Friday, March 30, 2012


c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

A writers’ legend says that Philip K. Dick, the noted science fiction author, had numerous rejection slips pasted on the walls above his desk. This odd display helped him maintain a sense of focus, even after much success as a creative wordsmith.

At the Icehouse home office, a similar tradition has been in place for the past thirty years. Since this odyssey began on a Royal KMM typewriter, I have dutifully saved each rejected manuscript, and note, in a special drawer of unsuccessful projects for future review.

Most letters of rejection offer time-honored excuses. They doom a manuscript because of space limitations and editorial policies:

Easyriders, 1982

“We’re sorry to have to return your submission, as it does not fit our needs at this time. Each article, cartoon, illustration, photograph, and poem is reviewed by the entire editorial board, and careful consideration was given to your work. We wish we had room to use all submissions, but we don’t and that fact dictates our turning down a lot of good material simply because we don’t have room for it. Thank you for thinking of Easyriders – feel free to make additional submissions at any time.”

Boy Scouts of America, 1988

“Thank you for sending your submission. Unfortunately, it does not fit our editorial needs at this time. The large volume of submissions we receive each week prevents us from providing you with more specific criticism. We wish you the very best in placing it elsewhere. Again, our appreciation for thinking of Boys’ Life.”

Sometimes, an editor will choose to reject material with an unusual burst of candor:

Outlaw Biker, 1995

“Enclosed, please find the materials you recently sent to our magazine. We’ve got flix and stories coming out of our ears right now, so we’re returning your submission. We are also in the process of trying to find an editor. We appreciate your interest and hope you’ll think of us again in the future. But kindly include a self-addressed stamped envelope in the future if you want your materials returned. If you did so, please forgive us. (Please re-submit or send new material in about 6 months. We should have an editor by then.) Once again, thanks for your interest and support.”

Iron Horse, 1997

“Sorry, Rod. Try Outlaw Bike(r), they get off on this stuff.”

Or, a publication will simply close the door in a writer’s face:

The Saturday Evening Post, 1998

“Thank you for submitting material to the Saturday Evening Post. We regret that we are unable to develop it for publication at this time… We wish you success in your writing endeavors.”

Syracuse New Times, 1998

“Thank you for your recent submission to the New Times. I’m afraid will have to pass… but I’ve enclosed a copy of our free-lance guidelines for your review.”

Sometimes, they engage in sheer self-congratulation while rejecting a manuscript:

GRIT, 1998

“Thanks for sharing your short story with me. I’ve learned that GRIT contributors have wonderful, imaginative and compelling stories to tell. Unfortunately, space limitations, the interests of our readers and the large volume of articles offered often force me to return good work. I appreciate the confidence you showed in GRIT by submitting your story. Our readers are our most successful contributors. You continue to make GRIT a publication that conveys the best of American life and traditions.”

But generally speaking, publishers and editors refuse submissions while leaving the mailbox open for future ideas:

Unity Magazine, 1998

“Thank you for allowing us to consider your writing for publication. We would love to be able to publish so many of the hundreds of submissions we receive each month. We feel richly blessed that so many talented writers like yourself have chosen to share their work with Unity Magazine. Although we do not have a place for the poetry that you enclosed, we all enjoyed reading your writing very much. I look forward to you continuing to send your work for consideration. Again, thanks for remembering us.”

The Salvation Army War Cry, 1998

“Although your article was interesting, it was not among our selections for publication. The War Cry thanks you for your submission and welcomes them in the future. God bless you!”

On rare occasions, a rejection letter becomes personal, offering advice and careful direction to the writer:

Easyriders, 1998

“Rod, thanks for your submission. (It) was well-written, but in general, Easyriders fiction runs between 3500-4000 words. If you want to lengthen your story and re-submit it, please do… Your command of writing and the construction of your ideas works well.”

Still, the most entertaining rejections come when an editor simply can’t avoid engaging in wordsmithing excess. These letters say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ with lots of bogus creative energy:

Ten Speed Press, 2007

“Thank you for your submission to Ten Speed Press. In a perfect world, we would be able to publish all worthy projects that come our way. We wish we could respond to everyone with a personal note, but the heavy volume of submissions we receive makes it impossible to do so. Be assured that your proposal was given careful personal consideration. When a manuscript is sent back, it often has nothing to do with the merit of the idea or quality of the writing. As a rule, we do not publish fiction, or poetry, or personal memoirs. Sometimes an idea is ahead of its time and sometimes there are already too many books on the subject. Your project may be too similar to something we are doing or something we have just done. Often we would love to proceed but we are unable to put together an effective marketing plan, and occasionally, we are just not the right house to publish your work. Thanks again for thinking of Ten Speed, and best of luck in placing your manuscript.”

