indicate that a tear is present, arthroscopic surgery may be indicated for treatment.”


While waiting for my surgery, I continued to rely on two devices to aid in maintaining some kind of mobility. My borrowed cane provided support to keep me on my feet. And the multi-strapped knee immobilizer kept everything in place.

The restrictive brace looked like something from a remake of ‘Robocop.’ But it stiffened my right knee with purposeful synthetic reinforcements.

The only drawback when wearing this contraption was difficulty in sitting at my computer desk. I found it necessary to devise a sort of platform for my leg while working on future newspaper submissions.

An old portable black-and-white television had the proper height for this duty. By resting the heel of my right foot across its crown, I could achieve a reasonable level of comfort while writing.

This was the position I took, while tapping out new features on the computer keyboard. My work continued into the wee hours, after everyone else had gone to bed. Yet one question remained unanswered…

What to do about my knee?

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Friday, June 05, 2009


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting WKYC-3 News Anchor Eric Mansfield, in Concord Township. He was working on a story depicting local residents facing bankruptcy, and I volunteered to chat about this difficult subject.

I was particularly excited to connect with him because it was his report on Paul Hickman of 'Guitars for Grunts' that motivated us to create the 'Thoughts for Our Soldiers' project. (Cooperating with the Thompson United Methodist Church, we sent copies of my 'Thoughts At Large' collection to military personnel stationed overseas. Each book carried handwritten messages from local residents.)

After our conversation, I offered Eric a copy of my third book, 'Popcorn Season.' (This publication follows the Ashtabula County Special Olympics softball team throughout their 2007 campaign.) He seemed to be intrigued as I explained how Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics games in 1968.

It was an encounter I will remember forever, particularly because my wife is a devoted follower of Channel 3 and NBC television.

Thanks, Eric. Best wishes to you!

“Knee Go Boom!”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

- ONE –

It was a busy morning at Thompson Thrift & Sundries.

I had been on the cash register for about forty-five minutes without a pause in between customers. Indeed, our business had been brisk since I opened the doors at eight o’clock. Cheerful visitors were everywhere. The aura of summer’s approach had taken hold!

While straightening the counter, I was interrupted by a woman in office garb. She tilted her head sideways and brushed the auburn hair out of her eyes.

“Do I know you?” she said out loud.

I reddened with embarrassment. “Umm… perhaps from shopping here before?”

“No,” she frowned. “You’re new, right?”

I nodded. “That’s true. This is only my sixth week.”

Her shopping basket was filled with vintage picnic utensils, and pairs of pink and yellow flip-flops. Gently, she put it on the counter.

“It had to be from somewhere else,” she mused. “Did you work at another store in the area?”

I smiled at her comment. “Yes, in Chardon…”

“Wait!” she squeaked, before I could finish. “Were you at Tiny Finch?”

“Yes,” I laughed. “For eight years.”

Her face brightened with satisfaction. “That’s it! You’re Rod the Co-Manager! I’m Cathy Cale. You supported our fundraiser for the high school athletic program.”

My memory had dimmed over time. But I appreciated her enthusiasm. “It was always a privilege to help the community.”

“Nice to see you again,” she cheered.

“Very good,” I nodded, while finishing her order. “Your total today is twenty-one dollars and five cents…”

Suddenly, she seemed to be disinterested in her own merchandise. Her mouth dropped open. “So… why did you come here?”

No one else was in line at the register. So I paused to consider my reply.

“Well, my dream was always to make writing a full-time adventure,” I explained.
“After leaving The Finch, I wrote three books. Everything was done out of my home studio.”

Cathy’s deep eyes widened with amazement. “You’ve been working at home?”

“Yes,” I said. “Thanks to Internet technology, going to the newspaper offices just isn’t necessary anymore.”

“That sounds like heaven!” she warbled. “Stay in your jammies, nibble on chocolate, and get your job done at the same time…”

“At first it was a novelty,” I agreed. “But over time, something unexpected became apparent. I actually missed working in a store.”

She giggled. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Not at all,” I said emphatically. “There’s something about the interaction with people that helps to spur creative thoughts. So I applied for this position.”

