Thursday, April 24, 2014

“Roundtable Return”

c. 2014 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a cool morning at Geauga Gas & Grub.
While patrons streamed through the doors, buying breakfast snacks, coffee and fuel, a small club assembled by the front windows. They seemed unconcerned about the busy buzzing of humanity that filled the air with noisy chatter.
Only one purpose concerned this group. After a long winter, they had gathered for the first ‘Geauga Writers’ Roundtable’ meeting of 2014.
Notepads and newspapers lay everywhere. Brief conversations echoed in contrast to the pervasive din of morning business.
Then, Carrie Hamglaze called the meeting to order.
As ‘Grande Dame’ of local journalists, and a former elected official, her very presence brought a sense of regality to the gathering.
“Welcome everyone!” she cheered. Her red hat glistened in the sunlight. “It has been a long winter, my friends. But here we are, again!”
Mack Prindl, of the Parkman Register, was first to agree.
“We’ve been locked in the deep freeze,” he groaned. “Once the Pittsburgh Stillers fell out of NFL playoff contention, I just wanted to fast-forward to the league draft.”
Martha Ann Reale of the Newbury Siren-Monitor laughed out loud. “Around other cities, like Cleveland, they enjoy pro basketball at this time of year. But of course ‘yinz’ don’t know about that sport.”
Mack snorted, angrily. “We don’t need bucketball in Da ‘Burgh!”
Carrie grew impatient. “Please! We are here to discuss Geauga County, my friends! Stay focused!!”
Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of the Burton Daily Bugle stroked his gray beard. “I agree. How about the Maple Festival? There’s something my readers want to hear about!”
I raised my hand like a schoolboy. “Indeed. But first, may I ask why Sandy Kimball isn’t here?”
“You are very observant,” Carrie smiled. “Our new friend from the Claridon Claxon fractured her arm while shoveling snow, a couple of weeks ago. She is recovering at home.”
Martha Ann frowned. “Oh my!”
Ezekiel bowed his head. “Will she be at the Maple Fest?”
“Not sure,” Carrie answered. “I will give her a call after the meeting. So, everyone... what are your headlines for the week?”
I raised my hand again. “A recent score on eBay produced two issues of the Geauga Republican from 1879. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to research the history of journalism here at home. I expect to get a few columns out of those issues.”
Ezekiel nodded affirmation. “Well done, plowboy!”
“Well done, indeed!” Martha Ann said. “I enjoy reading the words written by our forebears in this creative craft of newspaper writing.”
“A few years ago an issue surfaced on eBay from, 1919,” I recalled. “That was good for at least three installments, as I remember. A local look at the prohibition of beverage alcohol. Fascinating material.”
Martha Ann smoothed her denim blouse. “I have a story about the Maple Festival from over fifty years ago. Did you know that John F. Kennedy visited here, while he was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts?”
Gasps resounded. Then everyone bowed, silently.
“There is a photo of him with the courthouse as a backdrop,” I said. “From 1959. Truly incredible. Sometimes I stand at that location and ponder that he was really here.”
“A local story with national importance,” Carrie reflected.
Mack shook his head. “I’ll look forward to seeing that story. But something more recent is important to my readers... the Rock & Roll retirement of AC/DC!”
More gasps, of a different nature, echoed around the table.
“Have you lost your mind, hayseed?” Ezekiel blustered.
Martha Ann closed her eyes. “Pringle, you are a buffoon!”
“P-R-I-N-D-L!” he shouted. “I ain’t a can of potato crisps!”
“Please,” Carrie pleaded. “Can we stay on track, here? Think local!”
“Malcolm Young is suffering from a decline in his health and has returned home to Australia,” Mack mourned. “Without his presence, Angus and the rest can’t go on. This is a tragedy.”
“That’s a local story?” Martha Ann hissed.
“AC/DC fans are everywhere,” he retorted. “How many times have you heard their music from stands at the Maple Fest? Or the Great Geauga County Fair?”
I covered my face.
“Why, I’ll bet even the Chardon Polka Band plays some of their songs,” he continued.
“Moron!” Martha Ann shrieked.
“Actually,” I mused. “A polka interpretation of ‘Thunderstruck’ would be quite amusing...”
“There’s a local subject!” Carrie blurted out, with excitement. “Has anybody written about their television show?”
“Of course,” I said. “About two weeks ago.”
Mack began to play ‘air guitar.’ Then he began to sing. “Thunderstruckkkkkk!”
Martha Ann wrinkled her nose. “Shouldn’t you be playing ‘air accordion’ instead?”
Mack laughed out loud. “Actually... YOU ARE RIGHT!”
Carrie spilled her tea.
“Enough already!” she screeched. “I call this meeting – adjourned!”

