Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Coffee snobs

IT'S ALWAYS THE bass player's fault.

Josh Brueck of the awesome Quincy band Eleven gave Sheryl a Keurig brewing machine. It makes one cup at a time, all kinds of stuff - coffee, tea, hot chocolate. I believe it opens our garage door and might even make tuna sandwiches. The best part is that we don't make a whole pot of coffee and then waste half of it if we don't drink it.

Here is how I make coffee. I put the filter in the machine, put a scoop of coffee in the filer, pour the water in and turn it on. The Hart family is notorious for being coffee snobs ("Always use cold water," my dad says) but I just want something hot and to wake me up.

This Keurig thing is easy to use too, and it makes potent brew. If I have four or five guitar lessons in a row I will make a cup and start bouncing off the walls. Now I know how Fast Eddie feels when Kiki Backoff brings him catnip.

All this because Josh decided we were worthy of such an awesome machine.

Sheryl is soliciting samples and not being shy about it. "We will try anything once," she says.

I will make coffee one cup at a time. But I won't get snobby about it. I hope.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cheesey KHQA

I'VE DONE JUST about everything in the media, but I've never played live music on a morning show.

That will change Thursday morning, when KHQA in Quincy hosts The Cheeseburgers on their patio behind the 36th Street station. We'll be doing a short interview at 5:45 a.m., followed by acoustic performances at 6:15 and 6:45.

Been a while since I've been up that early. GUH.

Anyway, we are practicing with our acoustic guitars tonight and it should be a lot of fun. This will be a different sound and style for us but we look forward to the challenge.

We are also officially introducing new guitar player Tim Lawless as a Cheeseburger. He played with us last weekend and we had a blast. He's a great player but more importantly a great person, and we'll have a lot of fun working up some new songs and getting him acclimated to the band.

Eric McKay has decided to leave after a year and a half. Eric is a tremendous guitar player and singer, and he brought great ideas and songs to The Cheeseburgers. We will miss him a lot, but he's decided to step back since he has three young kids, a demanding job and several other music related commitments.

Eric's last show will be Friday night at One Restaurant. We are celebrating Burt's birthday and it should be a great time, showtime is 8:30.

Long Live Cheese!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Did the dog eat your cigar? DUH.

I DON'T SMOKE. Never have, and hopefully never will. I do like, every now and then, a nice cigar. The cheaper the better, bless my Dutch Calvinistic self.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to smoke a cigar in the backyard. I got about halfway through and decided to save the other half for the evening fire. As I got ready to stack the wood and make the fire a few hours later, I put the cigar somewhere, and I never did find it. I'm convinced I put it in one of those places that seemed safe and logical at the time, but of course that doesn't work after you've played back to back gigs and you are so tired you can't see straight.

Sheryl eventually figured it out, of course, after watching one of our dogs slink around the backyard with a familiar pinned-ear look on her face.

"It's not, 'Did the dog eat your cigar?'" she said. "It's, 'Bella ate your cigar.'"

She is convinced Bella, our dumb lab mix who eats everything from dead rodents to Christmas trees to tin foil, snatched up the tobacco product and inhaled it (arf). "Well, that will be interesting to see what it looks like tomorrow," Sheryl said.

It wouldn't surprise me if Bella grabbed the cigar and went behind the shed with Tucker to smoke it. "He'll never know," Bella probably said.

"It's not easy, owning these dumb humans," Tucker said. "Hey, can I have a puff?"

Note to self: Put the cigar in a safe place, like, on top of the roof. The dogs will never figure out how to climb the ladder.

Or will they?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Contest results and Sheryl's new blog

GREAT TIME LAST night at the Adams County Fair, where a new Texaco Country Showdown winner was picked and some really good singers showcased their talents. I was a judge and the moral of the story is that playing an instrument really helps your chances. Click on my Local Q blog here to read more about the event.

Sheryl has started a new blog called Retail Spaces. And you can't make it up, just ask our boy, Frank Haxel. Click here for more!

