Pulse Of The City

The American Experience... Woody's Mandolin

Happy 100th Birthday, Woody!

Woody who? Which Woody? Well, the person in question would be Mr. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, although I have it on pretty good authority that Woody would probably have taken serious umbrage if anyone would have called him "mister."

Woody was a man who often defied categorization and had a universal attraction to the whole human family. When he was hospitalized, he was reportedly asked what his religious preference was. His response, supposedly, was "all." When the registrar pressed for something more specific, Woody is said to have told her to list either "all"... or "none."

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Volume 8, Issue 15, Posted 10:55 PM, 07.24.2012

Life in Lakewood, 50 Years Ago... Drums and Sons... (A Tribute To Declan Simon)

It's well-known among my readers that every now and then, I like to do a column about music. If you know ANYTHING about Gary Rice, you know that a great portion of my life has been connected to the world of professional music. This particular tale goes back fifty years, and begins with a pair of drums.

The drums that you see in the photo are Ludwig™  400  model snare drums. At the time, those drums were truly considered to be among the best snare drums in the world. Turns out, all of you have heard that kind of drum on more songs than you could probably count. That type of drum was an in-demand piece of studio equipment, providing that essential back-beat and distinctive "rifle-crack" sound that defined the essentials of modern Rock and Jazz music. That professional-level drum sold for quite a bit of money back then, and as a result, was not always purchased by parents as a student's first drum.

In the early sixties, these two drums were purchased at Educators Music in Lakewood by two sets of caring parents who had sublime faith in the talents of their two young sons, both of whom were beginning their journey in the world of music.

This column tells the remarkable story of those drums... and those sons.

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Volume 8, Issue 14, Posted 10:02 PM, 07.10.2012

Just Another Gary Rice story...

This story, that happened on June 14th, is like so many of my stories. It's almost too strange to be true.

I was sitting on my front porch steps relaxing this afternoon, having just finished scrubbing and rinsing my front porch walls, floor, porch door, furniture, and windows, when I engaged my neighbor in conversation. As the City had come down the other side of the street recently and cited several residents for one problem or another, I wanted our home to have good "curb appeal," especially if someone from the government happened to come by to look at our side of the street. Having just discussed these aspects with my neighbor, he looked up and said, "Look, it's the President!" Thinking him to be joking, I turned around, feeling very much like a sucker...

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Volume 8, Issue 14, Posted 10:02 PM, 07.10.2012

At My Grandfather's Knee...(Ancestry Reflections)

"avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." Apostle Paul- Titus 3:9

With a bi-racial American President currently in office, the discussion of race in American life has continued to be of interest in the news and, of course, in the political world.

The other day, I happened to be listening to one of those "political" radio stations where the commentator was harping about a politician who had apparently claimed to have had a bit of Native American ancestry way back in her family, and who had also supposedly identified herself as being other than "White" on some form somewhere. The premise of the commentator's point, seemingly, was that the woman might have once used a part of her ethnicity in order to be "favored" in some way. How different that type of thinking is from the days of our not-so-far-back past, when so many minority Americans experienced very different reactions regarding their racial make-up.

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Volume 8, Issue 13, Posted 11:38 PM, 06.26.2012

Lakewood, A Half-Century Ago... Let's DANCE!... 1962-2012 A Time To Mourn And A Time To Dance...Ecclesiastes 3:4

In the '50's and early '60's, a great deal of popular music involved audience participation in the form of dancing... and dance, we did. Music and dancing have been intertwined going back to the Middle Ages and probably before that, but long before the time when people began to sit like robots in cavernous amphitheaters, screaming like banshees at grown men in women's clothing and hairstyles- playing out-of-tune guitars through refrigerator-sized amplification, we actually danced in our high school gyms and church basements. We listened to harmonized bands in matching outfits, having infectious rhythms and beautiful music that we could, and did, dance to.

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Volume 8, Issue 12, Posted 9:10 PM, 06.12.2012

Guitars For Vets™ Rocks The Screaming Rooster!

On Friday, May 18th, the Cleveland Chapter of Guitars for Vets™ held a toe-tapping fund raiser at the Screaming Rooster. Guitars for Vets™ is dedicated to getting guitars into the hands of deserving veterans. The program provides ten free lessons on a loaner guitar. At the conclusion of that period of time, and upon graduation from the program, the veteran will receive a new guitar. The fundraiser at Lakewood's beautiful Screaming Rooster provided a raffle of various items donated to the organization from numerous community groups, as well as the opportunity to make contributions to a worthy cause.

For more information, contact G4VCleveland@gmail.com.

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Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 10:52 PM, 05.30.2012

Lakewood's people...Those among us.... JT3! Dr. John Tamilio III, Your Lakewood Observer Religion Contributor

Pilgrim Congregational (Tremont) United Church of Christ Pastor and Doctor John Tamilio III, otherwise known in the Cleveland area and on the Eastern Seaboard as "JT3," is one of those people who strive to confront our world as it is, and in that confrontation dares to try to effect change for the better. If you read the Lakewood Observer regularly, you know that Pastor John and his family are Lakewood residents, and that his religion column has often graced these pages.
The track record for those wanting to change our world "for the better" has not been very good. In the Christian tradition, that kind of affirmative, non-violent, and loving change has often been met with ridicule, rejection, and even three nails and a cross on that ubiquitous hill called Calvary. 