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:
Write us via the USPS: P.O. Box 365 Chardon, OH 44024

Saturday, April 19, 2014

“New Book for Sale”

c. 2014 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

In the recent past, I wrote and edited three books for publication.
The first was a collection of “Thoughts At Large” columns from the first ten years of my series. The second was a kid-friendly offering about our Russian Blue house cat. The third was an athletic publication about the Special Olympics softball team I covered as Sports Editor for another newspaper.
The experience of doing these volumes was both instructive and rewarding. I felt privileged to create such works for a greater audience.
Yet in the back of my mind was the desire to assemble one more collection. One further voyage into the untapped prose pool of a small-town wordsmith.
For a couple of years, I reckoned that this creation would be based on the musical output of California guitarist Davie Allan. But that project never came to fruition.
Later, I considered a collection of my motorcycle magazine stories from the 1980’s.
But instead, I eventually realized that the most logical step before me was one in the direction of local celebrity Mary Malloy Bramstedt.
I called her “Carrie Hamglaze” in my columns. She was witty, iconoclastic and enduring.
Mary had been a schoolteacher, award-winning tennis coach and local writer. She held a seat on the Chardon City Council and was active in the Geauga County Republican Party. We had become friends while I shared journalistic duties at the Maple Leaf with the late Lee Rogers, a veteran wordsmith.
The thought of a book that collected my “Hamglaze” columns seemed compelling. I decided that such a collection would be perfect for distribution at the Maple Festival.
A weekend away from my “real job” made it possible. With my yellowed scrapbook as a guide, I began to revisit the publishing process.
My last detour into this realm occurred in 2008. So it was difficult, at first, to remember the routine. I struggled to edit my manuscript and format it properly.
A few times, I had to start this process over, from the beginning.
There were enough columns on hand from my vast reserve of newspaper material. But selecting those with a timeless appeal proved challenging. I read through dozens and dozens of old issues. Many were simply too “dated” to be useful in a modern volume.
Eventually, I had sifted through the entire mass. What remained were a few, worthy documents that used the “Hamglaze” character. I looked through my personal library for photos that would match this collection.
Then, it was time to create my book.
Amazingly, though I had not visited the publishing website since 2008, my information was still current. After finding a username and password scribbled in an old notebook, I re-connected.
The future was at hand.
I envisioned a brief volume. One with about seven stories. Something that my friend Mary could hand out as a souvenir of sorts. A memory of the 2014 Geauga County Maple Festival.
A document that would help promote our newspaper. A book short enough to hold the attention of local readers, while being substantial enough to offer lasting value. A keepsake worth saving. A treasure in ink and prose.
The “Carrie Hamglaze” character had been durable. I wrote about her as a friend, radio host, television moderator, political candidate and wordsmithing icon.
My own Libertarian leanings meshed perfectly with her old-fashioned Republican sensibilities. She was an anachronism, but fully in touch with new-age conservatism.
I used the Hamglaze character to explore election cycles, the “Occupy” movement and local issues of great importance.
In the book, these tales assumed equal importance.
I guessed that Mary Bramstedt herself would be ecstatic to see these columns brought together in a limited-edition print volume. My thought proved to be quite correct.
The idea I held was simple and direct – to have her offer this product in person. Autographed and delivered with good cheer.
Mary agreed wholeheartedly.
The cover photo used for my book was from a session I did in 2011, outside of Giant Eagle. In modern terms, her white, Ford Focus had long since gone to the junkyard. Yet it remained a compelling icon. Festooned with bumper stickers of all sorts and scars from many miles spent traveling around the county.
Even local writer Rick Bissell featured a photo of the car on his “Pardon My Chardon” blog.
As a column character, Carrie typically served as a host and moderator. Someone able to provide direction despite changing conditions. The real Mary was no less durable, offering genuine stability in a region transitioning from old-money affluence to new-age profligacy, amid a greater climate of national decline.
Her indomitable spirit provided the foundation for many episodes of this series.
The book served as an act of love. A tribute in text.
A statement of praise.
As said before, I decided that it should debut at the signature event in Geauga’s capitol city. But the volume would have meant nothing without my friend’s involvement. It was her blessing that made the book whole.
One more adventure in print.
One last cruise over a sea of ink.
One final voyage, where no (Ice) man has gone before... to paraphrase the opening of Star Trek.
God bless you, Carrie Hamglaze.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:
Write us via the USPS: P.O. Box 365 Chardon, OH 44024

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Carrie Hamglaze Book

A collection of newspaper columns published locally. Available at the 2014 Geauga County Maple Festival, in Chardon. Autographed by Mary Malloy Bramstedt, the inspiration for this character. Only $10 per copy. Buy yours before they disappear!

