Friday, November 30, 2012

“Christmas Reflections”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was late on a Monday evening in the Icehouse home office. Christmas was only a few weeks away.

Powdery breaths of snow filled the window across from my chair. But I was focused on a specific task – locating a newspaper column about holiday experiences from twenty-five years ago.

In yonder days, I stored such files on 1.44 MB diskettes, or on paper in one of my file cabinets. So finding the manuscript meant sorting through many drawers of material, patiently.

While searching, I uncovered many other past holiday compositions on the way to what I was seeking:


“For dinner it’s ham and duck, after a ride in my pickup truck
Then maybe the Jerry Springer show, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

We’re almost buried here, but I’m stocked with snacks and beer
So as the cold winds blow, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

When I finally hit the road, I’ll be glad for my four-by-four
We’ll soon be watching a football game, with cheese dip and crackers, galore

We’ll gather around the Yule log, and mix our brew with eggnog
Thank God for O-hi-o, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”


“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. The adjustment back to Midwestern habits had only begun. My humble appearance did nothing to enhance job prospects. Because I had failed to earn a degree in communications, time spent with Cornell University’s Learning Web program, studying television, amounted to nothing. Unsuccessfully, I tried to connect with The Geauga Times-Leader, and our local cable television provider. While strolling around the square, I would visit Zamer’s Music to discuss guitars and musical trends. It was difficult to guess where my life was headed. But I had much enthusiasm for tomorrow! After a stalled career with American Seaway Foods in Bedford Heights, I yielded to other horizons. 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. Because Conley’s was our only competitor, customer traffic kept us busy. Neither store had the overwhelming presence of a Wal-Mart. (Yet) taken together, they quietly fulfilled our needs. It was a balance of sorts that kept the community satisfied. Typically, life moved at a gentle pace for employees in Maple Leaf Plaza. But visitation by St. Nick and Rudolph caused the pulse of local shoppers to intensify on cue! Business turned explosive with the approach of Yuletide merriment. During the season, we were a different store. Employees at Big Wheel were rewarded with a turkey, or ham, in the spirit of Yuletide generosity. This provided extra sales for our neighbor, Valu-King. Each year, they provided the actual foodstuffs with competence, and care. A volunteer gift-exchange added to the mood of goodwill. Still, our moment of real celebration was the annual Noel bash at Grandview Country Club. The night of fellowship offered a release from workplace duties. 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. Each selection represented the expenditure of a trivial sum. But the love conveyed was greater, by far. Out of festive chaos, I had rediscovered the meaning of this ancient tradition. New challenges waited as the last of December ebbed away. While mopping floors and unloading deliveries, these hopeful thoughts were persistent. I daydreamed of using my media experience to benefit the company. It was unthinkable to be content with an entry-level position. I had been a freelance writer, and worked regularly for a motorcycle publication in California. Anything seemed possible. (My) willingness to experiment produced a zigzag course over the years. Yet my footsteps have always returned home. The spirit of that holiday on Water Street has endured through time.”


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

My sense of satisfaction was obvious. I had time-traveled like Doctor Who, through old columns for The Maple Leaf. And then, made it all the way home again.
Season’s greetings to all... and to all, a good night!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“CARS – After Election Day”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: At a secret location deep in Geauga County, leaders of America’s auto industry meet to discuss their business away from the harsh light of public criticism. Involved are unsuccessful presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney, General Motors, Henry Ford XVI, and Antonio Chrysler. Following a boisterous meet-and-greet session, the participants come to order:

MITT ROMNEY – “Friends, I would like to welcome you to Geauga County, Ohio. As you know, my late father was chairman of American Motors Corporation. So I feel a great fondness for the automobile industry. Now that my political career is over, and Americans have chosen the future direction of this great nation, I have decided to return to my roots. That is why all of you were invited to this place.”
GENERAL MOTORS – “Ten hut! I gotta say we are all sorry you lost on Election Day, sir.”
HENRY FORD XVI – “I’ll second that.”
ANTONIO CHRYSLER – “Heyy, I’m confused. President Obama bailed us out. So why you feelin’ bad about Romney going down to defeat?”
G. MOTORS – “Show some respect, pilgrim!”
FORD XVI – “Right on. Give Mitt a break, Tony. He is one of us.”
M. ROMNEY – “In the years ahead, we face great challenges. Vehicles from Japan and South Korea have flooded our market. Now India and China loom on the horizon. I am reminded of the courage it took my dad to introduce cutting-edge designs like the Hornet, Gremlin and Pacer…”
A. CHRYSLER – “Cutting-edge? Hahaha, fuggedaboudit! Nobody wanted those cars!”
FORD XVI – “I think you’re an expert at building vehicles nobody wants, Tony.”
G. MOTORS – “He’s got you there. ‘Buy a car, get a check’ – what a slogan!”
A. CHRYSLER – “Stop with the nonsense! I’m gonna lose my temper.”
M. ROMNEY – “Gentlemen! We are here to discuss the future, not argue about the past.”
G. MOTORS – “The governor is right. Let’s talk about strategy, grunts!”
FORD XVI – “I’m listening…”
M. ROMNEY – “We need a bit of old-fashioned entrepreneurship in this industry.  An outlook that gives us hope for a new day.”
A. CHRYSLER – “Heyy, that hope and change thing was the other goomba’s schtick, ya know? Better think of something different.”
G. MOTORS – “Unfortunately, he’s right, commandante.”
M. ROMNEY – “Hear me out! We need a new vision. A plan to revitalize the industry…”
A. CHRYSLER – “Hoo boy, your big ideas didn’t do so well on Election Day. What makes you think it’ll be different now?”
FORD XVI – “Yes, governor. What will give you the winning edge in business?”
M. ROMNEY – “Dad had the ability to look forward, across the market. I want to do the same. In 1970, the Gremlin made a lot of sense. Today, it makes even more.”
A. CHRYSLER – “Huh? The Gremlin, you say??”
G. MOTORS – “Ten hut! I can’t march to that drumbeat, sir.”
M. ROMNEY – “Gentlemen, what I propose is that we re-introduce the AMC Gremlin.”
FORD XVI – “I think you have traumatic post-election fatigue.”
M. ROMNEY – “Not at all. President Obama won because a majority of voters believed that he truly wanted to better their plight. Well, by bringing back the Gremlin, we could make that same kind of connection with everyday Americans.”
A. CHRYSLER – “Heyy, that’s just crazy.”
FORD XVI – “What’s next, having Tony create a new K-Car?”
G. MOTORS – “Well, soldier, he already has a reborn Dodge Dart!”
A. CHRYSLER – “Quit pickin’ on my K-Cars!”
FORD XVI – “Face it Tony, they were junk.”
M. ROMNEY – “Gentlemen, let’s quit arguing and start planning for the future!”
G. MOTORS – “Okay, the governor is right.”
FORD XVI – “So, who would build this new Gremlin?”
M. ROMNEY – “President Obama acted to save the industry. I think his next step should be to revive AMC. As chairman, I would be glad to oversee the operation…”
A. CHRYSLER – “But, ain’t that more competition for us?”
M. ROMNEY – “Since we’re all owned by the government, except for Ford, it doesn’t really matter.”
FORD XVI – “I still make money the old-fashioned way, by selling products in the free market.”
G. MOTORS – “I’ll make a buck any way I can get it, pilgrim!”
A. CHRYSLER – “That’s the ticket, I tell ya! Give me all the bailouts I can get!”
M. ROMNEY – “AMC would help put people back to work, and could focus on fuel-efficient vehicles.”
FORD XVI – “Wasn’t that the idea with Saturn?”
G. MOTORS – “Settle down, grunt. It worked for a few years.”
A. CHRYSLER – “Whaat, you don’t sound like a free-market guy now. What happened to ‘change on day one?’”
M. ROMNEY – “Gentlemen, we’ve got to make it any way we can. The people have spoken. Socialism yes, old-school capitalism, no. Go with it!”
FORD XVI – “I am shocked, governor!”
G. MOTORS – “Well, I am good with working for the government. Been takin’ orders from upstairs all my life.”
M. ROMNEY – “That’s the spirit!”
FORD XVI – “No, no, no. I have to disagree. This isn’t America.”
A. CHRYSLER – “It is now, paisano!”
G. MOTORS – “Get on the bandwagon, Henry! There’s lots more money where the stimulus came from!”
FORD XVI – “Nooooooooooo!”
M. ROMNEY – “Repeat after me! Gremlin! Gremlin! Gremlin!”
G. MOTORS – “Gremlin!”
A. CHRYSLER – “Gremlinnnnn!”
FORD XVI – “I am going home to Detroit. See you all in bankruptcy court!”
G. MOTORS – “There’s no bankruptcy any more, pilgrim. Just more taxpayer money!”
M. ROMNEY – “This meeting is adjourned!”