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:26 PM, 05.15.2012

Lakewood Celebrates 35th Annual Volunteer Recognition With Gala Breakfast At Brennans Banquet Center

Hundreds of Lakewood's volunteers were honored by Lakewood's Department of Human Services at the city's 35th annual special recognition celebration at Brennans Banquet Center on Thursday, April 26th. These dedicated volunteers help our city in virtually every arena of service, from providing community meals to working with the Office on Aging. They also provide early childhood assistance, youth assistance, health and wellness activities, and animal shelter assistance--as well as many other kinds of service to our community.

Volunteer Services Supervisor Barry Wemyss smoothly moderated the stellar celebration, with keynote remarks offered by Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers, who also presented the service awards. Other city officials in attendance included two members of City Council, David Anderson and Shawn Juris. Senior Center Manager Dee-Dee MacNamee-Gold and Lakewood's Director of Human Services, Dorothy Buckon, helped to coordinate the event, with Cross Point Church Pastor Todd Calaway providing the invocation. Memorable big band jazz entertainment was provided by the Lakewood High School Jazz Band, under the inspiring direction of Brian Maskow, while volunteers from Lakewood's Gold Coast Follies expertly danced the morning away.

Persons interested in participating in Lakewood's outstanding volunteer traditions are invited to call Barry Wemyss at Lakewood's Senior Center West at 216-521-1515.

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Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 9:55 PM, 05.01.2012

Lakewood Kid Games...A Half-Century Ago...

Let's face it, Lakewood kids have never had it easy as far as finding places to play. While we've always had plenty of residential areas to live in, finding safe places where kids can be kids in a city like ours is a perpetual challenge.

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Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 9:41 PM, 04.17.2012

Racism? Prejudice? Bullying? In Lakewood? Perhaps we need to talk...

1 John 1:8

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us"

This verse from the Bible reminds us that in the Christian tradition, the Lenten period is a time of soul-searching and repentance. As I write these words, the time of Lent is concluding, and as you read these words, the time of Easter will have begun. Easter, for the Christian world, marks the transition from repentance to a time of renewal.

Whether or not you are a Christian, if you are reading this you are probably a Lakewoodite. Maybe it's time for a little secular repentance and renewal for all of us, particularly regarding the topics of racism, prejudice, and bullying.

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Volume 8, Issue 7, Posted 9:57 PM, 04.03.2012

DENNIS! Thank You...

Dear Congressman Kucinich:

This is a difficult letter to write, and one that I hoped I would have never have to write. After eight terms serving this area as our Congressman, and even in this election garnering the majority of votes in Cuyahoga County, you are now being effectively forced from office by downstate politicians who combined your district with that of well-known fifteen-term Toledo-area Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

If you are feeling any personal outrage about this, please know that that feeling is shared by many of your constituents. Not that Marcy Kaptur isn't a hardworking and highly effective representative in Congress. She certainly is. As time passes, I have no doubt that she'll be a very effective spokesperson for our county, just as she has been for the constituents in her district. Of course, now she must run in November against Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, also nationally known as "Joe the Plumber"--the well-spoken "guy-on-the-street" who faced off with Barack Obama in that now-historic interchange.

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 9:13 PM, 03.20.2012

The Civil War...150 Years Ago... Ohio's Johnson's Island Prison, And The Tale Of The Magnificent U.S.S. Michigan... (The ship that saved our state!)

When talk around a Civil War reenactment campfire turns to ships and the sea, often the discussion turns to that first great battle between two ironclad vessels at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Union vessel was the U.S.S. Monitor, nicknamed the "Cheesebox on a raft." The Confederate vessel was the C.S.S. Virginia, formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack, a union warship that had been burned to the waterline and captured by the Confederates and converted into an ironclad.

That first battle between iron ships ended as a virtual draw. At that point in the campfire conversation, Civil War buffs will sometimes conclude that these were the first two iron ships built, but that would be a very erroneous conclusion. The first American iron warship was the U.S.S. Michigan, and she had been launched in 1843, fully 20 years before the first battle between iron ships was waged.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 10:02 PM, 02.21.2012

The Civil War....150 years ago... A Pilgrimage To Gettysburg...

It's not very much of a fence, as fences go...It's not even waist-high in many places. It's simply a low line of rocks, piled along the edge of a country field. One could easily hop over it in many places, and indeed, many did exactly that--at a critical time in our nation's history. For this particular fence marked the grand battle line of the Army of the Potomac on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (from July 1-3, 1863).

On that third day of battle, from out of the woods across that field came a mile-long line of the Army of Northern Virginia. Frustrated by being turned back on both flanks in the previous two days' fighting, a decision was made by Southern General Robert E. Lee to send that army directly across that open field and take the Union position at all costs.

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Volume 8, Issue 3, Posted 9:45 PM, 02.07.2012

Our Local Colleges And Universities- Keys To The Future!

There's no doubt about it, college does not come cheap, and, truth be told, for a young person to hope for a good livelihood he or she will probably need to complete some college studies or receive training in a good vocational school. To many Americans, that means trying to get their children into what they perceive to be a "top-tier" school of higher education. Even with whatever scholarships might be available, those schools often mean thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, along with thousands of dollars for student loans and room-and-board fees. Frankly, I just don't think that kind of expense account works for all of us.

