Thursday, January 28, 2010

“Soul of the Rose”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Writing professionally offers unlimited opportunities to opine thoughtfully about everyday events in print. Frequently, these writing exercises are personal in scope.
But occasionally, subjects arise that seem to transcend the narrow boundaries of familiar ideas. These bursts of inspiration make wordsmithing an easier task.

Recently, a friend from my days as a retail manager in Chardon offered this kind of extra inspiration. Christy Hoefler, a regular customer at the grocery store where I used to work, sent a link to her new company website. The fledgling business was called ‘Soul of the Rose.’

A quick glance at her online catalog quickened my pulse:

“Lifestyles today are defined as works of art and expression through our fashions and music. At Soul of the Rose, we believe in exploring all things cool that define you. Here at Soul of the Rose, you will be introduced to the hottest of haute in beauty, accessories, fashion and lifestyle. Life, Love and You are the inspiration that drives the creative passion in us! Our creed at Soul of the Rose - Live to Love, Love to Live, Life Rocks.”

Shortly afterward, Christy and her husband Mark visited with an unexpected gift – one of her incredible creations. I marveled at the sparkling, teal jewelry box, patterned after a vintage ‘arch-top’ stringed instrument. It was pure Rock ‘n’ Roll - something akin to a fifties-era Gretsch.

“These products are all my original designs,” she said. “I have been working on them for a long time. It isn’t easy to take the shape of a guitar and make it into a makeup case!”

It looked like an artifact from Graceland, in Memphis.

Pondering the item later, I was even more electrified - the creative spirits of Les Paul, Chet Atkins, and Duane Eddy seemed to fill my heart.

A column about Christy’s visions seemed in order.

When creating useful prose for music reviews, I have often scribbled first impressions while listening to a new recording. The technique also seemed right for this new task. So I sat at my desk and played a CD of Classic Rock tunes.

With that surge of melodic energy in my veins, new words began to flow. It was a rhythmic epiphany of the highest order.

I let the magic ‘rose’ have its way:

- Soul -

SOUL EMBRYOGuitars at the ready. Gritty, backwoods performers, dripping sweat. Robert Johnson at the crossroads. His fingers dancing on the frets. Leadbelly, King of the Twelve-String. Let the Midnight Special ring. There’s something happening here. Attitude is everything.

SOUL SISTERSBessie Smith, Empress of the Blues. Billie Holiday on stage, with a new pair of shoes. Josephine Baker got a ticket to France. And Big Maybelle made even the shy kids dance.

SOUL ON THE RISEChuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis staged an uprising with a dance beat. Brought their down-home revolution to Main Street, and made a raging river from a wandering creek. Little Richard gave a Rock ‘n’ Roll blessing to this surging tide. And Fats Domino took the wave for a ride.

SOUL TOWN GETDOWNDiana Ross and her court. Smokey Robinson, and the miraculous Matadors. Temps, Tops, Vandellas and Marvelettes. The Jackson 5 kept hope alive. No one could forget. The whole world was watching Hitsville, U.S.A. – they put the spotlight on me, I had somethin’ to say.

SOUL INVASIONThe Fab Four, and so many more. Lads from Liverpool, London, Leicester, and Leeds. Nothing but grooved vinyl, if you please! Echoes shot across the big pond; there was a new generation comin’ on. The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals. Petula Clark and Marianne Faithfull.

SOUL GODFATHERJames Brown on the good foot. Played music ‘on the one’ and the beat stayed put. Took a rainbow shield and made the doubters kneel. Lived on a dream, a bassline consciousness stream, stayed on the scene like a funk machine.

SOUL ON THE MARCHFrom mystics to minutemen, both here and beyond. A generation yearned for liberty, in song. The result was unstoppable, colorful, and raw. Like a cheeseburger dream on a milkshake straw.

SOUL REVOLUTIONHands on the university clock said it was high time for Woodstock. The hour arrived suddenly. The gate was unlocked! Janis, Jimi and Jefferson Airplane - set the table for a few, but so many came. Square heads ached while the new age was born. Temple stones sent asunder. The veil was torn.

SOUL AFTERGLOWDisco dancers hand-in-hand with glammed-up, tuneful prancers. Reggae, Punk, Metal, Hip Hop, Grunge, Techno, and Emo - echoes all of that yonder vibe. The ride to Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven began with a thousand knob-twists to ‘eleven.’

