Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Saturday, October 20, 2012

“10,000 Hours”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Blame it on my cousin, Monica.

We had a shared love of Rock & Roll in common. The subject kept us trading messages through cyberspace, despite the fact that we were more than a decade apart in age.

She worshipped the ‘hair bands’ of the 1980’s. I had come of age listening to Dylan, the Stones and J. Geils.

Yet our faith in the music endured.

Years ago, she sent forwarded issues of the ‘Lefsetz Letter’ to explain how the industry was evolving due to the rise of new technologies. Her interest in his writing had come from being involved with radio broadcasting while attending college in the Dayton area. She felt that he understood this shifting paradigm like no one else.

Bob Lefsetz, I soon discovered, was an entertainment critic who passionately offered opinions about popular music and modern culture. In addition to discussing the decline of traditional record labels and physical-format recordings, he also spoke about skiing and youthful adventures while attending Middlebury College, in Vermont.

He held great disdain for old-school promoters and pundits who had controlled the industry with tight-fisted authority. Instead of trembling at the revisions taking place, this iconoclastic figure offered prophecy that was on target and insightful.

He remembered each vinyl release with the devotion of a true fan. But there was no reluctance in his heart to embrace the dawn. The new age gave him hope.

When he long ago predicted that Facebook would eclipse MySpace, I thought him to be reckless and reaching. But, with visionary zeal, he comprehended the transition that was about to occur. The notion of social networking had not yet come to fruition. Yet he saw what we missed.

He talked about Zuckerberg before any of the media bobbleheads had a clue about this young rebel’s importance. Later, I felt guilty for doubting his wisdom.

A favorite Lefsetz topic for his e-mail letters was the Malcolm Gladwell book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success.’ In particular, he promoted the idea contained therein that, to master any craft, one must invest 10,000 hours of study and practice.

Gladwell, who had written for the Washington Post and the New Yorker, based this rule of conduct on research by Swedish psychologist Dr. K. Anders Ericsson. As evidence of its credibility, he cited both the Beatles laboring away in Hamburg, Germany, and Bill Gates practicing programming on a high school computer.

Having heard Lefsetz repeat this mantra many times over, I began to wonder about my own creative odyssey. Did Thoughts At Large meet the 10,000-hours criteria? Or my three decades of freelance wordsmithing?

To quote former President Bill Clinton, A bit of arithmetic seemed in order.

The exact amount of time required to produce a newspaper project was something difficult to quantify. Yet it seemed safe to assume that I devoted at least one hour per day to professional writing.
One hour. Certainly, that was a lowball estimate. But, workable for the purpose of calculating my lifetime proposition.

One hour multiplied by seven days in a week, and then by the number of weeks in a year would form the basis for this calculation.

1 x 7 x 52 = 364.

My tenure with the Maple Leaf had lasted over fourteen years.

14 x 364 = 5096.

Using the same basis, thirty years of work would equal a great deal more.

364 x 30 = 10,920.

Of course, there were long periods when I wrote motorcycle features for McMullen Publications of California, or when I was Sports Editor for a paper in Ashtabula County, during which I invested far greater amounts of time than one hour per day. 

But the basic premise remained intact.

Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule appeared viable, even in my own humble experience.

Originally, I had entered the field of professional writers having been inspired by a bit of flawed logic - namely, that if I could sling ink for a grade in school, it followed logically that I could do the same for a paycheck.

Because I grew up in a family where creative writing was a habit contained in our DNA, this idea seemed undeniably correct. Scribbling words came naturally, like breathing or eating or walking.
After a few years of effort, I realized with regret that finding a dependable source of income through typing on a keyboard was a dubious pursuit.

But the lure of being published kept me chasing this personal dream.

My 10,000-hour odyssey had begun.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Visit us at: www.thoughtsatlarge.com


“Letters from the Campaign Trail, Revisited”

c. 2012 Rod Ice

All rights reserved


For a professional writer, the subject of politics offers an unending supply of inspiration. There is rarely a time where elected officials are quiet, or boring. By their very nature, they create headlines.