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Monday, March 26, 2012

JUNKYARD EXPLORER: Closed Conneaut Giant Eagle

The Conneaut Giant Eagle store apparently began life as a Fazio's, in the 1970's. One of my co-workers at Rini-Rego Supermarkets remembered being sent there (far away from Cleveland) as punishment. Years later, the business was owned by Jerry Mortimer. Its closing remains something of a mystery. The location (right off of I-90 at Route 7) would appear to be ideal for a store in Ohio's northeastern corner. Various plans have developed to place another grocer in the space, but none have been successful. So the empty shell sits quietly... waiting for someone to revive its past glory.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

JUNKYARD EXPLORER: Closed Big Wheel, Conneaut, Ohio

Fisher's Big Wheel was a department store chain based in Newcastle, Pennsylvania. I worked for them from 1984-1986, in Chardon. Eventually, the company faded, finally going out of business in 1994. But the Conneaut building remains - being used now as a storage facility for the Sav-A-Lot located next door.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Geauga in Print: Part Seven”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Looking through the vast reserve of newspaper archives available online is an exciting experience. One might correctly surmise that much has been written about notable localities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. Yet a considerable amount of newsprint has also been devoted to our own corner of the world – Geauga County, USA.

What follows here are selections from that archival pool of typesetter’s ink:

Youngstown Vindicator, March 7, 1942

Chardon – This Maple Sugar Capital expects to keep Ohio’s wartime diet sweet. To supplement the sugar supply soon to be rationed, more maple sap will be converted into sugar than in previous years, farmers indicated today. Housewives have started to experiment with new recipes using maple sugar for sweetening. Thus Geauga County is getting ready to cash in on Ohio Agriculture Director John T. Brown’s suggestion that maple tree owners make as much sugar as possible this year. Brown reported today that a labor shortage threatened to keep many sugar camps closed, but Geauga County farmers will make an effort to keep producing. Of an estimated 2,000,000 maple trees in the state, only 814,000 are tapped for sap and 285,000 of these are in Geauga, it is said. Portage County is the state’s second largest producer of maple syrup with 26,000 gallons a year. Ashtabula and Medina each produce about 18,500 gallons and Trumbull County about 15,000.

The Miami News, September 8, 1933

CHARDON, Ohio – Consider the plight of Chesterland township – it has so much money it doesn’t know what to do. This month the township’s treasury will receive $171,000 as the second payment of its share of inheritance tax from the estate of the late Walter White, who was killed in an automobile accident nearly two years ago. His Circle-W farm lies within the township. The first payment of $202,000 has been spent for new roads, a fine new school building, the payment of village debts and relief for the poor. Chesterland township faces the winter with $7,000 available for road work, township debts of $20,000, an indebtedness of $60,000 on the school, and only 10 or 12 families on the relief list – but there will be $171,000 in the treasury. What to do? “We’ll put the money in the bank until we find out,” says Mark La Moreaux, township trustee. “Most of our roads are paved. If possible we will use some of the money to pay off the school debt, if we can legally divert it from the road fund, where tax money must go first. Also, we may be able to help some of the other townships in the county.”

The Miami News, August 15, 1929

CLEVELAND – Giving way to the Geauga County Law Enforcement league’s campaign against contribution betting, officials of the Bainbridge Park track today canceled the remainder of a 25-day meeting scheduled to close Saturday and opened a drive to obtain a court ruling upholding the legality of their wagering system. Thomas McGinty, chief owner, made the announcement after conferences with the Rev. Warren Bechtold, president of the league, and his attorneys. McGinty and three track employees are at liberty on bond for appearance in justice court Sep. 3rd on gambling charges. He said efforts would be made to hasten the trial and push it into a higher court for a ruling on the legality of contribution betting. Wagers under the system are accepted as “contributions” toward financing the races.