Now it's on to another rock and roll weekend - Cheeseburgers are at the Clark County Fair in Kahoka, Mo., tonight and at a private pool party in Quincy Saturday night. We have some big band news brewing for next week, as well.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sticking it to the robot phone company

WELCOME, REALITY BLOG fans, to the latest episode of Sticking It To The Man. And the score after a very frustrating month of competition is Sheryl Hart 1, Big Phone Company 0.

Now, we don't want to identity the phone company here by name, so let's just call it something completely different, like, oh, I don't know - AT&T. Yeah, that's it. AT&T.

Last week, AT&T decided Sheryl needed a data plan. Sheryl doesn't want a data plan, but she has an i-Phone, so AT&T made the decision for her. When Sheryl found out, she called AT&T (Motto: Even though we are a phone company, it will still take an hour to talk to an actual human being). After informing the "customer service representative" she wanted to cancel her phone, Sheryl was advised the data plan would be withdrawn, she'd get a big credit to her next phone bill, and everything would be fine.

Two days ago she got a text from AT&T (another motto: Our robots send texts!) saying she'd been put back on the data plan. After enduring another round of phone calls to robots, which took a long time because their server was down, Sheryl reached a human being, and canceled her phone line.

"But, but, but ...." said the robot, er, AT&T person.

"Buh bye," said Sheryl. And it's the last thing she said into her phone.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with Sheryl not having a phone. What if I have an emergency? What if she is at home and needs something? What if she's at home and I'm at the store and I have no idea how to look something up on Quickbooks?

"Relax," Sheryl says. "We have the store phone. And it's not like you are going to call me and see what size nipple bushing we need for the faucet."

So, AT&T loses a customer, our lives got simpler and Sheryl simply moves on.

And it feels good to stick it to the robots, er, giant phone company.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How I Fix Leaky Faucets

THE DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM tub faucet is leaking. When I told Sheryl this, she shrugged and said, "You fix it."


So she went to the hardware store, conjured up parts, took the dang thing apart. My job was to go in the basement and turn off the water. It only took two trips, because the first time all I heard was "water heater" and "pipe" when told what to do. The second time was better after Sheryl drew a map and spoke veerrrrryyyy slooowwwllly about where to find the shut-off.

Apparently the faucet and plumbing was jerry-collins-rigged because Sheryl got very angry and cursed loudly, behavior normally reserved for bad movies, Battlestar Gallactica episodes and churchy people. Sheryl then did the dishes by hand to wash her frustration down the drain, but only after I went back downstairs and turned on the water. In one trip! I was very proud.

Turns out the pipe was the wrong size and the thingy that attached to the doohickey was not the same size as the nipple bushing. And I'm not making up the nipple bushing part. She even walked over to the plumbing place at Third and Maine with the hapless Frank Haxel to get the right parts.

And so the moral of the story is, never try to do home repair. Leave it to the pros or your wife. Or Frank.

And don't make jokes about nipples and bushes. It's waaaaayyyy too easy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Royal Baby. I Couldn't Care Less.

I MADE SOMEBODY mad yesterday when I stated in a Facebook post that I couldn't care less about the royal baby.

Ah yes, the dreaded lack of sense of humor. It leaves the building and makes everybody cringe. GUH. At least some people still have it .... like the genius Onion guys.

I didn't even know there was going to be a royal baby. Wait a second - England's royalty, right? The figureheaded royalty that does nothing and is very rich because of it. As a Canadian I'll probably get my citizenship revoked for saying it, but the royal family means as much to me as a can of FingerEase, only FingerEase is useful and I get emotional after spraying it on my strings.

I think it's great another child came into this world safe and sound. I wish every baby born yesterday the best of luck and a great life. When it comes to the eventual grandchildren, I will do cartwheels, but I won't have silly betting pools or gush out babbling posts.

If you get excited about the royal family, good for you. After I get a new can of FingerEase, I will join you in your excitedness. Honest. Really.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wedding Barn Bliss

THE CHEESEBURGERS PLAY a lot of fun and interesting shows. Saturday night we were up near Houghton, Iowa, about 80 miles from Quincy, for a wedding reception/party.

