Friday, March 29, 2013

Dancing Man Mall Protest

APPARENTLY QUINCY'S FAMOUS "Dancing Man," Larry Toolate, has been banned from dancing in the Quincy Mall.

I'm not sure how accurate this rumor is, but I read about it on Facebook, so it must be true. There might be a good reason he's been banned - maybe he did a disco move by JC Penney and whacked somebody in the face - but you don't mess with a Quincy icon.

Protesters are gathering at noon Saturday to dance in the mall and show their support for a true Quincy icon, with 359 signed up already on the Facebook page. Many a car crash has been barely averted at the site of Larry getting his groove on at 36th and Broadway, and I'm sure there will be some train wrecks if a bunch of people start dancing inside the mall. But good for them, and boogie boogie boogie all night long.

By the way, dancing is strictly encouraged inside Second String Music, especially during Friday Happy Hour(s) jam sessions. Ahem.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Burning buildings and media coverage

THREE QUINCY POLICE Department officers helped rescue a couple and their baby from a burning building overnight.

That's the story, the most important part, and it's interesting to read the various media reports.

I'm posting links to the three stories about the fire. Click here for WGEM's version, click here for KHQA, and click here for The Herald-Whig. It's my understanding the Whig story will be updated, and it's by far the best of the stories.

Kudos for TV getting the story first. The Whig's story told me more in six paragraphs than two entire garbled TV web stories. And the one TV version  has a pretty factual lead - there was a fire, it was bad, it was started by a cigarette in a trash can, and by the way, QPD rescued three people from a burning building.

The Whig was also the only media outlet to identify the three QPD officers. It took them a bit longer, but its story and photos are vastly superior.

This is a biased view, of course. And I'm not necessarily being critical, it's just interesting to note the different coverages of the same event.

Sgt. Bryan Dusch saw the fire first. Officer Stefanie Yates found the ladder and officer Terry Hagan was instrumental in the rescue. All three are to be commended. Sgt. Dusch was about to tell the couple upstairs to throw their young child out the window when Stefanie located the ladder.

Bryan is a good officer, a former detective who doesn't take crap. If you are a bad guy and he's chasing you, well, you are SOL. Same goes for Stefanie, wife of Pepper Spray band member Adam Yates. She is the nicest and most polite person you will ever meet, unless you are a dirtball breaking the law.

QPD gets flak when things don't go well. Let it be said loud and clear that they risked their lives in a chaotic event and saved the lives of three others.

To them, it's just part of the job.

I say, thank you for a job well-done.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is Your Wife Here?

YOU KNOW YOU are doing well when an older gentleman with a gorgeous high-end acoustic guitar walks into the store and politely asks if "your wife is here."

"She has restrung it for me before and she does a great job," the man says.

Two years ago, Sheryl didn't know an E string from a fret. Now she straightens necks and adjusts string height by the millimeter. And she has a fan club.

"If she could look at it, I'd just feel better about it," the man says.

This leads me to conclude with two things. A. I need to continue to stay out of the way, and B. Sheryl rocks.

Well, three things - we will take care of you at Second String Music!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Songs Are Songs

SHERYL WANTS ME to write a song about snowstorms in spring. Or something like that.

I used to make up a lot of songs, most on guitar. Most were awful. I am proud to say my old band, The Funions, recorded three CDs of original music. Some of the songs were OK. I have a bunch of songs on my Boss digital recorder that are OK, too.

The last time I had to write songs for a major project was in 2005, and a lot of them were heavy and dark. You are what you write, I suppose.

So I'm thinking, what could I write songs about? It's time for me to get off my butt and just do it.

I could write songs about ....

- Snowstorms in mid-March.
- My daughter getting a full-ride graduate school scholarship.  Can I rhyme Cleveland and Julliard?
- Tucker the Wonder Dog running through the snow, FAST.
- How much fun it is to play with your best friends in Pepper Spray.
- New lesson rooms and old bank signs and haunted floors above Second String Music.
- Why companies won't hire a middle aged and burned out newspaper guy.  How about why companies won't hire my super smart wife with tons of computer and networking skills.  She gave up the search and we opened a music store...
- The city dumping a pile of snow on our corner at Fifth and Maine so people can't walk on the sidewalk.
- Coming up with blog ideas.
- Stepping in Bella's big piles of poo.
- Being fortunate with a great wife, an adventure with the music store and three smart dogs. Well, two smart dogs. Bella is still dumb.
- Sitting on a Lake Michigan beach. Already done that, but could do it again.
- Life itself.

