Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Decorations down, new year in

THERE'S A SAD finality when you take down Christmas decorations. We are closing the store after today for the rest of the week, so I unstrung lights and hauled the tree to the second floor.

It's not like there was a lot of stuff. Lights around the windows, the tree with Elvis and guitar ornaments, a wreath we found on the third floor, and a singing Santa.

Now there is light and space and .... it's a bit empty. But I do like how the room seems bigger. And we had a fantastic Christmas season at Fifth and Maine, so there is no complaining.

I nearly didn't put the tree up at all at home - "We have enough Christmas at the store," Sheryl said, and she was right, as always. But two days before Christmas I dragged it up from the basement, straightened the branches and stuck Sheryl's present underneath it. Hey! A case of Spirit Knob Winery Vignoles! A happy Sheryl means a happy Rodney.

Maybe I'll take it down tomorrow, but not early.

The Cheeseburgers play tonight at The Elks to cap a busy 2013, and I am really fired up about it. The Elks has an older crowd but they are wound up and ready to party when we start. Then they sip the bubbly at midnight, wish everybody a happy new year, and go home.

Then Sheryl and I are taking a few days off. We're going to a Blues game in St. Louis and just getting away for a day. We'll be back on Jan. 6, ready to take on the world again.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The blur of 2013

THE OLDER YOU get, the faster time flies. And it's blown by for us at Second String Music this year.

I'm trying to remember highlights. Lots of great Cheeseburger and Pepper Spray gigs. A trip to Canada and a family reunion. Emily graduating from Western Illinois. Tucker arriving. Staring at the Newcomb Hotel fire from the roof of our building.

Making a video with Table 16 Productions.

All the great people who make hanging out in a music store memorable.

The end of the year is tinged with sadness after hearing about Hancock County State's Attorney Jim Drozdz. He was killed Saturday night in a truck accident in Georgia. I got to know him a bit during my crime and courts days at The Whig and I liked him. He always returned phone calls and told me what he could, and was up front and honest.

See ya, 2013. We'll kick you out during our Cheeseburger show at The Elks, and bring in 2014 with hope and a couple of days off to recover from Christmas.

Have a safe New Year's Eve. You know where I'll be most of the time in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tale of two customers

SHERYL AND I are taking a break next week after a hectic Christmas season. We will be closing the store from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5, and be back to rock in the new year on Monday, Jan. 6.

Sometimes you just need to get away.

We had two very different customers in the store today. One received from a family member a very nice instrument for Christmas. But she brought it back, saying she "needed the money instead." Fair enough. Then she said, "I can get a nicer one online and not pay nearly as much."

Sheryl just smiled and wished her a happy new year.
Luna Tec Mah Ukulele

But. Let's reply to her statement, shall we?

1. No, you can't find a nicer and cheaper one online, we work very hard to match internet pricing, have great quality and provide personal service. 2. We happily give refunds. 3. Have a happy new year. Grrrrr.

Then a man walked in who bought an amp for his son from us. He purchased a ukelele online and it came with a cheap cord, and on Christmas morning, the ukelele did not work when he plugged it into the amp.

I think it's great he got the uke online. It was a brand we don't carry, and it's a very nice instrument. He had even called Sheryl to make sure it was a good deal.

He came into the store with the amp, cable and instrument. We diagnosed the bad cord, and his ukulele works beautifully with a good cord. He is happy. We are happy. As he got ready to leave he said, "This is my favorite store to spend money in."

And small business wins, again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One More Day

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO all of you out there in cyberworld .... it's been a good one for us at Second String Music.

One more day. Sheryl says we are staying tonight until at least 8. She's the boss. It's already been crazy in here this morning.

Tomorrow is our first day off since Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate appropriately by doing nothing and being very good at it, though I might venture out and test the ice at South Park - or maybe the South 24th Street boys will be hitting the pond.

For all of you panicking and trying to find last-second gifts, well .... been there. Done that. Come see us at Fifth and Maine and we can hook you up. I actually used to go to the local mall when that happened, but never again.

Peace! And keep it all in perspective.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Great Christmas

BUSINESS HAS BEEN very good for us at Second String Music during Christmas. I just talked to a fellow downtown retailer, and she says it's been the same for her.

The weather may slow Christmas shoppers, but they'll make up for it the next day. We had plenty of traffic Saturday and did well yesterday.

Maybe I should have watched the news to find out how bad the roads were and how we are coping with this traumatic weather. You know - snow, ice, cold. In December.

Nah. I'm going to read a book instead, and just be grateful to all the people who have supported us this year, and at Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Get better, Julie


- Best wishes to our good friend Julie Buschling, a legendary Cheeseburger fan Hall of Famer and great gal. Julie had a brain tumor removed yesterday in Iowa City and is already bouncing back.

