Friday, January 27, 2012

“Hamglaze: 2012”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is the result of too many pots of coffee, and crashing in my chair at the Icehouse home office. Do not be alarmed or offended. Thank you.

It was a quiet evening at the Get Go in Chardon.

Light snow settled over the parking lot as customers hurried to fill their vehicles before the next winter storm arrived. Inside, the crew busied themselves brewing fresh coffee and making sandwiches. By the front windows, local iconoclast Carrie Hamglaze was holding court. A small group of people circled her chair. They were spellbound, and listening intently to every word.

“Geauga has the same needs as every other county in the nation,” she proclaimed. “Jobs for its citizens. Safe neighborhoods. Good schools. And leaders who can visualize our future…”

Applause resounded throughout the store.

I scribbled in my reporter’s notebook. “So Carrie, does that mean you are once again running for office?”

Laughter echoed around the table.

“No,” she whispered, bowing her head. “Not this time...”

Mack Prindl, editor of the Parkman Register, frowned intently.

“You don’t seem ready to sit on the porch!” he yowled.

Rhonda Ronk, who was working at the counter, shook her head with disbelief. “I don’t believe it either! You won’t be still for long, Mrs. Hamglaze.”

I agreed. “It isn’t in your nature, friend.”

Carrie stirred her tea, looking glum. “No, I won’t be quiet. There are lots of prayer meetings, luncheons, seminars, tree plantings and spaghetti dinners to attend…”

Outside, a black limousine parked next to the building. The driver and a bodyguard exited first, both dressed in long, dark coats. Then, their passenger stepped out, into the night. He smiled upon seeing those huddled by the front windows.

Without a word, the trio walked inside.

Rhonda was dutifully polite as the men passed her workstation. “May I help you?”

“Yes, indeed!” the driver said, adjusting his military cap. “We are looking for Mrs. Carrie O’ Malley Hamglaze.”

“Carrie?” the clerk laughed. “Well… she’s at her table, like always!”

The driver nodded. “Thank you.”

All three men walked across the store, in unison. Then, the driver and bodyguard stepped aside. Their passenger bowed, gracefully.

“Mrs. Hamglaze,” he said dramatically. “We meet again! May I join your group?”

Carrie was puzzled. She nearly spilled her tea. “Again? What do you mean?”

“I am Reince Priebus,” he continued, “Chairman of the Republican Party. Don’t you remember our meeting in May of last year?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Oh yes… but…”

“Haven’t you pondered your duty to the nation?” he asked. “America needs you!”

Carrie sighed loudly. “I thought you were an actor… maybe from the Geauga Lyric Theater Guild. My friends from the library put you up to this, right?”

Chairman Priebus was visibly irritated. “Please, Mrs. Hamglaze. This is not a prank!”

I put down my pen. “Really? Then why would a national party leader come to a fuel depot in Geauga County?”

He gestured like a college professor. “This part of Ohio represents the best of American values. You have talented elected officials on both sides of the aisle. Like Sheriff McClelland and Judge Diane Grendell. That is why I feel you can rescue us from the doldrums of 2012.”

“Doldrums?” I wondered out loud.

Mack stiffened in his seat. “No, I get it! Look at the GOP primary field. Romney is a flip-flop artist without genuine conservative principles. The Republican base won’t forgive him for supporting healthcare reform in Massachusetts. Gingrich is a loose cannon, even worse than in the 90’s. And recently, he’s been sounding like Michael Moore. Perry is a buffoon who evokes bad memories of George W. Bush. And Santorum is unknown. Not enough money or stamina for national competition.”

Chairman Priebus was unashamedly direct. “Umm… not exactly what I would have observed, but close enough to the mark.”

I grabbed my notebook again. “Isn’t that a bit harsh?”

Silence filled the room.

“Let’s be honest,” Priebus asked. “Will any of you be supporting one of these candidates in the fall?”

Mack snorted like a defiant bull. “I’m voting for President Obama! Again!”

“Sorry,” I replied after a pause. “It’s the Libertarian ticket for me.”

Carrie tugged at the brim of her red hat. “Well honestly, I haven’t made up my mind… though I like Senator Santorum.”

“Indeed,” Priebus responded. “A recent Fox News poll said that seventy-five percent of primary voters are still undecided. Even after Sarah Palin came out with an endorsement of Speaker Gingrich. It is obvious that the game has not yet been won.”

