Thursday, March 04, 2010


c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I was just about to begin my first pot of coffee in the Icehouse home office.

Morning had been kind, despite beginning with a power outage just before daybreak. The interruption in service allowed things to become unusually cold while I was asleep. Still, this unexpected mishap meant that I started the day at an earlier hour than usual.

It offered a chance to get caught up on writing projects for the Maple Leaf.

My thoughts coalesced around a feature called ‘Checking In’ as the coffee was percolating. It would be a review of community work by local citizens like Carol Brazis, Chris Hrapko, Mary Bramstedt, and Robin Cooper.

Anticipation tingled in my veins. But the telephone rang before I could continue.

“Hello?” I said, reluctantly.

“Rodney!” the caller laughed. “How are you today?”

It was my friend Ezekiel Byler-Gregg, of the Burton Daily Bugle.

The desk clock read 6:30 a.m. - my eyes would barely focus.

“Hi, Zeke,” I replied. “Let me guess…”

“Guess what?” he exclaimed.

“At this hour of the morning, you need a favor?” I groaned.

My journalistic cohort was amused.

“I want to do a favor for you!” he said with enthusiasm.

“Of course,” I agreed.

Ezekiel snorted. “Hey, I’ve got a news tip here…”

“News?” I said with disbelief. “You want to give away a story?”

“I have something that would be more appropriate for your county-wide publication than my township paper,” he confessed.

I reached for a notebook. “Okay, keep talking!”

“A new online service is about to launch, from Chardon,” he explained. “They call it G-Tube.”

I took a deep breath. “G-Tube?”

“That’s right,” he said. “Founded by Rich O’ Laughlin from Huntsburg and Nev Greene from Bainbridge.”

“Like G-TV?” I asked.

“No, not at all,” Ezekiel protested. “This isn’t television. This is citizen participation in the making.”

“Then, like You Tube?” I wondered out loud.

“Yes, except that it will be completely local,” he continued. “Local servers, with local access.”

“Won’t they get sued for a name so close to You Tube?” I said, quizzically.

“I doubt it,” he stammered impatiently.

“Are you sure?” I said, still wondering.

“They have a law firm working on their behalf,” he grunted. “They’ll sort out the legal issues.”

“Couldn’t people just sign up for YouTube?” I pondered.

“Stop with You Tube already!” he shouted.

“Zeke, it’s early,” I sighed. “No yelling before seven o’clock.”

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Anyway, this website will feature all kinds of original content, including full-length programs produced right here at home. Video podcasts, they are called.”

“So, it really is like television!” I cheered.

“Fine, I suppose it is in a way,” Ezekiel muttered. “Except everything will be available on demand. ”

“Like You Tube!” I repeated.

My friend swore profusely. “Yes, okay! Yes! But even more ambitious.”

A silent pause elapsed.

“Very impressive, Zeke,” I said at last. “You are more up-to-date than I ever imagined.”

“Don’t give me the credit,” he disagreed. “It’s their idea.”

“G-Tube sounds like a new age version of Public Access TV,” I reflected. “During my years studying in New York, I was able to experience some of that… it was very useful as a means for citizen expression.”

“Exactly!” he agreed. “Television in general is controlled by a few, privileged people. Even community broadcasting. But the Internet has changed everything. Now, G-Tube will bring that level of democracy to Geauga.”

“Democracy is good,” I agreed.

“A revolution for the airwaves!” he said loudly. “Or… cyberwaves. Whatever!”

I tried to collect my thoughts. “So…this is a venture of O’ Laughlin and Greene from MapleNet?”

“That’s right,” Ezekiel said. “They’ve provided Internet access since the 90’s.”

I rubbed my eyes. “So how does this new company make money?”

My friend sounded like a used car salesman. “Their plan is to combine MapleNet with G-Tube and support it with local advertising. Involvement is the key. If enough residents participate, the online business will support itself.”

“So,” I mused. “You are passing the ball to me… instead of breaking this story in the Daily Bugle?”

“I run a Burton newspaper,” he observed. “This story is bigger than that.”

“Really?” I said. “You’d let me get the scoop, and walk away with nothing?”

Another wordless moment transpired.

“Actually, you could do me one favor,” he said.

“Aha!” I roared. Here’s the catch! Go ahead, Zeke.”

My compadre was embarrassed. “I could use any information you have on the 1957 UFO encounter of Olden Moore.”

“What??” I fumbled.

“You got access to the county archives,” he said. “I need to know the story behind the story… what were you afraid to say in print? My paper has taken a real hit from the economic recession. I need a blockbuster headline, Rodney!”

I was entertained by his bravado. “I get it… you are trying to ‘trade up’ on articles. But wouldn’t that be a county-wide subject, too?”

“Moore had friends in Burton,” he recalled. “I could get some mileage out of a good alien-encounter feature! Maybe a multi-week series!”

“Zeke, get hold of yourself,” I said with disbelief.

“Help me, friend,” he begged.

“There was nothing in the archives beyond that newspaper story,” I reported. “The Geauga Times Leader ran it on their front page. But there was no follow-up. Just like with the crash in Roswell, New Mexico, the incident got buried.”

“C’mon, Rodney!” he pleaded.

My attitude remained firm. “I got nothing. If there had been more, it would have appeared in my columns.”

“You wouldn’t hold out on me?” he said, pitifully.

“We’ve been friends forever,” I observed. “If there was more, you’d have it. But… no.”

“Nothing?” Ezekiel groaned.

“Nothing,” I repeated. “I know times are tough. Hang in there.”

“Just keep me in mind,” he demanded.

“Of course,” I promised. “We’re all in this together.”

“Yes, we are!” he thundered.

The phone line went dead. Once more, I was alone with my thoughts.

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