Monday, December 31, 2012

One Eventful Year

Git Cheesey to ring in 2013!
I CAN SINCERELY say 2012 was one of the most amazing, eventful and rock and roll years of our lives. We moved Second String Music to Fifth and Maine in Quincy and the results have been tremendous. I quit my job of 16 years and have had some productive down time while trying not to annoy Sheryl too much in the store. I wrote a book, and started on two others. And I rocked almost every weekend with The Cheeseburgers, and made a bunch of friends.

Happy New Year, and if things keep going in this direction, the adventure will only continue to get better. I will be making an announcement in a week or so about some future part-time employment plans, more like freelancing on a regular basis.

It's snowing like crazy today, very peaceful as I look out over Washington Park. Tonight we play at One Restaurant to ring in the new year, and tomorrow I will hang out with Sheryl, the dogs, shovel off the sidewalk and reflect on a great year, and the promise of 2013.


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Case of the Missing Christmas Gift

ON CHRISTMAS MORNING, Sheryl gave me an awesome DVD, The Who Live In Texas 1975.

Seems she had also ordered the Rolling Stones DVD Hello Charlie but hid it in the store after it was delivered.

"It's there somewhere. It will come to me. We'll find it," she said.

No problem. It's the thought that counts. So far, it hasn't come to her.

This morning, a package from Amazon arrived. Sheryl grabbed it and tried to put it away. But it was too late.

"Fine," she said. "I ordered another one. Here you go. Merry Christmas for the last time. And now we have one for here and one for the store."

She also called herself a dingbat. "When my mom died, we found tons of Christmas presents she'd lost over the years," she said.

Maybe I'll just watch each copy. It's the Stones, after all. Twice as nice, all that good stuff.

Merry Christmas to me again!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bank Robberies

WE HAD A bank robbery in QuincyWednesday. Dirtball comes in, demands money, walks out, disappears.

It amazes me that people are amazed about bank robberies. Frankly, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often. In Hannibal they had a rash of them a while back and the last couple weren't solved. There was one in Quincy a year or so at the credit union by the 14th and Harrison Hy-Vee, and it's pretty apparent it was a bad guy from out of town who zipped in and zipped out.

Bank robberies don't sound that bad, especially when a weapon isn't displayed, but it has to be horrible for the teller and other employees. They did exactly what they were supposed to do yesterday. It's a traumatic experience, and fortunately nobody got hurt.

Of course the bad guy hasn't been found. Yet. You think he just decided to hit the bank and hope he could slink off? He had a plan, and he got lucky and got away. When he gets caught, I'm sure we'll hear all about his poor childhood, how he was desperate at Christmas, and it was all a mistake, blah blah blah.

Whatever. He's a piece of crap. He scared a lot of people and took advantage of employees who were just doing their jobs. It will take a break or two, but when he's caught, I hope it all comes down on him.

Call me callous, or a former crime and courts reporter. It's the same thing.

It just makes me a little more vigilant at the store too, because we get our share of, uh, characters downtown. I hope I never have to go through something like a robbery, because I really don't know how I'd act.

Badly, probably.  We don't even want to think about how badly Sheryl would react....

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Making People Happy

IT WAS A very quiet Christmas for us in Q-town, our first day off since Thanksgiving. Sheryl and I started a new tradition by going to Fuji. We did not chop off the goose head.

Sheryl says she's been thinking about all the people we helped make happy at Christmas. Our favorite story involves Logan Kammerer of the awesome Quincy band Fielder, who had his eyes on a gorgeous Blueridge guitar for a long time. Unbeknownst to Logan, his wife came in and bought the guitar for him. And a secret Santa helped pay it off. Logan came into the store one day and the guitar was gone, and boy did his face fall to the ground.

It was all Sheryl and I could do to be quiet and not spill the beans. Let's just say there was one very happy guitar player in the Kammerer house at Christmas!

We sold a boat-load of gift certificates as well, so we anticipate this week that more people are gonna be happy after coming in the store.

Getting stuff is nice, and we are happy you are happy, but the main thing is to appreciate your friends, family, health and the ability to chase the dream.

Let's hope 2013 brings more of the same.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Carols of Doom!

EVERY CHRISTMAS FOR the past million years, I've written Christmas Carols of Doom in my Herald-Whig column. Sadly, there is no more column. But I'm sleeping at night.

Anne Mays recently gave me a bunch of the columns from over the years. It's taking me back, and made me think. Why stop now?

The Water Is Atrocious Here
(Sung to O Little Town Of Bethlehem)
The water is atrocious here
It smells like moldy socks
Some people claim it makes you sick
But I just think they're nuts
We need some rain and snow now
The river's drying up
So we can sip a drink again
Without throwing up

The Sidewalks Are Causing Trouble
(Sung to We Wish You A Merry Christmas)
The sidewalks are causing trouble
The sidewalks are causing trouble
The sidewalks are causing trouble
In Hannibal town
The owners want brick
and paths that are clear
So let's chop the street up
While the tourists are here

Burgers Play
(Sung to Jingle Bells)
Burgers play, Burgers play
Every weekend night
Bassist says it's his last year
Get every gig in sight, OH!
Burgers play, Burgers play
Rock and roll excess
And as Roadie Frankie says
"We'll sleep when we are dead"

Music Store
(Sung to Silent Night)
Music store, downtown lore
Christmas time, sales divine
Guitars, drums, all the gear
Fifth and Maine is rocking here
What a time we have had!
What a great time we have had


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday morning stuff ...

AH YES, THREE days till Christmas and no Mayan disaster. That we know of ....

- Yup. I got the canister stuck in the bank drive-through this morning. It only contained a chunk of yesterday's sales. A big chunk. GUH. The gals at State Street Bank at 8th and State are the best.

- Heading out tonight to see Reasonable Doubt at the Blind Pig. Great bunch of guys and it will be nice to watch a good band play.

- Preparations continue for the huge New Year's Eve show at One Restaurant with The Cheeseburgers and The Hipnecks. The joint will be jumping so don't wait to get tickets ...

- Our first brush with winter meant spreading salt on the sidewalk outside the door. Can you say vacuum? Knew you could.  Sheryl can't.  ha

- I can't believe I'm saying this, but Bing Crosby is playing on the store stereo and his Christmas songs are actually .... perfect.

- We had another great impromptu jam session last night in the store. Those are always the best. Later we made it out to Rock A Bye's States Attorney Office Christmas party and then a housewarming gathering featuring drug counselors, our ordained ministeress, and The Maulers.You. Can't. Make. It. Up.  The kitty kisses were much appreciated by Sheryl.  Thanks Gail and Steve!

The Maulers play 2010 wedding in Camp Point!
- Second String Music is sponsoring the next Maulers show in June of 2013.  More details later BUT we are the biggest sponsors of Tribute Air Bands in the world.  Not lying!

- Slooowwww down. That's my advice as we careen toward Christmas day. Have a great Saturday!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Moving Pianos In Blizzards

UNLIKE MOST FOLKS in Quincy, and assignment editors ("We have TWO live reports right now for you!"), snow is just snow to me. It helps fill front page space and floods Facebook with one-word redundancy.

It's snowing. Slow down. The world is not coming to an end, hopefully.

So we open the store this morning and who comes tromping in but the legendary Frank Haxel. Second String Music bought some bookshelves from our friend Char Stocker, who is closing Great Debate Books down the street after this weekend, and Frank is here to help.

Snow be danged.

"Let's do it. Now," Frank said.

It's snowing sideways out. That doesn't matter to Frank. "It's hardly sticking. Let's get 'er done," he says.

I'm pulling. Frank is pushing. Move outta the way!
We slush a block up Maine Street. We load up the shelf. We are walking west up Maine and crossing the driveway of the Maine Center when a little blue car comes out of the parking lot toward us.