Mack celebrated like an athlete. “Your best candidates are sitting on the sidelines, like Governor Christie of New Jersey. Meanwhile, our friends in the ‘Occupy’ movement will tear Romney apart. It’ll be a slam-dunk for the president!”

Chairman Priebus looked tired. “That is why we need you, Mrs. Hamglaze.”

Rhonda cheered from her counter. “Yayyy Carrie! Hamglaze in 2012!”

I scribbled in my notebook. “What an incredible story. I could write about this for months. Maybe even publish another book.”

Mack grinned with sarcasm. “There’s no doubt that you could talk your way through a national debate, Carrie. Your mouth never stops moving.”

“Shut up, Pringle!” She hissed.

“That’s P-R-I-N-D-L!” he growled, forcefully.

Priebus stood up, suddenly. “Please say that you will consider my invitation seriously. I need your help, Mrs. Hamglaze. The Republican Party needs you. America needs you!”

Rhonda bounced up and down. “Carrie! Carrie! Carrie!”

Postscript: I woke up around midnight. The computer had slipped into standby mode. My coffee was chilly. Last week’s issue of the Maple Leaf waited on the desk. But I wanted to slumber just a moment more, to discover – would Carrie run for the nation’s highest office, or not?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

“Geauga in Print: Part Five”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

A look through the time tunnel – that is the experience yielded by researching the vast library of online newspaper archives. Echoes of yesterday linger in these yellowed pages of print. Yet strangely, some of the local stories contained therein seem to touch on issues still very much in the minds of modern-day Geauga County residents.

What follows here are a few examples:

Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 22, 1963

“CHARDON, Ohio – A 39-year-old former high school teacher, who stepped on an American flag in a classroom demonstration, has been acquitted of charges of defiling the flag. A Geauga County Common Pleas jury deliberated the fate of Arlie McCartt for an hour before rendering a verdict Friday night. Judge Robert B. Ford had specified that malicious intent to desecrate the flag must be shown for a conviction under the law. Several witnesses testified McCartt pulled the flag off its stand, stepped on it and said: ‘If I had done this during the Spanish-American war, I might have been shot.”

Painesville Telegraph, Nov. 11, 1938

“Ministers of Lake and Geauga counties and their wives met at Disciple Christian church, Chardon, Thursday to attend the peace meeting which is one of the many meetings being sponsored by the state federation of churches throughout the counties in Ohio. The Rev. F. Howard Callahan of Akron, representing the state federation, spoke on ‘Peace’ and urged the ministers to organize groups and meetings in an effort to stir up interest in the peace movement. The Rev. Mr. Callahan is one of the 18 prominent Ohio clergymen who are giving their time to assist in carrying the peace message to the ministers in the state. By this program, people are encouraged to read and study the international problems of the world today, in order to command for themselves a better understanding of the world situation. Through the peace program that is being carried out now, it is hoped to enlist more than 3,000 ministers in the holding of peace forums in local churches. The Rev. William B. Robinson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Painesville, president of the association of Lake and Geauga counties, conducted the meeting. Luncheon was served to the 30 ministers and their wives who attended the meeting.”

Youngstown Vindicator, April 4, 1901

“Chardon, Ohio – A gang of half a dozen robbers, early today, blew open the safe of the Citizens’ Savings bank here, and after a desperate fight with Night Watchman Pomeroy and a citizen, succeeded in making their escape. It is believed the robbers secured less than $200. The night watchman discovered the men at work in the bank. He was seized, bound and gagged, but not until he had shot one of the burglars. Dr. Hudson, who lives near the bank, was aroused by the noise and came to the scene. He was also seized and tied, hand and foot. It required three big charges of dynamite to blow the safe door off. After completing their work, the robbers left town on a handcar. Early today, two men were arrested at Willoughby upon the charge of being members of the gang which robbed the Chardon bank. The robbers only succeeded in gaining entrance to one compartment of the big safe. In another part, which was not reached, it is said nearly $50,000 was stored. Pomeroy, the night watchman, is badly used up. After he shot one of the burglars he was unmercifully clubbed over the head. After being bound and gagged the watchman was dragged into the bank. He lay there a witness to all the operations. At each explosion, the robbers retired to places of safety. Pomeroy lay in an exposed place and no attention was paid to him except that one of the robbers, whose arm had evidently been broken by the shot from the night watchman’s revolver, occasionally gave him a kick in the ribs as he passed. The robbers were a long time getting into the vault. They gathered up the loose coins lying about and then went at the strong box. They exploded several charges but could not force it. After an investigation today Cashier Smith made this statement concerning the booty secured by the cracksmen: ‘The robbers got $125 in gold, $20,000 in certificates held against the bank by individuals and $25,000 or $30,000 worth of mortgages and other securities belonging to individuals. None of the paper taken is negotiable. There was $30,000 in currency in an inner vault which they did not get. The books and records of the bank were not disturbed.’ A posse of citizens is scouring the surrounding country for the robbers. It is believed that some coins in possession of the two men arrested at Willoughby are a part of those taken from the bank. The men also had several sticks of dynamite in their pockets.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