In the media, political battles resonate like sporting events. They involve conditioning, coaching, and strategic thinking. Victory is sweet, but short-lived. There is always another contest on the schedule.

Presidential elections offer the kind of drama one would associate with an NFL Superbowl or league championship. They elevate our political discourse to the extreme. Tapping into that energy can be useful, to inspire creative projects.

Four years ago, with no incumbents being involved, I decided to share my work with all the contestants for our nation’s highest offices. I sent a book to each candidate who was on the ballot.

It seemed like a reasonable gesture. Yet I couldn’t help wondering if my small contributions would be lost amid the swirl of important issues that gripped the country at that dramatic moment in time.

Ohio, of course, was ‘ground zero’ in this political contest. So I need not have worried.

When they came, the responses I received were intriguing:

Barack Obama (2008)

“Dear Rod, Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Your interest in my candidacy and participation in the electoral process is important to me and will help shape the future of the country. Since voting began earlier this year, the volume of mail we are receiving has exceeded all expectations. I have been impressed with the diversity and depth of the comments and questions I receive, most of which underscore the significant challenges the next president will face. And I have appreciated the candid observations about my campaign and policy positions… Some pundits, and my opponents, like to suggest that my two and a half years in the United States Senate are a liability for my campaign. Two and a half years may not be a long time, but I can assure you it is long enough to know that things in Washington must change. That is why I am running my campaign out of Chicago, not Washington, D.C., and concentrating on meeting with and listening to people who live outside of our nation’s capital. And that is why I believe… I will be best able to break the longstanding grip that vested interests and their lobbyists have had on the policy making process in Washington. I have been gratified by the amount of grassroots interest my campaign has generated. As I travel the country, my campaign headquarters is receiving thousands of personal messages a week from people like you. This volume of mail reflects the importance individual citizens place on this election… Again, thank you for writing, and for voting.”

Joe Biden (2008)

“Dear Mr. Ice, I want to thank you personally for sending me a copy of Popcorn Season. Your book is a welcome addition to my library, and it is with eagerness and anticipation that I look forward to reading it. Thank you again for the kind thoughts, and best wishes.”

John McCain (2008)

“Dear Mr. Ice, Thank you for your kind note and sending me your book ‘Thoughts At Large.’ Your support and encouragement keep me motivated every day on the trail. I appreciated hearing from you and wish you the best.”

Sarah Palin (2008)

“Dear Friend, A heartfelt ‘thank you’ for taking the time to send our family a note of support. Your encouragement motivates me and keeps me going as I work hard on the campaign trail… it was good to hear from you and we wish you the very best.”

In the time between elections, I sent a book to Governor John Kasich as a goodwill gesture. Later, I planned to send another to perennial conservative icon Ron Paul. But somehow, this plan never materialized.

Yet with the season once again in full swing, I began to ponder the continued ‘battleground’ status of our state. As it was during the last contest for the White House, Ohio remained undeniably important.

Those on the Democrat ticket had already received volumes of my work. So I chose to send copies of the ‘Thoughts At Large’ collection to their respectful opponents.

Once again, I received a gracious response:

Mitt Romney

“Dear Rod, Thank you so much for your kind gift. Ann and I truly appreciate your generosity. Your support is extremely encouraging, and while I maintain this busy travel schedule, it is nice to reflect upon the generosity and thoughtfulness of individuals like yourself. Thank you again and best wishes for the future.”

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Visit us at: www.thoughtsatlarge.com

Thursday, October 04, 2012

“Fishnet Mom”

c.2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a cool afternoon at the Icehouse. Fall colors were everywhere. I had decided to enjoy a moment of leisure time on the front porch, with my guitar. A copy of the Maple Leaf waited on our wicker table. The breeze rustled its pages gently, while I strummed along. With a light Country & Western melody in the air, I began to read a headline that fluttered in the wind.

“Fishnet Mom gets 10 months in jail,” I whispered. “The Hiram mother of three arrested last October wearing nothing but fishnet and high heels will spend the next 10 months in the Geauga County Safety Center for her indiscretions, which include operating a motor vehicle under the influence.”