"I think she's doing to stop," Frank said.

"I don't think she's going to stop. HEY. STOP," I said. "I am using all caps for a reason dangit."

The, uh, experienced gal saw us at the last second and missed hitting me by inches. Then she gave me a dirty look, something like, "Well, why are you moving bookshelves up the street in a blizzard?"

We make it to the store, and not only that, we went back and got two more. Really, it wasn't so bad, just like moving a 75-year old cement-filled piano from Hannibal to Quincy wasn't so bad. GUH.

Now we have bookshelves in our back storage area, which might be used for room dividers should we put lesson rooms back there. One of the bookcases is being used for amps. "Sheryl will just move everything around later," Frank said.

You know what? The snow is blowing sideways, we are comfy inside Fifth and Maine with Fast Eddie and lots of cool guitars to play, Led Zeppelin is Ramblin' On and life is good.

And we have stuff to put on bookshelves. After they dry from being in a blizzard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow now dangit

THE OLDER I get the less I like cold weather, but let's face it.

It's Christmas, dangit. Let it snow!

Just went across the street and felt the cold rain. Blech. C'mon, Father Christmas. A little of the white stuff won't hurt us, and it's always a hoot to see the huge headlines about the first snow of the season and people panicking in the streets when it hits.

And it's coming, if this is any indication.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A way to remember shooting victims

TONIGHT IN WASHINGTON Park a 7 pm, across the street from Second String Music, a vigil is planned to honor the shooting victims at Sandy Hook.

Greg Haubrich of WGEM is organizing the event. Hats off to Greg. It's the best way to remember the important things about this event - the people who were directly impacted.

I tried watching some of the network news coverage but could only take so much. I did watch President Obama at Sunday's prayer vigil and thought his remarks were very well done. I'm not getting into the gun control debate or mental health debate, but this country needs to take a harder look at several very difficult issues.

I have followed events online from newspapers and places I trust. Old newspaper guy habits don't fade, I guess.

Hope you can make it out to the park tonight. We'll probably have the lights on in the store, too, and remember.

Monday, December 17, 2012

3 Man Jam

WE'VE BEEN OPEN Sunday afternoons this Christmas season, and it's been a smart move - we've had more than a few people in the store and we've done quite well.

We've had small and informal jam sessions, and yesterday an older gentleman showed up with his friend, who is one of my guitar students. The student simply wanted to soak it in while watching us play. Then Second String Music jam session legend Tim Smith showed up, and the three of us sat around like old friends for a couple of hours playing.

Tim is a new country and classic rock fan. I'm a burned out 80s hair band guy who prefers Who, not what. And our new friend is a traditional country guy. All that didn't matter a bit - skill level and music preference is immaterial at a good jam session.

I enjoy playing in front of people, playing in the band, etc. But hanging out with acoustic guitars and trading war stories, lies and singing oldies but goodies is my favorite way to go. You always learn something and all of the sudden two hours have flown, and you know it's been good.

Our next Friday night jam session will be in January, and I'm already looking forward to it. We are also open one more Sunday afternoon, Dec. 23, and we can make it fly by if you want to come hang out!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Special Places In Hell

I WAS GOING to do something about a dumb and immaterial topic.

Not now.

There are special places in hell reserved for people who shoot children in a school. I'm sure we'll hear all about how the shooter was disturbed, angry about something. Whatever. I couldn't give less of a flying bleep.

Prayers to the victims and families. That's all that counts right now.

If I see a story in our local media about "how this will impact you," I will scream. Of course it hits home with us, and the last thing I want to read, hear or watch is some bubble-headed bleach blonde telling me how. But now you know why we have metal detectors, police training and other things in our schools.

Because it could have just as easily happened right here.

Another special place in hell is for child pornographers, which you will here more about in our local media in a bit. Let's just say we know the person involved and it doesn't surprise us, but it does sicken us.

Yeah, I know, innocent until proven guilty, blah blah blah. Fine. Let this person have his day in court. I'm just glad he isn't around anymore, because when the person showed up, I always felt like taking a shower after he left, and now I really know why.

Happy Friday. On a more positive but insignificant note, the store continues to rock and it's the weekend. Take solace if you can.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reasons to start guitar

REASONS TO START learning the guitar ....

- Because.
- To get girls.
- Callouses on fingers are sexy.
- Amps that go to 11 are one louder.
- Six strings are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
- Play with Fast Eddie if you go to Second String music to get strings, picks, stuff.
- You can pick or strum, or pick to strum.
- Keith Richards did. He's lived to be 167.
- Then again, only the good die young.
- You can string people along.
- Guitars don't kill people. People with guitars kill people.
- Hearing is a state of mime.
- You'll understand Spinal Tap.
- Guitar players are gentle, until provoked. Then they may go on vicious crime sprees.
- It's like beer. You bring it in a case. But you won't need an opener, unless you lock your case.
- The guitar teacher makes sure lessons are as fun as they are demanding.
- Once a picker, always a picker.
- You can Get In Tune With The Straight And Narrow. Who? Right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


ONE OF THE COOL things we do at Second String Music is give you four free music lessons if you buy an instrument from us, or rent a school band instrument.

Vancil Performing Arts does the four free lessons. They have a booming music department with great teachers, and the lessons will help develop your skills.

Mary Shelor stopped by the store this morning to give us some info on her Musikgarten classes. These are family classes for kids ages 6 months to 5 years, and it's a great way to get your child involved at the youngest and most impressionable age.

There are a variety of ways to approach guitar lessons. My theory is to keep it simple and to get you playing songs as soon as possible. We'll learn chords, technique and simple drills to practice, but that's the key - you determine if you want to be a player, not your teacher.

I learned guitar on my own and until recently never had a lesson. I found a battered acoustic when I was in high school and started by playing bass notes to songs on the radio. Somewhere I discovered chords, and I do remembered my old Calvin College buddy Ken VanAndel showing me bar chords and a few other things in our old Omega 10 apartment in Grand Rapids during the tumultuous summer of 1984.

Then I bought a guitar before heading out to the Wild West and a job in the Grand Canyon National Park. With time on my hands and a desire to play, I slowly got better.

A guy came into the store the other day and said he thought my playing had gotten better recently. Don't know about that, I'm a pretty average strummer who would like to get better, but it was a nice compliment. I have been playing a lot more lately and the more you do it, the better you get.

Guitar isn't necessarily easy, and you have to stick with it and deal with some frustrations early on. It gets better and better as you play more. Promise.

Keep playing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How To Treat The Band

JUST A COUPLE of things to think about when you hire a band ...

- Cash is king. When you hire a band for one night, and there's trust between the two parties, paying the band at the end of the night is fine. Bills are best, but checks work too. A smart bar or business owner knows how to do the bookkeeping, knows they don't need a tax form if it's under a certain amount, knows to tell the band exactly how they will be paid. Do not leave the band wondering who will pay them, and don't tell them "the check is coming from corporate HQ" when they inquire about it the following Monday, after the gig.

- Make sure you are having an appropriate event for a band. Some church picnic are great places for live music. So are most bars, venues, places where people are ready to have a good time. If you are having a party, and it's mostly young families, and most bail by 9 pm before the band has warmed up, well .... so be it.

- A good band feeds off the crowd, and vice versa. If the venue is dead, the band will reflect the atmosphere. A good band will soldier ahead and play hard no matter who is in the place. But it has an effect.

- Make the band feel welcome. You don't have to let them have free beer or food, but it's a nice gesture. Don't hesitate to let the band know what they can and can't have. One awesome place we play puts a limit on one beverage per set per band member, a great idea and very fair. And if it's a dinner or event, they try to have a table or place the band can sit and eat before playing.

- Tell the band what you think after the event. If they weren't very good, politely thank them for their time, and book another band the next time. That speaks volumes.