SOUL SATISFIED - A hundred years gone away, my generation has won the day. From child to chieftain and back again. The circle turns and we pretend. Buddy Holly to JFK. A wandering tribe, with songs to play. Time has no end. Oblivion is our friend. These nuggets of glory are ours to spend.

SOUL OF THE ROSEA new collection by designer Christy Hoefler. Now available at fine stores everywhere.

Once I’d finished my composition, further study was required.

A second look at the website revealed that Soul of the Rose treasures were being offered in stores from Los Angeles to New York.

Mark had reported that they bought ads in Rolling Stone to promote this new line of products. I guessed that his strategy of marketing was right on target.

Christy observed that the jewelry boxes were on sale locally in Cleveland, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and at Bonnie’s Goubaud in Woodmere.

As night took hold, I sat at my computer with the jewelry box nearby.

If Rock music in general had inspired such things of beauty, then what about the rowdy tones of one specific artist… known for cycle-film soundtracks in the 1960’s… ‘King Fuzz’ himself, Davie Allan?

It was an idea I would have to suggest.

Postscript: For a closer look at Christy’s work, go to:

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

“Soup Survivor”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

“I live back in the woods, you see / A woman and the kids, and the dogs and me / I got a shotgun rifle and a 4-wheel drive / And a country boy can survive!”

- Hank Williams Jr.

In December, the Icehouse became an all-male outpost in the hinterland.

Liz, my wife, made an impulsive, northbound trek to Wisconsin. Escorting her were Soccer Fairy and Leigh, our girls. Their purpose was to help with family concerns in that distant state.

Dutifully, I promised to look after the homestead on my own.

Riley, our Labrador retriever, was my companion. Quigley the Pomeranian completed this manly trio.

I took my vow seriously. Yet before long, ghosts of a bygone era were returning. Strangely, I had begun to unforget how it was to exist on my own.

Old habits reappeared with frightening rapidity. Work remained a primary concern of living. But other needs, like meal preparation, were not so important. At first, my diet consisted of beer, summer sausage, and crackers. Then, I began to hunger for something more sophisticated. A meal requiring little actual effort, while offering genuine taste satisfaction.

It represented a challenge worthy of a true ‘Dissident Chef.’

My first attempt at meal diversification was acceptable at the time, but needed improvement:



1 macaroni & cheese dinner
½ lb. of bacon (slices cut in half)
1 small chopped onion


Fry bacon, sauté onions. Set both aside. Prepare macaroni & cheese as directed. Add bacon and onions, stir together. Season as desired with pepper.

My second attempt at food betterment, a day later, showed greater ambition with a bit more success:



6 thick slices of bologna
6 frozen biscuits
6 slices of American cheese
6 dill pickle chips
1 squeeze of spicy mustard


Bake biscuits as directed. Slice in half; add one folded slice of bologna, one slice of cheese, and one pickle chip to bottom of each biscuit. Garnish with mustard, top with other biscuit half, and return to oven until cheese melts.

My belly was filled for the evening, but I still needed a better alternative for tomorrow. Happily, one trip to the pantry solved my dilemma. Stored away were canned vegetables of all sorts. And in the freezer, I knew there was a pound of Bob Evans sausage.
A recipe began to take shape in my head:



1 can whole kernel corn
1 can sliced carrots
1 can beans in tomato sauce
1 can blackeyed peas
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can sweet peas
1 lb. roll of breakfast sausage
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Sugar


Brown sausage in a skillet, set aside. Place canned vegetables in a pot, and bring to boil. Add sausage, and other ingredients. Simmer for at least twenty minutes. Season as desired.

A day later, I assembled the necessary items. Once the concoction was complete, I let it cook while checking e-mail messages.

Soon, a delicious aroma filled the house.

My appetite grew wilder with each breath. I ladled out a bowl of soup and took it to the office. It was delicious, despite being improvised from the household inventory.

Our telephone rang as I reached my desk.

“Hello?” I said, still holding a spoon.

“Rodney!” my wife laughed. “We just got to Milwaukee. Do you miss me?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“Are you taking care of yourself?” she wondered out loud.

“Of course, of course!” I repeated.

“Not just living on macaroni and cheese?” Liz asked, suspiciously.

“No,” I bragged. “Bacon and macaroni… and cheese.”

“You turkey!” she hissed.

“And Bologna Biscuits,” I continued.

“What??” she whined.

“They are fantastic,” I said. “If I fry the meat first, they’re even better!”

“What about all the sodium?” she complained. “And the fat content?”

