Thursday, March 25, 2010

“Roundtable, Reconsidered”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The morning was busy at McDonald’s on Water Street in Chardon.

I arrived before eight o’clock, filled with anticipation. It was time for the monthly gathering of our Geauga Writers’ Roundtable.

In attendance would be every noted scribe from the county. I felt a tingle of excitement while enjoying my first cup of coffee. Notepads were strewn over the tabletop. We chatted briefly about our Facebook accounts and cell-phone plans.

Then, the meeting commenced.

Carrie Hamglaze, a local celebrity and former public servant, was already at our table with a cup of Mocha Cappuccino. She glowed with fashion confidence, dressed in Irish green and Hilltopper red.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she began. “Allow me to bring this event to order!”

All heads bowed around the table.

“This month is when we consider passage of President Obama’s healthcare initiative,” she continued. “Did any of you attend Mr. Obama’s recent visit to Strongsville?”

Martha Ann Reale of the Newbury Siren-Monitor answered cheerfully.

“Yes.” she nodded. “It was a spirited event. I want to offer a personal view of the rally, tied together with my grandfather’s recollections of seeing John F. Kennedy when he visited Ohio in 1960.”

“So, how are the rest of you covering this story in your local papers?” Carrie asked.

Mack Prindl of the Parkman Register was quick to respond.

“I wrote about his courage as a Chief Executive,” he said. “Like Ben Roethlisburger with the Pittsburgh Steelers!”

Martha snorted audibly.

“C’mon Mack,” she insisted. “Big Ben hardly compares to Mr. O.”

I held my coffee for a moment. “That’s reaching for a story, I reckon…”

Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of the Burton Daily Bugle agreed.

“Think local,” he grunted. “You’re just mad because the Stillers didn’t make it to the Superbowl.”

Mack frowned. “Sounds like jealousy to me! Your Browns are a mess.”

“The political process is a mess,” Martha hissed.

Carrie gestured for attention. “Please! Let’s stick to the topic of discussion.”

I sipped coffee as the meeting continued.

Carrie gestured with her pen. “What about the ‘Tea Party’ movement? How is that playing out in Geauga County?”

I flipped through my notebook. “There has been a lot of activity here, especially since the fairgrounds event sponsored by G.O.O.O.H. last fall.”

Martha wrinkled her nose. “Goo? That’s an odd name!”

“It stands for Get Out Of Our House,” Ezekiel said.

“Right,” I continued. “It was founded by Tim Cox, of Texas. He wants to evict every current member of the U. S. House of Representatives.”

Mack laughed out loud. “Sure, that’ll happen!”

“Locally, the Geauga Constitutional Council was involved in last year’s event,” I explained. “Their supporters include State Senator Tim Grendell.”

Carrie pondered for a moment.

“How does this political phenomenon play out in November?” she asked.

Martha shuddered. “I don’t think they are a legitimate force. More like babies throwing a tantrum.”

I smiled. “That’s the mainstream media perception.”

Ezekiel scratched his beard. “Some people may be surprised!”

“Maybe,” I said. “Increased voter participation seems likely. Beyond that… anything can happen.”

Mack pounded the table. “Republicans are hoping for a repeat of 1994. But they would still have to face Mr. Obama across the line of scrimmage.”

Martha grinned. “And Barack is a better signal caller than your buddy Big Ben!”

“Stay on the subject!” Carrie pleaded.

I shrugged my shoulders. “The G.O.P. seems content to let ‘tea’ sentiments percolate. But I note that their operatives are trying to downplay any third-party activities. That kind of genuine citizen uprising appears to frighten them.”

“Both sides want to preserve the game as it is,” Ezekiel observed. “They fear having a new franchise in the league.”

“Okay,” Carrie sputtered. “Since we keep turning back to football metaphors… what do your readers think about the Cleveland Browns reorganization?”

Mack groaned. “Who cares? My team has six Superbowl rings.”

Martha was irritated. “Be quiet, Pringle!”

“That’s Prindl!” he shouted.

“Most people seem optimistic about Mike Holmgren’s leadership,” I said. “Of course we have generally felt that way about everyone the Lerner family has brought to Cleveland. But in this case, the team has someone with a lot of genuine NFL experience.”

Ezekiel was upbeat. “If the Saints can win a Superbowl, anybody can do it.”

Mack raised an eyebrow. “Having Brett Favre and Peyton Manning throwing interceptions didn’t hurt, either.”

“True,” I agreed. “But football is still a game of shared sacrifice and dedication. I think Holmgren will promote that kind of thinking.”

Carrie folded her notebook. “So what about the Maple Festival? Any surprises this year?”

“My favorite event is the ‘Battle of the Bands’ on Thursday,” I said.

Ezekiel brightened. “I remember seeing the Trolls in 1965. They won the very first ‘battle’ ever held.”

Martha cackled. “Really?”

“Don’t get him started,” Mack stammered. “We’ll have to listen to his reminiscences of playing fiddle with the Geauga Corncobbers…”

My coffee was empty. “I like those stories. But first, let me get a refill.”

“Nooooooooo!” Mack whined.

“The Corncobbers were Geauga’s first Amish-hippie music experiment,” Ezekiel reflected. “It was a product of the era. We were trying to build bridges between one culture and the next…to create a climate of mutual respect.”

“What I respect is Big Ben’s Superbowl rings,” Mack squealed.

Martha looked at her coffee. It had gone completely cold. With defiance, she dumped it over her Steeler-loving comrade’s head.

“What was that??” Mack gargled. His hair dripped Colombian brew and cream.

“I think she called an audible!” Ezekiel laughed.

Carrie lifted her pen.

“Shall we consider this meeting adjourned?” she said.

Hands were raised in unison.

“Very good,” she concluded. “See you all next month!”

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