Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mom's Birthday Card - September 19th (Rod & Wrangler)

Happy Birthday, Mom!
We Love you!

“The Big Trade”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I work late at my “real job” as a retail manager.
Lunch typically comes about seven o’clock in the evening, if I am lucky. On a recent night, I had just managed to sit down with a container of General Tso’s Chicken and Rice, when our front desk paged me for a phone call.
A first bite of my meal had tasted good. Briefly, I wondered if I would get a second before the quick-serve meal went cold.
Before answering, I found note paper and a pen. It was not unusual to encounter customer issues that required a pull page of documentation for our business owner.
A click of the button on my cordless handset brought the call online. I spoke in a subdued tone. “This is Rod Ice, may I help you?”
Instead of an irritated patron, one of my coworkers was on the other end of the line. “Hey!” he exclaimed, sounding out of breath. “The Browns just traded Trent Richardson to Indy for a first-round draft pick in 2014! Can you believe that?”
I was numb with surprise. “Traded to the Colts?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “It was just announced on ESPN.”
I slumped in my chair. “So after two games, the Browns season is done?”
“Probably,” he replied.
I lost my appetite.
In the week that followed, debate about the franchise was unending. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. Words like “misery” and “meltdown” were heard frequently. ESPN and national media outlets had fun shredding our reputation.
It was difficult not to think of “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” Not to mention “The Move.”
Brian Hoyer, a graduate of St. Ignatius High School and local hero, was named the starting quarterback, to replace Brandon Weeden, who was injured.
Willis McGahee was acquired at RB, a veteran of Buffalo, Baltimore and Denver.
Steeler fans at work were rabid. They were eager to forget their own woes as an uncompetitive, aging team. One compared watching the Browns in action to cleaning up dog waste from the yard on a Sunday afternoon. But as the meeting with Minnesota approached, a new perspective was apparent.
Somehow, I had been scheduled off for game day. Fatigue made me slow to greet the afternoon. But with a cold beverage in hand, I positioned myself in front of the household television. My iPhone was at the ready. Hot wings, pepper fries and other treats were on my kitchen counter.
I fully expected to witness a debacle of historic proportions.
Instead, Hoyer and the Browns demonstrated that they were ready to compete. Our QB finished the first half 14-of-23 for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Trick plays kept the team from up north guessing. Answering the Vikings second-half scoring run, Hoyer threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron with 51 seconds left in the game.
I texted on my phone with equal ferocity to his handling of the football.
“Can you believe it?” a neighbor sputtered. “The Browns actually win a game?”
“Cleveland rocks!” another contact commented, on Facebook.
WTAM 1100 host Mike Trivisonno’s page was full of praise for the Cleveland Indians and Browns. Both teams had a good Sunday.
After the game was over, national reporters expressed pure amazement. In local terms, I simply took a moment to give thanks.
Since the NFL returned to Lake Erie, in 1999, a parade of front-office personnel, coaches and athletes had come and gone. The regime changes were dizzying. Only a true fan could keep up with this unending cycle of personalities.
Yet on Sunday, I felt more confident. Perhaps even relieved.
I remembered watching Bernie Kosar in the 1980’s. Pondered memories of grilling out in the snow, as playoff games commenced. Decorating our living room with dog bones and team colors. With the family waiting as I rushed home from work to join their celebration.
Typical sports fans talk about championships and contests of old. But in northeastern Ohio, the story has been more dramatic. A tale of tragedy and heroic adventure.
The Browns represent our life by the lake. Sweet summer celebrations and hard winters buried under merciless cascades of white.
The Rams left us in 1946. The original Browns, in 1995.
LeBron, in the modern era.
We have endured loss and heartbreak. But that has made us strong. Strong enough to be the only place where the NFL left the colors and team name behind when a franchise left town.
All of those things were in my mind after watching the Browns and Vikings do battle. Still, my heart was glad for more than simply a one-week victory in the regular NFL season.
I felt glad to have that one intangible asset that has caused mankind to go forward for generations, seeking adventure and the lure of treasure to be discovered.
I was glad for a thing called “hope.”