The Telegraph-Republican, May 22, 1911

Makes rapid headway – Add this fact to your store of knowledge. Kidney disease advances so rapidly that many a person is firmly in its grasp before aware of its progress. Prompt attention should be given the slightest symptom of kidney disorder. If there is a dull pain, in the back, headaches, dizzy spells or a tired, worn-out feeling, or if the urine is offensive, irregular and attended with pain, procure a good kidney remedy at once. Thousands recommend Doan’s Kidney Pills. Read the statement below. George W. Throup of Chardon, Ohio, says: “Long drives over country roads affected my kidneys and for several years they troubled me greatly. About three years ago I was advised to use Doan’s Kidney Pills and I accordingly procured a box. They gave me great relief from pains in my back and after taking them, the kidney secretions became natural and free from sediment. My wife told of my experience in a public statement given in June 1906, and at this time I gladly confirm all that was then said regarding Doan’s Kidney Pills. I know that this remedy is a reliable one for kidney complaint.” For sale by all dealers. Price, 50 cents. Foster-Millburn Co., Buffalo, New York, sole agents for the United States. Remember the name - Doan’s – and take no other.

The New York Times, September 21, 1910

CLEVELAND, Ohio – John D. Rockefeller has established a free auto service in Chardon, a pretty little village in Geauga County, which he visits at least once a week when he is at his Summer home, Forest Hill. But his passengers are limited to children. Several times during the Summer he has gathered the little folks in Chardon streets and taken them across the country in his big touring car. To-day the Rockefeller auto was waiting near the schoolhouse when the pupils came out, and Mr. Rockefeller stopped a bevy of girls to ask the whereabouts of some little folks he had taken home a few days ago. Unable to find those he wanted, he said to his chauffeur: “Suppose we take all of them.” In a moment the car was packed to the running guards and the order given to take the children to their various homes. For a half hour Mr. Rockefeller enjoyed himself by driving around the neighborhood delivering the youngsters to their parents.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Trucker's Chapel, Harborcreek, PA

The Trucker's Chapel is located off of I-90 at the Harborcreek TA Travelcenter. It is the kind of place where faith can be exercised with purity and realism. Tired of big-money religious zealots? You won't find them here. This is a humble, blue-collar, house-of-God worth visiting for those seeking inspiration:

Travel Centers of America TA
I-90 Exit 35 (814) 899-1919
Harborcreek, Pennsylvania (Erie)
Worship Services: 9:00 AM in TV Room
Sponsored by: Harborcreek Baptist Church
Chaplain Bill Shuey

The Beef & Beer, Conneaut, Ohio

Trips to Conneaut haven't been frequent in the Ice Household. I visited this northeastern outpost as an employee of Fisher's Big Wheel in the 1980's, and later, as a Giant Eagle manager in the 90's. Finally, I roamed around Conneaut while working for Gazette Newspapers in 2007. But today, I discovered a restaurant tucked away on a hillside opposite the Kmart Plaza off of Interstate 90... the "Beef & Beer."

Though my cellphone pics were less-than-fantastic, they captured a dining venue that worthy of mention. Looking for old-school, blue-collar eats? You found it right here.

Friday, March 16, 2012


c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Fourteen years have passed since ‘Thoughts At Large’ first entered the lexicon of Geauga County. Thanks to patient support from this newspaper, the series has endured and evolved from its humble beginning as a personal reflection on everyday habits. But while the debt of gratitude owed to this journal might be obvious, another figure has helped inspire the column, indirectly – Mike Trivisonno.

His name is well known to radio fans across thirty-eight states, and half of Canada. He is authentically larger than life, with a tenth-grade education and lots of street smarts, for good measure. His bread-and-butter is promoting verbal conflict, on-the-air. No one ever accused him of being overly sensitive.

He is WTAM’s flagship personality.

What follows here is a short reflection on his fame as a genuine Cleveland hero. I offer it with gratitude, and respect.

ANTI-HERO? (May, 2008)

He is huge.

There's no escaping that first impression. Trivisonno is a bombastic, overgrown oaf in sunglasses and attire rescued from the laundry hamper for a second go-round at being worn in public.

He is loud and uncooperative. His rants about Program Director Ray Davis are the stuff of legend. But everyone in Cleveland knows that he is an unrepentant foot soldier for the everyman.

In reference to fans: he is glad to have 'gotten over' in an industry dominated by chaos, and marketing bullcrap. Triv invites lesser on-air celebrities to eat his dust.