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Volume 7, Issue 25, Posted 12:10 AM, 12.14.2011

Gary's Arrival At Geezerdom... (Bring it ON!)

Well, it came in the mail today. Here it is, a week to go before my 60th birthday, and somehow they knew. Of course, conspiracy theorists would probably opine that the state knows everything anyway. I suppose they must, because it came in the same mailbox as those uninvited tax forms come in every January.
(Then, too, this is probably way more information than you need to "digest," but it came with a "regularity" that I'm not feeling as often as I used to feel, either.)

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Volume 7, Issue 23, Posted 4:43 PM, 11.15.2011

Planning Commission Defers Decision On McDonald�s Development

On Oct. 19, the Lakewood Planning Commission convened a special session for the pending McDonald’s development proposal for the Detroit Theater property.

On the agenda was McDonald’s request seeking the merger of two vacant parcels of land currently zoned for residential use (being the south 70 feet of the subject parcel) into one tax lo,t as an ingredient for its desire to obtain a conditional-use permit from the city to allow for an accessory parking lot in a residential district.

Without this necessary conditional-use approval for the south 70 feet (which also includes a portion of the proposed drive-thru), the McDonald’s development would already be a done deal and would have proceeded much more unimpeded without this additional piece of oversight from our fellow citizens on the Lakewood Planning Commission.

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Volume 7, Issue 22, Posted 1:17 PM, 11.01.2011


Wow, some say this is "Church as it ought to be." Others say, "Hmmm, a church service for a cause?" Well, yes and yes. U2charist is a Christian worship service using poetry and visuals AND the music of U2! It will be a blast, a comfort, a shared reality with a world (and our corner of it) which is hungry.

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Volume 7, Issue 21, Posted 7:12 PM, 10.19.2011

Our Lakewood Public Schools...Something For Everyone?

The past decade or so has really brought the issue of American education to the forefront, has it not? Our public schools around the country have been pushing for higher and higher academic standards, as more parents, business leaders, and others compare American academic achievement with the world around us. About a decade ago, a Federal Law commonly known as "No Child Left Behind" (or NCLB) received broad bipartisan support so that ever-higher educational standards would become the law of the land. A system was put into place mandating that schools improve annually until 2014, when all schools would arrive at a baseline of universal proficiency. Failure to meet AYP (annual yearly progress) towards that goal could mean a loss of federal dollars for many schools around the country.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 9:51 AM, 10.05.2011

Our Centennial City: Lakewood's Antiques- The Ludwig 1909 Bass Drum Pedal

Here's a remarkable invention (the same age as our Lakewood home) that, although not directly related to Lakewood, has deeply affected the music that we listen to today. In 1909, William and Theobald Ludwig were brothers in the Chicago area who started what would later become the world-famous Ludwig™ drum company by introducing a foot pedal beater mechanism that could play a floor-mounted bass drum.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 7:27 AM, 10.05.2011

Our Centennial City- A Lakewood Kid's Food, A Half-Century Ago...(Popcorn, Anyone?)

I really don't like admitting this, but I just don't cook much. Being born without a significant sense of smell limited my time in the kitchen. Sure, I can taste whatever sweet, sour, salty, hot, and cold sensations the tongue can offer, but still, if you blindfolded me and alleviated the "crunch" factor, I would be hard pressed to tell you whether I was munching on a hot dog or an egg roll.

Having ear, nose, and throat conditions while growing up, I looked at food primarily as fuel for the body, and little else. I've been told that smell is one of the prime motivators to get the "hungries" going, so when I was young I was underweight and practically had to be forced to eat. When my parents took me out to a nice restaurant, they were often embarrassed when I told them that all I wanted was a grilled cheese while they wanted steak dinners. A throat condition also caused me to prefer softer food, as I had trouble swallowing from time to time. When I did eat a sandwich, I needed to have the crust cut off the bread first, and the sandwiches were all soft ones, perhaps containing mayonnaise, Vienna sausages, potted meat, cheese, or maybe bananas.

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Volume 7, Issue 19, Posted 8:27 AM, 09.21.2011

Historic Preservation? (Yes, But With Our People First!) The Fabulous Lakewood Senior Centers!

As our city begins to debate the relative merits and priorities regarding its architectural historic preservation, it's quite a comforting feather in Lakewood's cap to know that our city already has a vibrant array of senior services in place to assist the wonderful human resources who, indeed, have helped to create and maintain some of the historic wood, brick and mortar buildings that are currently being discussed in our community.

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Volume 7, Issue 18, Posted 10:48 AM, 09.07.2011

A Stellar Night With The Lakewood Hometown Band!

On August 21st, the 2011 Lakewood Sunday evening "Concert in the Park" series concluded with a superb performance by the Lakewood Hometown Band, under the able baton of Frank Cosenza. Congratulations are also in order to Donald Santa-Emma, the band's tireless Musical Coordinator, and to the flawless Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Jim Mehrling of WCLV 104.9, Classical FM radio.

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Volume 7, Issue 18, Posted 10:48 AM, 09.07.2011

Our Centennial City... Mementos and Memories

My family never moved around very much. We came to Lakewood from the family homestead in Pennsylvania in 1958, and we moved around Lakewood only once. People who move around a great deal are used to the sometimes sad but often all too necessary chore of de-cluttering their homes. That does not necessarily happen with people who put down deep roots. Adding to that (at least in our case), we had shared many good times, the remnants of which abound on the shelves and in the closets of our home.