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“Open Letter”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

For this writer, an occasional detour into the realm of political humor has generally yielded interesting prose. In particular, I have written a few times about fictional meetings between Carrie Hamglaze, an imaginary local figure of renown, and Reince Priebus, Chairman of her beloved Republican National Committee.
Recently, a friend on the social networking website “Facebook” posted a report about Mr. Priebus being upset with an apparent bias in favor of Hillary Clinton at CNN and NBC. The person sharing this link observed that he was acting like Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
I was struck by his comment more than the story itself.
Pondering this post, as the night deepened in hue, I began to think about actually writing Chairman Priebus. The idea seemed surreal.
Days elapsed in careful consideration. Yet my desire to speak only grew stronger. Eventually, I sat down at my desk and began to work:

Reince Priebus, Chairman
The Republican National Committee
310 First Street
SE Washington, DC 20003

Dear Mr. Priebus,

I am a small-town newspaper columnist from northeastern Ohio. Let me confess here, for the sake of full disclosure, that I am a registered member of the Libertarian Party.   
Recently, I read a report about your plan to boycott CNN and NBC, with regard to the 2016 presidential primary debates. This was attributed to your unhappiness over potential documentary programs about erstwhile First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A follow-up story indicated that you were considering a panel of debate moderators like radio heavyweight Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from Fox News.
While your plan has been predictably been cheered by the conservative blogosphere and Fox News itself, may I respectfully offer the opinion that such actions only serve to promote the idea that your party is out of touch with everyday Americans.
To use an old description, you are “preaching to the choir.”
Winning national elections requires more than simply rallying a small, tightly-knit group of influential volunteers within the party. It means that one must speak clearly and effectively to diverse groups across the country, with a common message.
Honestly, it can be convincingly argued that the mainstream media is not friendly to conservative candidates in general. Yet to hear protestations of the kind you have voiced is unseemly for someone of national renown. Even those who view the GOP favorably might well conclude that you are thin-skinned and cranky after hearing the threat of action against these major news networks. I do believe that the right to engage in political opposition, as Hillary herself once observed during the Bush administration, is a sacred American tradition.
But I do not believe that media bias, or political dissent, caused your group to take a drubbing in 2012. Instead, it was because potential candidates like Condolezza Rice, Susana Martinez, Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio were all sitting on the sidelines, while Mitt Romney ran like Forrest Gump toward his moment of epic failure.
The general opinion of Republican logic is that your thought processes are consistent with a doddering herd of rich, old, white men.  In 2012, you did absolutely nothing to dispel such thoughts. This seems a bit tragic, with so many compelling figures not participating in the contest. 
Even wireless talkers like Michael Savage observed that your propensity toward blandness was astounding. He likened adding Rep. Paul Ryan to the ticket with Governor Romney as being like combining “Wonder Bread and white rice.”
True believers in the party were excited by this combination. But the election returns demonstrated convincingly that few other people shared their enthusiasm.
Imagine: Condi Rice debating President Obama in 2012. Post-election, I might be writing this letter from a completely different perspective.
Imagine: Blunting Democrat charges of “racism” on the issue of illegal immigration by proposing a completely new US strategy – placing importance on the security, stability and liberty of Mexico, our geographical neighbor, instead of distant nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, this note might be resounding with a completely different tone.
Imagine: An end-around on the healthcare reform debate by offering many working-class citizens better access to coverage and control of their plans, through small business networking, thus lowering the cost?
Imagine: Responding to charges of voter suppression by advocating voter education and greater citizen participation at every level? By proclaiming a sense of “duty” long lost in much of the nation?
“The Party of Lincoln.” It is a label your members are fond of using. Consider that the one word most appropriate for Abe’s entire presidency might well be “courage.” Consider also that the GOP of 2012 could be described with a single word. But one less flattering in character - “predictable.”
With hindsight, one might imagine that the GOP plan for 2016 would involve sober self-assessment and new-age thinking. But instead, you are making headlines for a familiar reason. Sour grapes over the media. This seems particularly puzzling because the media itself is in a state of transition. Social networks, video streaming and news aggregation sites have redefined the world of dispersing useful information. There has never been a better time for conservatives than today. Many alternatives exist to the polished parade of network television reporters.
Your party is strong here in Geauga County and across much of Ohio. But going forward, one might react with befuddlement at your inability to use your own toolkit to repair the damage of losing two presidential contests in a row.
A simple question awaits your answer: Is the party ready to focus on a 21st Century vision, or merely the shrill, cartoonish squawking of cable-news pundits?
A point to ponder when you have finished preaching to the GOP choir.

