Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mike Trivisonno Christmas

Santa Claus has a sense of humor... and he likes Cleveland talk radio. This was under my tree on Christmas Day:

Thank you, jolly old St. Nick!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Polka Christmas

This arrived in the mail recently - holiday greetings from Jake Kouwe and The Chardon Polka Band!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

“O Christmas Tree”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

My desire to practice the art of creative writing first awakened during childhood years. It has continued since then as a persistent habit. But the holiday season evokes memories of another inclination that began during those formative years – the need to decorate my own Christmas Tree.

This want first manifested itself when I lived in Virginia, during the early 1970’s. Using a small hacksaw, I collected an unwanted live tree from a neighbor’s estate. It was flat and brown on one side, but perfect for my basement bedroom.

I rescued a few discarded ornaments, including one patched with masking tape. Then, I made others from construction paper. The result was satisfying, if not beautiful.

A statement of personal independence had been made.

One year later, I was given a budget tree from the local Hills department store. My parents must have decided that another junkyard creation would be too much to bear. This artificial evergreen was about two feet tall. Its branches were covered with what looked like thin strands of plastic wrap. The tree sat in a pot made of recycled cardboard.

Amazingly, it lasted until I was out of high school.

As I grew older, my decorating habits became more complex. Eventually, this Christmas centerpiece boasted improvised ornaments made from household junk, and a Harley-Davidson logo as its topper.

Then, the tradition disappeared.

As an adult, I moved on to new routines. Our household tree reflected my first wife’s ability to connect each ornament with something in our daily life. For us, the holidays became more of a typical, shared experience.

I focused on being a parent, and uncle. Self-expression became less important as I thought about helping to inspire the next generation.

But along the way, something jogged my memory. Suddenly, I wanted to trim a tree – again.

My second faux pine came as a marked-down item from Fisher’s Big Wheel. It stood about a yard high. This size was perfect for a second-hand table in my basement studio. Standing amid boxes of vinyl records and vintage guitars, it looked a bit out of place. But when adorned with leftover beer cans, the centerpiece took on an undeniable aura of Rock & Roll flair.

With each following Yuletide season, I chose a different decorating theme. One year had the tree wearing assorted key chains on its limbs. Another found it draped with automotive tools and parts. Then 45 rpm records. And Cleveland sports memorabilia. Eventually, I assembled a formidable collection of oddball ornaments from thrift stores and yard sales that reflected a sense of holiday rebellion.

When Art Modell dumped Bernie Kosar as the Cleveland Browns quarterback in 1993, my tree boasted a Texas-shaped ornament found at the Discovery Shop in Chardon. This was because he had landed in Dallas, as a member of the Cowboys.

I sent Kosar a personal note about the ornament and he responded with an autographed photo. It made a perfect companion to my holiday display.

With each Noel that passed, the tree served as a focal point for holiday cheer, until life again became too busy.

Finally, the Big Wheel tree reappeared when I closed out my storage space in Montville, a few months ago. It had been packed away for a long time, after career interests took over and leisure time became scarce.

I was fascinated by its humble appearance.

The tree still rested in a shipping box from the bankrupt retailer. Its box read “TT 404086T - Dawn Products Corporation, 29 Elm Avenue, Mt. Vernon, NY 10550. Made in the USA.” The local store number, 69, was written in marker ink.

After locating my stash of ornaments, I decided to decorate the prefab evergreen once again. I began to ponder bygone memories as everything came together. And then a Yuletide carol sounded in my head:


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You’re beautiful to me
A plastic pine
You look so fine
With cans of Genesee
Your branches bend
Under the weight
Of bottled sauce
From Quaker Steak
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You’re beautiful to me

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Hear our celebration
You make us sing
As cell phones ring
With holiday elation
Now lake effect
Snowfall is here
Our roads are closed
So we drink beer
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Hear our celebration

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Your beauty makes us linger
On winter nights
We take delight
From tunes by Twisted Sister
The years have gone
But we’re still here
Shovel snow, and
Look out for deer
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Your beauty makes us linger

The tree glistened and sparkled as never before. It had opened a time portal through which I could see across the generations - all the way back to 1971.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

“Roundtable Review”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

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

I arrived just after eight o’clock, hoping to buy breakfast before the activities began. We had gathered for the monthly meeting of our Geauga Writers’ Roundtable.