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Volume 7, Issue 17, Posted 8:32 AM, 08.24.2011

Lakewood's Magical Musical Moments... "The Flip Side" Of The Winchester Music Hall

It wasn't long after my dear late mother passed away that I was driving up a Lakewood side street when I spotted a guy carrying a guitar case similar to one that I owned. Stopping the car on impulse, I hailed the guy down, and we enjoyed a few minutes of warm conversation. The guy's name was Mark Ronan, and he invited me to join his friends at the Phoenix Coffee House in Lakewood for their Monday night get-together jam session. Lakewood's Phoenix (which later morphed into the beautiful Root Cafe) at that time was a very small, intimate venue. We all played and sang while sitting tightly around a little table by the front window. I also met Mark's friend, Jack Mizenko, and some of the other members of a group of musicians called "The Flip Side," but was never actually able to hear them perform at that time.

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Volume 7, Issue 15, Posted 7:38 AM, 07.27.2011

The Lakewood Observer: 150 Issues Ago/ The Civil War: 150 Years Ago.. (Not A Great Deal Of Difference, Was There?)

I guess you'd just have to have lived here at the time...Back in 2003, Lakewood was on the brink of its own little civil war.

Let's face it. There's always been a quiet, generally polite tension in this city between the different factions who live here. Whether that tension happened to fall along political, cultural, geographic, racial, demographic, ethnic, or economic lines, historically at least, cool-headed Lakewoodites were usually able to steer a middle ground, prior to what would become known as the "West End" issue.

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Volume 7, Issue 13, Posted 8:02 AM, 06.29.2011

"My Oath Of Enlistment Has No Expiration Date!" Robert Rice The American Veterans' Last Salute March... (A War Story...About Love) One Veteran's Glorious Gift To America's Veterans...

This is one column that is both easy and yet incredibly difficult to write. I really don't care to write anything that might seem in any way self-serving. Dad and I really do want to help others as best we can, and the cause of service to others is what this column is all about.

There is one group of people who never complain about my writing. They are silent and respectful, because they must be. They are the dear honored departed who once lived as we do now, but now lie at rest in our nearby cemeteries.

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Volume 7, Issue 12, Posted 8:19 AM, 06.15.2011

Teenage Rebellion! The Battle Of The Boots...

Dad and I were cruising down Franklin the other day when the high school let out. Even though we volunteer as retired teachers with the Lakewood Schools, it seemed to us that some of the outfits of the high school students were even more colorful than the flowers sprouting along the sidewalks. Middle school students usually adhere to at least a certain amount of fashionable convention, but by the time high school hits? Well, to Dad and I at least, a circus parade would not have been more interesting to behold. Of course, those students were not the first ones to sport outrageous styles that have stymied the adult world for years.

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 10:37 PM, 05.17.2011

One More Column...(For Now)

Have you been noticing something really special going on lately? There are a whole bunch of new writers taking part in the Observer Project! It seems like just about every issue, there's another new name popping up. What's more, these writers have been amazing with their articles and stories about our great city.

It was back in 2006, after retiring from the teaching profession, that I decided to start writing a regular column for the paper. The work gave me something that I could try to do for my own community, after spending many years doing other things. I'd already done some guitar-related writing, so the transition for me was pretty seamless. I've always enjoyed writing, and (as I would advise any retiree) it's just a great idea to keep busy.


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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 10:26 PM, 04.05.2011

Public Employee Unions...America's Last Defenders Of Rights In The Workplace For The "Hireling"?

"No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,"  The Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key 1814

Anyone who's come within a county mile of a news source in the last month or so knows that this country is again experiencing a social revolution, the likes of which we have not seen in many a year. While I suspect that many of us have been happy to sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by, there have also been quite a few very dedicated people who have been working hard on some very revolutionary plans so that our society could soon be changed to their way of thinking.

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 2:15 PM, 03.22.2011

Had Enough Snow Yet?

It wasn't all that long ago, in Lakewood, that it seemed as if we were going through a whole bunch of easy winters. Oh sure, a couple of times each year, we'd get beat up by the snow machine, (usually during early and late winter, when good old Lake Erie was unfrozen)  but on the whole, it was pretty much a halcyon time of sporadic two-inch snowfalls, interspersed with backyard car washings, kitchen floor mop-ups, and lightweight jackets.

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Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 2:20 PM, 03.08.2011

Happy Birthday, City of Lakewood! (You're 100 Years Young!)

Here's something that, if I've heard it once, I've heard it more times than I can remember... I'll be talking with some Lakewood expatriate who is presently living in some expensive outer-ring suburb, with an expensive, acre-sized, professionally landscaped lawn, along with a beautiful expensive palace, with that obligatory 20 foot high, expensive cathedral ceiling in their equally expensive great room. Although I expect to hear them talking about their expensive in-ground pool and their gorgeous, expensive kitchen counter tops, both the conversation, and their memories, inevitably turn fondly back to Lakewood.

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Volume 7, Issue 2, Posted 12:35 AM, 01.26.2011

Proverbs...New Year's Wisdom, For The Pathways Of Life...

If there's one thing that I believe we all hope for, particularly in a new year, it would be wisdom. Most of us have probably either done or said something that we wished we hadn't.