- If the gig is in town, do your best to let the band know when they can set up. When we play at One Restaurant in Quincy, we set up the day before, because we have to go through the main dining area and it wouldn't work if we did it right before the show. A good band prefers to set up early anyway, to put out any sound fires and troubleshoot well before the gig.

- Advertise the band. Make them feel welcome. Tell them you are looking forward to them playing.

- Have fun! The most important part of all, for everybody involved.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Alarms, new guitars, Cheesey Cheesey Cheesey

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS, though it's actually almost noon, but being up since 4 a.m. makes it feel like it's .... Thursday?

- I was up early because the alarm went off at Second String Music. We spent a pretty penny hooking it up, and it's a very good system. Somebody shook the door at 4 a.m. and got the surprise of their life when this thing went off, because it's freaking LOUD. No more all caps, promise. Anyway, QPD was right there to make sure nobody was in the building, and we checked it out inside as well. It's no fun getting that phone call that early, but at least we know this thing works.

- We had one of our biggest weekends ever in the store and are now getting ready for the final push to Christmas, with a new line of acoustic guitars and more stock. We had our last Friday night jam session of 2012 and it was one to remember. I think. Just kidding, but boy did we have fun.

- Found a bunch of CDs in the closet last night, and we'll be swaying in the store to early U2, Dire Straits, Lyle Lovett and Alison Krauss.

- If there is a prettier song than Dire Strait's "Romeo and Juliet," let me know. I won't believe you.

- Also creeping closer to the huge New Year's Eve show with The Hipnecks at One Restaurant in Quincy. The Cheeseburgers are coming off an amazing run, and I think we've had one or two weekends off since September with some really fun shows.

- I might call Frank Haxel tonight and see if he'll set up my Christmas tree. Maybe not.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Put A Capo On It

SO THIS MORNING, Second String Music legend Laura Sievert came in and we started discussing Who songs. Turns out "Love Reign Oe'er Me" is her favorite Townsend-penned Who classic.

I learned it a while back with an E minor chord as the starting note. Listening to it, it appears The Who either dropped down a half step or Townsend simply went nuts on black piano keys. When Laura asked if we had sheet music, Sheryl looked it up and there were several different versions - we settled on the A minor as the easiest.

Might have to break it out during tonight's jam session at the store. Won't matter what key we start it in, just as long as we have one of these .....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Locked In The Bathroom

LAST NIGHT AFTER guitar lessons in the store, I flopped on the couch to catch my breath when I heard a muffled voice coming from the back.


I moved closer.

It doesn't lock now ....
"I'm in the bathroom and the lock just broke," Sheryl said. "Does the knob on the outside have a hole where we can pick it?"


"Bleep," she said.

After momentarily panicking, and remembering that her husband is allergic to power tools and just generally being handy, Sheryl devised a plan.

"Move over to the side wall by the work bench and the divider, take a crowbar and try to slide needle nose pliers through the hole," she said.

When I replied that crowbars and pliers make me break out into hives, she got a bit huffy. I tried to move the divider, but it wouldn't budge, and I couldn't slide the pliers through the narrow hole in the wall.

That's when I suggested Sheryl would be fine, and sleeping on a hard floor would be good for her back. Ever hear a music store owner cuss? Generally she waits until the customers leave, so let's just say it ain't pretty, even if it's deserved.

"You have to get me a small Phillips screwdriver," Sheryl said.

"Phillips? Randy Phillips? Why does he have to get you a screwdriver?" I said.

More cursing. I apologized. I found one, but now, how to get it to Locked In The Loo Girl?

No lights up here, just drop ceilings.
We have a back room where I do lessons, the one Frank Haxel basically put together while I strained myself by watching. There's a hole in the ceiling where the light fixture will eventually go, though I'm waiting for this whole Mayan end of the world thing to pass first. Anyway, I told Sheryl to back up and I threw the pliers and the screwdriver through the hole.

I was hoping to hear at least one second of nothing before it hit the floor on the other side, but it immediately clunked. Turns out there is a drop ceiling about five feet long before the hallway starts, and that led to me asking Sheryl what a crowbar looks like, grabbing it, retrieving the items, and throwing them again.

"Wow. Only two tries. Are you OK?" Sheryl said.

She grabbed the pliers, dismantled the knob, and made her escape. Now she's out and about getting a new doorknob, presumably one that can be picked and that is Fast Eddie-proof.

Sheryl was so grateful I hadn't injured myself or her that she took me out to Hy-Vee for dinner, which makes me think that if I get more mechanical, maybe it would work to my hapless advantage.

Nah. It won't.

I'll just call Frank Haxel or have Sheryl figure it out, and hope I don't knock anybody out when I fling tools through the air.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Best prof I ever had

SAD TODAY AFTER learning my favorite college prof, Dr. Michael Petrick of Central Michigan University, recently passed away.

Dr. Petrick taught a journalism reporting class, but he did it in an unorthodox method. He invented a town, Lakeside, and he used his students as the inspiration for the cast of residents and characters. You knew he liked you if he gave you a nickname and used it in the class. He also tormented students he didn't like with the same tactic, often with hilarious results.

My nickname was Dirk Whitey, and I was a pinball arcade attendant. Why? I have no idea. That's just what he decided to do. Dr. Petrick would assume identities of the different people in Lakeside, and we would "interview" him and write stories.

At the time I thought he was a bit nuts, until I got out into the real world and realized he wasn't crazy, he was a genius. For all the weird people he invented and made us interview, well, he was just scratching the surface.

Because You Can't Make It Up.

Dr. Petrick was also famous for participating in "sports writing seminars" and celebrating "St. Petrick's Day," though my memories of those occasions are a bit foggy, likely because they were so long ago. Ahem.

He was a legend at Central and the crew I ran with back then remembers him fondly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Peace

HAD A GREAT time playing at the State Street Bank party last night night.Maybe it doesn't feel like Christmas right now, but we aren't complaining about 70 degrees.

Bobbe White of the bank was the hostess and she played the Byrds video of "Turn Turn Turn" as a devotional before the dinner started. As she pointed out, it was one of the very rare times people from the bank could gather and just hang out and enjoy each other's company, and not be tied down to a phone or a computer.

The program after the dinner was very short and well done, recognition of a few long-time bank employees. And that was it, and the way it should always be.

This Christmas, make time to simply reflect and enjoy simpler things.

Monday, December 3, 2012

This is December?


- This is December? It's 70-plus degrees and a warm wind is blowing. I'm not complaining. But I'll still take a white Christmas.

- We had a huge weekend at Second String Music. People are starting to get serious about Christmas presents and the Christkindle Market in Washington Park drove a boat-load of people downtown. Sheryl is getting her restocking list ready!

- I don't miss DirecTV, but I'm wistful as college bowl season approaches. Almost every game is on ESPN, not that I'm watching every one. Still, when my Central Michigan Chippewas play the day after Christmas, I'll have to figure out a way to watch it.

- I'm getting a lot more reading done, and I just finished an excellent biography of former NHL defenseman Brad Park, featuring photos by Second String Music cat-lover of doom, Lewis Portnoy.

- Rats. That reminds me that I'm done watching NHL hockey ever again. Idiots.

- Still haven't gotten down to the River Skate rink in Clat Adams Park. Put it on the wish list for December.

- Had a great time with the guys from the Golden Kiwanis Club this morning. Sold a few books, laughed a lot and enjoyed the fellowship. I loved the singing of Christmas tunes at the beginning of the meeting, too.

- Playing tonight for the State Street Bank Christmas Party. Survived a riotous Cheeseburgers gig Saturday night at the State Room for the Kohl Wholesale gathering, and we play for Refreshment Services Pepsi's big gathering this Saturday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center.