Get off your fat ass and just do it, Hoser .....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Familiar Face Hurts

WHEN I WROTE about bad guys and people charged with crime, I got good at turning it off. It was just a job, nothing more, nothing less. That, of course, is a lie, but there was no way I could go into a courtroom without switching it off.

So this morning I see a story and mugshot and it almost made me fall out of my chair. I know this particular person because I coached her in YMCA basketball when she was little. I know her because my daughter played hoops with her. She wasn't the most gifted of athletes but she could shoot lights out and she always hustled.

Now she's in the Adams County Jail and in a heap of trouble after a drug arrest.

It's a lot easier when the faces are nameless.

Friday, March 22, 2013

SSH graduate!

I HAD A lot of fun hanging out with Tom Gibson during his Six String Heroes lessons the past six weeks.

Tom has a great attitude and is progressing very well. He's got some hand issues but has figured out ways to adapt and overcome, like a lot of military guys and gals I know.

Just as important as learning chords and strum patterns is the camaraderie. We laughed almost as much as we played during some lessons. He's armed with the basics and a beautiful Washburn acoustic guitar.

It's an honor to be part of the program!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

School Board Togetherness

INTERESTING HOW PEOPLE running for Quincy's school board have a tendency to run in groups.

Running on a "ticket" with one or two other people causes reservation. A school board candidate should have their own ideas and issues to talk about. What if they get elected with their buddies and have different views on an issue? It might lead them to say, "Well, we ran together, so now we have to vote together."

Then again, unity is a big part of being on school board. The last few years have been interesting, to say the least, for Quincy Public Schools, and I have a lot of respect for board members who have endured a "Just Say No To Everything" member and some very difficult financial times.

It takes somebody special to be a school board member, because I wouldn't do it in a million years. Most of them in Quincy are good people who work hard, and they have my admiration and respect.

A few years back I had to cover a school board meeting for The Whig. It was awful. There was a newer board member who loved to hear himself talk and who dragged the meeting on forever. Mr. No was so obviously incompetent and clueless it was laughable. At one point, the superintendent, Tom Leahy, stood up and chided the board members for being split and fractured on key issues. Another board member spent 10 minutes during the meeting blasting me for a story I'd written about a finance committee meeting, a story that was accurate and fair. Ironically, this board member was one of the better ones and actually had a clue about things.

Back to the group ticket issue. I can see the advantages if like-minded candidates run together - saves on signs, advertising, etc. But it can backfire, because a recent candidate recently warbled on Facebook about how great her signs looked with another candidate's name on the back, and that's not what I'm looking for in a candidate. You should tell me all you want about how you have the children's best interest at heart, how you want to work with teachers and staff, etc. Then tell me how you will deal with state finances screwing our kids, and what your stand is on curriculum changes and how to deal with the upcoming teacher negotiations. I don't really care how nice your sign looks.

And good luck, once you get elected. You'll need it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Clueless city council candidate

I'M NOT MUCH into politics. If you get elected, you have to go to meetings, and I hate meetings. So there.

Today's You Can't Make It Up story comes from yesterday's Herald-Whig about a city council race in the 1st Ward. The incumbent is 85 years old and has been a councilman for more than 20 years. His challenger is from Chicago and was kicked off the ballot last year because of a felony conviction in Wisconsin for not paying child support.

Like I said, YCMIU.

The challenger wasn't fazed by being removed from the ballot and is running as a write-in candidate. Nobody really knows if that's legal or not, so for now, he's in the race.

Our challenger wants a sticker fee for every car in Quincy to raise money for infrastructure improvements. They do it in Chicago, so they should do it here, he says.

Anything anybody ever does in Chicago politics should never, ever be done in Quincy, Illinois. Thank you.