But this year...this year will be different, of course! We will attain and practice wisdom, right? Uh huh. Still, hope springs eternal, does it not?

By the way, as a sidebar, what about those "resolutions" of yours? As we begin the new year, just how are they going for you? Got 'em all typed up and placed on your refrigerator?  Got all those receipts of yours all together for your tax accountant? What's wrong? Can't quite get yourself together? Don't cry. You're not alone. Those "New Year's Blues" hit lots of people. You know, I'm just thinking about those reports of all those alleged wintertime depression-inducing conditions ranging from sunlight deprivation to cabin fever. Happy thoughts, indeed?

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Volume 7, Issue 1, Posted 9:06 AM, 01.12.2011

The Guitar's Christmas Song...

Political and religious beliefs are perhaps two of the most profound topics that each of us will encounter in our lives. Some of us have comfortably grown up in the long-held traditions of family faith and political beliefs, while others among us have become seekers or free thinkers, either because our own political and faith traditions have in some way been unsatisfactory for us, or simply because it's apparently the nature of humankind to constantly question things.

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Volume 6, Issue 25, Posted 4:20 PM, 12.14.2010

Those Among Us...Colin Dussault... Lakewood's Blues Legend- "One Of The Best Blues Harmonica Players Around"

"The Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits" (Colin Dussault, quoting blues master William James "Willie" Dixon)

I don't care much for platitudes or superlatives. I've been around way too long to pull the wool over anyone's eyes or, for that matter, to have said "wool" pulled over my own. Still, this is my column, and since columns are, of course, opinion pieces, I'll state it again for the record, just in case any of you missed the point here.

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Volume 6, Issue 24, Posted 9:02 AM, 12.01.2010

Thanksgiving in Lakewood... Perhaps for some, perhaps for all...

There are certain holidays that come around each year that are frankly uncomfortable for some people. See, there are some facts of life and points of view that just will not go away, no matter how much time passes. Let's face it, you just can't please everyone, can you?  

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Volume 6, Issue 23, Posted 8:57 AM, 11.16.2010

Lakewood Again Remembers Her Veterans

The First World War officially concluded with an armistice that went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. At that time, the conflict was thought to be the "war that would end all wars." Since that time, November 11th has been celebrated as a day of peace and honor for America's veterans. Originally intended to honor the veterans of World War I, the holiday was expanded to include all veterans, and in 1954, the name of the holiday was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

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Volume 6, Issue 22, Posted 8:20 AM, 11.04.2010

Lakewood's Cliffs Of Freedom... The Last Station Of The Underground Railroad

The year 2011 will mark two very special anniversaries. The first will be Lakewood's own birth 100 years ago as an official "city." The second anniversary will mark the 150th year since the beginning of the American Civil War. In a very unique way, Lakewood's own history is closely related to both commemorations.

Silently in the darkness, the quaintly dressed man emerged from behind the huckleberries at the edge of the vast ravine. "It is well," he whispered to the forlorn group behind him, "thee can emerge from the tunnel now. Come follow me, but do so step by step, and carefully. One little slip and thee will take us all off this cliff." From the crawl-tunnel behind him came a tired group of six fugitive slaves dressed in a mixture of dirty calico, gingham, and tattered flannel; each holding onto part of a long thick rope for safety. Only two of the group had anything that might remotely pass for shoes. Slowly, ever so slowly, they began the descent down the side of the ravine and into the Rocky River valley. 

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Volume 6, Issue 21, Posted 8:25 AM, 10.21.2010

Lest We Forget... Our Forgotten Veterans

I've written about my dad, Robert Rice, several times on these pages, most recently around Father's Day. Dad is 90 years young, and to many, he seems to be years younger. Dad is still quick to smile and even quicker to be a friend to others.

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Volume 6, Issue 19, Posted 8:25 AM, 09.22.2010

Labor Day (May We Never Forget Those Bobbin Cones And Doilies!)

Ah, Labor Day. Time to invite the friends and family over for that picnic.  Time to check to see whether that barbecue sauce in the door of the fridge is still edible. Time to pull the plastic wrap off those dogs and clean that nasty looking stuff from off that backyard grill and from around the ring of your ketchup bottle.

Time, as well, to celebrate our symbolic end of summertime. Time to put away those white clothes and dig out those brown and orange sweaters. Time to find, and pump up, that old football and get ready for a great game of backyard tackle.

Time to remember too... remember what, exactly? For whom is Labor Day celebrated?

We don't seem to talk very much about Labor Day, do we? On Veterans Day, we honor America's veterans with long speeches and patriotic parades. On Memorial Day, we decorate the graves of the fallen. We remember the right things to do, as well as the right people to remember on those days, do we not?
When's the last time that you've read any real remembrances as to why Labor Day was founded, or for that matter, who founded it? (Actually, that question seems to be unresolved.)


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Volume 6, Issue 18, Posted 2:15 AM, 09.08.2010

Back To School! (It's That Time Again!)

Hopefully, dear reader, by now you've already seen those dreaded three words a few times. If not, I'm sure the shock will not last too long for you. Deep within our souls, even years after our graduations, those words can cause deep and sometimes traumatic triggers to our collective psyches.