- And lastly, if you are thinking of what to get somebody for Christmas, stop in at Fifth and Maine. We have a lot of really cool items, even for non-musicians. Plus we'd like to have you hang out and make sure Fast Eddie is behaving, unlike yesterday when he had a little too much cat nip ....

Friday, November 30, 2012

Playing Solo

GETTING READY FOR a couple of solo Christmas shows, and I'm struck by how different they are from playing in The Cheeeburgers.

On Saturday I'm playing at 4 p.m. for the Christkindle event in Washington Park. It's a great event and the weather will be great, so we hope a bunch of people come downtown.

Please don't tell anybody this, but I actually organized my music the other day and put it into a semblance of order. I discovered a whole batch of Christmas music and will play a mix of instrumentals, originals and good old fashioned Christmas carols.

I really like doing the solo thing, but boy do you have to pay attention and really focus on playing and singing at the same time. In the band there is more of a tendency to lock into a groove and just play. Plus since September we've been playing every weekend and that really helps get a band tight.

I got a taste last night playing at Washington Perk's open mic night and I felt really rusty. A little practice this afternoon and hopefully it will go well tomorrow. Also playing Monday night for the State Street Bank Christmas party, which is more of an instrumental background thing but a fun gig nonetheless.

No better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with music. Let's go!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fast Eddie Weighs In

IT AIN'T EASY being the coolest cat in Quincy, you know. My silly human is gone and as you can see by the pic at right, I'm doing his blog today. He's such a ditz and he probably won't even notice. Plus it will be better than his usual dribble.

Fast Eddie is my name, and chaos is my game. This morning my human ticked me off because the roof guy came to Second String Music and I managed to scamper upstairs. In case you didn't know, we are in the historic Dodd building at Fifth and Maine, and the four stories above us are vacant and filled with history. I love running around up there, catching mice and getting dirty. For some reason he and the roofer got all fired up and my owner used the treat bag trick to lure me back down, of all things. See if I purr for him any time soon.

I love living in the music store. The more mayhem, the better. When we have our jam sessions, I like sitting under the front counter and soaking it all in. The other day a young boy named Jude came in and brought me a wind up mouse toy, and boy, was that fun to play with! My silly human thinks I'm a dog and likes it when I play fetch, as shown in the video above, but I only do it to placate him.

My favorites are Lew and Lois, who come every Saturday morning to play with me. This morning my buddy Laura Sievert stopped by, she is always good for an ear scritch. She just needs to stop worrying about me shedding, and some day I hope to meet her three cats.

I miss my adopted sister, Lucky, but I'm getting along just fine. I don't like spending the long nights alone, but I do like the Christmas lights and playing with the tree ornaments when my humans are gone. And of course I'm barking at them when they arrive each morning. I'm hungry, dag nabbit!

So, come and see me at Second String Music, but don't tell my silly human that I wrote this blog. He'll figure it out. Eventually.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blueridge love

OWNING A MUSIC store gives you appreciation for all kinds of guitars, from starters to high end.

We get a fair number of people who come in, ask if we have Taylors or Martins, then wheel around and walk out when they learn we don't. Wish we did, but the big boys won't even sniff at a small music store. If you a fan of a certain kind of guitar, I understand and have no problem with being particular.

But you are missing out if you don't try our Blueridge acoustics. We just got two in with pickups, the BR 70 and the BR 143. Somebody better get here and take them off my hands because I might just snatch one off the wall and disappear for a while, or maybe the rest of my life.

These are incredible guitars and higher end, but way more affordable than the bigger name brands. Come on in and I'll set up a stool and we'll do a little jamming!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Learning new (vampire) songs

I HAVE A guitar student, Hanna Smith, who is getting pretty darn good. She might have to start charging me more because I'm learning an awful lot. Wait a second .... I get paid to do this?

Anyway, Hanna came up with a new song to learn, which I always encourage. It's from a movie, Twilight something or other, and I think it's about vampires, and I'm never going to see it.

But the song is awesome, and I love it when young people really get into music.

Thanks Hanna!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Recovery, Store Specials

AMAZING WHAT A quiet night with the much better half and sleep does for the soul. Also, I fixed a tripped breaker by myself this morning while vacuuming in Second String Music. I know, it's too much for you to digest, just let it soak in.

Anyway, we are blasting ahead into the Christmas season and we have a couple of awesome specials. Each day we will have a different guitar on special, and today it's the Aria acoustic AW-20. Check out our Facebook page to see which guitar we pick each day.

 Our weekly special is buy a Fender pick pack and get a 2nd pick pack free. This special runs through Sunday. We have a few other in-store specials you can ask about.

I leave you now with sage words from my wife, when I proudly told her about my circuit tripping experience.

"Well, it was bound to happen at some point," she said.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crazy Cheese In Keokuk

THE SUNDAY MORNING fog is a bit thicker right now. But I have an excuse.

- Not sure what it is about the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk, but every time The Cheeseburgers play there we have an absolute blast. Last night somebody came up with the brilliant plan of celebrating a certain band member's birthday. The band member managed to hang on during the gig (he hopes) but it got a bit out of hand after that. You know it's bad when the drummer is the sober one on the ride home. GUH.

- Our Cheeseburger Roadie of Doom, Frank Haxel, should get a medal of valor for putting up with us. Not only does he get us to and from the gig, he sets stuff up, tears it down and operates the lights. And buys a round of So Co to celebrate birthdays.

- After getting home in the wee hours, I discovered my car wouldn't start (we all meet at the drummer's house to pile in one vehicle for the road trip). Leave it to Frank to come to the rescue again this morning, jumper cables in hand. We'll see if Old Blue turns over later.

- Jeff VanKanegan is leaving the band at the end of the year, and we'll have much more on that later. We've recruited Don VanDyke to replace him on bass, and Don jumped in for a few songs last night. I'm really going to miss Jeff, but new blood is a good thing, and Don is a great fit for our band.

- We are playing at a couple of really cool Christmas parties the next couple of weeks, then get ready for the huge New Year's Eve show. It will be Jeff's swan song and we are also fired up about playing with The Hipnecks, a killer band out of Columbia, Mo.

- We have extended store hours at Second String Music until Christmas and we'll be spending Sunday afternoons at Fifth and Maine. Wamma-lamma-jamma, too, so come on down and hang out. But don't play too loud until the fog clears a bit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me. I'm Old. Thank You.

AFTER A WHILE birthdays are no big deal. But I still like 'em.

The only really significant part about today is that in two years, I'll be 50, which scares the living bleep out of me. And makes my siblings feel really old.

Some people hate birthdays. Sheryl doesn't have one. She is ageless, actually. We celebrate her not having a birthday by being relieved that it is over.

I'm going to mark the occasion by having lunch with Granny Annie Mays and selling stuff at Second String Music, and reminding myself to take my vitamins.

I'm looking at Lucy, the Border Collie of Doom. She has her head down by her stuffed dog, which will soon be unstuffed, and this milestone business really doesn't faze her at all. "So you are old. Big deal. I'm just glad you managed to hobble around the cemetery this morning with us," she says.

In the end, I am grateful to the Good Lord above for family and health. I am a day older and wiser.

And I'm glad getting older means you don't grow up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No. 5, Thanksgiving, making cookies

THE DAY BEFORE Thanksgiving, and I'm wondering about a couple of things.

1. Apparently Rock N Roll Shorts is No. 5 on the Best Sellers in Free Music Category Books on Amazon.  It's free through today if you want to download it to your Kindle or any device that has the Kindle reading app. I'm not quite sure what this means, but it is cool to see the book next to a different list with John Lennon and Rod Stewart titles.

2. Much fun with my awesome daughter, Emily, decorating Second String Music yesterday. We gave her the store credit card and she went a bit nuts buying Christmas lights and decorations. If she's not too tired from putting everything up today, maybe she will help me make cookies tonight for the big Mays family Thanksgiving. BTW, we have new store hours for Christmas and they are up on the website.