In attendance were many noted wordsmiths from around the county. I felt a tingle of excitement while enjoying my first cup of coffee. Notepads were strewn over the table by their artificial fireplace. We chatted briefly about our Twitter accounts and cell-phone plans. Then, the happening commenced.

Carrie Hamglaze, a local figure of renown, was already at our table with a cup of tea. She was a vision of mature womanhood, dressed in Irish green and Hilltopper red.

“Dear friends,” she began. “Allow me to bring this event to order!”

Everyone stopped talking.

“With the end of 2010 approaching, I’d like to hear about your stories of the year,” she said. “What was most important to your readers in the past twelve months?”

Stan Moster of the Thompson Tribune answered first.

“I think Ledgemont’s incredible football season was most memorable in my neck of the woods,” he cheered.

“Very good,” Carrie agreed.

Martha Ann Reale of the Newbury Siren-Monitor spoke next.

“Coverage of the November elections was most important in my community,” she proclaimed. “We ran an in-depth series of articles on all the candidates and ballot issues.”

“Well done,” Carrie applauded.

Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of the Burton Daily Bugle followed with his own perspective.

“My readers were fascinated with coverage of the fugitive who built a hut in the woods, in Munson,” he said. “It was a story folks might have expected to come from Montana, but not Geauga County.”

“Very true,” Carrie agreed.

Bubbly editor Judy DiCenza of the Claridon Clarion added a new report to the mix.

“My readers were most interested in hearing about upcoming productions by the Geauga Lyric Theater Guild,” she smiled. “Our county can be very proud to have such a cultural resource, right here at home.”

Carrie nodded with agreement.

Finally, Mack Prindl of the Parkman Register added his own viewpoint with gusto.

“I had a front-page article on Ben Roethlisberger, last month,” he boasted.

The entire group went silent.

After a long pause, Carrie sighed loudly. “Where’s the local angle in that?”

Stan rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, how does that qualify as local news?”

“Big Ben has a cousin in my town,” Mack sneered.

Judy bit her lip. “Really?”

Ezekiel was unimpressed.

“C’mon,” he groaned. “You think that will actually sell newspapers?”

“Six Superbowl rings for the Steelers!” Mack whined.

Martha Ann turned sour. “Did you see Oakland Radiers player Richard Seymour punch Ben in the face, during a confrontation on the field? Your quarterback melted like a stick of butter.”

“Did not!” Mack cried. “Did not!”

“Hey, that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?” I wondered out loud. “Not really an appropriate comment for our forum…”

“C’mon friend,” Ezekiel laughed. “Big Ben shivered on the ground like Pee-wee Herman after getting smacked down by Miss Yvonne.”

“Did not!” Mack repeated.

“I’m melting!” Martha Ann said mockingly. “I’m melllllting!”

Carrie bowed her head.

“You must admit, it wasn’t a very manly reaction to being assaulted,” she observed.

I coughed with disbelief. “Carrie! You are supposed to be the voice of reason here! This isn’t funny!”

Mack was red-faced.

“Six Superbowl rings!” he shouted.

“Quiet, Pringle!” Martha Ann taunted.

“That’s PRINDL!” Mack retorted.

“Okay! Please calm down, everyone,” Carrie pleaded at last. “I apologize. Let’s get back on track here. What about you, Rod? What was your big story for 2010?”

I cleared my throat. “Well, a column about Harvey Pekar seemed to resonate with our readers this year.”

“Who??” Mack exploded.

“He was a jazz music critic and comic book hero,” I explained.

“Right,” Mack huffed. “Rrrright. There’s a local story for people in Geauga County…”

“My feature compared Harvey’s work to Thoughts At Large,” I confessed. “He influenced me as a teenager. I’ve often thought of my writing as a text version of his American Splendor series.”

Ezekiel slapped the table. “Funny. I liked that column.”

Mack was red-faced. “You wrote about a nobody who did comic books?”

“Harvey penned storylines which were illustrated by a variety of successful artists,” I said. “Robert Crumb, for example.”

“Who?” Mack repeated.

“Go back to your Iron City Beer!” Martha Ann squealed.

“Sounds like boring stuff to me,” Mack complained. “Chuck Noll could write a better column than that!”

Carrie was becoming flustered.

“Please!” she begged. “Let’s stay on the subject here!”

Stan unfolded the paper on his breakfast tray. “Hey, did you realize they brought back the McRib sandwich? If we adjourn until lunchtime, we could talk about this stuff over a slab of barbecued pork!”

