Monday, October 24, 2016

Josie the Mouser

Sweet Josie!
WE HAVE A new member of the Hart family in Calftown. Her name is Josie. She weighs slightly more than a feather. She's three or four months old. She has long legs and is not afraid of dogs. She isn't a cat, really. She's a "Mouser." And that's why she's hanging out in the hood.

We have mice in our old German house. Sheryl has set traps and we've caught a few. A long time ago, Lucy, the late and great Queen of Calftown, caught a mouse or two in the house and there was a great deal of banging and clanging and screaming and ultimately praise heaped on a super smart Border Collie. She was the greatest dog ever.

Unfortunately, our three current dogs are not mousers and only play with the mice after they've been caught in the trap. We can't have that. So now we have Josie and all the mouse glue traps need to be removed.

Josie did not take long to fit in. She sat on the top of the couch, surveyed her new kingdom, and very calmly said, "Where is my litter box?" Sheryl took her into the basement, and Josie has been spending some serious time down there. This morning she was playing with something by the litter box - we hope it's a mouse. Or, more exactly, was a mouse.

Josie comes to us from Sheryl's sister, who found the cat on her porch and of course couldn't bear to leave her outside. And then, of course, she convinced Sheryl that we needed a mouser. Or did Sheryl convince Stephanie that we needed a mouser.....  Either way, we have Josie the Mouser.

So. Josie is settling right in, the three dogs are mildly interested but generally leave her alone, and Calftown has once again gone to the dogs. And cat. Um, I mean, mouser.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Coach Connell and tonight's big game

CONGRATULATIONS TO QUINCY Notre Dame football coach Bill Connell, recently selected as a finalist for the U.S. Cellular Most Valuable Coach award. Coach Connell is one of 15 finalists from around the country. This is a huge deal, and I'm going to vote for him, and I hope he wins the whole dang thing.

I have a lot of respect for Coach Connell. First of all, he's a huge reason our Quincy Gus Macker continues to thrive. His football team shows up every Memorial Day Weekend to help us with set up and tear down, and I'm never so glad in my life as I am Sunday afternoon when the Raiders arrive to help us with the final push. They. Get. It. Done. Period.

Coach Connell is a character, with his booming voice. But you know one thing about him as soon as you meet him - he demands respect and doesn't tolerate foolishness. You might be the star player on the team, but if you don't follow the rules or if you goof around, well .... you'll look good from the bench.

Secondly, Coach Connell has impacted young lives for years at QND. Look, my daughter went to Quincy High School and her Blue Devils had some epic girls basketball games against Notre Dame - name the last time Quincy High School beat QND in girls hoops (hint, it was when Emily was a sophomore, it was in a regional semifinal game in Springfield, and it was nine years ago). So I'm not vested at Notre Dame, but I respect the school and the fact they represent Quincy.

Actually, I think Rick Little should also be nominated for this award, given the incredible job he's done for the QHS football program. It looks like the Blue Devils will host a first-round playoff game next week and it's great to see them get state-wide respect - winning a Western Big 6 title will do it for you.

Tonight is the big QHS vs. QND football game at 10th and Jackson. The place will be packed and I'm sure emotions will run high. But keep it all in perspective, and remember that this is high school athletics, not the freaking Super Bowl.

Best of luck to all the players and coaches. It doesn't matter who you cheer for - we all win, with such great coaches and leaders.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's a small, small world

I HAD MORE fun than should be allowed hanging out with Professor Emily Hart Tuesday at Western Illinois University. I did a very poor Elvis imitation but the discussion about Elvis and his impact on music and culture in general went over well with the students, I think.

The Rev. Wally Carlson made the trip over from Canton, Ill., to watch. Emily ended up getting him talk to the kids for a few minutes - he actually met Elvis once in Nashville and he remembers seeing Elvis on television, and how his parents and older people in general feared and loathed Elvis.

Wally was a pastor of a Quincy church for many years and we had some musical and worship adventures, specifically with our U2charist services with Rev. Bob Morwell and the young people of his church. Gosh, those were fun and powerful experiences.

Wally's son, Nick, just got a job in Michigan working at a theater. Emily asked Wally the name of the town. "Ah, you probably never heard of it. It's called Alpena," Wally said.

Well, we have heard of Alpena. In fact, Emily was born there. In fact, I spent seven years as sports editor of The Alpena News newspaper, and they were great years. Oh, to be that young and dumb again! I'm sure Nick is much smarter than I was at that age - Alpena is a beautiful place to live, as long as you can shrug off the long winters, and the people up there were good to me. I still have friends up there and somebody I'll get back for a visit, I hope. Nick picked a great place to start the ride, that's for sure.

Small world, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dogs and commercials in Washington Park

IT'S A GOOD thing when Chris Kelley of Table 16 Productions walks into the store and says, "I have to wear a dog costume for a commercial we are shooting. Can I use your back room to change?"