- Speaking of The Cheeseburgers, we are back at one of our favorite Quincy haunts Saturday night, One Restaurant. Come on out and Git Cheesey and forget about the holiday stress, it's gonna be a rocking good time. Don't forget about our big New Year's Eve show at The Elks Lodge in Quincy, too.

- Stuff keeps flying out of Second String Music. We are making people happy for Christmas. Sheryl and I are thinking of taking a few days off at the beginning of the year, should we survive the rush the next week or so.

- Chris Kelley of Table 16 Productions and I have an idea for a little later in the year. It. Will. Be. HUGE. It involves roofs and music. That's all we can say right now.

- I have never watched Duck Dynasty and I couldn't care less if they think ducks are straight. Or whatever they are talking about.

- Hey! It's the weekend! Be good to yourself, and remember the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Old Bank Pics

A BIG THANKS to The Mighty One, Adam Yates, who brought these photos to the store yesterday.

I believe these were taken in the early 1960s. They show local law enforcement standing by as Mercantile Bank employees moved across the street. Mercantile owned our building from 1905 until the early 1960s, then moved to the southwest corner of Fifth and Maine, where it still is today.

The far north window on the Fifth Street side appears to have a lower portion with a safety deposit box in it, but otherwise, the building looks pretty much the same. The plaques on either side of the door are gone, of course, and there is some sort of railing by the Maine Street windows, as well. Probably to keep people from leaning on the windows.

At this point I could make a crass remark about how well the po po are doing their jobs in the below pic, but, you know, I like the boys in blue and they've been good to me, and I'm sure they did a very good job on this particular day.

I love the history of this old building. Very cool!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keys Found

I LOST MY keys on Sunday during the Cheeks McGee video shoot. By the way, you can see the video here, and it's awesome .... much love and credit to Chris Kelley at Table Sixteen Productions.

Anyway, I am walking through Washington Park yesterday around noon and I go by the area where we did snow angels for the video. I kick my boot in the snow. And there are my keys.


So last night we watched the video during a store party, and once again it plunged out of control into a great jam session.

What a great life! Even if we were moving very slowly this morning putting the store back together.

Once again, Mike Sorenson captures the mayhem at SSM ....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Video

WE ARE HAVING a party tonight at Second String Music to debut the Cheeks McGee "White Christmas" video. More details, click here.

Chris Kelley of Table Sixteen Productions filmed the video Sunday in Washington Park and on the roof of our Fifth and Maine Building. Most of us will never have any idea what goes into making a video production - Chris did this pretty much as a spur of the moment thing, but watching him as he filmed, it was awesome to see his ideas verbalized and you could tell he was already putting the whole thing together in his head.

Chris also shot and produced our awesome store commercial last spring. The guy is amazing. Even if his hair color is, well, interesting.

So. Come on down tonight and we'll watch a video, have some Christmas spirit and just generally have fun. Second String Music has become quite good at hosting parties, both spontaneous and planned.

Mike Sorenson got some awesome pics during the video shoot. I really like this one taken on the roof, which has an incredible view downtown Quincy and the frozen Mississippi River.

Merry Christmas, and let's celebrate!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lost keys

I CAN'T FIND my $%^$% *@ keys. I am way too much like my mother, God rest her soul, who once turned left instead of right and nearly ended up in Montreal instead of our house in London, Ontario.

I may have lost them in the Washington Park snow. We gathered yesterday to help Cheeks McGee make a video for his rendition of "White Christmas." We did snow angels and they may have fallen out of my coat pocket.

Maybe I lost them in the snow. (Photo courtesy Mike Sorenson)
But hey ... I don't remember putting them in my coat pocket before I went to the park.

I think I remember putting them in my pocket before we trooped up to the Second String Music roof. Maybe. I can't remember, actually.

I constantly misplace coffee cups, picks, tuners, guitars, hats, gloves, life itself. Sheryl makes me wear a Snark tuner lanyard, but I have to remember to put the tuner back on the lanyard. I'm missing one right now, as a matter of fact.

In the course of a good night I might drink three beers. But it averages out to less than one beer because I put the bottle down, then can't find it, then open another one. GUH.

Maybe Fast Eddie batted my keys under a couch, shelf or fridge. Maybe Frank Haxel stole them. Maybe.

In the end, it's my own fault. But if you see my keys in Washington Park when the snow thaws .... I will trade you a tuner for them.

If I can find my tuner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow Ma Geddon

AS ALWAYS, THE weather dominates discussion around here. Today it's about the impending "storm" which is "threatening to dump" up to six inches of snow on us in the overnight hours.

The humanity!

I hated writing weather stories. One day I was out talking to people about the massive five-inch storm on the way, and I sort of complained about it, and the guy I was interviewing stopped me by saying, "Well, it's what people are talking about. I'll read it when it comes out in the paper."