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Volume 6, Issue 17, Posted 8:21 AM, 08.25.2010

"This Is NOT About Me!" (Jim's remark, when I told him that I wanted to write this column) "Obie"...Your Publisher, Jim O'Bryan

I don't know about you, but sometimes I ask myself how well I know some of my friends. In a sense, I suppose we could ask that question about most of our friends. Once we attempt to move beyond the superficial, people can become sublime and mysterious indeed.

If there's one question I am frequently asked regarding this paper, it would be about your paper's publisher, Jim O'Bryan. Throughout much of this paper's history, Jim has been content to remain in the background, letting others provide the opinions and have the community limelight. Still, I thought it might be time to let you know a little more about this amazing person referred to by some of his friends simply as "Obie."

I've had a dickens of a time getting Jim to agree to running a column about him. As he said when I told him that I wanted to do this column: "This is not about me!" Well, perhaps not, Jim, but at least this particular column is about you. I think Lakewood would appreciate knowing more about the man who started all of this.

But first, a little background as to how this whole Observer Project came into being.

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Volume 6, Issue 16, Posted 8:28 AM, 08.11.2010

Capturing Lakewood And The Emerald Canyon Through Photography (You, too, can post your photos for all to enjoy!)

Not too many years ago, it was considered by some that when it came to "the arts," you either had natural talent or you did not. Professional illustrators, artists, musicians, and photographers often closely guarded the secrets of their trades, and so there developed a mystique regarding the arts that persists to this day.

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Volume 6, Issue 15, Posted 8:42 AM, 07.27.2010

Those Among Us... Charles Phebus And John Shepherd, Great Americans, Cut From The Same Cloth...

We who live in the Greater Cleveland area often seem to pay little attention to our central city of Cleveland, and often (other than perhaps during some Friday night high school football games) we pay scant attention to the other suburbs around us. Many of my out-of-town friends and family are often amazed to learn that many of us know relatively little about our region and its rich heritage.  

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Volume 6, Issue 14, Posted 8:37 AM, 07.14.2010

Those Among Us...Dad... The Story Of Robert Rice

As those great Lakewood summer days approach, I often think of my columns as "wrapping up" like the school year does. That's probably the retired teacher in me, but I do wonder if there are any missing topics that perhaps I should have covered during the past year.

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Volume 6, Issue 12, Posted 8:31 AM, 06.16.2010

Bullying-An Ever-Present Threat...

Recently in the national news, there was a report of a teen suicide, allegedly due to repeated bullying by a number of other students.

That news item caused me to reflect on the issue of bullying in school, and with my own experiences (both as a classroom teacher, and as a student) with this reprehensible behavior.

Virtually anyone, at any time, whether in school, or in the workplace, or elsewhere, can become a victim...or even become a passive unwitting participant in the bullying process. Whether we like it or not, our school days, work days, and even our recreational times, are social laboratories for learning about people and about life in general. Sometimes, the lessons learned are not good ones.

In my early school experiences, I was on the receiving end of bullying for several reasons. (Although I'd better point out here that there is NEVER a valid reason to bully anyone!) In the first place, I was one of the youngest and smallest kids in the room. Adding to those issues, I had a speech impediment, a hearing problem, and difficulty with walking. Any one of those issues could have made me a target for bullies, and the combination of them made for a number of difficult moments in my elementary years. In junior high, my dad was a teacher in the same building where I went, and this fact presented yet another twisted rationale for even more bullying to occur. Only after I had learned a number of techniques as to how to deal with bullies, did the bullying finally go away.


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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 8:56 AM, 06.02.2010

Advice? For The Graduates of 2010...

I think that perhaps the most despised word in the English language (to a graduating high school senior at least) is the word "advice."

After all, seniors have spent the last thirteen years of their lives (including kindergarten) receiving instruction, and education, and yes, advice. In their eyes, what more could possibly be told to them now, by ANYONE five MINUTES older than they are, about life?

Seniors, who have had virtually every aspect of their lives directed by adults up to this point, want to get on with their own lives, plans, and futures. They certainly want to have little to do with well-meaning but otherwise totally BORING grown-up advice.

Well, too bad. Here it comes anyway.

Wisdom, as anyone who has ever graduated from high school could tell you, is not the accumulation of facts, but rather the successful blending of those facts with life's experiences. There's an old saying attributed to American writer Mark Twain about never letting school get in the way of one's education. See, it's like this: If the choice came right down between "book-learnin'" and common sense, give me the common sense, anytime. Still, you really need both aspects in order to get by in this wild world of ours.

I'll make my own advice here real simple for you. There really are only two kinds of jobs out there. There's the job you will like, and the job you will not like. Which kind would you rather have? You've been in school now for thirteen years. Did that seem like a long time? If that question seems to have a rather obvious answer, then consider this point: You will be spending about three times that amount of time at your job. Unless you go into the teaching field, forget about those weeks off in the summer, and at Christmas and Easter time too. You'll now most likely be on the job for fifty out of fifty-two weeks of the year.

Yes, you'd better like that job.

Over the years, I've worked as a photographer, a professional musician, a private music teacher, a sales manager of a retail music store, and a musical instrument repair person. I've also done some public speaking and, of course, write these columns for you. The most important job I believe I've had has been in the field of school teaching. I was a teacher for more than thirty years, and those were some of the best days of my life. Truthfully though, each of my jobs has been an enjoyable experience. Enjoyable jobs are usually the ones that require some specialized training. If you receive specialized training, you will likely be paid more as well.