In reference to detractors: he knows you don't like him. He doesn't care. He suspects that you are jealous of his success as a blue-collar hero. That validates his considerable ego. Trivisonno is Joe Six Pack with a winning lottery ticket. Short on pedigree, long on savvy. His personality is a bi-polar dance between exuberance and scorn. Yet he remains pure, like rough-hewn lumber or forged steel.

Triv doesn't just speak for us - he IS one of us.

We are Cleveland. We are cranky, under-appreciated, overworked, wrinkled blobs of humanity. We distrust government, but cling to the flag and our bibles. We drink, smoke, and gamble while we pray - not always in church, but religiously in front of the television. We pray for an elusive sports championship in football, baseball, or basketball. We pray for hope amid construction, neglect, and mismanagement.

Triv is our mouthpiece. He says what we'd like to say. He offends those we'd like to offend. He offends even those on his side of an argument. But it's all part of the formula. It works.

I met Trivisonno in Painesville, in the 90's. He was an unmistakable figure: long, shaggy hair, pro-wrestler sunglasses, a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned to his belly, wrinkled beach shorts, and sandals. We shook hands after I pretended to know him. It was a close encounter with lightning-in-a-bottle. His personality seemed authentic, captivating, and proletarian.

In my own mind, the legend became flesh-and-blood on that day.

We met again a decade later, during a station tour provided by Monsieur Davis. Triv was surrounded by his troupe of radio performers. Marty Allen, Paul Rado, and Alison. Mark Schwab popped up in a sound booth, going over a sports report. The air crackled with improvisational magic.

Is Triv an example of success through smoke-and-mirrors? Maybe. Or perhaps he wants you to believe in the miracle of a guy from the street gettin' paid. The truth? He works hard to assemble each show. His contacts around the Northcoast are many. It may look easy, but YOU couldn't replicate his success.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Believe what you want. Just keep listening.

Postscript: Triv has survived everything - even losing sports teams, and the revision of his supporting cast. In an industry where heroes fall on their swords and ratings numbers are fickle, he continues to win. In a sense, he gives listeners the Superbowl, NBA Championship and World Series experiences that we have never known. Each moment before the microphone is a victory lap for him, and for the everyday people of northeastern Ohio.

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“Reflections On A Monday Morning”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The tragic events at Chardon High School literally shook this community to its foundation. Yet as the world looked on, we came together with a single purpose - to begin the process of healing.

Churches opened to receive those who would kneel in prayer. There were candlelight vigils. And memorials set up both at the school, and on the Chardon square.
But for this writer, a different methodology seemed appropriate.

Healing words were what I sought.

A call went out to family and friends, across the Internet. I asked for real-time thoughts about what had transpired.

First to respond was a friend from my days at Kresse’s Bi-Rite, a supermarket that once operated in Chardon Plaza.

She had joined the crew while still in school. Years later, she remains a Chardon resident, raising her sons in Geauga’s capitol city.

What follows here is her own ‘first take’ on the Monday we will never forget:

Cheryl Kelly, CHS Class of 1988

You kiss your children goodbye…send them out the door…drop them off…watch them ride away in that bus taking them to the one place on this earth that you trust completely to take care of them when they are not with you…school.

In one day…one morning…one hour…one second…everything changes. Your trust is violated…and the one thing you hold dearest to you…your child…is unsafe.

You watch it unfold…hear the sounds…see the fear…and you almost can’t believe it’s true. Surely this cannot be happening in your home town…to your community, to your children.

Fear grips you…you just can’t get to your child quick enough…and that feeling of powerlessness washes over you as you wait…and worry…and hope…and pray like you never have before in your life that your child comes home to you…safe…unharmed.

Moments seem like years and you watch people around you…people you know…people you have had in your life for years…your friends…your coworkers…your neighbors…your family. You see it…the fear…the unmistakable panic in their eyes and you know it, because you feel it too. Where is my son…where is my daughter…is he safe…did she get hurt?

You start thinking…did I tell him I loved him this morning? Did I argue with her over what she was wearing? Is he afraid? Is she hiding? Is anyone watching over or taking care of my most precious possession?

You get the news in bits and pieces…one student shooting…five students hurt…schools on lockdown…emergency personnel on site...students getting evacuated…and you still don’t know about your child…your son…your daughter.

When you arrive at the school you see things you have never seen before in your small town. News media everywhere…cameras…reporters…ambulances…police cars from every location…helicopters in the air…swat teams dressed in black. All things except the one thing you want to see…your child.

