Thursday, March 11, 2010

“Mailbag, Revisited”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Every columnist seems to eventually use their spot in the newspaper to answer reader mail. It is a journalistic tradition handed down from antiquity. Modern disciplines have provided new forms of communication through texts, e-mail, and instant messaging that have all but eclipsed genuine letters. Still, imagination makes it possible to frame such questions and comments in an old-fashioned context. So what follows here is a fictional overview of the ‘Thoughts At Large’ mailbag, as it could have been:

Dale Hooper, Troy – “My brother says you went to school with him at Chardon High. Could that be true?”

Dale, I moved to the county about twenty-six years ago. I am originally from Columbus but finished high school in New York.

Rhonda Reale, Chesterland – “Rodney, you often write about the medium of radio in your columns. Were you ever a disc jockey or an on-air personality?”

Rhonda, I’ve had a keen interest in broadcasting since childhood. My father had a brief, morning devotional on a Virginia AM station called WBRG in the early 1970’s. I used to tag along when he would visit the studio. This inspired me to yearn for a career in the field as a teenager. Sadly, it never happened.

Mitch Golonardi, Montville – “Rumor has it that you are a regular patron of our Montville Country Store. Is that true?”

Yes. I love that place!

Reuben Strehk, Middlefield – “Rod, how long have you written ‘Thoughts At Large?’ My wife thinks that your column started appearing sometime in 1998. I think it was a few years later.”

Reuben, your spouse is correct. TAL started in February, twelve years ago.

Sandy Vaughan, Parkman – “I know you are a writer. But what was your most unusual job along the way?”

Sandy, I’ve been a department store janitor, video technician, newspaper sports editor, farm hand, book binder, TV show host, and professional musician.

Margie DeSoto, Hambden – “Rod, you haven’t mentioned local citizens like Chris Hrapko or Mary Bramstedt in a long time. Can you update us on their progress?”

Margie, it happens that I just saw Chris, last week. Her work with the group ‘Feed My People’ is continuing, thanks to help from new businesses like Sheetz. Chardon United Methodist Church is now ‘home base’ for the organization, which provides needed foodstuffs and supplies to poor residents across Geauga County. Stay tuned for more information as it develops.

George Carleski, Newbury – “Rod, I can’t figure out if you are a Republican or a Democrat by reading your articles. Which one is correct?”

George, I take that as a compliment. My honest answer would be ‘none of the above.’

Carol Specht, Huntsburg – “Did your Pomeranian pooch really visit Midge at the Geauga County Sheriff’s Department? I seem to remember seeing a picture of them together, in the Maple Leaf.”

Carol, You have a good memory. That was in 2007. We were invited for a tour by Sheriff McClelland and brought Quigley along for the afternoon.

Fred Depka, Auburn – “I’ve read that your brother is a truck driver. What made you want to become a newspaper columnist?”

Fred, your question makes me smile. Most children hope to become a firefighter, doctor, teacher, or artist. But I was always intrigued with the prolific work of Mike Royko, Erma Bombeck, and Jack Anderson. Later, Dave Barry joined that group of heroes-in-print. For whatever reason, their inspiration eventually motivated me to begin this series.

Connie Mune, Thompson – “I was amused by your stories about re-opening the old grocery store in my township. But why would you write about something like that?”

Connie, as you know, I spent many years as a manager in the retail food industry. Along the way, I’ve had several friends and relatives suggest that I ought to run a store like the closed Thompson Center Market. So it seemed tempting to consider the idea in print. In real terms though, starting any small business requires a ready reserve of available cash. So the notion will have to remain nothing more than a writing exercise, for now.

Phoebe Neff, Claridon – “What about ‘Soul of the Rose?’ Was that another fictional creation like Agent X and Ezekiel Byler-Gregg?”

Phoebe, I can honestly say – no, not at all. ‘Soul of the Rose’ was created by my friends Christy and Mark Hoefler. They have a real love for the history and culture of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Because of my own affinity for that kind of music, cooperation between us was a natural idea.

Cheb Necker, Chardon – “Do you think that journalism has been ruined by the Internet?”

Actually, I think that cyberspace has liberated the flow of information. Even a few years ago, the ability to prepare and disperse news stories was concentrated in the hands of a few, privileged individuals. Now, technology has made that process much more democratic. We have reached a period in history where faceless corporate interests and government appointees can no longer control the data stream. That is something to be celebrated.

Stan Klop, Aquilla – “So, did you make up the UFO incident with Olden Moore in 1957?”

Stan, the Geauga UFO story is completely genuine. A friend named Denny Burdick told me about it for years. I was finally able to confirm the story with help from our county archives. Moore’s encounter was documented on the Geauga Times Leader’s front page. Many years later, the tale continues to circulate. It can be found on websites from all over the world.

Nick Festoon, Burton – “Where do we go to find back issues of your columns?”

Nick, I published a TAL collection in 2007 that ran to 663 pages. It comprised a ‘best of’ the first decade. This volume is still available at a number of local stores, or through Icehouse Books. For information, write us at: P.O. Box 365, Chardon, Ohio.

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