It took place on the family farm inside a large hoop tent, which basically looks like an aircraft hangar. Two flatbeds served as the stage. The floor was made of concrete and we faced west into the setting sun, and it was great weather when the sun went down. There is something about being in the middle of nowhere off a gravel road - the sky is bigger and the colors seems sharper.

We knew it would be good when the wedding party rolled up the dirt road in a hay wagon, and it was on from there. Everybody was in a great mood and they danced from beginning to end, which always makes a band feel good.

The groom played a song on his violin for his new bride before we started, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Then the groom joined his grandfather (guitar) and best man (banjo) for a little jam between sets, and their beautiful bluegrass music spilled into the evening air.

Eric invited a 9-year-old girl onto the stage, and she had a blast dancing around and air-guitaring with us. Everybody in the band has daughters and Eric and Burt especially were really cool to the little gal, who hammed it up and brought the house down with her robot dancing and faux strumming.

The family was thrilled and quite a few people stayed all night. We got home about 3 in the morning, and it will take me another day or two to get back on a regular sleep schedule, which is what happens when you spend Sunday napping.

We have two more shows this weekend, Friday night up in Kahoka, Mo., for the Clark County Fair, and Saturday night at a private pool party.

As Cheeseburger roadie Frank Haxel says, "We'll sleep when we're dead." And we'll keep having more fun than should be allowed!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trying Out New Songs

ONE OF MY guitar students turned me on to Phillip Phillips and his song "Gone Gone Gone." It's rhythmic and not easy to pull off. I practiced it a few times and played it last night during our Pepper Spray performance at One Restaurant.

I have a long way to go. But that's okay.

It's good to try something different. We played three or four songs last night we've never attempted as a band, if you can call Pepper Spray a band. It's more like a bunch of guys who like to play and make noise. Works for me.

I encourage my students to go beyond what they think they can do. Maybe they will fall flat, and maybe it will be a semi train wreck, like my attempt at Phillip Phillips.

You can't grow unless you go.

And we have more fun than should be allowed last night, thanks again to the great One staff and my fellow Pepper Sprayers, Justin Sievert, Adam Yates, Tim Smith and Adam Duesterhaus.

Let's do it again!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The cover of the Rolling Stone ....

ROLLING STONE ANNOUNCED they are putting a photo of the Boston Marathon bomber on the cover. Immediately there is a public outcry and calls to boycott the magazine. Click here for one such effort.

I don't read Rolling Stone, because pop culture is boring and the more attention you pay to it, the less of a person you become. Personally, I find the cover offensive and the magazine should take shots for showing poor taste. But Rolling Stone has never been known for showing good taste.

Why the cover? DUH. To sell magazines, of course. The media may get blamed for all kinds of things, but the media doesn't exist unless there is a wanted product. Now there are all kinds of hopping mad people jumping up and down and telling us not to buy the magazine, and that's fine, but they are unwittingly feeding the fire.

If you don't like the cover, and there are plenty of reasons, don't buy it. Perhaps the backlash will be enough to either pull the cover or sink Rolling Stone into further obscurity, and that wouldn't be a bad thing, either, but I fear it will have the opposite effect.

We will see how it plays out.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It was 20 years ago today ...

NICE JOB BY local media remembering the 20-year anniversary of the West Quincy levee brake. I was on WGEM News Talk Live Monday morning talking to Rich Cain about the awful day, July 16, 1993, and all these years later you can still hear the emotion and darkness in his voice when he remembers.

The Herald-Whig had a fantastic package Sunday, led by Ed Husar's story about Norman Haerr and the fight to save the levee. Ed is The Whig's best reporter and we are all tied for last compared to him.

Here is a report from this morning's WGEM show. It features the infamous clip of the James Scott interview right after the levee broke. Some say without this interview, Scott never would have been convicted of breaking the levee. It's a bit creepy knowing what we know now when you see the WGEM reporter's reaction to his explanation.

If you lived in Quincy, you knew where you were when the levee broke. Hard to believe it's been 20 years.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A pool is a pool

SHERYL AND I are now really happening in the Calftown Hood, because we bought a pool.