You wait patiently as they release children…one hour, two hours…and then you see him…coming around the corner…in one piece and with a look of worry and confusion on his young face.

You grab him with everything you are…and you hold him close and take him home never wanting to let go.

You watch the nightmare continue on the screen…details come out that you were so hoping you would not hear…there are deaths. How can this be happening?

The gunman is apprehended…quietly. Children are returned to their parents…but not all of them get to go home. Your thoughts immediately go to those parents…your heart aches for them. They sent their child to school and they never came home…their lives ended before they ever got a chance to begin…you can’t begin to imagine what that feels like and you cry for them…

So incredibly senseless…so incredibly overwhelming…and the questions keep coming. Why did this happen…how did this happen?

Communities come together…neighbors…strangers…flock to one another in a show of support…a show of love…knowing that this could have easily been their child…their life that was changed forever…

The damage will remain forever…our small town changed forever…our children affected forever.

Postscript: I can only add a single thought to this piece. “We have one heartbeat, forever.”

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Support for Chardon

Prayers and thoughts have come from all over the area after the tragic shootings at Chardon High School. Here are two examples of the outpouring of love we have seen here in northeastern Ohio:

(Above) At Margie's Restaurant in Geneva

(Above) At Harvey High School in Painesville

Thursday, March 01, 2012

“Words and Innocence, Lost”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a purely personal reflection. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone at Chardon High School and their families.

Words are hard currency for a writer. Like bricks and mortar for a builder, or asphalt for those on a road crew. They are the clay from which we form useful thoughts and expressions. The paint for our canvas. The tones that comprise a melody to be sung.

But when words fail a journalist, emptiness is the result.

Such a moment arrived on Monday, February 27th, as I pondered the tragic events at Chardon High School.

My day began with an altered routine. Instead of work, I had a doctor visit scheduled in Madison. Coffee fueled a determination not to be late. Innocuous news and chatter echoed from the radio. Then, Cleveland morning host Bill Wills read a report of shots being fired in Geauga County.

Suddenly, the greater timeline was broken.

I sent a text message to my sister - the first concern being for Steven, her youngest son who is a student at CHS. And for his fellow classmates. Then, as an afterthought, I posted a status update on Facebook:

“WTAM 1100 just reported gunfire at Chardon High School. What???”

Becka offered a brief reply. A SWAT team was at the school. Everything had been locked down. She turned to WKYC-3 for live coverage. I did the same, but then left the television running as a last sip of coffee disappeared. It was time to be on the road. My doctor was waiting. Outside, it was a sunny day. That seemed unmercifully ironic.

The medical appointment proved to be a nearly pointless exercise. I was completely distracted. We discussed safety issues in school more than health concerns. Afterward, I headed directly to Chardon.

I contacted my sister again. What about Steven?

She said he was working at Hillcrest Hospital, as part of his school duties. Two of the students were brought directly there, from Chardon. Three others had been taken by life-flight to Metro in Cleveland.

Helicopters buzzed over the city. There were emergency vehicles and communications vans everywhere.

I parked a short distance from the school, and checked for updates on the Internet. The Maple Leaf had information provided in real time, through cyberspace. Everyone around me seemed to be on their phone:

“(I have) stayed on Facebook and Twitter via my cell phone all morning - and the news was out there, way ahead of the traditional media. This is a different world.”

Much had been written about the use of social networking during events like the Egyptian uprising centered in Tahrir Square. Or the tsunami in Japan. But witnessing this unruly data stream first hand created a surreal experience. It didn’t seem possible. Not here. Not in Chardon.

“It's different when something like this happens right at home. When the names and faces are those of your family and friends and neighbors. All of a sudden, there is no escape. Turning off the TV or radio doesn't make it go away.”

By nightfall, the Chardon Square was packed. Prayers were being offered up at the Assembly of God, and at churches all around the city.

I surrendered at last, returning home to Thompson after a long day. My eyes were growing heavy. It was time to log off for the night:

“I lived on Maple Avenue in Chardon, in bygone days. Literally within walking distance of CHS. My first wife, brothers-in-law, and all the kids in our family went to school there. This is so devastating. Tonight, I am glad for this day to end.”

I closed my eyes while remembering a passage from the Christian Bible, in the book of Numbers, chapter 6. It was one I had heard at the end of church services here at home, many, many times:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

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