Remember, this is 30 years of time that we're talking about. As previously noted, you'd better REALLY like what you will be doing...or you could end up being REALLY unhappy.

It is critical, as well, that you keep your good name and a clean record. One silly mistake on a Saturday night, and your chances for a good employment future can go down the drain forever. Watch what you do on the internet, as well. The internet is indeed forever, and some of your unwise chat-room postings can follow you throughout your life like the reeking smell of a road-killed skunk.

Sometimes too, even when you think that you might have your future planned, you may need to shift gears when a better idea comes along. For example, I originally trained as a regular education teacher, but teaching those large classes for many years might have been a real challenge for me, due to my having a serious speech impediment. A VERY wise principal friend of my father's suggested that I go into special education teaching instead, as there would be smaller classes to teach, and young people could perhaps also identify with someone who had exceptional issues similar to their own.

When I thought about it, it made great sense, so that's exactly what I ended up doing. In fact, my "job" actually became more of a mission for me. Helping young people having special needs also helped me gain a better perspective on some of my own former childhood experiences.

In short, while I certainly hope you will make plans for what you think you want to do in life, always remain open to new opportunities as they come along.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 8:25 AM, 05.19.2010

Happy Mother's Day!

The 20th century may well have been marked by some of the greatest disputes known to humanity, but one holiday created at the dawn of that century enjoys universal agreement around the world. That holiday, of course, is Mother's Day.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 8:26 AM, 05.06.2010

1970- "Let Us Not Look Back In Anger, Nor Forward In Fear, But Around Us In Awareness" -Anon.

It all happened, as they say, in the twinkling of an eye. When the ball dropped on Times Square on January 1st, 1970, the "Sixties" were over...and none too soon, for many of us.

Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsies, along with Buddy Miles, opened the year by performing at New York's Fillmore East on New Year's Eve, while Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians played uptown at the Waldorf-Astoria. These two musical groups, in a sublime way, helped, at least symbolically, to reflect the cultural differences struggling to prevail in our country in 1970.

For those of us living in Lakewood at that time, it had already been a time of profound change. On the evening of July 4th, 1969, a terrible holiday storm had ripped Lakewood into shreds. People died, trees toppled, and a vastly changed landscape greeted Lakewoodites who crawled out of their basements later that night to see the damage.

Actually, the weather during the 1969-1970 period was pretty much as it usually is around here. Funny though, unlike the current "global warming" theories, more than a few people at that time thought that the earth was actually cooling, and that maybe we were even getting ready for another ice age!

Ironically, both Simon and Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and Edwin Starr's "War" made the top 10 that year, again possibly reflecting the conflicting feelings of the American public at that time. Other top musical hits of 1970 included Guess Who's "American Woman/No Sugar Tonight," The Carpenters' "Close To You," Rare Earth's "Get Ready," B.J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," and the Beatles' "Let It Be," among others.

Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix both died in 1970, along with actresses Inger Stevens and Gypsy Rose Lee. In February, the "Chicago 7" was found innocent of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Also in February, Lakewood's HAZE rock band played at an all-night party for the LHS class of '70 at the Lakewood YMCA.

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 8:06 PM, 04.20.2010

Lakewood's Churches... Is The Mainstream Drying Up...And If So, Why?

Those of you who follow my columns know that, from time to time, I've included a discussion about faith. Sometimes that discussion has been personal, and other times I've tried to take a wider look at our city and the various faiths that worship here. The bottom line for me would simply be that I hope you all know that I am a firm supporter of a faithful, God-respecting life. Far too many times in my life have I known, or felt, the intervention of something far greater than myself. I am indeed a believer in faith. As well, I have great respect for any house of worship that is sincrely dedicated to God.

I mention this bias to you so that the rest of this column might be framed in that context. I certainly have no interest in wanting to question particular religious practices, but at the same time, I am trying to understand, in a broader framework, what seems to be going wrong with organized religion in America generally, and here in Lakewood, particularly.

That honest and caring people of differing faith traditions have often historically disagreed is well-known. That severe and long-standing prejudices, as well as persecutions, have also occurred in the history of religion are also well-established facts. Whatever one's religious tradition might be, one can generally point to a time when others of their faith tradition were relentlessly hunted down, tortured, or even killed.

In our own country's beginnings, we adopted a special clause in the First Amendment to our Constitution that attempted to insure that one's private faith practices would not be persecuted; and to a great degree, that's been the norm in our country. While there really is no "Wall of Separation" between Church and State (that particular wording is not in the Constitution), we tend to live and let live with our neighbors' faith practices.

Lakewood has, at least until recently, been a fairly representative model of traditional mainstream religious freedom of expression in the American urban environment. Although Lakewood's houses of worship have been primarily Christian, they have represented a diversity of beliefs within that faith tradition. (Our non-Christian neighbors, who have been involved with their own faith traditions, generally established their meeting places in regional settings beyond Lakewood's borders.)

In recent years, "For Sale" signs have appeared on the front of a number of Lakewood Churches, while others have been torn down, or merged with other congregations. At the same time, new or alternative worship experiences like the "Impact" service at Lakewood United Methodist Church, the Cross Point Church meeting at Harding Middle School, the Lakewood New Life Church meeting at (but unaffiliated with) the Lakewood Masonic Temple, and some extra-urban mega-churches seem to be attracting increasing numbers of  worshippers. Some of these types of services offer coffee, juice, and cookies, while joyful music and interactive cues are often projected onto big screens, and happy children sometimes roam the aisles. Frankly, some of these newer experiences are "packing them in," so to speak, while older traditional churches seem to be withering on the vine.