And not just any pool. A real, official, plastic, decorated with frogs and other animals wading pool. It's about a foot deep. It cost us less than $20. We are trying to get the dogs to jump in and keep the neighbors out. We sat yesterday in the shade and with our feet in the water, and it was heaven.

It ain't a Michigan beach. But it will do, for now.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another Wild Weekend

THE WEEKEND IS good enough. Sunny and 80 makes it perfect.

Blues In The District tonight with the Rockin' Johnny band. Johnny will be in the store Saturday, too. Don't forget about the awesome Obert sisters playing at 11:30 this morning in the park, right across the street from Second String Music.

At 1 p.m. Saturday I'll be bartending at Spring Street to help out the Homeward Bound fundraiser. Saturday night The Cheeseburgers are back up at the Keokuk South Side Boat Club to Git Cheesey for a birthday party, and the usual insanity should reign.

Sunday I will sleep. All day. While Sheryl takes a stump out of our back yard.  She rocks.

Monday morning I'm doing WGEM radio at 8:12 a.m. to talk about the 20-year anniversary of the West Quincy levee breaking.

Other than that, I'll just be getting in the way at Second String Music and sitting on the sidewalk at Fifth and Maine.

It's a good life!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Getting Off The Sidewalk

TWO WEEKS AGO, Washington Park was as packed as I've ever seen it during the Blues In The District show for the Soulard Blues Band.

Off the sidewalk to catch Rockin Johnny!
It was also Midsummer Arts Faire time, the weather was perfect and people were in a festive mood. Estimates ranged from 3,500 to 4,000 people in the park, and it was a gigantic party.

We put a table on the sidewalk across the street at Second String Music. And I barely made it into the park to see the band, we had so much fun.

We are in the best location possible at Fifth and Maine, and if the party doesn't get off the sidewalk, that's fine with me. Tomorrow night will be more of the same, but I gotta behave because Second String Music is sponsoring the Rockin' Johnny Band performance. Hopefully Johnny Burgin and his crew will spend some time in the store, so come on by to meet one of the most talented and coolest blues cats around.

I'll be in the park for sure Friday night.

Life is good downtown!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tale of two customers

WE HAVE A very nice Dean Palomino hollow body guitar in Second String Music. The other day an older man walked in, declared himself a guitar maker, and proceeded to verbally degrade the instrument.

It's OK to point out something wrong on a guitar, and we are happy to fix it if it isn't right. But this guy had no other purpose in our store than to show how great he was and how much he knew about guitars.

The pickups were set wrong. It had scratches on the pickguard (it's used, but gently, and the price reflects it). The tailpiece wasn't right. Blah blah blah blah. Sheryl had a Spinal Tap moment, asked politely that he give her the guitar and said "You are done looking at this."  She walked to the back of the store and that seemed to be enough of an indication to the man that he had worn out his welcome.

A few days later, a younger guy picked up the guitar and actually played it. He is now in love. "Great guitar, plays like a dream," the young man said. He was in to pick up some new Seymour Duncan 59 blues humbuckers for his electric and I was more than happy to let him play this guitar and get a feel for the instrument.

Guess which guy we considered a musician? You guessed right.

We have an appreciation for all brands, models and types of instrument. The variety of craftsmanship, the sound, different woods, and interesting designs get us excited. We love to encourage our customers to try every instrument they want before deciding on the one for them. A music store should strive to help everyone enjoy music more. Come in any time and try an instrument, ask us questions about weird instruments, try out an amplifier or a Boss pedal.

We welcome the opportunity to serve our local musicians.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Getting Up Early

I DON'T MIND getting up early. I did it for 24 years as a sports guy and then news guy. I'd get up, take a shower, and charge to work amped and ready.

That's one of the big differences a year later, after I "retired" from the newspaper bidness. I usually wake up around 6:30 or 7, probably from all the years of getting up early. Then I get up and make coffee. Then I poke around online. This morning I made bacon and eggs and took the dogs for a stroll. Sheryl took her time getting ready and had some errands to run, so I scooted to Second String Music, got things opened up and just generally felt good about things.