3. Lots of stuff going on in the Q-Town tonight - thinking about going to see our friend Kevin Nobis and his band Seven Days Fuller at Turner Hall. Cheeks McGee is at Martini's, the awesome band 11 is at One, etc. Part of me wants to go out and about, but the other part of me thinks that with Christmas coming and old age descending, it might be better to stay home and rest up.

4. One thing I gotta figure out is how to watch the Michigan-Ohio State game Saturday. But I ain't venturing out on Black Friday to buy a cheap TV.

5. After a much-appreciated week off, The Cheeseburger are back in action Saturday night at the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk, Iowa. Hope you are making plans for the huge New Year's Eve bash at One.

6. And finally, I will take time tomorrow between naps, football and turkey to count our many blessings. Hope you will too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just a bit different

WHEN YOU ARE in retail you try to do things differently. I would like to think Second String Music is unique, in many ways.

For instance, I doubt any other retail establishment has a bank vault in the back, four haunted stories above the main floor, and a cat that eats Christmas trees.

One of the things Sheryl and I learned early on is that you can only control what you do, not what others do. We take care of Fifth and Maine. And Fast Eddie when he is knocking over chairs and displays.

Oh. Is there another retail outlet anywhere that has a birthday party with cupcakes for guitar students?

Didn't think so ....

Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting ready for Christmas, other stuff

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS as the rain falls and we try not to feel gloomy ....

- We had a fantastic celebration in Second String Music Saturday, with a bunch of people playing and a toast to our good friend, Pat Cornwell. After a day to recover, we are right back at it and continue our preparations for Christmas.

- People who are lining up now for Black Friday should have their toenails pulled.

- Saturday is Small Business Saturday in Quincy. If you are out early Friday morning and get shell-shocked, come downtown. We'll be friendly, you won't get shoved out of the way and you will feel the love, not the hurried insanity, of the season.

- My book Rock N Roll Shorts is available for free until Wednesday by clicking here.

-Notre Dumb has had college football gods work everything out right this year. The door is wide open, especially with USC not having its quarterback.

- Wonder if I could sneak away Saturday and watch Michigan take out Ohio State. What do you say to an Ohio State football player in a three-piece suit? "Will the defendant please rise ...."

- And finally, the ultimate Thank You song for Thanksgiving. Peace love joy!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Another guitar blast from the past

ON THE HEELS of getting the Epiphone back in the store (and it sold right away again), Sheryl revived yet again another six-string miracle and memories.

Back in 1984, I bought my first acoustic guitar at Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had fooled around with a battered guitar from a friend, and then I landed a job in the Grand Canyon National Park and knew I'd have time to learn.

It's a cheap Lotus. I'm not sure what I paid, $200 maybe, and this guitar was my constant companion through many adventures for the next five or six years.

It sat unplayed for a long time, and then I discovered the saddle was cracked. I took it apart last year and it sat in pieces. Then we couldn't find the replacement saddle. Finally, the universe returned the missing parts and Sheryl started working on it. She took it up to Don Rust in Ursa, and les voila! My Lotus has been restored.

It still needs a neck adjustment and some minor work, but it sounds great and has brought back a rush of memories. Playing it at The Hole, in college, at a few weddings, just getting lost.

People often come in with cheap and battered guitars, wanting to sell or trade them in. Sheryl and I try talking them out of the idea - your first real guitar is a special thing, and you should really hold on to something like that.

I'm glad I did.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Special day at Adams School

TODAY WAS "SPECIAL Persons Day" at Adams School, and I was honored to be the special person of Andrew Baehr.

Andrew's parents are Mike and Angie, and they are good friends and Second String Music customers. When I found out Andrew wanted me to be his Special Person, it melted my heart.

Think about it. If you are asked by a first-grader to hang out in his class and he proudly introduces you as his friend to all his classmates, how much better can it get?

It can't.

Andrew is in Nicole Browning's class. She impressed the daylights out of me. She was friendly but in charge and you could tell by her ready smile and body language she loves her job. Quincy Public Schools is in good hands with teachers like Nicole.

We played a turkey word game, went to the school book fair, had a cookie and drink in the cafeteria, and it was a fun experience.

My daughter, Emily, went to Adams School and started in kindergarden in 1996 right after we moved here from Michigan. My memories of her at Adams are foggy, mainly because I was sports editor at The Herald-Whig and was usually in an 80-hour work week daze when we went to her activities. Gosh, the things we wish we could change. It might explain why I can't remember the names of her teachers, too.

She did very well at Adams and then at Berrian for third grade.

It was nice talking to Fred Cherny, Emily's teacher at Baldwin Elementary. He now works security at Adams and was very kind, remembered Emily well.

I cannot say enough good things about Adams School and the entire experience. We hear nothing but negative comments about our schools these days and I am here to tell you the building at 20th and Jefferson rocks, and I was humbled to be part of today's event.

As for Andrew, he rocks too, and I expect him to make frequent visits to Fifth and Maine so we can stay in touch.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Should I Who Or Should I Go?

SO THE WHO are back on tour doing Quadrophenia, and I really want to go.

They aren't sniffing anywhere around here - no St. Louis or Quad Cities shows. They canceled the Quad Cities show the last go-round, now that I think about it. The nearest show is in Chicago, five hours away, and it's tempting.

Then again, do I want to sit in the nosebleeds for $50 pop, or pony up $150 for a floor seat?

In the band's prime, The Who blew everybody away live. Not sure now that Pete and Roger are pushing 70 they will be as good, but the reviews from the early shows are good.

I'm making excuses for not going, such as high ticket prices, the long drive up there, gas prices, missing from the store during a busy time, playing the next night with The Burgers, etc.

Then again, this might be the last chance to see them. Of course we said that in 82 and 89. Guh.

Might come down to a coin flip. We'll see ....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A very nice chat

I WAS WAITING for lunch today at one of our favorite downtown spots, Krazy Cakes, when a gal approached me and asked me how the "new venture" was going.

She was vaguely familiar. I ran into a million people during my years at The Whig and I have a bad enough time remembering what Sharice, er, Sheryl's, name is, let alone a blast from the past. The gal was very pleasant and asked how my daughter was doing, then said she was the grandmother of one of Emily's QHS classmates and friends.

And then it dawned on me who she was.

Let's just say she had a family member who had serious issues a long time ago, and I became familiar with the story.

Many people who have had family on the wrong side of the courtroom became bitter and didn't like me, well, didn't like why I was there, anyway. I learned to let it go. I always tried to be as fair as possible, but it is what it is, and you can't paint the picture any other way.

But in this case, the woman couldn't have been nicer and we caught up a bit, and it was a very nice encounter.

You know what? It made me feel pretty good about a closed chapter in my life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Radio Guy

MUCH FUN THIS morning talking with Mary Griffith on WTAD, plugging the book and Second String Music, and life after being a newspaper guy. Already I'm getting feedback, and I enjoyed talking with Mary, who encourages a conversational style and makes you feel comfortable in the studio.

Most of my fellow media members were good people and I enjoyed running into them when on assignment. The people who last in this business know they have to go to work the next day, and there have been a few flash in the pans, online and otherwise.

I don't miss my old job. I do miss the people. I don't think that will ever change.

In the meantime, I am trying to stay out of Sheryl's way at the store, working on my next book project, and getting ready for this Saturday's epic Pat Cornwell celebration.

Life is good!

Monday, November 12, 2012


A DAY AFTER the temps plunged 50 degrees, we are ready for another work week at Second String Music, and we we have some stuff on our minds ...

- The Cheeseburgers played at Adams Trading Post Saturday night, and after we got done, a guy told us "you done better than gooder." High praise indeed from a crowd that appreciates a live band, thanks!

- Thank you, veterans.

- Eric Clapton's Blues CD is playing in the store this morning, perfect way to get 'er going.