“No problem,” I explained. “Tomorrow I’ll gnaw on cardboard and do an hour on the treadmill. Okay?”

Liz wasn’t amused. “You’re such a poo!”

I sighed, loudly. “Anyway, tonight I’m having Six Can Soup.”

“Canned…soup?” she groaned.

My pride couldn’t be hidden. “I put it together with stuff from our pantry.” Quietly, I repeated the recipe from memory.

Silence filled void between my receiver and hers.

“Are you still there?” I exclaimed.

“Yes,” she whimpered.

My grin went wide. “Did I say something wrong?”

“I can’t leave you alone for a week,” she fumed. “What would the doctor say about your diet?”

“Don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t seen her in several months.”

“Rodney!!” Liz exploded.

My eyes shut, reflexively. “I’ll go when you come back.”

“Yes you will!” she shouted. “But… that could take awhile.”

There was another pause. “I understand. It is important to be with your family.”

“Yes,” she agreed.

“Too bad the Green Bay Packers lost to Arizona,” I observed. “You could be sharing the NFL playoff excitement up there…”

“There are more important things in life than football!” she hissed.

“Umm… are you really from Wisconsin?” I pondered.

“Rodneyyyyy!!” she cried.

“Vince Lombardi would be shocked,” I said. “More important than football?”

“Quit joking around!” she squawked. “This is serious!”

“Sorry,” I responded, weakly.

“While I’m gone, you need to think about everything,” she advised. “You’ve been working so many hours lately. Always on your computer. Or on the road. Work, work, work. Don’t forget that you have a family…”

“That’s right,” I nodded.

“There are things in life more important than writing, too!” she proclaimed.

I took a deep breath. “Yes…”

“Okay… talk to you soon!” she cheered.

After our conversation was over, I opened a cold Labatt Blue.

My computer monitor glowed with new messages. A half-finished column waited for review. Unread papers were stacked on top of the printer.

But it was after midnight.

I savored the brew, then began to fade into oblivion.

Work would have to wait until tomorrow!

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

“The Finch: Part Two”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is not literally true. In the words of Don Adams, who played in the 60’s television series ‘Get Smart’ – “Sorry about that!”

Late last year, I was urged to reopen a vacant food store by the Ledge-Geauga Leadership Council, of Thompson. Their idea was driven by the longstanding lack of such a business in the community. A package of incentives was offered that would make the start-up easier to complete.

I thought the store could be called ‘Tiny Finch.’

Support from the county was overwhelming. Still, I felt reluctant to reenter the world of professional retailing.

Ezekiel Byler-Gregg, Editor-in-Chief of the Burton Daily Bugle, acted as an intermediary of sorts. He urged me to consider the proposal carefully.

Though I declined the plan at first, Ezekiel remained persistent. Eventually, I agreed to meet with him, and members of the council, at the market site.

The morning chosen for this grocery rendezvous was chaotic. Winter weather that had avoided the county in recent weeks suddenly arrived, with gusto. Over thirty inches of frosty precipitation covered the neighborhood.

I literally had to dig out my truck before attending.

The store itself was also buried. Since it had been closed for many years, no one paid much attention to mounds of snow on the sidewalk. Or to ice that draped the front windows.

Just turning a key in the entrance door lock was difficult.

Once we were inside, there was no heat. But my friend from Burton glowed with enthusiasm, despite being chilled. Ezekiel ushered in a trio of council members as I rubbed my hands together for warmth.

“Rod,” he said. “I’d like to introduce Fran Gayle, Lyle Stefanek, and Mary DiCecco.”
I bowed, gracefully. “Good morning!”

Fran was a middle-aged librarian, with oversized spectacles and a friendly smile. She gestured around the empty room. “This place holds so many memories for me. My whole family came here to buy things. As did our neighbors. It helped weave us together as a township…”

Lyle agreed, With worn hands, he tugged at the straps of his overalls. “After a long day on the farm, I could stop here for milk and bread… or whatever my family needed. Now, I have to drive, drive, drive… to Chardon or Middlefield.”

Mary echoed their sentiments with the care of a lifelong homemaker. “I first came to this store as a little girl. My aunt worked here part-time as a clerk. She would buy me gum and candy after school. I’d like to bring my children to a place like this… if only it were open again!”

Ezekiel stroked his graying beard. “Think about this, Rodney. You could help revive something special in the community.”