Suddenly, all hope of continuing our discussion evaporated.

“That’s got it for me!” Mack cheered. “See you guys at noon!”

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Friday, December 03, 2010

“Christmas Chevette”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

A few weeks ago, I closed out the family storage space in Montville. This meant that for the first time in several years, many hidden household treasures were once again within reach. Lots of memories were revived in the process.

As I finished the task of loading these items for the journey home, a lone scrap of paper appeared on the concrete floor of my cubicle. It turned out to be a receipt from Fisher’s Big Wheel in Chardon, dated 1984.

This echo of bygone days made me smile.

Later, with the holiday season approaching, I rummaged through my relocated stash. Before long, I found an old Maple Leaf column based on Christmas memories from that erstwhile retailer. It was a personal story that continued to endure, even in the 21st Century:

“The Christmas rush of 1984 was relentless. I had lived in the village (Chardon) for one full year, after sixty-four months in New York… It was difficult to guess where my life was headed. But I had much enthusiasm for tomorrow! When my VW Beetle finally expired, travel to work depended on a dull Chevrolet Chevette. (Truly an awful winter vehicle!) Fortunately, employment was not far away. I spent gainful hours at the local Fisher’s Big Wheel. Service to this Newcastle, Pennsylvania retailer began a path toward greater things…Christmas Eve brought my own chance to procure holiday gifts. As final moments of anticipation ticked away, I carried a red shopping basket around the store. It was a ritual that brought comfort, and peace. My paycheck (for two weeks) evaporated quickly. But focus on the joyous duty whisked away cares from the year…”

After reading the article, I pondered having mentioned my Chevette in the holiday feature. It seemed undeniably strange, yet somehow appropriate.

I remembered that on Christmas Day of 1986, the vehicle’s starter expired during a family visit. With this exchange of gifts complete, I was left to mutter about the looming cost of repair. Happily, I was able to coast downhill to my home in Munson Township. A final push got the car safely out of traffic.

The reflective mood evoked by this story made me slump lazily in my chair. Soon, I had fallen asleep at the desk. A pleasant rush of holiday images followed. Elves and gingerbread people were dancing around a tree brought by Paula Horbay. Snow blanketed the Chardon Square. Festive lights twinkled from the county courthouse. Luscious aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air.

And then, a seasonal tune began to reverberate from the great beyond…

Christmas Chevette

See the USA
In your Chevrolet
That’s what commercials say
But when you’re poor
This is what you get
A second-hand Chevette

Yuletide grins
And icy spins
Make the holidays begin
But when you’re broke
Better place your bet
On a second-hand Chevette

Santa’s sleigh
Ain’t a Chevrolet
He can fly both night and day
So I’ll pretend
I’ve got a jet
Not a second-hand Chevette

Chestnuts roast
A holiday toast
To those we love the most
Then the dream is done
‘Cause don’t forget
We’ve got a second-hand Chevette

A Christmas tree
A shopping spree
Wish your neighbors peace
But a rough ride home
Is what you get
In a second-hand Chevette

Sleigh bells ring
And carolers sing
Of what St. Nick will bring
But a lump of coal
Is what you expect
With a second-hand Chevette

A flannel cap
In Christmas wrap
Patterned from a treasure map
Gifts on the cheap
But don’t you fret
With a second-hand Chevette

Friends and fun
This day is done
The Yuletide hymn is sung
Now it’s back to work
For a weekly check
In your second-hand Chevette

When I woke up, the computer had slipped into standby mode. Vintage holiday music crackled from a radio in the living room. And nightfall was at hand.

I yawned out loud. Lying on the desk was a photo of my budget Chevrolet from yesteryear. The car had originally come from Hal Artz Pontiac, on Water Street. Though it impressed no one, the vehicle was perfect for late-night excursions with friends from work. The Chevette was all but invisible compared to sporty coupes and 4x4 off-road warriors. It afforded us safe travel with incredible fuel efficiency.

Eventually, my thrifty carriage had fallen apart, with 77,000 miles on the odometer. I last used it as a backyard storage shed for dog food. But until then, it was a faithful servant.

This tiny automobile did nothing for my social standing, but saved lots of money for the household budget.

I was glad to recall our time together.

The day ended with twin themes echoing in my head – holiday cheer and love for this four-cylinder mule. Magic sparkled from the computer screen as I finished writing.

Now, it was time for bed!

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