Riley, our Black Lab, who was stretched out by my chair, raised his head with curiosity.
“Fishnet Mom,” I sang out loud. “Fishnet Mom…”

Loose words began to flow. I took out a notebook and scribbled lyrics while improvising a chord pattern.
Suddenly, a yellow Buick pulled into the driveway. It was my neighbor, Judy Hudepohl, from across the street.

She rolled down the window. “Is this a free concert, Rodney?”

I could see that she was dressed in typical gardening attire. A plaid scarf covered her unruly, gray hair.
“Consider it an ‘open microphone’ event,” I laughed. “Anyone can sing along.”

She took a seat in the porch swing. “I haven’t seen you with a guitar in months!”

“No,” I agreed. “Too busy this year. I worked right through the summer.”

“Well then,” she observed, “some relaxation will do you good.”

“My family has always complained that work manages to creep into everything we do,” I confessed. “There is always another story… and here, it has happened again.”

Judy was puzzled. “What do you mean?”

My head bowed, slowly. “I came out on the porch just to play guitar. But then, a story in the newspaper caught my attention. And I was back in work mode… writing another feature…”

She pondered for a moment. “Story in the paper?”

I reached for the Maple Leaf issue. “Chardon Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica sentenced Erin Holdsworth, 29, to 18 months in jail, six months of which were suspended. Holdsworth previously had pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges: OVI, driving under suspension, refusing to take a blood alcohol test and fleeing and eluding police.”

My neighbor shook her head. “So, why did that report grab your attention?”

“It was the headline above Glen Miller’s story,” I answered. “Fishnet Mom goes to jail. That is priceless, don’t you agree?”

Judy wrinkled her nose. “Rodney, I think you have a twisted sense of humor.”

“Not at all,” I protested, quietly. “Listen to what I have been writing, this afternoon…”

With a smile, I began to sing:

Fishnet Mom, you turn me on
But why, I have no clue
Perhaps it is, because your trip
Has brightened up the news

Fishnet Mom, you spur me on
Spinning on four wheels
I read the headline, so divine
‘Wild mother in high heels’

Fishnet Mom, this is your song
A verse or two, in haste
A NASCAR drive, through the night
With the Sheriff giving chase

Fishnet Mom, you bring the dawn
To a world, gray and black
Your outlaw run is finished
But your fame keeps coming back

Fishnet Mom, you turn me on
But I must be discrete
I think of you
Flashing red and blue
In the driver’s seat

Fishnet Mom, a night gone wrong
In jail for a spell
But years from now, on morrow’s brow
You’ll have a tale to tell

Fishnet Mom, you make me want
To see you on TV
With Dr. Phil, or Springer
A star-struck ride, complete

Fishnet Mom, a media bomb
I just can’t look away
I follow you, like I’m stuck on glue
Bonnie Parker on parade

Fishnet Mom, wild and strong
Better run for cover
You’re Geauga-proud, but a bit too loud
This taste of fame is over

Fishnet Mom, you bring the calm
Of promise now fulfilled
We write for pay, and bless the day
That you gave us a thrill

Judy shuddered with disbelief. “You are really going to submit that to your editor?”

“Not sure,” I declared. “Still, you must admit it makes a great story.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Rodney, I am speechless.”

“Why?” I stammered. “Don’t you realize what Ms. Holdsworth has done for us in Geauga? Her story is the most compelling tale since Bill Armstrong, the ‘Bulldozer Man.’ This is journalistic gold!”

“GOLD?” she shouted.

I nodded in wordless affirmation.

My neighbor sighed loudly. “So, what’s next? Recording your song for radio airplay?”

“Sounds like a great idea,” I nodded. “A friend of mine works at WKKY in Geneva.”

Judy squawked like a wounded hen. “That’s eeeeeeenough!”

“Kidding!” I apologized. “Just kidding…”

She jumped into her Buick. Gravel flew as her tires spun for traction.