I looked around the empty business. “Lots of memories here, I’m sure. But to bring back an old store like this requires a lot of work. First, we would have to get the building into working condition. Electric hookup, water and sewage, refrigeration, receiving area access, waste disposal, shelf and fixture conditions… all these things would need to be checked and brought up to standard where necessary.”

The council trio gasped.

“Then, we’d need to connect with a general grocery supplier, plus vendors who will service us with soft drinks, snacks, magazines, and those kinds of products.”

Ezekiel laughed. “A simple matter!”

“Really?” I replied with skepticism. “It takes time, Zeke. Each connection is important. A market like this can’t function without dependable suppliers.”

Mary fretted with a loose button on her wool sweater. “You sound knowledgeable, Mr. Ice. I believe our faith in you has been well placed.”

Lyle nodded in agreement. “Indeed!”

“After all these things, you would need to consider staffing and budget issues,” I continued. “Commercial insurance, advertising, building maintenance, worker’s compensation…”

Ezekiel brushed dust off of an old IGA banner behind the cash register. “Here, why not go with this group, Rodney? They do well in small towns like Thompson.”

I sighed loudly. “That era has passed, Zeke. At least in our region.”

Fran disagreed, sternly. “Why, there’s still an IGA in Painesville Township, where my sister lives!”

I reddened with embarrassment. “Oh yeah… Rideout’s. I forgot.”

“Hometown Proud,” Ezekiel said with a grin. “That’s their motto!”

“A great line,” I acquiesced. “Still, surviving with a local market is difficult. There are too many competitors…”

“What about Collins Bi-Rite in Madison?” Lyle wondered out loud. “I have friends in Madison who won’t shop anywhere else.”

I was unconvinced. “Yeah, but…”

“Or Romano’s Sparkle in Andover?” Mary interjected. “My cousins love that place!”

I was running out of breath. “That’s great, but…”

“Really, something small like the long-lost Burton General Store would do well,” Ezekiel proclaimed. “The kind of rural food emporium that IGA used to offer.”

Mary browsed the deserted aisles, lovingly. “We trust you, Rodney. You would make the right decisions.”

Lyle pointed his index finger in the air. “Indeed! Indeed!”

Fran adjusted her glasses. “Inspect the property yourself, Rodney. Then put together a business plan. We can meet next door, at Stockers on the Park, to discuss the rest.”

I fumbled for excuses. “That would be terrific, but…”

“One week from today, at Stockers!” Ezekiel shouted.

“Agreed!” the trio said in unison.

I choked with futility. “But, but, but…”

They exited while I tried to speak a complete sentence.

Later that evening, my home computer yielded information about the Independent Grocers Alliance. The group was founded in 1926, with their first location opening in Poughkeepsie, NY. By the end of that year, more than 150 stores were operating under their banner. In 1929, IGA had 2,870 outlets in 36 states. By 1938, they boasted a line of 360 ‘house brand’ products. Eventually, the collective grew to 4,000 locations in over forty countries.

After reading, I pondered the closed Thompson Market carefully.

The Ledge-Geauga Leadership council genuinely wanted to see ‘Tiny Finch’ come to their town.

But… did I?

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

“Predictions: 2010”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Offering predictions for the New Year is a familiar journalistic habit.

Few publications seem able to avoid the yearly tradition of acting as a medium for soothsayers and visionaries in the tradition of Nostradamus.

Such observations are rarely checked for accuracy, after the fact. Still, they provide entertainment while considering the beginning of a New Year.

A decade ago, the approach of ‘Y2K’ was anticipated with much anxiety. Currently, some are pondering the ancient Mayan calendar – which ends with the year 2012.

Both represent the ability of human imagination to wander away from traditional norms.

What follows here is a short list of future events seen by this writer when peering into the crystal ball…

ONE: After hiring Mike Holmgren as President of Football Operations for his NFL franchise, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner gives Coach Eric Mangini a new assignment that better suits his capabilities - Director of Lobby Greeters for Walmart stores in Northeastern Ohio. Mangini’s first task is to re-train employees at the Middlefield location.

TWO: In a stunning reversal of fortune, former Chardon City Councilperson Mary M. Bramstedt joins the on-air staff at Fox News Channel. Initially, she appears as a regular guest with Laura Ingraham. But after developing national appeal as a commentator, pundit, and fashionable headwear expert, Bramstedt receives an hour-long program of her own.

