Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dave's Cosmic Subs - Geneva, Ohio

A fun place to visit for unique sandwiches and lots of Rock & Roll mojo. In the summer, lots of tourists visit on the way to and from Geneva-on-the-Lake.

Family Tree of Rock & Roll

Posters, pics and guitars

Brit flag - a must have

Customers sign the walls - one group was from Germany

In the Giant Eagle plaza on South Broadway Avenue

Lots of pics and vinyl records

The front counter with menu board

Cooler full of Dave's drinks

Woodstock poster

Y'all come back now, hear?

Dave's Cosmic Subs is located in the Giant Eagle plaza on Route 534
771 S. Broadway Ave.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

iPhone Trailer Park


My video of the song included in the "Happy iHolidays" column:

“Guitar Rust”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

As I have often said, the best columns seem to write themselves.
This was once again the case, as I attempted to record a song based on lyrics that I composed for a recent installment of Thoughts At Large.
In bygone years, my interest in music caused me to experiment on toy instruments, perform in 4-H talent competitions, appear on local television, record hundreds of home demos, and provide entertainment for my immediate family.
This passion for the life of a minstrel made me collect plectrum twangers of all kinds. Everything from the Spanish guitar to the electric bass to the Russian balalaika appeared in my household arsenal.
But as time passed, I focused almost exclusively on creative writing, while working a regular job to pay the bills. Thus, while my wordsmithing skills developed accordingly, I became distant from the art of plucking a stringed tonemaker.
This reality became apparent as I attempted to record a song that was included in a recent installment of Thoughts At Large.
In my head, the composition sounded fully-formed and viable. But when I dug out my Ovation “Applause” roundback acoustic, to record the piece, it was suddenly obvious that I could barely play the instrument.
Years of “rust” had collected on my fingers.
I struggled with basic chords, familiar to fans of Country & Western music. G, C, D.
The guitar was cracked from a fall encountered while disembarking from my F-150 pickup truck, at the erstwhile “Tim’s House” in Chardon. I often played there with Archer, another volunteer, and local performance artist Robin Echols Cooper. Yet the axe sounded true. Only my own mastery of the strings was lacking.
I plunked along while reciting the lyrics:

“I got a pickup truck
I’m down on my luck
And I’m stuck here in the dark
But I’ve got the only iPhone
In the trailer park.”

My volunteer friend Archer would have been proud of such an earthy composition. We often jammed at Tim’s House as part of a program Cooper called “Healing Through Music.”
I picked and plodded while adjusting the iPhone to capture the moment. My hands cramped from neglect. But there was an epiphany of sorts as I spoke about the late CEO of Apple:

“I’d like to thank Steve Jobs for everything... that fellow from Cupertino, California has changed my life and I’d like to dedicate this song in memory of him.”

I pondered using a capo to make chording easier by going up the neck. But after a bit of practice, old habits began to return. I rocked in my chair with the roundback acoustic following along. The tongue-in-cheek ditty took shape like a performance of old.
Barely noticed was the techno-brick being employed, my iPhone5.
I strummed along while singing in the tones of a weathered laborer. Thoughts of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters filled my head.
I remembered recordings made as a high school student in Pennsylvania. And with friends in New York. Even those in our basement on Maple Avenue, in Chardon. 
Each reflected a different kind of crude engineering, moving microphones and equipment to achieve the proper acoustics.
From my earliest reel-to-reel recorder, to a digital unit of great sophistication, I developed skill with each device. The collected sum was a sense that I knew how to produce recordings worthy of duplication and sharing. But the energy of yonder days had faded.
As I pulled at the strings of my guitar, ghosts of yesterday appeared.
I remembered going to Ashtabula with my friend Tim, from Fisher’s Big Wheel on Chardon’s Water Street, in the 1980’s. He knew a fellow named Bill, who offered to trade the Ovation “Applause” guitar for something sacrificed out of my own collection.
I surrendered an Epiphone that had a neck profile like a tongue depressor, with weak pickups. Both of us thought we had scored an incredible bargain off of the other.
The roundback became one of my most favored instruments. I soon lost track of ‘Bula Bill and the Epiphone. But the trade yielded benefits that have continued to today.
Part of the difficulty encountered with making a video of the “iPhone” song was that I couldn’t tell exactly where the shot was framed. I propped the phone up between my laptop PC and an Italian ashtray made of rough-hewn marble.
The first clip was aimed too low. I readjusted, and tried again. Then, I attempted a quick performance. But a ceiling light made the visual image harsh and overexposed.
Finally, a second take with ambient illumination worked better. My fingers were stiff and the words fumbled off my lips. But I completed a full recording.
Figuring out how to post the video presented another challenge.  I had only possessed a smartphone for two weeks. Going from an aging LG NV2 to an iPhone5 represented a quantum leap like trading in a Chevette for a Mercedes. But with a bit of fiddling, I figured out the necessary steps.
Afterward, comments began to arrive from friends and family members that had watched the clip. My favorite came from an aunt in Gallia County, down by the Ohio River.
“You sound like R. D. Ice,” she observed, referencing my father. “I’m sure you are familiar with him. Keep playing!”