Chris and Victoria Kelley are the most creative and outside-the-box people we have ever met. I recently watched the video they did for Second  String Music a few years ago and it never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, Chris and Victoria were in Washington Park yesterday afternoon, shooting a commercial for Farm & Home. I won't let the cat (or dog) out of the bag, but it involved a dog reading a newspaper.

I got to help by being a body double so Chris could position the camera and lights, and by blocking the sun and keeping a dog food bag in the shade. They could have asked some of the Outside People - they were out in force yesterday, but fortunately on the other side of the park.

Watching them work and watching our video gets us fired up about having a jam session at the store. We don't do them all that much anymore. So, here it is - Friday, Nov. 4, 4 p.m. until .... whenever.

And don't forget about our store party on Saturday, Nov. 19. We'll have a jam session, a performance by one of Quiincy's best bands (details coming) and all kinds of food, fun and mayhem.

It's enough to make us say .... "WOOF."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Learning about Elvis, and somebody named Posner

I'M HEADED TO Macomb in a bit to help Emily with her American Pop Music class. Yup. Western Illinois University, beware! Gold Lame Elvis is on his way!

Emily wants me to play a couple of Elvis songs and talk about his impact on music. I've been reading up on him and it's exhaustive - there is so much to talk about, and to tell these young people. The music they love today wouldn't be around if Elvis didn't make an impact more than 60 years ago.

This morning I was watching a news show and they had a feature on a singer and songwriter named Michael Posner. I've never heard of him. I would have to listen a little bit more to be fair, but his music just doesn't appeal to me. I did like the fact that he got famous, then dropped out for a bit and decided to learn how to play the piano and the guitar. He was hearing too much "candy bar" approaches to music and wanted something more substantial.

Apparently this guy is all the rage. Why haven't I heard of of him? Well, I don't listen to Top 40 music, and I think much of the stuff out there today is crap. His music is fine, it just doesn't appeal to me.

Then again, a lot of people thought the same of Elvis in the mid 1950s.

I just hope Emily's students gain a little appreciation and insight into music, culture and how Elvis impacted the world when it came to entertainment. And maybe embarrass my daughter, just a hair.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lova ya, Ginny

FRIDAY AFTERNOON WAS a great example of riding the highs and lows of retail, running your own small business, and feeling the love from customers.

It started when Sheryl left early. The Tin Dusters were arriving early and clogging up the parking, and it had been a long week. She went home to hang out with the dogs and recover with no-carb pancakes.

It had been pretty quiet all day, but as soon as she left around 3, you guessed it - the place went nuts.

One of my favorite people in the world is Ginny Steinkamp, and her awesome parents, Wendy and Dale. Ginny is a senior now at Quincy Notre Dame and she was one of my best guitar students a few years back - she's progressed incredibly on her own and I'm very proud of her. She was getting her senior pictures taken in and by the store, and Wendy decided to buy her a very nice Levy guitar strap.

"She never spends her own money. This is so worth it!" Wendy said. It looks great with her beautiful blue Dean acoustic guitar. We made her happy.

Then a guy walks in, and you know how you can tell some people have an attitude as soon as you see them? Yup. This guy had it. "CAPOS," he barked. "Where are they?" I pointed him in the right direction, and immediately I heard a stream of foul language and accusations we were trying to rip him off. I ignored him. He came to the counter with a capo and literally threw it to me.

"I can't believe you charge so much for a stupid capo," he said.

Actually, it's a smart capo, smarter than you, made by Kyser, and too bad you didn't buy the orange one because it makes you play better. I later checked and we actually charge less than some of the online places. There were a million other things I wanted to say to the guy, but there were other people in the store and I just bit my tongue.

"Well, everybody has to make a living," he growled.

I wanted to stand up and scream at him, and tell him every single dime we take in goes into paying bills, keeping up a historic old building in downtown Quincy, and growing the business. Of course the guy pulled out a $50 bill from a fat wallet.

He walked away and I couldn't help myself, and bleeped out what I thought of him as he got into his car and drove away. I apologized to Wendy and the other folks in the room. "I wouldn't have put up with it," one of them said.

Not five minutes later, one of our better store customers and guitar players walked in and dropped $100 without blinking an eye - he bought a Big River harmonica, strings, picks and two Snark tuners. He was happy. I was happy. I forgot about crabby capo guy.

Wait a second ... Crabby Capo Guy would make a great band name! See? You always gotta look on the bright side around here.

The moral of the story is you learn to deal with all kids of people when you are in a small business. The overwhelming number are positive and joys to work with and to help. They understand the challenges of running a small business in a small town.

Our in-store special runs through Christmas, spend $150 in our store and receive two free restrings that include the strings. You get to pick from a variety of strings and have your acoustic or electric guitar restrung by a professional. What a deal!

Now I'm off to start my new band, Crabby Capo Guy.