THREE: After being nominated for a local Nobel Prize, ‘Christmas Tree Lady’ Paula Horbay is invited to a special ceremony with Governor Ted Strickland in Columbus. The event provides a showcase of small-business entrepreneurs from across Ohio. Also honored are ‘Picnic Table Papa’ Bill Knauf of Cincinnati; ‘Fruit Salad Fanatic’ Fran Splenda of Toledo; and ‘Homemade Wine Hobo’ Joe DiCenza of Youngstown.

FOUR: A political scandal erupts after it is revealed that members of the Chardon City Council have deliberately covered up unknown details of the 1957 UFO encounter experienced by Olden Moore. Local reporter Brent Fabus provides a series of reports that reveal how Moore also met a second spacecraft in front of the Geauga County Courthouse, with village leaders by his side. Old records from the bygone Geauga Times-Leader confirm this story.

FIVE: Cleveland Browns star Joshua Cribbs shocks the world of professional sports by successfully campaigning to become Ohio’s first black governor. Once elected, his gift for cultivating public support yields the ability to win enthusiastic cooperation from both Democrats and Republicans in Columbus.

SIX: Local Amish residents are intrigued when Giant Eagle’s ‘Get Go’ concept is reworked to become ‘Get Slow’ in their neighborhoods. This new kind of fuel-and-food depot offers hay, water, horse grooming, and a dual-sided hitching post designed in Switzerland. A complimentary ‘buggy wash’ is available with each purchase. Inside, patrons are treated to a family-style buffet of traditional delights.

SEVEN: Lawless ‘Scarecrow Bandits’ return to wreak havoc when Geauga Lyric Theater Guild presents a musical based on the 60’s television program ‘Green Acres.’ Sidewalk promotional displays provided by a local John Deere dealership are defaced with graffiti that carries a pro-environmentalist theme.

EIGHT: Former media mogul Don Buchanan is taken into custody by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. When questioned about his presence in the war-torn nation, Buchanan claims to be on a mission to write about the predicament of Afghan citizens who have suffered during years of conflict. He is released after being interrogated by the CIA. Eventually, his reports appear in a newspaper from the Virgin Islands.

NINE: Geauga County Sheriff’s Department hero Midge is included in a 2010 ‘Canine Census’ of notable dogs from around the world. Also included are Bo Obama, and Mr. Muggles from the NBC television series ‘Heroes.’

TEN: In April, LeBron James is spotted attending the Geauga County Maple Festival. A sensation occurs when his entire entourage of sixty-two friends and bodyguards order maple stirs at the same time.

ELEVEN: The McDonald’s in Chardon receives a corporate ‘Golden Arches’ award for citizenship, after hosting the ‘Geauga Writer’s Roundtable’ for one full year. This rare honor is bestowed with much fanfare by Ronald himself, and a group of dignitaries from the county. Also presiding is Ray Kroc IV, a fast-food prodigy and gifted businessman like his notable great-grandfather.

TWELVE: Venerable free publication ‘The Weekly Mail’ returns after a long absence from the area. Its debut issue includes classified ads, local columns, recipes, and news tidbits – offered as an e-mail newsletter instead of a printed journal. Though fondly remembered, this cyber-interpretation of the paper lasts for only three months.

THIRTEEN: After twenty-five years of rumors, Bob Evans finally builds one of its family-style restaurants in Chardon. Sadly, the story has circulated for so long that no one takes it seriously. Only a live broadcast by WKYC-3 convinces area residents that the vittle house is actually open for business.

FOURTEEN: With help from family members of the late George Diskes, and local benefactors, a museum opens that is dedicated to remembering the historic Dinner Bell Diner. Included with the gallery of artifacts is an all-new, streamlined version of this bygone eatery. Visitors are able to enjoy select menu items like ‘Alexander the Great’s Salad’ and ‘Steak Tips Over Noodles’ while browsing Coca-Cola collectibles and copper kettles. Every patron leaves with a package of ‘Sticky Buns’ baked from Famous George’s original recipe.

FIFTEEN: Local organizer Tammy Roesch attempts to promote a second annual ‘Tea Party’ event at the Geauga County Fairgrounds. But this time, Democrats in the area respond with their own happening. Their ‘Progressive Parade’ is led by an honor guard of notable elected officials from the county. Most recognized among guests in attendance is former U.S. Representative Jim Traficant.

Looking into the future is a task accomplished with speculation rather than skill. Yet human nature makes us yearn to gain insight into tomorrow. What we imagine may not reflect the true progress of history in a literal sense. But it says much about how we envision the world in which we exist.

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