Polka Bumper Sticker

Was working on a book project today, while reading posts about the Chardon Polka Band. It brought up an old question... did someone from the group "donate" this bumper sticker to the long-lost Ford Focus of erstwhile Chardon City Councilperson Mary Bramstedt? When I asked her about the sticker, she said it had appeared without explanation. But she admitted to being a CPB fan and enjoyed having it on the vehicle. (Photo from 2011)

Chardon Polka Band

Chardon Polka Band makes pitch to appear on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

Saturday, April 05, 2014

“Granny’s 8-track Comes Back”

c. 2014 Rod Ice

My friend Janis could best be described as unconventional in every way.
She is somewhat ‘bohemian’ in disposition. Long, red hair and no makeup. Thrift-store clothes. Oddball tattoos. She prefers sandals in all but the coldest weather. Her tastes in music are a disjointed mess - everything from Metallica to Tennessee Ernie Ford. She has a giant praying mantis in the rear window of her car.
We are polar opposites in almost every way.
Janis lives in a house loaded with pop-culture oddities and artifacts from yesteryear. In particular, items left by her late grandmother. Occasionally, this causes our conversations to detour, unpredictably.
A recent example developed when someone at work mentioned the subject of 8-track tapes. Those around us, being of younger vintage, were baffled. But she reacted knowingly.
“I think Granny had one of those things!” she said with excitement. “It is still on the back porch. I think it takes batteries.”
Laughter resounded. Only she and I seemed familiar with these bygone tape cartridges.
“Does it still work?” I asked, when the laughter had subsided.
She shrugged like an elf. “No idea. Granny always used it to listen to her Willie Nelson tapes. But that was a long time ago.”
“Does it have a turntable?” I asked.
“No!” she laughed.
“How about fold-out speakers?” I wondered.
“No,” she frowned.
“AM/FM radio?” I continued.
“No,” she said again.
“A power cord?” I said, quizzically.
“None,” she replied.
“Is it a cool color?” I said with hope.
“Black,” she moaned. “Basic black.”
“So, who made it?” I stammered.
“Sears,” she recalled.
I was out of ideas. Janis promised to bring the device to work for my inspection.
Hurriedly, I searched at home for tapes to test her player.
When it appeared, a week later, the 8-track machine looked unbelievably plain. More basic than anything I could remember. It had a channel switch, one knob for tone and another for volume.
That was all.
The battery compartment had been ruined by corrosion due to neglect. Its door had long since disappeared. But I noted a 12 volt port, intended for use with a cigarette-lighter cord.
My face brightened. “I have a power supply at home. That might work.”
“Give it a try!” she cheered. “Otherwise, I will just throw it in the trash.”
At home, I connected the 8-track to my power unit. A Slim Whitman tape seemed appropriate for the trial run. I slid it into the player and a muddy wash of audio delight ebbed from the single speaker:

“Drifting along with the tumbleweeds...
I’m a roving cowboy, riding all alone
Tumbleweeds around hum a lonely song
Nights underneath the starry moon
I ride alone and hum a tune

See them tumbling down
Pledging a love to the ground
Lonely but free I’ll be found
Drifting along with the tumbleweeds

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go, but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

I know when night has gone
Here on the range where I belong
So I’ll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.”

The player was a Sears model 250. Investigating on the Internet turned up few clues to its history. But I found one listed on eBay for auction. And another entry offered the owner’s manual from 1972.
Undeniably, I had entered 8-track nirvana!
Janis barely remembered these audio bricks. For her, they were an odd relic of Granny’s trip toward the cosmic void.
I explained having grown up on reel-to-reel recorders, after which I graduated to cassette devices. The 8-track was a curious phenomenon I enjoyed as a sidebar to these more durable and dependable magnetic formats. But their clunky appeal was undeniable. A talisman of 1970’s culture.
My last 8-track deck came from Radio Shack. It was a Realistic unit, probably made around 1980. The component had been designed for stereo use. It had VU meters and a sophisticated set of controls.
I packed it away many years ago, with my Stereo-8 collection.
But the Slim Whitman tape came from a more recent trip to Goodwill. Probably about four years ago. I remembered that the cashier who rang out my purchase seemed amused by the stack of 8-track cartridges that I carried to her register.
In her mind, these outdated toys were like relics from an archaeologist’s excavation. They seemed ancient and foreign.
Yet in my own terms, they were nuggets of gold.
Thanks to my unconventional cohort Janis and her house full of time-warp trinkets, I found motivation to discover that gold once again.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:
Write us via the USPS: P.O. Box 365 Chardon, OH 44024