He made sense, unfortunately.

After a big storm, we'd milk it for days. Again, I understand it because it makes great front page copy and life easier on editors assigning stories.

So. Get ready, Q-Town. Here it comes, snow and ice.

Where the heck is my shovel, anyway?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Innocent. Really. If you believe it's true.

THERE WAS A fascinating trial this week in Quincy for a man accused of robbing a bank a while back. As usual, the only media guy there was Don O'Brien of The Herald-Whig. Why the other outlets in town don't even give a cursory glance at the drama and incredible stuff going on at Fifth and Vermont is beyond me, but what do I know?

You can read the story here, if you aren't blocked, and make sure you watch the video.

Anyway, the guy was jailed after the mother of his child, let's just call her Mommy, went to the police and said she had info about the robbery. Mommy wasn't happy with Daddy at the time. The grand jury believed her story and the trial was set.

But on the stand, Mommy recanted her story, or at least said she didn't remember saying things. In crime and courts world, we call that "peeing backwards," and it happens a lot. So Mommy found herself going upstairs to the Adams County Jail for a perjury charge, where she still sits.

The are some things you can do to the State's Attorney. Peeing backwards isn't one of them. Enough said.

And, of course .... You. Can't. Make. It. Up.

I wasn't at the trial and I'm not sure what happened, but my guess is that the jury just couldn't find the evidence to convict Daddy, so he was found not guilty. The video interview is priceless. Daddy says he was just picked up and put in jail and was never talk to, but he understood the police had a job to do, so it was OK.

I wonder if he robbed the bank. The truth, as always, is an elusive thing in our criminal justice system.

If he did do it and got off, he's laughing his head off and scoffing at the system. If he wasn't guilty, he's relieved and angry, though he certainly didn't appear angry or bitter during his interview.

And if Don O'Brien thinks he's never seen anything like it, he'll just have to go back to court next week.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You can't take the sports out of the writer

SO FRIDAY NIGHT I am doing something I haven't done in 15 years - I am going to a high school basketball game and writing a story about it.

Matt Schuckman is the sports editor at The Quincy Herald-Whig. He lost his two young full-time staffers at the same time and is scrambling to do an already impossible job. When I heard he was shorthanded, I offered to help.

I spent 10 years in sports. The last 2 1/2 were at The Whig. It wasn't the best of experiences, mostly due to my own shortcomings, but I prefer to remember the good things about it. I haven't covered a game since January of 1999.

You know what I really miss about sports? Going to the game. And I mean, walking into the gym and seeing the court and the lights and smelling the popcorn. In the fall, I loved driving in the fading Friday night light and seeing the football stadium or field ahead.

I hope I remember how to do this. As former Quincy University point guard and assistant coach Jay Driscoll so eloquently put it, "It's just like falling off a bike."

I've got it easy. The gym is four blocks from my house. I'll write most of the story on a laptop during the game. I will go home and send it to the office by email.

Times sure have changed. But a basket is a basket, approaching a coach after a game to get a quote is still a matter of common sense, and figuring out a storyline shouldn't be hard.

As long as I can get up after falling off the bike, I should be fine.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

YESTERDAY I POSTED a Whig blog about some of my favorite Christmas songs. One of them is from the rock opera Tommy, by The Who.

Of course you know I'm a Who fanatic. They were the first band I really sunk my teeth into and as a live band, they have no equals.

So this morning I found The Who's live Tommy version from 1989 and I can't stop watching and listening. Don't click on it if you are in the office or have stuff to do, like me. GUH.

Love Townsend's awesome acoustic guitar playing, the killer band assembled, the guest stars in various roles (Elton John and Billy Idol are hilarious and waaaayyyy over the top, just like Townsend planned it). The added percussion and horns raise everything to a new level and the band is in top form. I just wish I could hear a bit more of Entwistle's bass, but hey, you can't have everything.

I gotta shut this off and be productive. I guess.

Tommy can you hear me?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas and songs

WE HAD A great time in Second String Music Sunday with the fabulous Avenue Beat, and my buddies Adam Yates and Tim Smith. What great fun! The girls sing and play like angels and it was quite Christmas-like with the snow falling and music drifting through the store.

Here's a link to my Herald-Whig blog about some of my favorite Christmas songs. Warning - I can't stop watching Hall & Oates camping it up or Steven Tyler fall off the stage. GUH.

Today has been crazy busy in the store and we are really sinking our teeth into the season. Music, as always, helps put it into perspective.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Deer, where are you?

I HAVE FRIENDS who are deer hunters, and they say this year has been lean.

'They aren't out there," a buddy said. "The count is way down, and it's really cold right now, so they aren't moving."

I am not a deer hunter, and never will be, so I have no idea what that means. What I do know is that sitting in a deer blind when it's minus-zero degrees and nothing is going on is not my idea of fun.