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

“Twelve Months of SPAM”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

As I have observed here before, the best columns seem to write themselves.
A recent example of this truism appeared when my I received a unique calendar from my sister and her family, for Christmas. It was composed of old ads for the well-known dinner-in-a-blue-can, called SPAM.
George A. Hormel first established his Minnesota-based company in 1891. After years of successfully selling meat products, he introduced the world’s first canned ham in 1926. The debut was an omen of sorts, hinting at future glory for his firm. Eleven years later, the company created SPAM, the “new Hormel meat.”
Colorful phrases peppered company literature, using the lingo of an emerging hipness in domestic style. “Cold or hot,” Hormel promised, “SPAM hits the spot!”
The calendar I received used promotional material from the classic, late 1940’s period. After World War II, American consumers were literally hungry for products of all kinds. SPAM was offered as the centerpiece for a variety of new meal creations. Yet the themes reflected a kind of dietary rowdiness that would not translate into modern terms.
There was no gastronomic correctness in that bygone era. Instead, the full-flavored dishes suggested by Hormel were unafraid of sodium and saturated fats:

SPAM ‘n’ Limas (January 2013 page)

“Make a Spanish sauce of canned tomatoes, chopped onions, green peppers and celery leaves with a little salt, sugar, lard. Add to fresh or frozen precooked limas in casserole, partly bury 8 or 10 slices of SPAM in top, garnish with pimiento squares and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.”

Imagine... adding lard to SPAM? Remember, this was the Baby-Boom era.
Hormel also tried to push the product as perfect for those seeking lighter meal alternatives. Cold-and-straight-from-the-can, this lovable meat-brick was offered as a perfect way to dine on a hot, summer day:

SPAM ‘n’ Salad (February 2013 page)

“Chill SPAM and cut generous slices just as it comes from the can. Add an old fashioned tomato-cucumber-lettuce salad... spiced apples for contrast... and you can offer the family an attractive, delicious luncheon or supper... ready in a jiffy.”

The “in a jiffy” part was undeniably important, as America was getting back to work after years of conflict in Europe and Asia. Soldiers coming home were used to such canned foods. Meanwhile, homemakers eagerly accepted them as economical and easy to use.
The company even dared to pair their metal-clad meat with fruit:

Fiesta Peach SPAM Bake (May 2013 page)

“Golden-ripe cling peaches from California bake with savory pure-pork SPAM for a memorable main dish. It’s easy to fix. Simply drain a No. 2 ½ can cling peach slices, saving syrup. Slice a whole SPAM almost, but not quite, through, into 5 sections. Place in shallow baking dish. Insert peaches between the SPAM slices. Arrange remaining peaches around SPAM. Pour over ¼ cup peach syrup, blended with 2 tbsp. brown sugar. Stud with cloves. Bake at 375 degrees about 35 minutes.”

In the late 40’s, Jay C. Hormel introduced a traveling troupe of sixty entertainers called the “Hormel Girls.” They appeared across the nation, and had a top-rated weekend program on various radio networks. Known to travel in a fleet of matching Chevrolets, they were originally comprised of military veterans. All were subject to strict rules for appearance and conduct. The ladies marched, sang, danced... and sold SPAM.
Hormel pursued an aggressive business strategy that yielded great success. In recipe terms, they followed the same path, suggesting ideas like wood-plank-grilling years before they became known to most Americans:

Planked SPAM (June 2013 page)

“Score a whole SPAM and rub with brown sugar. Surround it on the plank with tomato slices capped with large mushrooms doused in butter. Bake 25 minutes in hot oven, then ring with mashed potatoes and slip back in the oven for quick browning. Bring to table, plank and all... and be greeted with cheers.”

My calendar concluded with a fireworks salute of rapid-fire images. A festive SPAM Summer Platter, with sliced meat, tomatoes stuffed with lettuce, celery stalks, and Swiss cheese. SPAM with pancakes, or waffles. SPAM and baked beans. A California SPAM-burger served on a bun with sliced tomato, onion, and melted cheese. SPAM with scalloped potatoes. Baked SPAM studded with cloves, then basted with a sauce made of vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and water. Even SPAM spaghetti.
In addition to kitchen concoctions, one vintage ad urged restraint when the tinned meat was temporarily unavailable:  

Don’t Blame Your Grocer (October 2013 page)

“Don’t blame your grocer when he’s out of SPAM. Jack Thompson, Hormel man now with anti-aircraft battery, writes of the amount of SPAM being used by the armed forces: ‘Because I am far away doesn’t mean I am missing Hormel meats. We have SPAM quite often here.’”

Quite often, I wondered? Like every day for weeks and months on end?
The enduring appeal of SPAM cannot be denied, in modern terms. Even by those who avoid such undisciplined dietary abandon. Hormel hit a homerun in 1937. And that blue ball is still soaring, today... over Geauga County, USA, and the world.

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