Right at 10 a.m. a young man walked in who was having issues with his bass. We had a great conversation and we'll try to get to the bottom of his issue with the instrument. I just like the fact I'm rested and ready to go and enjoying what I do.

Last night we came home from a great Monday and I remarked to Sheryl how good I felt, and how fortunate we were. After a day at the Whig I usually felt like I was run over by a truck. A very large truck. I now reserve that feeling exclusively for post-Cheeseburger Sundays.

I guess you can call it work.

Pfffffttttt .....

Monday, July 8, 2013

Twenty years after the flood, and the Scott boys

JUST GOT DONE re-reading Adam Pitluk's fascinating book about the 1993 West Quincy levee break. Damned To Eternity is the story of Jimmy Scott, convicted not once but twice of intentionally causing the levee to break and causing a catastrophe. He supposedly stuck a shovel in the levee and caused it to break so his wife would be stranded in Missouri and he could party with his buddies the rest of that hot summer.

One week from today marks the 20th anniversary of that infamous event. Nobody around here will forget it. And nobody should.

Pitluk's book has some inaccuracies, because he relied too much on Scott's faulty and revisionist memory. But nobody in Quincy could write this book, because Scott was convicted as soon as he appeared on the evening news that fateful night of the levee break.

The Villa Kathrine isn't on Front Street, state's attorneys are in Illinois, not Missouri, and there were a lot more things glossed over when it came to the Scott boys and their various illegal activities. Those are minor issues. What isn't minor is that the Scotts lived a block away from 12th and Maine when Webster School burned in 1982, not more than two miles away, as Jimmy Scott told Pitluk. The three Scott brothers were convicted of setting the old school on fire.

But Pitluk gets to the heart of the story and gives Jimmy Scott's side - he didn't testify at either of his trials. And he points out how strange it is that in Missouri, Scott was sentenced to 30 years in prison, while in Illinois the same crime would have netted him seven years, at the most. Pitluk also describes how some people, experts in their fields, believe the levee was destined to fail, despite heroic efforts.

I interviewed Jimmy Scott in the Jefferson City prison five years ago for a big Whig story. I found him to be polite, unwavering in his belief of his innocence, and worn down from many years of incarceration. When I asked him if he'd ever return to Quincy, he said he'd probably have to sneak in and out - people around here haven't forgotten the misery caused by the levee break.

I think Jimmy Scott was capable of breaking the levee. He shouldn't have been anywhere near that side of the river. Whether he did it or not, well, God only knows, though a jury of his peers were decisive at both of his trials.

The Scott story continued recently when Jimmy's little brother, Jeff, got into trouble in Quincy for operating a "Courtesy Rides" service. Jeff changed his name to Jonathan Schoenakase and flaunted local authorities for a long time, and he continues to give his "free" rides to people from local establishments.

Read the book and you'll find out a bit more about Jeff. I wouldn't take a ride home from him, that's for sure.

And read the book to get a different side of the story of that awful event some 20 years ago. You might hate the Scott boys, and you might think Quincy is as much safer place with Jimmy Scott in prison for 30 years, but it's still a great read and worth the time.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tucker and fireworks. Not a good combination.

TUCKER, OUR BORDER Collie rescue dog, runs like the wind. Before we got him, he used to get loose from his home in Mendon and zip all over town. He's escaped the fence a few times but always comes back, and he's getting better about being sociable around people and not so skittish.

Last night I was walking him in our favorite out of the way spot when he heard fireworks, and he bolted like a bat out of you know where, and he was gone. We searched for an hour, 90 minutes, no luck. He could have gone anywhere, and I had suspicions he'd headed north away from the fireworks and houses.

Sheryl's sister, Stephanie, joined the search. Sheryl got on the scooter and talked to all the neighbors in the area. She even flagged down QPD officer Bill Calkins, a Second String Music legend, and he promised to keep an eye out with his partner, officer Powell.