The challengers is also running for school board because he has five kids attending Quincy schools. Evidently he got the whole Wisconsin thing figured out, and he really is nuts, because that's twice as many meetings.

He told The Whig that if elected to both positions, he'd go to school board meetings if there was a conflict, because school stuff "is a little more important" than city bidness.

Meanwhile, our 85-year-old city alderman just plugs along, returns phone calls and attends meetings and tries to get money for sidewalks. He doesn't seem particularly concerned with his challenger, and it's even money he'll be celebrating birthday No. 86  as an alderman, as well.

There's your choices, 1st Ward. Best of luck. If the challenger wins, I'm bailing out of Calftown and moving to Marblehead.

They don't have sticker fees in Marblehead.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness goes to the dogs

MY BROTHER, STEPHEN "Stiep" Hart, puts together the Hart Family Challenge every year for the NCAA tournament. We go through the ESPN site and it's a lot of fun, and easy to play.

Lucy wondering why she puts up with Bella.
You gotta love the email Stiep sends out when it includes "As always, dogs are encouraged to submit bids." That means our new Border Collie, Tucker, has entered, along with Lucy. Bella is too dumb and wonders why a field goal isn't worth seven points, so she won't be participating.

Let the madness begin!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sons of Anarchy? Not in Q-Town ...

THERE WAS A fascinating trial in Quincy last week for a motorcycle club member accused of pointing a gun at a rival motorcycle club guy almost a year ago. As usual, Don O'Brien of The Quincy Herald-Whig was the only media guy on top of the story, and his story is here. Sorry if The Whig blocks you out.

To summarize, two guys were at 12th and Hampshire when they were surrounded by gang members. The guy on trial pointed a gun, and victims' vests were stolen. The accused's attorney suggested it was just boys playing capture the flag.

Whatever. The jury thought otherwise, and our Sons of Anarchy boy is facing 30 years in prison.

Four people were arrested. The other three at least showed good judgement and hired a decent attorney. The state's attorney, however, was dealt a royal flush and has all the cards, and it will be interesting to see what kind of deals are struck, if any.

I am friends with one of the victims, a really good guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He isn't scared of the other club members and decided to ride it out with the legal justice system, though the delays frustrated him. I don't know much about wannabe bad boy bikers, but they'd be stupid to exact any kind of revenge. Very, very stupid.

And all of this gives motorcycle enthusiasts a bad name. I don't ride (scooters don't count) but I understand the pull of the open road and wind blowing in the face, etc. I won't let a couple of idiots wreck my view of the majority of bikers, good people with passion for doing something they love.

Take your "capture the flag" crap somewhere else, boys. It doesn't fly in the Q-Town. Or ride, for that matter.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weekends. Phew!

IT USED TO be that weekends were mainly a time to recover from a hectic work week, or to work a weekend shift.

Then I joined the Cheeseburgers. And opened a music store. And quit my "real" job. Now weekends are blurs and more fun that you should be allowed to have.

It starts tonight with Happy Hour(s) at Second String Music. The gang from Pepper Spray will be "practicing" songs, which means we will play anything we can come up with and not worry about butchering it.

Saturday is the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and party downtown, and we are fired up about having a bunch of people at Fifth and Maine. Saturday afternoon we set up for the Cheeseburger's gig at One Restaurant, and we play from 8:30 to 12:30.

Sunday I might sleep for an hour or two. Maybe not. Sunday evening about 6, Pepper Spray is playing at The Blind Pig in Quincy.

Monday? Well. Here's my butt. Here is me with a rope, dragging it.

Let the weekend begin. Where is my No Doze, anyway?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Getting Even

MY DAUGHTER IS two months from graduating college. She is home on spring break, and today at lunch we were talking about grades. She has a 3.97 GPA, thanks to two stupid teachers who don't know any better. Thank god I'm not a soccer mom.

Anyway, she said she received an A minus from one teacher for absolutely no reason at all.

"That's okay," Emily said. "I got even with him. I ran over his flowers."

Really, I would like to know more, but some things are probably better left a mystery.