Cathy pondered my observation. “Well, I’ll be sure to tell my friends you’re working here!”

I bowed slightly. “Thank you. Have a great day!”

As she exited the store, I began to straighten items in our old camera department. Then, I noticed that someone had lost a vintage issue of LIFE Magazine by our end-cap of Coke and Pepsi glassware. Quickly, I left my register to retrieve the stray item. Our morning rush of business had ended. I felt safe leaving the counter for a brief interlude.

As I crossed the sales floor, a tall, impulsive fellow blindly stepped out of an aisle. He struggled to carry an armload of vinyl records.

I slid to a stop, avoiding a messy collision. He juggled the audio platters while I danced to regain my balance.

Then, a loud ‘pop’ sounded from my right knee.

I grabbed a nearby shelf. It was difficult to stand, but walking seemed out of the question. My eyes began to water.

“Hey, are you okay?” he blurted out with surprise.

I was overwhelmed by a sense of doom, but maintained my composure.

“Sure, just a bit stiff today,” I said. “Must be the humidity.”

He scratched his beard. “What was that noise?”

I took a deep breath. “Umm… it was my knee.”

- TWO -

Somehow, I actually completed the day at work. Liz, my wife, arrived at four o’clock. We went directly to the Emergency Room at Geuaga Hospital. On the way, I began to sing:

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me,
Deep dark depression, excessive misery,
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,
Gloom, despair, and agony on me…”

My spouse was confused. “Rodney, what are you crooning?”

“It’s from Hee Haw,” I replied.

“From… what?” she said loudly.

“Hee Haw,” I repeated. “The country music comedy show. Remember?”

She shook her head. “Can’t you ever be serious? Even with a busted knee?”

I sighed. “Would it help?”

“It would help me,” she said. “And I’m your driver right now!”

I whistled the other verses quietly while we traveled south on Route 44.

At the ER, their doctor on duty ordered a strong dose of painkillers, an industrial strength knee immobilizer, and x-rays. The numb relief felt good. Yet I was afraid to hear his professional diagnosis.

“The x-rays won’t show anything,” Liz counseled.

“Okay,” I retorted. “Then why do them?”

“They’ve got to be certain,” she snorted. “But an x-ray won’t show tissue damage.
You’ll need an MRI.”

“You mean, like a professional athlete?” I said with amazement.

“Yes,” she squeaked. “You won’t be going back to work anytime soon.”

I groaned out loud.

“There’s no use in complaining!” she said, sternly.

“Lots of my old customers were showing up at the store,” I reflected. “It was emotionally uplifting. And the extra money helped our budget…”

“I’m sorry, Rodney,” she whispered. “Life is like that.”

I closed my eyes while we waited. “Have you ever heard the saying – ‘If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans?’”

Liz nodded. “Sure.”

My skin began to tingle. “I think God is laughing right now.”


Six weeks after I joined the crew at Thompson Thrift & Sundries, my medical leave began. I borrowed a cane from my sister for more steadiness when getting around. An orthopedic specialist confirmed that I had likely suffered some sort of internal damage to my knee. Several days after the sales floor incident, it was still bruised, and swollen. I tried to develop patience while waiting for the MRI.

Once again, my routine was based out of the Icehouse home office.

While trying to write about my predicament, I received advice from our eleven-year-old daughter over breakfast. Soccer Fairy boasted that she had the perfect title for a column on the subject.

When I asked for her idea, she recited it proudly: “KNEE GO BOOM!”

I was speechless. The phrase had a strangely Phil Hendrie-esque quality that struck a nerve, instantly.

It seemed sure to be an interesting summer!

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I made a run to Rock Creek this evening for fuel and supplies. On the way home, just after 9:00 p.m. I noted that the sky was painted in an incredible variety of colors... perfect for my onboard camera to record:

Peering through the windshield, I saw hues from a celestial palette spread across the horizon with artistic flair. It was a display worthy of documentation. As I drove across the hinterland, my smile broadened.
This was Mother Nature's way of saying: "It is good to be alive!"