“Knee Go Boom: Part Four”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to readers: What follows here is the latest installment of my journey through personal injury and rehabilitation, more than two years after the fact.

In May of 2009, I suffered a torn meniscus in my right knee, while working at a Geauga County drugstore. The episode inspired three columns for this newspaper which carried a cryptic title. It paraphrased a famous sketch by radio outlaw Phil Hendrie. Readers were puzzled at first. But soon enough, the message became clear.

I had entered a new world of limited mobility, and expanded journalistic inspiration.

The orthopedic specialist who provided care for my affliction surmised that it was the result of many years spent kneeling on concrete floors. His treatment included surgery, and a strong admonition: “Lose weight and avoid working in that industry. Or I predict that you will require a total knee replacement in three to five years!”

I accepted his advice as gospel truth. Yet fate intervened in ways that were impossible to overcome.

First, though I managed to shed fifty pounds, a genetic tendency to be large by nature continued. Generations of my family had fought the same battle, and lost. God had not intended us to be skinny. Our fate was clear.

Second, a chaotic period resulted when I tried to work as a full-time author and journalist. My books sold poorly. And a position as Sports Editor in another county failed to pay enough to support the family.

The result was that I reentered the world of retail management a few months after my knee had been repaired. With gratitude, I resumed familiar duties on the salesfloor of a local supermarket.

And for a brief period, life seemed to regain its natural balance.

But in December, a frightening realization appeared. I could not walk from my bed to the bathroom without leaning on pieces of furniture situated along the way. Soon afterward, I bought a used cane at a Salvation Army store in the area.

My return to the realm of hobbling souls was complete.

Morning and night proved the most difficult to navigate. At those times of the day, arthritis made any kind of movement difficult. In between, I managed to get through my work routine unassisted.

Still, I wondered about the future. How long could this dance around disability last?
The New Year brought a reprieve of sorts. There was extra time off to recuperate. Things looked better as January arrived.

Then, I began to ponder about famous characters who had used a cane or walking stick. Most obvious was television icon Dr. Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie. But soon, I had compiled a list of many others, both real and imaginary:

Jack White
Snoop Dogg
David Beckham
John Steed (Avengers)
Art Carney
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Ulysses S. Grant
Pope John Paul II
Oscar Wilde
George Bernard Shaw
Sherlock Holmes
Queen Victoria
Brigham Young
Lord Byron

Further research about canes revealed that they were crafted in days of yore to include retractable maps, fans, glove holders, tobacco lighters, whiskey flasks, umbrellas, golf clubs, violins, rulers, surgical gadgets and even onboard firearms.
After reading about these sophisticated devices, my own seemed plain by comparison.
The cane I bought was an Invacare model, number 1048112. Designed with a cam-lever and snap buttons, it offered a range of height adjustment that was perfect for daily use. This implement carried a tubular metal body, with hospital-grade rubber for the handle and tip. It supported my weight dutifully.

A bargain at the price of $3.99.

Still, the thought of having a Remington model that could shoot bullets in self-defense seemed more daring, if not quite so sensible.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

“Christmas, Returned”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is an intensely personal post-holiday reflection. I offer thanks for your indulgence.

Those who follow this column regularly will remember that I first came to Geauga County in late 1983, after living in New York. As a native of Ohio, my return offered a chance to cast aside self-destructive habits and begin anew.