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“Bumblebee Blitz”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a slow day at the Icehouse home office.
I had finished a trio of newspaper projects, and found time to organize a bit of the clutter left on my oversized desk. A new computer, purchased one week before, took up less space than the decade-old unit it replaced. So suddenly, the accumulated mess had been exposed.
I responded by filling a trash barrel with discarded magazines, travel brochures, and political literature. Redundant accessories went into a box for Goodwill.
Then, a moment of relaxation seemed in order.
I had just begun to sip a cup of Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea, when my telephone rang.
“Hello?” I answered gruffly.  
A familiar voice boomed in my ear. “Goin’ to the playoffs again, you bet!”
It was my erstwhile neighbor from Pittsburgh, Al Luccioni.
“Hello, Al,” I sighed. “Do you think it will ever stop raining?”
“Hey, it’s rainin’ victories here in the ‘Burgh!” he cheered.
“My yard is a swamp,” I complained.
“So, you behavin’ out there, kiddo?” he laughed, quizzically. “It’s NFL football time. That always makes me think of you.”
I rubbed my eyes. “Football makes you think of… me?”
“Every week, I know you’ll be cryin’ in your beer.” He snorted. “And we’ll be marchin’ to another Superbowl.”
“The Browns have actually won a couple of games,” I said in correction. “Brandon Weeden is looking better each week. And we have a new owner. One who actually has some history with your team.”
“Hey, I know Hablam spent some time with us,” he observed. “Big deal. Rooney didn’t give him no secrets.”
“His name is HASLAM,” I said, sternly. “James Haslam III.”
“Yeah,” Al agreed, while popping open a can of Iron City beer. “Hablam has a truck stop. Whoop-de-doo. I don’t think he knows too much about football. He don’t scare me none.”
“Mr. Haslam’s brother, Bill, is governor of Tennessee,” I interjected. “They are from a hard-working, successful family.”
“You wanna know about work?” he huffed. “Try keepin’ up with Ma’s gardens here. She had me busy all summer. Now we got a pantry full of canned stuff. Yinz people in Cleveland like pickled squash and kielbasa?”
I shuddered thinking about his concoction. “Ummm… more likely hot wings with pizza.”
“Hey, whatever!” he growled. “We know what’s good in the ‘Burgh.”
“Really?” I grinned. “Like… those throwback uniforms you wore while playing the Washington Redskins?”
“Pound salt!” he roared. “That was the 1934 Steelers look. Show some respect, kiddo!”
“They were called the Pirates back then,” I reflected.
“So what?” he barked.
“It’s kind of funny,” I continued. “That team only won two games all season. In fact, they were shut out five times. Luby DiMeolo’s Pirates finished 2-10, a miserable record. What was the point of honoring a group that lost?”