And it's also one of a million reasons why I love her so much.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Paddy Parade

ONE OF MANY cool things about living in Quincy is parades. I know the Q-Town is big time now that we have a Texas Roadhouse, but still, quaint rules.

Dennis and Jeff look good in green. For radio guys, anyway.
We have some outstanding parades, from the Veteran's Parade in November to the huge Dogwood Parade in May. For years, Y-101 radio guys Dennis Oliver and Jeff Dorsey have organized the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and Saturday they lead the prosession down Maine Street yet again.

Sure, downtown will be packed and it will be tough to find a nearby parking spot if you want to come to the store. By nearby, I mean within a block. Quaint, ain't it?

It's supposed to warm up and hopefully Dennis and Jeff have their usual goofy time. I'll be camped out at Fifth and Maine blowing kisses, jeering political candidates and giving away guitar picks.

Go green!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Family visit

SHERYL'S NEPHEW IS staying with us this week. We have the space and the time. And I like it.

Brant sleeping.
Brant is a very polite young man and in high school so he's not high maintenance, he basically just needs a place to crash and a little incentive to get up for school in the morning. Aunti Sheryl can be very persuasive. Haha.

We are used to just the two of us and the three dogs. So the visit is a nice change of pace. We watched bad Hulu television last night and just hung out.  The White Shadow was on and he had some trouble comprehending the racist remarks that run rampant in the show. He'll go home at the end of the week and I hope he enjoys being with us.

Now, if I can get him to make dinner and walk the dogs .... hmmm. This is working out even better than I thought!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Great night for SSH

Glendon Greisbaum, middle, shows us old guys how it's done!

IF AGE IS just a state of mind, then I mind it. Very much. But if it's the price you gotta pay to have a good time, so be it.

Sheryl and I are both recovering and grateful after an amazing Saturday night at Turner Hall for our Six String Heroes benefit. Along with the $3,000 donation from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, we've raised about $5,000 for the program, which offers free guitar lessons and guitars to veterans. Co-founders Steve Stoner and Kevin Sullivan were blown away by little old Quincy's generous nature.

First of all, it was great to see Turner Hall packed. We had more than 350 people in the old concert hall and The Cheeseburgers appreciated it very much. It's a boatload more fun to play to a crowd that wants to dance, party and sing along. Vancil Performing Arts band, Clockwork, opened things up and had the place rocking right away. Lenny Alderton and his young students tore it up and did a great job.

A big thanks to Mark and Chris from Turner Hall, along with sound man Rollo Carder. When you call those guys and say you want to have a benefit, they say, "What do you need?"

This was a big night for our Cheeseburger roadie of Doom, Frank Haxel. We were hoping for a hundred people or so to show up. As the people poured in, Frank decided to have himself a good old time, and I don't blame him after all the hard work he put in to organize and promote the event.
Lenny and the Clockwork boys rock it out!

My favorite part was jamming with young Glendon Griesbaum near the end of the night. I gave him my Kammerer guitar and he rocked right along with us, and the look on his face was priceless when Eric, our guitar player, came up to him and blasted out a solo.

Sheryl and I decided a long time ago to make Six String Heroes a main focus of our charitable efforts, and it's been huge and positive.

Whatchya say we do it again?

Just give us time to recover.

Cowbell medley time with Sarah, Colin and Elise!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Stay Positive

IN THE GRIND of life, it's important to stay positive.

Hey - it's the weekend! We have a big show Saturday night to benefit Six String Heroes. I just had a great lesson with one of our SSH students, Tom, and he's doing really well. The weather is warming. Tim Smith of Pepper Spray fame is coming over for a noon jam at Second String Music armed with lunch.

I'm not dismissing life. But things work out. Bring on the weekend and take the following advice from Ric and the boys ...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Media Love

I WAS A bit hard on our local media the other day, and I apologize. Of all people, I should realize it's not easy and that it's still a business. I can honestly say the men and women who work at our local media outlets are top-notch, for the most part.

This past week has been a good example. Second String Music and Vancil Performing Arts Center are sponsoring A Night With The Cheeseburgers Saturday at Turner Hall, and we've received great support from our local media.