With a ten-dollar typewriter and little else, I took up residence on Maple Avenue, in Chardon. Before long, the passion for creative writing had me once again chasing personal dreams. I wrote stories for a motorcycle magazine in California, and archived Rock & Roll demos on a cheap cassette recorder. Neither of these pursuits yielded much gainful income. Yet I kept busy, in part, because of the inspiration provided by one iconoclastic friend from the Empire State.

His name was Paul Race.

I first met him in 1979, while serving a television apprenticeship at Channel 13 in Ithaca. The opportunity was provided through Cornell University. Even then, Paul was a human relic. A veteran of the local music scene who had risen to prominence in a Ventures-style, instrumental combo called ‘The Savoys.’

Paul grew in artistic stature as did his generation, against a backdrop of Vietnam conflict, social unrest, and economic stagnation. He spanned the divide from Beat Era poets to Hippie philosophers, and beyond.

When we connected, ‘Punk Rock’ had exploded across Europe and America. Unlike many in his age group, he accepted this rebellious uprising as another honest manifestation of pure Rock mojo. I loved him as a brother because of his unlimited artistic vision.

In December of that year, I sent Paul a Christmas card adorned with scribbled words, crude artwork, stickers, Band-Aids and a safety pin.

It was the start of a tradition that continued from those days of yore, until the modern era.

With each passing year, I tried to think of something unique for his card. Once, this meant including a cigarette butt inside my holiday greeting. On another occasion, I added price labels from Fisher’s Big Wheel. And a curled guitar string.
These Yuletide mailings continued, despite unemployment, relocation, and divorce. But a couple of weeks ago, the happy tradition ended abruptly.

In my mailbox, Paul’s last card rudely reappeared.

It was marked ‘undeliverable’ because a Post Office forwarding order had expired.
I last saw Paul in 2006. He had taken up residence at his childhood home in Riverside, New York, a suburb of Corning.

My friend owned a house outside of town. And, the dwelling where he was raised. Plus, two adjacent lots. His collection of books, records, guitars, artwork, furnishings and cultural ephemera was considerable.

Yet suddenly, I was confronted with the returned Christmas card – and an address for a trailer park west of Binghamton.

Shock made my skin tingle. Had he lost everything?

I remembered that Paul spoke about being hospitalized, with heart issues, when I visited last. He was gray, overweight, and unkempt. Boxes of vinyl albums sat on his front porch. Spiderman toys hung from an overgrown tree in the yard. An eerie portrait of President Nixon hung in his living room window.

I took a photo of him on the porch, which later found use as a dedication in my Thoughts At Large collection.

Because he had been an enduring figure for so long, I hadn’t considered that somehow, life might overwhelm his ability to survive.

But now, holding the rejected card, it seemed possible.

While neighbors, family members and friends sang holiday carols, I could think of only one thing – a question delivered with no answer. A gift, not from Santa Claus but from the Riddler, himself.

What had happened to Paul?

I contacted friends via the Internet, who remembered this unusual fellow, and his colorful ex-wife. Predictably, none of them knew anything. Their puzzlement matched my own.

A cyberspace search produced listings for his home in Riverside. And an aerial photograph that matched my recollections from five years ago.

More investigation uncovered a street view of the park listed as his current home. Yet nothing else.

I was dumbfounded. Had he been unable to reach out, as circumstances took hold? Did he go bankrupt? Have to sell all his worldly possessions? Or simply fall prey to health woes associated with nearing the age of 70?

The possibilities had me struggling to regain balance. Even from my home in Geauga County, I felt the cosmic ripples caused by his sudden absence.

After a thoughtful pause, I revised the address on my card, and mailed it a second time. Included were stream-of-consciousness ramblings about the incident. “Call me!” I wrote. “E-mail me!” I knew he didn’t have a telephone or computer. Paranoia often kept him from answering his front door. Or subscribing to accepted norms of identification. But it didn’t matter.

One way or another, I had to know what had happened.

Postscript: Paul and I both appeared numerous times on Channel 13, in Ithaca, New York. We were also together in a band called “Rod Ice and Absolute Zero” with Tommy Hilfiger’s younger brother, Andy, who now directs the ‘Andrew Charles’ line of Rock-inspired clothing.

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Monday, January 02, 2012

“Christmas Caller”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Not everything that follows here is literally true. Some of this may have been produced by too much holiday fudge or an abundance of Christmas ale. Do not be alarmed. Happy Holidays to you!

It was a slow day in the Icehouse home office.