Sheryl also posted on the local missing animals Facebook site, and the awesome Janet Cavanaugh offered to break away from July 4 festivities to help look.

Just as dusk was settling, Sheryl got a call from our friend Chris Kelly, who said a friend of his had spotted Tucker at Fourth and Jersey. That's a good mile north of where he was last seen.

Sheryl finally found the terrified dog near Third and Maine. Tucker actually heard the scooter first and came running. Then he tried to bolt again when he heard more fireworks, but he wasn't getting away from Sheryl's death grip. She got a nasty skinned elbow out of the deal, and an exhausted Tucker was coming home.

Bella, our Lab mix, couldn't care less about fireworks. She doesn't listen to us either, unless there is a treat involved.  (She has perfect hearing)  But Tucker and adopted sister Lucy, a Border/Aussie mix, hate them. They lose all their other smarts and sensibilities when they hear loud bangs and bombs.

Their long runs will be curtailed for the next few days until the locals get done playing bang bang. I have a theory about people who set off loud explosives in neighborhoods, especially late at night, but it involves having small private parts and other not very nice things, so we'll just leave it at that.

Thank you to everybody who helped look. You can come say hello to Tucker this morning at the store. I'm sure he'll tell you it was a grand adventure and smile real big.

And I'm sure he'll tell you he's looking forward to no more fireworks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Worrying About Money

I AM A worrier by nature. Perhaps its the deep-seated Calvinistic guilt. Maybe it's just the worm in my brain. I'm getting better about letting go, but some things you can't change.

Both Reverend Guitars ROCK
Sheryl always tells me to not worry, especially about money. We pay the bills, enjoy the backyard of the house, get ice cream every now and then. I think we've done a better job of tightening things up since I quit my "real" job last summer.

I recently bought a very nice guitar, and I felt guilty about it, until Sheryl said, "You can afford it and it's a great guitar, so shut up and play!" It made me feel better.

My cousin Natalie wrote a tremendous blog about money and finally doing something for herself. I cannot get away from the Dutch thrift in me, and we are being careful, but sometimes you just need to do it.

Amen, Cuz.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fire the fireworks

QUINCY IS MOVING the annual July 4 fireworks show to the Illinois Veterans Home because Clat Adams Park on the river is under water.

Fine. The Vets Home has huge open spaces and is a good place to watch, but I will pass on venturing over to the north end of town. Too many people and too much of a traffic and parking issue. It's great if you want to make an event of it and spread out the picnic blanket on the lawn, more power to you, and the Quincy Park Band always puts on a good July 4 show.

We could have watched the river fireworks from the roof of Fifth and Maine, but we'd have to sign waivers and climb five flights of stairs, so it's probably for the better.

I can live without going to the fireworks. Whatever you do the celebrate July 4, do it safely and be smart.

In the meantime, I do know some guys who are way into blowing up stuff in Coatsburg ....

Monday, July 1, 2013

Whadda Weekend

The Midsummer Arts Faire, captured from the second floor of Second String Music. 

"Hopefully by then I won't feel like I've been hit by an aircraft carrier." - Cheesey bass player Don Van Dyke, when hearing about band practice this week.

THAT PRETTY MUCH sums it up. What an incredible weekend - Second String Music rocked, the Midsummer Arts Faire rocked, The Cheeseburgers survived the crazy Keokuk people at the South Side Boat Club, and I feel like sleeping until Tuesday.

Let's see - it's July 4 weekend, right? That means two more Cheeseburger gigs, a Friday jam session at the store and who knows what else chaos.

As usual, Cheeseburger roadie Frank Haxel is right. "We'll sleep when we're dead," he said this morning, while painting the outside of Second String Music.

Why is he painting when he should be sleeping?

Ahhhh .... so much more amazing stuff about to happen. 

So. Let's do it again!

We will be closed on the 4th of July to celebrate not only Fast Eddie's birthday but also the birthday of our great country, The United States of America. 

All week we are offering 10% off everything in the store. That includes all consignment items! If you pay with cash we will give you another 2% off.

Sale goes through this Saturday, July 6th.
Spread the word to your musical friends.