- Our annual salute to good friend Pat Cornwell is Saturday in the store from noon until forever. We will toast Pat and LuckyCat Vegas about 3:30 pm. Just bring yourself and hang out with us, we'll have live music and general mayhem everywhere.

- I know there is a method to the madness of being addicted to the guitar, but I am learning so much more with our teacher, Jim Bier. And it all makes sense. Imagine that.

- Happiness is finding three different packages of strings in your gig bag after cleaning it out for the first time in months. Of course now I have to figure out which ones are missing.

- Note to self: If I ever buy a guitar online, brag about it in a music store, then bring it in a few days later asking if the store will buy or consign it, shoot me. Now.

-  Had much fun walking through a filthy rain with some friends at Woodland Cemetery yesterday. I appreciate people who appreciate our history and discover Quincy's best-kept secret. Shhhhh.

- I am on the Mary Griffith show Tuesday morning at 9:15 to plug Rock N Roll Shorts and the store. WTAD is 930 on the AM dial and you can listen online here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Books, parades and stuff

Saturday morning musings ....

- Rock N Roll Shorts continues to sell well. If you are a Kindle Prime member, you get one free book to borrow per month and we are in the Kindle library. Read and rock on!

- The big Veteran's Parade is this morning in downtown Quincy. Already people are braving the rain to line the sidewalks. If the rain clears, we'll set up on the sidewalk for more outdoor music fun.

- Our new LTD guitars are getting a lot of attention. Almost as much attention as Fast Eddie's new Facebook site.

- Great to have Jim Bier giving guitar lessons in the store on Saturday mornings. Hoping to sneak in a lesson myself with Jim later today. If you want to elevate your guitar game, Jim is your guy.

- The Cheeseburgers continue to rock on with a show tonight at Adams Trading Post, always a fun place to play. We are actually off next weekend for the first time in what seems like forever, then start hitting the Christmas party season again. We've also lined up an awesome New Year's Eve gig at One Restaurant with our friends The Hipnecks. Tickets are available at the Sixth and Hampshire restaurant and will probably go fast.  They will be selling dinner tickets but will also have non-dinner tickets available too.

- Got into a Facebook discussion about Lindsey Buckingham last night. He's one of the great American guitar players of his time, an underrated player with a unique finger style. Love love love his solo stuff especially. This one brings back memories ....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Deciding, or not deciding, on a new couch

SO LAST WEEK Sheryl dispatched me to the thrift store just up the block to look at couches. We need one for the store, and I was tasked with taking a look. "They are upstairs and my knees are creaky. You go," she said.

There were five or six fairly decent used couches in the price range. I looked at them all, saw one or two that looked okay, then took stock.

Men really shouldn't make decisions about important things. Actually, there is no such thing as a big decision, so men technically are off the hook.

I did what any good man would do. I deferred to my wife.

Yesterday she went over there and picked one out. So I was ordered to go get it, along with the hapless Frank Haxel, who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. We lugged it down Jail Alley and into the store, and my wife proclaimed it perfect.

"What would have happened if you came back with this couch?" Frank asked.

"I don't want to think about it," I said.

So there you have it. We have a new (used) couch at Second String Music. I might even take a nap on it this afternoon.

I have decided it looks fabulous.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This cat is actually a dog

SO IT TOOK a little bit, but Fast Eddie has adapted to being the lone feline inside Second String Music, and he's doing quiet well now, thank you.

We've even started a Fast Eddie Facebook page. Hey, a business today can't rely on traditional advertising alone to get the word out. Fast Eddie's adopted sister, Lucky, has 2,300 Facebook friends, and we used her page a lot to spread the word about SSM events.

Anyway, Fast Eddie is fast gaining new fans and admirers, both online and in the store. And the truth is, he thinks he's a dog.

Don't believe us? The video below doesn't lie ... come see Eddie for yourself!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Blues

ON A CLOUDY election day, it's hard not to feel blue. This election, more than others, is about the lesser of two evils, and only one or two races had clear cut choices.

If you are a die-hard Democrat or Republican, well, that's your thing and good for you, but it's not mine. Save your breath and preach at somebody else. I am not a member of either party, I pick the best candidate, and there are millions like me who decide elections, so deal with it.

My voting experience today was positive. There was no waiting, I was processed and had a ballot to fill out in a matter of minutes in a very busy station, and I was done in about 10 minutes.

The best part about election season?

It's almost over.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baby Came Back

SOMETIMES A GUITAR is far more than just a six-stringed instrument. It can be a connection to the past, a holder of treasured memories, a guide on the Magical Mystery Tour.

I bought this really nice Epiphone Studio in early 2010 as a backup guitar and instantly fell in love. It has the classic thicker Gibson neck and I loved the low action and the way it felt in my hands, and the way it played.

In March 2010, The Funions played a show at The Elks. A friend picked the guitar up by the strap and it fell to the ground, causing damage to the neck and body. It was an accident and I shrugged it off, but the guitar was unplayable and it was a downer.

So I took it to my friend Scott Smith, who at that time owned Smith Music, and he performed one of his many miracles on guitars. He fixed the neck, sanded the surface down and spent a lot of time reviving it from the dead.

Once again it played beautifully and there was something very cool about the guitar that I can't quite explain - it just felt right. I played it at the last Funions show ever, in May 2010, and I also used it quite a bit when I hooked up with The Cheeseburgers.
The Epi at a Funions show. Hi Marianne!

In February 2011, we opened Second String Music. I like to joke that we started with five guitars, and four of them were mine, but that's no lie. I reluctantly put the Epiphone on the floor, and sure enough, a friend bought it for his son.

Last week, the guitar came back. I am assuming my friend's son no longer had interest in the guitar, because it hasn't been played a lot. So it's on the floor as a consignment item, and bringing back a flood of memories.

I am reminded of my old friend, Mark Hoekstra, who says it's a "want versus need analysis." I don't need it, but I sure want it. Of course, you can say that about a lot of great guitars and stuff we have in the store. Thank goodness Sheryl is there to keep me straight and sane.

Anyway, the Epi is back. If it goes to a new home, much more than six strings will again walk out the store. And I'm fine with that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

You learn something new all the time

THE WOODLAND CEMETERY tours last night were a huge success. Reportedly we turned away a boatload of people who didn't have tickets, and I got to take a group of Girl Scouts and their parents around the hallowed grounds. Young people who appreciate history are indeed special.

William Richardson was a prominent Quincy politician and I learned an awful lot about him and his elections against Orville Browning. John Wood was also in the cemetery, and was Eliza Browning and others. They were all fantastic.

I had no idea Orville Browning was a pallbearer at Lincoln's funeral. I knew he and Eliza were very close to the president, and the fact two of Lincoln's best friends are laid to rest in our midst is an amazing thing.

Everything about the event was perfect, from the weather to the attention to detail. The only thing I'd try to do better is give more time to the tours - one hour isn't enough. Next year, I'd love to roam around the far south end by the mausoleum, because there are some fascinating characters at rest back there.

If you are into history, and want to walk where those before us walked, come hang out. Lucy and Bella will be glad to take you on a tour if we are out for our daily walk!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Being presentable, Tours, Shows

- I HEARD A rumor tonight's Woodland Cemetery tours have sold out. Really? I know it's the coolest thing to do in Quincy, and lots of people come, but maybe word has spread about what an awesome place Woodland is. Shhhh. The girls and I prefer nobody knows about it.

- I'm definitely out of practice when it comes to tucking the shirt in and being presentable.

- It's another music mayhem weekend in the Q-Town. Tonight the Cheeseburgers set up for one of our favorite places to play, One Restaurant at Sixth and Hampshire. We play Friday night from 8:30 to 12:30, there's no cover charge and One has great food and drink specials. We usually have a big crowd and we will also be making a big announcement about New Year's Eve.