Dennis Oliver and Jeff Dorsey at Y-101 gave us love last week, click here for the link.

I was on WGEM this morning with Rich Cain and Greg Haubrich, and they are always good to me. I miss hanging out with them and doing the "You Can't Make It Up" segments.

Bob Gough at the Quincy Journal will be giving us some love tomorrow.

Maggie Menderski of The Herald-Whig did an incredible job profiling Six String Heroes, and they might run out of ink from selling so many papers with Wayne Bridges in the photo. Click here for Maggie's story.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us spread the message about Six String Heroes and our event Saturday.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How will porn shop robbery impact you?

I STARTED SWEARING out loud the other night when I saw a local newscast promo about a robbery in town. "How will this impact you?" the anchor bellowed. Well, yelled. Well, said in a dramatic voice. A couple of dirtballs knocked off the local porn shop on the edge of town, and since it's the second "armed" robbery in a couple of weeks, that means it's an epidemic.

I'm not downplaying the robbery, it's a bad thing and I hope they find the pieces of crap that did it. But I'm not watching the hard-hitting journalism on display when something like this happens and they blow it out of proportion.

Weather and crime. It rocks and rolls everywhere you go. Look! Here comes more snow! Let's use all caps and exclamation points! NOW.

Let's not but say we did, and it will all make us feel better.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Auto Harp

STEVE REES IS in the Second String Music Hall of Fame and a really good musician. He works on some of the more challenging repair jobs for us, and this morning he's been tuning an autoharp.

Basically you use the dampening keys to mute strings you don't play in chords, as opposed to pressing down on strings for chords on a guitar. It's a beautiful instrument and difficult to play, and it rings like a choir.

It's never dull here at Fifth and Maine!

Here's a Youtube video of a gal named Jo Ann Smith playing an autoharp.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Rev It Up

SHERYL AND I have discovered a new TV series on Hulu called "Rev." We were disappointed when we learned Hulu stopped Hill Street Blues after the third season. Rev has more than made up for it.

Rev is a BBC series about in inner city church and its vicar, Adam. There are no plush leanings in London for the struggling church, and Adam identifies with doubt and the down and out.

There is one continuing scene where three jeering construction workers on a scaffold next to the church give Adam and his parishioners grief. Adam finally has enough one day after they moon him. He tears off his clergy collar, calmly faces the workers, and tells them to, well, to .... bleep off.

It's the human side of things we most identify with.

In the second episode, a charismatic church "borrows" Adam's building for a few services, and the parody of modern-day worship is hysterically spot-on.

Worth your while and time!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Face To Face

DON O'BRIEN of The Herald-Whig had an interesting observation on his Facebook page yesterday - he got a visit from a meth couple Wednesday, and another from a murder witness on Thursday.

Don covers crime and courts for the paper, as I did for a dozen years. I'm trying to remember all the interesting people who came to see me during 24 years, but they tend to blur together after a while.

I think the scariest and saddest visit I ever got came from the mother of a man who'd been executed in Missouri. I attended the lethal injection as a state witness and reporter, one of two I covered.

The mother and father had issues raising their son, if you read the reports from authorities and family members. She came into the office unannounced and demanded to see me, two days after her son died.

She was convinced her son had been unjustly convicted, didn't murder the neighbor down the road, was railroaded, etc. She bellowed at me for about an hour, asked me how I could sleep at night, and when I looked in her eyes I saw the devil. I finally had to ask her to leave, and from what I remember, I slept just fine that night.

I got better over the years at dealing with people who were upset. Sometimes all it took was standing up. Being 5-foot-19 has its advantages, you know.

Most people were afraid and just wanted to talk. They were surprised much of the time to find out I wasn't some heartless monster who couldn't care less.

I still interact with interesting people every day. Like the guy who came in yesterday, wondering what a tuner was, then asked for a job, then admitted he was a felon, then bemoaned the fact his brother was in jail. Or the guy a bit later who came in saying he wanted to clean the stains in our carpet. Or Frank Haxel, who is destroying our back room right now.

It's all about the people, Holmes.