Yours Respectfully, RDI

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“This Island Geauga”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a cool, breezy day on the Chardon Square.
I had sought out a comfortable place to pause and check my notes, before covering a meeting of the local AMC cars club in Burton. The sky overhead was bright and clear. Grateful to be alone, I found an empty bench away from the flow of pedestrian traffic.
My iPhone was jammed with text messages. I began to read in silence, but this moment of reflection ended suddenly.
“Rodneyyyyy!” squawked my friend Carrie Hamglaze. “How have you been?” She was dressed in flowing layers of ivory and emerald green. A sparkling, red hat topped her ensemble.
“Hello Carrie,” I wheezed with surprise.
“A beautiful day to be outside,” she chirped. “Not so humid and hot like a few weeks ago.”
“Indeed,” I replied.
“I am on my way to a meeting of the Geauga Republican Raconteurs Roundtable,” she boasted. “A storyteller’s dream! I could talk for hours.”
“Umm, that would be called GRRR?” I asked, with amusement. “Really?”
“Be serious!” she frowned. “I have several good political tales to share. Like a memory of the 1976 election cycle, which came after Watergate and Nixon resigning two years before. That was a difficult period, even here. Would you like to come along?”
“Sorry,” I apologized. “Have to do a story in Burton this evening. Writing about friends of the AMC Gremlin and Pacer.”
Carrie was dumbfounded. “Fans of those awful cars?”
“They exist,” I said with certainty.
She bowed her head. “Okay. But while you are here, I need to ask a question. Why haven’t you been writing more political stories over the summer?”
“My job is to observe local events of all kinds,” I answered.
“True enough,” she squeaked. “But what about a Geauga slant on the upcoming election cycle?”
I cleared my throat. “There just isn’t much happening here at home.”
“Not much?” my friend hissed. “Not true!”
“We have a predominantly Republican voter base,” I declared. “With a good sprinkling of trusted Democrat officials like Sheriff McClelland. It is business as usual, to use a well-worn phrase. We live in a prosperous and peaceful region.”
“But what about the growing number of scandals in Washington?” my friend protested. “What about cities going bankrupt?”
“Carrie, let’s be fair,” I observed. “Geauga is rather isolated from the political universe. It makes me think of an old science fiction movie. ‘This Island Earth’ it was called. Your GOP is successful here, as ever. But on a national scale, the party is in disarray. Unable to capitalize on woes of the opposition.”
She snorted with a hint of ire. “What about the habits of our current administration? What about NSA surveillance of regular citizens? Spying on journalists? The IRS going after conservative groups? Lobbyists flooding the government? The coming attack on Syria?”
“Nobody seems to care,” I retorted. “There is more talk about Miley Cyrus ‘twerking’ her way to renewed media fame.”
She shook her head, furiously. “Not true! Not true!”
Sorry,” I disagreed. “Even here at home, silence has prevailed. And not one national media outlet has covered any of that with enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, CNN recently offered a special report on Richard Nixon and his fall from grace.”
“Bias!” she shrieked. “Clear and obvious bias!”
“They want to talk about things like our economic recovery,” I said.
Carrie gritted her teeth. “Recovery? Bah! What has happened to my country?”
“President Obama has played skillfully to the voter block of union members and everyday citizens,” I reflected. “People who will never earn a big paycheck. And those on your side of the aisle have fallen in line. Look at the debate over war with Syria. Senator McCain is supportive, as is our own Ohio native, House Speaker John Boehner. There is essentially no opposition.”
My friend nearly foamed at the mouth. “No!” she screamed. “Take that back!”
“Across the country, in many places, you have become irrelevant,” I said. “Not here in Geauga, of course. But off the island.”
She shook her head.  “I refuse to accept that, Rodney! I refuse!!”
“On the maternal side of my own family, the blue-collar tradition has been well-established,” I explained. “Ever since FDR. Those people never trusted the big money patriarchs. With the 2008 economic meltdown, their suspicions were only intensified.”
Carrie snorted angrily. “Casting a ballot for socialism does not offer us a solution!”
“That may be true,” I agreed. “But your party has been indifferent to change. Even Rush Limbaugh calls its leadership a cabal of ‘country club’ elitists.”
My friend bowed her head.
“So, what purpose is there in writing fluff pieces for our local heroes?” I continued.
Carrie sighed loudly. “You could offer a bit of encouragement for those of us at home. Perhaps give some validation to what they believe.”
My face went red. “I am a journalist, right? Not a cheerleader. You set the agenda with your conduct. I just tell the story as it happened.”
She struggled to breathe. “Damn you, Rodney. Your words ring true.”
“It is time to leave the island,” I advised. “Time to ponder the political universe as a whole. Time to do better.”
The wind seemed stronger and colder than before. Fall was on our doorstep. The time for conversation had ended.
Now, I needed to get home to my office and write!

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