I put down my guitar, at last. The musical tribute was complete. Somewhere, the ‘Fishnet Mom’ was serving her sentence in a county facility. But for now, only one priority remained – a need to finish another column for the newspaper.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Visit us at: www.thoughtsatlarge.com

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

"Book Ideas"

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

If my memory serves correctly, it was British rocker Elvis Costello who once observed: "You have twenty years to write your first album and six months to write your second." This dreaded ‘sophomore slump’ has dogged musicians, artists, athletes and notable citizens of all sorts, since the beginning of recorded history.
Yet in personal terms, I felt this emotional drop differently.

For myself. writing, editing and publishing three books was compressed into what transpired as a seamless, single experience. This trio of projects sprang from a reserve of enthusiasm built up over decades of professional writing. At the time, I celebrated becoming a genuine published author.

But what followed came as a complete surprise. In the wake of achieving my lifelong goal, I felt empty. Instead of having a permanent sense of accomplishment, there was a mood much more in tune with my role as a journalist.

Finishing a manuscript was fulfilling, but… what about tomorrow? I couldn’t seem to inherit the long-lasting satisfaction of creating a book. Instead, my sense of accomplishment was short-lived. Like a pause between newspaper issues.

I began to lust after the notion of creating a fourth volume of recorded work. Soon, these new ideas filled my head with chaotic energy:

Thoughts At Large, Volume Two - The most obvious way to follow my earlier volumes. Perhaps with a package of bologna on the cover. Included would be a familiar variety of music reviews, historical tidbits, old newspaper excerpts, conspiracy theories, rambling ruminations and recipes.

Davie Allan - Something wholly or partially based on, or inspired by, the ‘King of Fuzz.’ My long-distance relationship with the California guitarist has produced dozens of columns. I also penned liner notes for one of his releases. Undeniably, a book would be the logical extension of this bond.

The Life and Times of Carrie Hamglaze - (Could also titled ‘Who Is Carrie Hamglaze?’) A collection of tales written about my famous local friend. Politically astute and school-marm cute. Hamglaze is a former schoolteacher, tennis coach, councilperson, activist and philosopher who writes for the local newspaper. Her energy is unmatched. She humbles informed citizens half her age.

Outlaw Chef - A straight-up, unapologetic collection of rebellious recipes from TAL. Or, one might correctly observe, a cookbook and lifestyle manual like no other. Directions for using pork rinds, Vienna sausages, hot peppers, leeks, Ramen noodles, fried bologna, and beef tripe would be included. A culinary adventure with cast iron pot pies, meat dripping gravies, sharp cheddar cornbread and Mexican lasagna.

Biker Lifestyle, Revisited - Motorcycle stories and poems that date back to my tour-of-duty as a professional scribe for the long-lost California chopper magazine. From 1983 – 1988, I polished my writing skills as a contributor and agitator. Editor Robert Lipkin guided me through the maze with careful attention to the discipline of slinging words for a paycheck. What I learned proved to be useful in more mainstream pursuits like contributing to the Maple Leaf.

Business Gospel - Something completely different - a volume that combines wise admonitions of capitalist conduct with theological wisdom passed down through the ages. A manual founded on positive thinking and a higher power. A road map for achieving personal goals by following spiritual and fiscal discipline.

Geaugan Splendor - A graphic novel (comic book) based on my own text observations, like those produced by the late Cleveland counter-culture hero Harvey Pekar. Entire issues could be based on working for Fisher’s Big Wheel, surviving a local winter with little more than heat from a cast-iron woodburner, and a cupboard full of marked-down groceries, or owning a Chevrolet Chevette.

Poetry Parade - A fanciful collection of stream-of-consciousness wordplay and homegrown verse, written in the Icehouse.

Trailer Park Proud - A photo-rich volume that examines the unique culture of mobile villages across our county and beyond. Included could be a foreword composed by Jerry Springer.

Geauga In Print - A collection of vintage newspaper stories about the county. Everything from the tragic Chardon fire of 1868 to Olden Moore’s UFO encounter in 1957. A special section might include ads for vintage businesses like Woolworth’s, Kresse’s Bi-Rite Supermarket, Jose’s Hacienda, and Ash Motors.

My problem when considering this variety of book projects was simple but perplexing – where should I begin?

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Visit us at: www.thoughtsatlarge.com