“WIN-NERS!” Al shouted. “Pittsburgh is a town full of win-ners! You hear me?”
“Your team’s winning average from 1933 to 1969 was 39%,” I said. “They only made the playoffs once in 36 years, and lost. Fans knew them as the doormat of the league.”
“SIX SUPERBOWLS!” my friend exploded.
“Sure, sure,” I agreed. “You’ve got some rings now. All I’m saying is that you’d be better off pretending the franchise didn’t exist before Chuck Noll came to town.”
“We was toughenin’ up for the future,” he insisted. “Like hammerin’ out a piece of steel.”
“Noll was born in the Cleveland area and played for legendary coach Paul Brown,” I explained. “There’s no doubt where his knowledge of the game developed…”
“A PIECE OF STEEL!” he howled.
“The Pirate-Steelers were actually a piece of something else…” I said dryly.
“TAKE THAT BACK, KIDDO!” he thundered.
“All I am saying is it looks silly to bring back memories of a team that couldn’t beat anybody,” I concluded. “Especially when they wore uniforms that made them look like bumble bees in jail.”
“TAKE THAT BACK!” he threatened. “Or so help me, I’m gonna jump in my Dodge and drive out there RIGHT NOW!”
“Easy does it,” I cautioned. “You’re about to spill that Iron City beer.”
“BACK BACK BACK!” he yowled. “TAKE IT BACK!”
“Okay,” I submitted. “Do you want me to sing the Steelers fight song as penance?”
He was at the point of cardiac arrest. “Loud mouth kid! Yinz was always like that! Even back in New Kensington.”
My head bowed from memories of high school. “I’m fifty-one years old now, Al.”
“Hey, the years fly by, kiddo,” he said, quieting down.
“Yes they do,” I agreed.
“Anyway, Ma is slowin’ up a bit,” he confessed. “For the game we just ordered out from Fox’s Pizza Den. She don’t take the time to do her homemade sourdough pies no more.”
“Ah,” I replied. “Well, she has earned a break.”
“Yinz people ever come back here to visit?” he asked, suddenly.
“Not in a long time,” I answered. “While traveling a couple years ago, we stopped at Robinson Township to see the Giant Eagle Market District store. It was impressive.”
“We got the best of it all in the ‘Burgh,” he boasted.
“Notices come about my class reunion,” I said. “But there’s never enough time…”
“Make time,” he insisted. “Keep up with important stuff. Family and friends. Everything else will be there for later. Listen when I tell you.”
“Good advice,” I acquiesced.
“Okay,” he wheezed. “One of the grandkids just tracked mud on Ma’s kitchen floor. She’s hoppin’ mad. Gotta go. Be good, kiddo!”
“Take care, Al,” I whispered.
My tea was cold. But now, I felt warm inside.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Leftover Pizza