- On Saturday night, I'm helping out with the Freddie Tieken event at the Holiday Inn, joined by fellow Cheeseburger Kirk Gribbler and legendary sax player and Funion Jack Inghram. The event benefits the Mendon school district and is the first time Fred has been back for a public performance in years. He's threatening to jam with the band after the dinner, too.

- Did you know our Second String Music cat, Fast Eddie, now has his own Facebook page? It's already going crazy. Fast Eddie is a social media kind of guy, so it makes sense.

- And ... I really miss Lucky.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Memories

HALLOWEEN WAS ALWAYS fun when I grew up. We dressed the part and hit the neighborhood hard, and the challenge was to make the candy last as long as possible.

One year in London, Ontario, I remember playing a hockey game on Halloween night, so I simply put on my gear, made the rounds and then went to the game.

One of the best parties I ever went to at Central Michigan was a Halloween bash. My roommate, Marty Horjus, made me go to a thrift store and I bought an old dress and went as a cross dressing double secret agent spy. In my purse was a toy Luger pistol, and I told people I was actually pretending to spy for the Germans, which confused everybody even more. Then at the end of the night, a guy nicknamed "Bits" (long story) kept feeling me up, and I got worried because he was having trouble with reality by the end of the night. As were we all.

My daughter, Emily, was huge into Halloween. We dressed her up from a very early age and carted her all over the place. The other day I saw on her Facebook page she was dressed at a traffic cone for a social gathering, the politically correct way to say party. Because I really don't want to think about it. Don't do anything I would back in the day, Em.

Three years ago my old band, The Funions, played a righteous Halloween gig at The Elks. We borrowed some jail uniforms and The Mighty One's wife was the Naughty Warden. She led us on stage as we were chained together, and later Rock A. Bye Johnny B. came out as Elvis and tore the house down. I still remember Pat Cornwell refusing to wear the shirt because "it didn't fit."

The last two years, The Cheeseburgers have played out at a party in Payson, and some of the costumes were tremendous. I will not talk about the farmer with the sheep. The band was in prison garb one year, doctor's scrubs the next.

No parties this year. We are handing out candy at the store, and Fast Eddie is threatening to dress up as an evil veterinarian and giving everybody shots for tapeworm. Maybe.

So, happy Halloween! Be safe out there. And bring me your extra candy, I'll bite the bullet and eat it for you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Random Walking Thoughts

I DID SOMETHING this morning I've never done before - I walked to work downtown.

It's only a mile. It's a gorgeous fall day. I put my iPod in my pocket and earphones on, and it took about two seconds, or so it seemed.

My mind was racing the whole time ....

- I'm done with four chapters of my next book project. I walked right past Eighth and Washington. I looked up at the second floor windows of the old store. I swear I saw somebody move up there.

- The sidewalks are clean and the walk is gently downhill from Seventh to State. But when I got to Seventh and State, I stopped. On the left is the big apartment where there was a fire a few years ago, and several people died. It was one of the bigger stories I covered, and I wonder how the families are doing. And I won't even think about the landlord.

- The old church on the east side up by York is very cool. Boarded up and cold and lonely, but cool.

- Did you know there is a downtown mall walkway from the alley behind The Maine Course? Other fire victims are honored on the plaque.

- Amazing how the wind is about 20 mph stronger at Fifth and Maine.

- It struck me as I was walking how I'd followed Hurricane Sandy without even touching the television set. As a reporter I was so surrounded by changes that it was hard to grasp sometimes, and yet there I was this morning, finding out everything on the very laptop I am typing with right now.

- I don't miss DirecTV or cable.

- I'm in such a good mood, I'm not even ticked off about the neighbor who let his dog out, and it ran into our backyard while Sheryl and were at Woodland with the girls, and it was pooping as we got home. Bella and Lucy weren't impressed. Neither are we with the owner. The dog? He was just doing what came naturally. Oh well.

- I always smile when people come in to the store and ask if we have Taylor or Martin guitars, then turn right around when we politely say no. That's okay. Careful though, cause if you play one of our gorgeous Blueridge guitars, you might be fooled. BTW, we do have an incredible 2008 Taylor 426CE LTD with a hard case in the store right now, so we'll see how long it lasts.

- If I have time, I might just walk home! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Woodland Cemetery Tours

NOVEMBER CALLS, WHICH means it's time once again for the annual Woodland Cemetery tours the day after Halloween. Thursday night starting at 5, tours will feature 18 markers and have actors depicting famous Quincy citizens from back in the day.

I'm leading tours at 5 and 6 pm. For more info, click here, but keep it quiet because Woodland is Quincy's best-kept secret and I like having the place to myself. So do Lucy and Bella.

See you Thursday night!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Give Up speech

FRIDAY NIGHT IN Quincy, I am making my acting debut. Well ... not really. I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV, after all.

Greg Ellery and friends have put together an event called "Evening of Wit and Wisdom." Basically it's just people reciting speeches from great moments in history.

I thought about it for at least two seconds and came up with what I think is a great speech. I've memorized my lines and I'm ready to roll. Friday night at 7:30 or so, I will hit the stage, overcome the fright, and inspire people to not give up.

You'll just have to be there to see it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Farewell, Lucky

WE PUT OUR famous store cat, Lucky, to sleep Sunday. She was sick and in a lot of pain. Much more is here at the Second String Music blog.

I miss Lucky. There is a hole in my heart, and I'm not even a big cat lover. She had personality and loved a good scritch. Yesterday I walked past the old Eighth and Washington store and swear I saw her in the window, tail happily swishing, eyes alight.

Pets are part of the family, and it's hard when they go. Lucky can never be replaced, and for now, Fast Eddie has the run of the store.

See you in that better place, Lucky.

Monday, October 22, 2012

No More TV

WE JUST PULLED the plug on our DirecTV package. We did it for two reasons, to save money and to resist the urge to get mindless.

I am the worst person in the world when it comes to crashing in front of the television. Worn out from a long day, I simply succumb and let the idiot box do all the work. There is a time and place for relaxing, but it's just not a good idea to be a blob every night.

I will miss my ESPN, and finding a good game on television during bowl season. We did hook up an antenna and we get the local stations in HD, so there will be stuff to watch. Pretty much the only day we get to be bums is Sunday, and there's usually NFL games and golf to help us nap.

This should also inspire me to write more. I realized last night I haven't had a guitar in the house for a long time, so it might be time to bring one home to bang around on instead of watching Red Dawn for the millionth time.

There's also our DVD player. We might have to buy "A Christmas Story" so Emily Hart doesn't panic Christmas day.

The TV shouldn't run our lives. It's more full of crap than good. It will take a little getting used to, but we'll be way better off for it.

Where are all our old DVDs, anyway?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Downtown Parking

LAST NIGHT SHERYL and I were talking to a longtime Quincy resident who has property downtown. He said the main issue with our Second String Music at Fifth and Maine is parking.

"There is no parking," he said.

Technically, that is true. But not true. There is plenty of parking within a square block of the store. People, however, don't like it when they have to park half a block or more away.

Sheryl and I usually park down half a block from the store and never use the spaces by the storefront. Those are for customers, NOT for people who work in the WCU Building across the street, but they do anyway. So be it.

Here's what I ask folks about about parking downtown. If you go to Walmart and you park 300 yards away, you don't care, because you are in front of the store. But if you can't get within 50 yards of our place, it's an issue, for some reason?

Downtown is a destination spot, and many people like to browse the shops, restaurants and bars. That's why there should never be a time limit on parking, and that's why QPD should not enforce parking limits. Let people come down here and stay down here.

Saturday, the Tin Dusters are in town and Maine Street will be closed from Fourth to Eighth. That means there will be no parking at all by the store, and it's something we can live with. Park in the deck across from The Herald-Whig on Fifth Street. It's half a block from Maine and easy in, easy out.