Why might that be the case?

That's a question that even trained church leaders debate, but I have a few theories. First, it's an open secret that there's long been a philosophical conflict between some religious points of view and certain elements of contemporary psychological thinking. Some traditional faiths, for example, never seem to arrive at a complete resolution of difficulties that many people have. At some point, on the other hand, psychological therapists often try to assist the beginnings of healing and resolution in a person's life.

Feelings of guilt, discomfort, doubt, and insecurity as to life's "big questions" sometimes can be difficult to resolve with some religious groups, and a kind of negative "co-dependency" can develop that can seem to be entirely at odds with Jesus' message of forgiveness and with moving ahead in one's life. People seek to feel better when they go to a worship service, but sometimes they can end up leaving a church feeling worse than when they came in!

As mainstream churches decline, money woes can also increase at an exponential rate. Constant pulpit talk about money can, and often will, increase as the collection plates get lighter. My grandfather sometimes said of his church that they were more concerned with "what I give, than how I live." I think that his feelings are shared by many frustrated believers these days.

At some point in the '50's and '60's, many mainstream denominations started to emphasize the "social gospel" more (feeding the hungry, saving the world, etc...), while de-emphasizing the traditional Bible-based religious worship experience. From the pulpit, one sometimes heard more about missions and money than they did the Word of God. After a time, frustrated people who were unable to effect change in their churches started to vote their dissatisfactions either with their feet or with their pocketbooks. It wasn't that the "social gospel" was necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself, but let's face it, listening to bad news on television every day is one thing. Hearing more of it on Sunday mornings, as a captive audience, is quite another story. Christians say that they love to tell people about the "good news" of Jesus, but so often, they seem to replace that good news with bad news!

The old joke about churches having their congregants simply "pay, pray, and obey" seemed at one time to be a very real template for some traditional churches that were content to rake in their money without providing either adequate solace or accountability to their congregants. These days, the laity is demanding a more participatory role in their churches, and greater accountability by their leadership. Churches still clinging to the traditional model of "pay, pray, and obey" are finding that not to be as easy to do as it once was.

More people these days are also looking for acceptance, understanding, and even some human flexibility. All too often, when they encounter some traditional churches, they find brick walls and rigid rules, at best circumvented by quiet winks and nods.

As well, there's been the historical "us vs. them" doctrinal mentality that in the past has split up churches, amoeba-like, into more and more denominations. Warm and loving congregational acceptance can change on a dime if a church member starts to openly dissent from the rules of some congregations.

Lastly, the ugly issue of "cover-up" must be included in this type of discussion. While the most sensitive, offensive and damaging cover-ups by church leaders involved the abuse of children, there were also aspects of financial and personal abuses of power that, too many times and with too many churches, were either covered up or hushed away.

While some people, in Christian forgiveness, no doubt wanted to believe that these sins could be forgiven and should perhaps even be forgotten, that's not so easy to do for the victims of these terrible crimes. When basic trust is lost in any case, there goes the whole show. These days, while many if not most churches have procedures in place to minimize some of the mistakes of the past, they still can never change that past, and that is something they must deal with on an ongoing basis.

So, is there a "fix" to the problems of declining mainstream churches? Well, one has to wonder whether these church tragedies might signal some celestial consequence for Lakewood's own lack of faithful stewardship with her many precious religious resources. It would not take a leap of faith to realize that, at very least, Lakewood's faithful need to start thinking about getting back to the fundamentally important aspects of their various faiths. Whatever our personal beliefs might be about the particulars, perhaps a good place to begin our own personal faith rebuilding process is within each of our own hearts (particularly as so many of our earthly houses of faith here in Lakewood crumble into dust).

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Volume 6, Issue 7, Posted 9:23 PM, 04.06.2010

The Importance Of Renewal

Springtime has finally arrived, and the little sproutings of roses, daffodils and dandelions have commenced in our fair city.  Our sidewalks, yards, and gutters have been freed from the incessant snowfalls that marked this past February's experience of living in Lakewood.

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 8:17 AM, 03.24.2010

Sowing Seeds... A Lakewood Parable About TWO Early Settlers

You can't miss it if you've ever attended any event at the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium. I'm referring to Viktor Schreckengost's compelling sculpture of John Chapman (also known as "Johnny Appleseed") kneeling above the doors of that facility. The sculpture has been used as a logo for the Lakewood Schools ever since its inception.

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Volume 6, Issue 5, Posted 8:25 AM, 03.10.2010

"Groundparrot" Gilligan- A Lakewood Legend Leaves Us

Those of us who own pets share a unique experience of living with animals. I am, of course, referring to real animals here, and not your college roommate. Whether you have a cat, a dog, or in my case, birds, these lives intertwine with our own in ways sublime and wonderful.

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 8:52 PM, 01.26.2010

Groovy And Grown-Up, The LHS Class Of '69

Some of you may know that I took the summer off from writing my regular column here. Let's face it, column writing takes time, and sometimes more than a little research; not to mention the endless proof-reading and MORE proof-reading that one goes through in order to bring you something that hopefully makes a little sense.

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:16 PM, 11.17.2009