But. To Each His Own. Hunters are a different breed and passionate, and I'm all for pursuing your passion.

The coffee is on at Fifth and Maine, if you get too cold out there. Happy hunting and I hope you bag the big one!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Newsroom

WE'VE BEEN WATCHING HBO's tremendous series, The Newsroom. If you have access to HBO, I recommend you watch it, too.

It's about a cable network news team. Yes, there is the soap opera "she likes him, he likes her, but they are going out with other people" thing. Yes, there are some glaringly silly lines and suspect plot twists. But the script follows real news issues and how the team tackles them, and I love the fact they go after the Tea Party and other people too big for their britches.

The show succeeds because the heroes are flawed. The anchor is played by Jeff Daniels, a fellow Central Michigan University alum and a great actor. It's not about making the right calls and flawlessly delivering the news. It's about bullying a fellow anchor, who then makes a huge mistake on the air when pressing for information. It's about getting loaded at a Sunday night party, then trying to deliver the news that night when the president is about to make a huge announcement.

Sam Waterson's character is absolutely brilliant. He was freaking made for this role. Rarely had a character completely sucked me in like his. I know several people just like him, and his portrayal of the newsroom patriarch rocks.

The show makes you think and it tends to jump around with timelines. It also deals with real life issues, and I'm finding myself relating with the decisions and consequences related to being a journalist.

Below is a clip showing how the news team deals with a real breaking issue. Any show that uses "Fix You" by Coldplay to soundtrack an event should win an Emmy, Grammy, Buckeye News Award, whatever. I love how the team decides to hold off reporting what later proves to be inaccurate information.

Warning ... there is some language. And it's very realistic. I've been there and gone through it, and this is what it's like.

It's interesting to watch others grapple with journalistic and ethical issues.

It's worth watching, if you have the time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health Care Dot Gov and Permahold

SHERYL AND I are attempting to sign up for health insurance. We are glad about it being available.

But we haven't had any luck actually getting insurance.

Sheryl tried several times on her own. No go. She went to our local health department, which didn't end well, either.

This morning we went to our insurance agent, the awesome Peggy Johnston. She got online, we got registered, and everything seemed to be working.

"I better not knock on the desk," I said.

"Wait," said Peggy. "There might be a problem."

I'm not going to bore you with the problem. But when we tried to go back into the registration form to fix it, we couldn't get access. That led to Peggy calling the hotline, which led to Permahold (a serious medical condition wherein you can't do anything but stare at the phone in case the operator somehow comes back to talk to you), and that led to our operator getting befuddled and making more phone calls to more Permahold operators.

Peggy told us to leave and said she'd keep plugging away. "I feel bad for you, getting tied up like this," I told her.

"I've been dealing with this for more than a month," she said, with resignation.

I feel bad for Peggy, but thank goodness she is helping us through a very frustrating situation. As for healthcare.gov, well, I'd tell you what I think, but momma always said not to say anything if you can't say something nice.

I am never getting sick, and I'm never going to the doctor. See? Problem solved. I don't need insurance.

But I might need a pill to cure my Permahold.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Old Bank Robbers

YESTERDAY MORNING AN older man came into the store and asked about our energy bill.

These energy company pushers have been in before. We are polite and say we are good. This particular guy looked familiar and something wasn't quite right. He persisted for a bit, but then something went off in his head and he abruptly turned around and left.

He left a sheet with his name and info, and it was then I realized who it was.

The man is a convicted armed bank robber. As in, he held up an area bank back in 2007. As in, it was one of the more bizarre stories I've ever had to write about.

I didn't feel threatened. But there was something uneasy about the guy and the way he moved, and I still can't shake the feeling something was wrong.

When people found out he'd robbed the bank they were stunned, to say the least. He had no prior criminal record. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison, and I don't think he served but a year or two before they kicked him out - the Illinois Department of Corrections doesn't have room for senior citizens, you know.

I also remember his sentencing hearing, when his son got angry about the prison sentence. "This is bullbleep!" he screamed, in court. The judge wasn't impressed, and the son got to spend some immediate quality time in the Adams County Jail.

As far as I know, the former bank robber hasn't been in a stitch of trouble since. And he has the right to work for a living. Maybe he's turned things around. Maybe I could trust him with my energy bill.


Maybe not.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Music. Beauty, eh?

THE BEST PART of Christmas? Other than Second String Music staying open late, frantic shoppers and the reason for the season disappearing in a sea of cold car commercials?

The music, of course.

I'm going to expand on this in a Whig blog later this week, but I do love Christmas music. I'll be doing songs in lessons for the next month and there is some great stuff out there.

Somebody asked me what my favorite Christmas song is, and I had to think about it for at least two seconds.

Merry Christmas, you big Hoser.