Because Christmas was so near, I had become completely sidetracked by the season. Finishing any of the writing projects that lay on my desk seemed impossible. Bright sunshine reflecting off the snow outside didn’t help. More than anything, I wanted to adjourn to the kitchen for a glass of eggnog.

Riley and Quigley, my Black Lab and Pomeranian duo, were in the doorway. They slumbered while I sorted through the mess.

Suddenly, my telephone rang. The jingle it made had me jumping out of my chair.

“Hello?” I said.

A cheerful voice filled my ear. “Hey, Dad! Merry Christmas, old man!”

I was stunned.

“Hello?” he said, after a brief pause. “Are you there?”

My son hadn’t called since he was transferred to New York.

“Dad,” he laughed. “It’s me. Woody.”

Finally, a reply came to my lips. “Do you know how long it’s been since you called?”

He was perturbed. “C’mon, it’s Christmas. No complaining for the holidays.”

“What, has it been a year?” I wondered out loud. “Or two?”

“No complaining for Christmas!” he insisted.

“Two years?” I asked. “Or three?”

“Okay Dad, it has been twenty-seven months,” he admitted. “But can’t you wish me a Merry Christmas?”

My face reddened. “What I wish is that you remembered my phone number.”

“I’ve been busy,” he explained. “Tops promoted me to Regional Manager last year. I have been working to improve the stores in my zone. Right now I’m in Meadville, Pennsylvania, trying to solve issues with the staff.”

“Tops?” I said with amazement. “They closed up a long time ago.”

“No, Dad,” he disagreed. “Just in Ohio.”

“Nonsense!” I protested. “You’re out of work again, right? Is that why you called? Need a few extra bucks to get through the holiday season?”

My cell-phone chirped. A picture message had arrived.

It was a photo of the Meadville store.

“Look at the pic, Dad.” He said.

“Okay,” I observed. “You’re a chip off the old cube. Retail is in our blood.”

“Or as you used to say,” he remembered, “the cube doesn’t fall far from the tray.”

I chuckled to myself. “Yeah, that’s right. A sense of humor is necessary with a family name like ours.”

“So, you’re still writing for the Maple Leaf?” he interjected.

“That’s right,” I answered. “Almost fourteen years now.”

“And have you talked to Mom lately?” he asked.

“Woody Hayes Ice!” I shouted. “That’s a stupid question.”

“Sorry, Dad,” he apologized.

“We aren’t exactly best friends,” I admitted. “But I suppose that was to be expected. Career pressure never helps a marriage. I worked a lot when you were a kid. Once, I pulled a twenty-eight hour shift at Fisher’s Big Wheel.”

“Was that even legal?” he huffed.

“No,” I smiled. “A violation of company work rules, I’m sure. But I did it anyway. We were in the midst of wild holiday business. Had to get things done.”

“I understand,” he said. “Tops can be brutal at times. Every promotion means more work. Which leaves less family time in the balance.”

A silent pause filled the air.

“So, are you seeing your mom for Christmas?” I said at last.

“Yes,” he answered in a whisper. “Lisa and I are spending the holiday with her, in Cleveland.”

I felt a rock settle in my stomach.

“Well, it’s nice that you could call,” I observed. “Talk to you in another twenty-seven months…”

“Dad, wait!” he insisted. “We were thinking about stopping to visit. Lisa has never been to Geauga County. I wanted to give her the grand tour.”

I took a deep breath. “You want to come… here?”

“I want Lisa to see what it’s like at home,” he reflected. “Snow on the Chardon Square. A stop for Christmas chatter at Paula’s tree stand. Seasonal poems at the library. Maybe even an Irish supper with Carrie Hamglaze. All the things I remember.”

My mood softened. “Woody, you are always welcome here. Even after twenty-seven months.”

“No complaining for Christmas!” he yowled.

Another moment of emptiness elapsed.

“Okay,” I said after collecting my thoughts. “Come home when you can. I’ll make sure your wife gets the full measure of a Geauga County holiday season.”

“Thanks Dad,” he laughed. “I love you.”

The phone clicked loudly in my ear.

Without warning, an overpowering burst of quiet took hold. My computer hummed to itself. Nearby, Riley and Quigley were snoring out canine dreams, together.

I bowed my head with a silent wish:

“Merry Christmas, Woody.”

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