Leftover pizza from work... it's what's for dinner.

Paula Returns!

Paula the Christmas Tree Lady is back in Chardon!

1964 Rambler Classic 550 in Chardon

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Vote Ohio

Friday, November 02, 2012

"Re-elect the Whopper"

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The monthly meeting of our Geauga Writers' Roundtable was about to commence.

I sipped McDonald's coffee while looking through my notes. Around the table, fellow journalists from across the county busied themselves with similar tasks. In attendance were Carrie Hamglaze, writer and former city councilperson; Mack Prindl, editor of the Parkman Register; Ezekiel Byler-Gregg, editor of the Burton Daily Bugle; and Martha Ann Reale, editor of the Newbury Siren-Monitor.

Carrie served as moderator of the meeting. In her hands was a cup of Irish tea.

"Welcome, my friends!" she cheered as the gathering came to order. "All of you are familiar with our habit of getting together to discuss issues of the day. But on this occasion, a different mood is in the air. It is election season. And we are writing stories of vital importance to our readers as they head off to the polls across Geauga County."

"Amen," Martha Ann agreed.

"We have a wonderful slate of candidates competing for voter approval," our host continued. "People like Mary Samide, Tracy Jemison, Ralph Sipdalieri, Jim Flaiz, Forrest W. Burt and Tim Grendell�"

Mack cleared his throat, dramatically.

"Let's not forget Fred Welty, Scott Matasar, JoAnne Wirtz, Robert Evans, Bonnie Cavanaugh and Mary Jane Trapp," he declared.

Ezekiel frowned. "Lots of good people. But it all comes down to grabbing one or the other. Like picking up an egg with your left hand, or your right."

My friend always employed colorful rhetoric when speaking, in part because of his Mennonite ancestry.

But Martha Ann shook her head at the rural metaphor. "What did you say, old man?"

Carrie gestured for attention. "To repeat myself, we have lots of great choices."

Ezekiel coughed loudly. "What we have is the opportunity to paint the barn red or blue. But not yellow. Not pink. Not green."

Mack was confused. "Huh? Who would paint a barn pink??"

I laid down my pen. "Okay, Zeke. You've got us all in the fog."

Our cohort from Burton raised his fist.

"Okay, I'll say it another way," he thundered. "Politics in America is like fast-food."

Silence filled the room.

"The Democrat / Republican run of our political system can be described in this way," Ezekiel continued. "It is the same as getting a dollar-menu meal. You have two choices. McDonald's or Burger King. Get a Big Mac or a Whopper. MAKE YOUR CHOICE! But, what if you want healthier vittles from Subway? Sorry, pardner. Subway is frozen out by a lack of money and supporters already in the government. Taco Bell for something different? No again. We are a FREE NATION. But, you get either a Big Mac or a Whopper. Arby's?? A great chain, but they will never win a national contest. You would be wasting your vote. What if you don't believe in fast food, at all? Sorry, they run the show. YOU ONLY GET TO CHOOSE WHAT IS ON THE POLITICAL MENU."

Martha Ann gasped, audibly.

"We march around the world and preach about democracy," Ezekiel concluded. "But in truth, we have only a hobbled version of that concept here at home. Look at England, for contrast. They enjoy genuine DEMOCRACY, with all its warts and blemishes. It's a real rodeo! Quirky and clunky, but genuinely representative of their people. What we know here is a philosophical fugazi."

I closed my eyes. The meeting had spun off-topic. Yet it was undeniably interesting.

Mack became perplexed. "Didn't Fugazi play for the Steelers?"

Carrie fought to catch her breath.

"Zeke, I think you are out of order!"

"No, you are out of order," he shouted. "Our whole political system is out of order!"

I closed my notebook. "Okay, friend. I am a card-carrying Libertarian. Your line of reasoning makes some sense to me, but� what's the solution? How do you advocate changes that are relevant to Geauga County, and the nation, as a professional journalist?"

"We've got to speak out," he answered. "The intelligent voters among us say... only an idiot would go for a Big Mac again. Mayor McCheese put us in the ditch. Re-elect the Whopper! But I say... third-party candidates in Geauga are the recipe for a good stew of ideas. And let's vote GARY JOHNSON for president!"

Mack rubbed his eyes. "This is getting crazy. Can't we just talk about the Steelers winning another Superbowl?"

Carrie stirred her Irish tea. "I must say that I do not agree with Zeke. The major-party structure keeps our nation on course. But he has a right to be heard."

"Nah, Big Ben has a right to be heard!" Mack roared. "Gold and black forever!"

"Well, how about some kudos for the Fishnet Mom?" I interjected. "She was the most interesting Geauga County personality we had in the news this year. Much more appealing than the same old elephant vs. donkey battle."

"Rodney!" Martha Ann choked.

Carrie nearly spilled her beverage. "Please! Can we come to order here?"

"The point here is that we have a lively debate in every election season," I reflected. "So long as we are able to openly express contrasting views, in public, our nation will remain free."

"Amen," Martha Ann repeated.

Carrie Hamglaze finished her tea. "I declare this meeting adjourned!"