Like everything else, it's about attitude. I don't mind walking a block, and I hope our store customers don't, either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Freddie Tieken and the Rockers ... in SSM

LEGENDARY SAX PLAYER Jack Inghram stopped by Second String Music the other day with a stack of Freddie Tieken and the Rockers CDs. For those of you who are too young or lived in caves, Freddie and his band were huge in Quincy and the surrounding area in the 1960s.

This is great feel-good and party music. The sax playing is incredible, Vernie Robbins belts out the lyrics and the rhythm section of Jim Vandament on drums and Forrest Moore on bass is top notch. You can't help but tap your toes and imagine the scene of a great Rockers gig at Sheridan Swim Club or the kartways in West Quincy.

Freddie will be back in town in early November, and there are rumors of a jam session after the Holiday Inn gathering. Reportedly they were really hard up for a guitar player and the co-owner of Second String Music might be filling in, as will a Cheesey drummer.

It will be great having Freddie back in town, and you should check it out if you get the chance. SSM also has CDs available in the store for just $10.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Next Book Project

GETTING READY TO start a new book project, and I'm finding out the book thing is a lot like the newspapers bidness. You work really hard on it and after it comes out you move right to the next project.

Sheryl has me reading a couple of Kindle books and they are interesting. My next book will likely be about a place in Quincy, but I'm getting more and more intrigued about doing a fictional piece that will appeal to a wider audience. There is an incredible Quincy murder story more than 30 years old that has never been told, and it could very easily be written with the "based on a true story" angle.

The main thing is to keep going, because self-motivation is often a struggle. So. Here we go, plunging headlong right into it.

Write or wrong, you can't go wrong ....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

All Caps and FB Posts

IF YOU WANT to see a Facebook post go viral, give somebody a hard time about using all caps to post a status update.

My mother, God bless her soul, was an English teacher, and I have used the language to make a living for half of my years on this earth. So yes, I do get a bit perturbed when people type in all caps for no good reason, or deliberately sabotage spelling to take shortcuts. Text much lately? Right. My point exactly.

A while back I made the mistake of poking fun at a gal on Facebook who uses all caps all the time. She claims it's because she can't see very well, and trying to tell her all caps is actually harder to read and all you have to do is hit the CTRL and + buttons to make the font bigger fell on her deaf keyboard. Then her friends and family came to her aid and pretty soon I was the Iron Sheik or some other bad guy. So I left the FB group, which is too bad because it's a local history page and very interesting. Oh well.

I guess the main reason I don't like all caps is because it makes the writer appear like he or she is shouting, and things are just generally too loud in this world as it is. Don't shout it out, just tell me about it. Please?

Tonight I got irritated at a Cardinals fan who wrote a stupid post in all caps. You know what? There are way more important things going on and bigger issues to get mad about. Like using too many exclamation points. Or the stupid commercial with the kid blowing on his tuba for a virtual audience. GUH.

And I'm having a great Sunday with Sheryl, recovering from Saturday night's Cheeseburger rock and roll truck and enjoying Woodland walks with Bella and Lucy. So I'm feeling better about it.

And there's no reason to shout it out in all caps.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mice, dogs and a hockey stick

A FEW NIGHTS ago Sheryl noticed mice droppings in our food pantry. This made Sheryl mad. This meant a mouse was going to die.

"Listen," said Sheryl to Lucy, the Queen of Calftown and our Border Collie of Doom. "We have a mouse in the house. It is eating your dog treats. GIT IT DANGIT. And that's an order."

Lucy, with her wise Aslan-like face and all-business demeanor, nodded her head as if to say, "Chill, human slackers who don't let me outside nearly enough and make me wear silly kerchiefs. I got this. Just keep my stupid sister out of the way."

Her stupid sister, of course, is Bella The Destroyer, a lab mutt who is dumber than a box of rocks. Bella is, however, quite good at catching moles during our walks in Woodland Cemetery. She has single-pawedly reduced the mole problem at Woodland over the years, and it's amazing to watch. Bella will somehow get the scent or sense the mole's movement from a great distance, and she'll run over, dig it up and very gracefully snap its neck, all in one fluid motion. There's no blood and the whole thing is quite surgical.

The mouse entered the house through a hole in a basement wall and left quite a mess. Sheryl stuffed the hole and we waited for the inevitable carnage, knowing the mouse had to show its face at some point.

Last night while I was dozing on the couch (I know, you are stunned at the revelation), Sheryl heard a commotion in our bedroom. Lucy came out whining, a very unusual thing, and Bella was snapping at something. Sure enough, Bella had cornered the mouse, but it escaped and ran under the dresser. Sheryl screamed and ordered the dogs to "git it," and the mouse then scampered under the bed.

That brought out "Billy Baroo," my old Alpena hockey stick. Sheryl stood on the bed, the dogs assumed attack position, and I leaned down to look.

Sure enough, there was the frightened mouse, all three inches of it, cowering by Sheryl's shoes. A sweep of the hockey stick sent it scampering back to the dresser, then back under the bed again. By this point we were screaming, the dogs were howling and I'm stunned the neighbors didn't call the cops.

Finally, Mr. Mouse made the fatal mistake of coming out where Bella stood, and after one flick of Bella's jaw, it was all over. Lucy had to play with it a little bit too and Sheryl adroitly pointed out the tail was longer than the mouse, which Lucy demonstrated by dragging the mouse by its tail.

I got work gloves and took the mouse outside to its final resting place. Sheryl refused to take a picture. The dogs were quite pleased with themselves, and there is no more mouse in the house.

This morning, Mouse No. 2 found out the hard way that hiding under the vacuum cleaner will not keep you from the Queen of Calftown, who made quick work of the rodent. It makes me wonder how many more are in the house, which means our dogs need to be on extra alert.

If Mouse No. 1 and Mouse No 2 have a friend, it will be Dogs 3, Mice 0, with an assist from the Alpena hockey stick. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Turning To The Dark Side

IN MY PREVIOUS newsguy life, I dealt with a lot of PR people. Good ones were hard to find, to be honest. They'd send out garble and expect it to be printed word for word, if we could even discern what was in the release. I learned in a hurry who the good PR people were, like the awesome Tracy Orne at John Wood Community College and the Blessing Hospital folks back in the day.

Our good friend Laura Sievert does PR for Kirlins and is quite good at it. She is suggesting I'm turning to the Dark Side of The Force, now that I'm the one selling and promoting. Laura is a self-professed Dark Sith Lord of Doom, and she will train me well. And turning to the Dark Side has advantages - the star destroyers are luxurious and you can make inanimate objects fly around, along with performing Jedi mind tricks.

So now I'm on the Dark Side, promoting my book and trying to get a little media luv. I had a lot of fun with friends Greg Haubrich and Rich Cain on WGEM radio this morning, and it was just like old times - You Can't Make It Up!

So ... here's the press release for Rock N Roll Shorts. I have no idea if it's any good. I'll let the media figure that one out.


Former Quincy Herald-Whig staff writer and columnist Rodney Hart has published his first book, a collection of short stories called “Rock N Roll Shorts.”
The stories have music as the theme and are based on true events. They range from a musician fired from his band to a church praise band gone awry. The digital book was published through and is available online at and on iTunes. The paperback version of Rock N Roll Shorts has two additional stories and is available for $6 at Second String Music and at Great Debate Books inside the Maine Center at Sixth and Maine.
Hart is doing a book signing at Great Debate Books on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hart retired from The Herald-Whig in August 2012 after 16 years at the paper and 24 years in the newspaper business. He and his wife, Sheryl, own Second String Music at Fifth and Maine in Quincy. Hart plays guitar and sings in several area bands, including classic rock cover band The Cheeseburgers.
For more information, contact Hart at (217) 430-1454 or His website is