Tuesday, September 01, 2009


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Like this column, much of what follows here is a product of imagination. But while truth may be stranger than fiction, consider the reverse – fiction is often more accurate than published truth.

Every columnist seems to eventually use their space in the newspaper to answer reader mail. It is a time-honored journalistic tradition.

The rise of modern technology has made this habit easier to accomplish, by providing rapid-fire communication through texts, e-mail, and instant messaging. One needs only to open their eyes to be inundated with personal questions and comments of all sorts.

Actual ‘letters’ about this column have become rare. More common are observations posted online, and e-notes sent through cyberspace. Such correspondence is answered directly, without the need for printing.

Still, the thought of diligently sorting through inquires of a postal nature remains appealing. Genuine warmth is conveyed through the tactile sensation of opening mail and reading messages in handwritten script. So what follows here is an overview of the ‘Thoughts At Large’ mailbag, without any ‘Information Age’ embellishment:

Jazdy Polenka, Claridon – “Rod, you often mention a rowdy fellow named Ezekiel Byler-Gregg in your columns. Is he a real person? Or is the character based on someone you know?”

Jazdy, I have to admit that Byler-Gregg is completely fictional. And, he bears no resemblance to anyone in my circle of friends. If I remember correctly, Zeke first appeared in my ‘Tube Farm’ column, which quoted several faux newspapers, including his ‘Burton Daily Bugle.’ Since then, I’ve found him to be a dependable component of this column. Something similar to Mike Royko’s use of imaginary friends like Slats Grobnik.

Nardell Baines, Chesterland – “Dear Rod, Have you ever thought of running for political office? Your unique perspective would be useful in local government. If voters in Minnesota can elect a comedian like Al Franken to the U.S. Senate, then why can’t we get you on a ballot for Geauga County?”

Nardell, I appreciate your comments. In fact, I did think seriously about entering politics a few years ago. But thankfully, that reckless notion didn’t last long.

Amoretta Di Carlo, Bainbridge – “Rod, I like to read your recipe columns. Do you actually cook meals at home?”

Amoretta, In a word: yes. I enjoy ‘playing chef’ on occasion, though my stovetop results aren’t always appetizing to the rest of our family. I find oddball dishes with a bit of rural, southern flair to be particularly appealing. (Probably 50% of my personal cookbook involves the use of bacon, sausage, or pork rinds.) Still, I am evolving slowly toward more healthy cuisine. I just prefer to have plenty of gravy or melted cheese on the side.

Stan Deszek, Newbury – “Rod, I enjoyed reading about your recent search for an inexpensive used automobile. But one of the vehicles you mentioned was a 1988 Saturn. That company didn’t offer cars until the 1991 model year. So, how do you explain this discrepancy?”

Stan, you are an observant reader. ‘Saturn’ as an idea was born in 1982. The original intent of this undertaking was to compete more effectively with imported vehicles produced in Germany and Japan. It received lots of press coverage throughout the decade. However, GM’s burdensome corporate structure slowed actual progress on the new nameplate. The company wasn’t officially founded until 1985. And the first car didn’t appear until mid-1990. Because of this long period between conception and actual production, I suspect that some are confused about when the Spring Hill, Tennessee factory began operating. Used Saturn models purporting to be from the 80’s still appear occasionally. If one of them actually were some sort of pre-production model… that would be newsworthy, indeed!

Gail Bender, Thompson – “Dear Rod, I used to enjoy reading about your friend Jay Wright, and the affliction of ‘Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.’ But you haven’t mentioned that in a long while. Were you ‘cured’ from collecting stringed instruments, or did the disease simply lose its potency over time?"

Gail, I wasn’t actually cured of my GAS-ailment. It would be more accurate to report that the current economic climate put a stop to such activity. I haven’t placed a bid on eBay in several months. In fact, I’ve become an avid seller. Still, I hope that President Obama’s stimulus package will include a new Fender Telecaster or Gibson Les Paul for the Ice Household, by 2012!

Maggie Marceau, Munson – “Dearest Rod, I could swear that my husband and I saw you on the WKYC-3 evening news, being interviewed by Eric Mansfield. Was that really you?”

Maggie, I must admit that we did conduct an interview, in June. It happened because Eric had posted on Facebook (the Internet site) that he was seeking people who might offer help with a story about financial woes in the Cleveland area. I reckoned it would be a great opportunity to pass along one of my books, and a business card. He seemed friendly, and very professional. It was a pleasure to meet him in person.

Delbert Blaine, Parkman – “Dear Rod, I am a great fan of The Chardon Polka Band. Their drummer, Paul ‘Pops’ Magooch, has inspired lots of us to re-think what it means to be a senior citizen. My wife and I even celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary at a show they played on the Chardon Square. So after your recent column about the band, I have to ask – when was your nephew in the group?"

Delbert, I believe the collaboration started while everyone was still in grade school. They were known as ‘The Chardon High Polka Band.’ My nephew, Juztyn, was a good friend of lead ‘polkateer’ Jacob Kouwe. They played many gigs, all over the area. Eventually, everyone graduated, and several performers went away to college. But the group survived these changes to become more streamlined and proficient. Juztyn last performed with the band in December of 2007.

Karl Schelfe, Hunstburg – “Rod, I once heard that your last name was Italian in origin, pronounced “ee-chay” in the Old World. Is that true?”

Karl, I’ve occasionally said that in jest. But actually, the name ‘Ice’ is originally of German descent. My ancestor, named Frederick, spelled it ‘Iaac.’ Later, the moniker was changed to make it easier for English-speaking folks to process. Sadly, that hasn’t always worked so well. In one of my high school yearbooks from the 1970’s, ‘Ice’ was misspelled in three different ways.

Mail from readers can take the form of questions, critiques, suggestions, or praise. But most important of all is the act of communicating. Truly, we need each other to continue this ink-borne tradition.

So long as those who buy this newspaper feel truly ‘connected’ to our crew of professional wordsmiths, the business of publishing will survive.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Visit us at: www.thoughtsatlarge.com


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