Thursday, December 31, 2015

Be safe tonight

THERE ARE MANY ways to ring in the new year. After you've been on the ride for a while, a nice warm bed sounds like a pretty darn good way to celebrate New Year's Eve.

But the rock and roll truck moves on. The Cheeseburgers have a show at the Keokuk Yacht Club tonight, and our friends up there know how to have fun, so I'm looking forward to it.

I can remember playing some NYE shows at Turner Hall with The Funions. There was the interesting show at One Restaurant a few years back, another at the Elks Lodge in Quincy. Many years ago we had some slam bangers to ring in the new year. One of the best was 30 years ago behind the old Rosewood house in Grand Rapids, when we burned old Christmas trees and wooden pallets in a huge fire pit during a blizzard.

Whatever you do tonight, be safe. Find somebody to drive if you are out and about, or stay home and stay cozy.

A reminder that Second String Music will be closed Jan. 1, 2 and 3. We'll be back on Monday, Jan. 4, ready to roll in the new year.

Peace!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lights down, year over

THERE'S A FINALITY when you take down Christmas stuff. The tree got put away and the window lights taken down. The ornaments and lights are in a box, in a back room, gone and forgotten until next December.

We helped make a lot of people happy at Christmas. Music is a great gift and always appreciated.

Of course it snowed last night, as the season winds down. It's been rainy and dreary, and a little snow never hurts. The sun is even coming out this morning.

Farewell, then, to 2015. We are glad Christmas was a good one, and look forward to a new year.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A few days off

SECOND STRING MUSIC will be closed Jan. 1, 2 and 3. That's right - we will be closed this Saturday so we can have a three-day weekend.

We were open Saturday, the day after Christmas, and it was really busy at Fifth and Maine. I noticed a lot of retail places decided to stay closed. All Sheryl and I know is that we had a ton of people come in and say they love Christmas, but two days off was driving them crazy and they just wanted to get out.

No complaints about owning a small retail business here. We work six days a week, seven during Christmas. It's the nature of the beast and it is what it is.

This is one of those strange Christmas seasons when Christmas day and New Year's day fall on Fridays. It means consecutive three-day weekends for most of us, but don't forget about the many people who still work.

Still, we have to take a break at some point. So we are shutting it down and deciding if we'll just drive somewhere, or just take a few days off and do nothing.

Have a great last week of 2015. We are back to regular business hours this week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Be safe and be happy, and we look forward to a great 2016.






Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Red Guitar

SHE WAS LOOKING for a guitar for her 12-year-old daughter. We had her budget in mind and in line. She had some choices.

She said, "This is going to sound really dumb, but she likes red and I think she would like that red guitar."
I want it in red!

Sound dumb? No. It's logical and makes perfect sense, and I'm glad she mentioned it.

Above all, the guitar has to feel and sound good. People try out guitars in Second String Music and it's an amazing moment when they sit down and and strum the one that fits. "Ahhh," they say. "This is IT."

So the woman decided on the red Dean acoustic. There was another customer in the store, and he said, "You can't go wrong with Dean. They make great guitars."

Christmas isn't about gifts and stuff. It's about slowing down and appreciating the moment.

When she left, the mother was beaming. She found the perfect gift for her daughter. I have a feeling I'll be seeing them again. It's a great feeling when you've helped somebody and it turns out just right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Back in town for Christmas

Kristie!
THE BEST PART about Christmas is seeing family back in town. Sheryl's niece, Kristie, is here from Texas. Emily comes in next week from Toronto and I can't wait to hear about her living in the big city.

Be safe out there if you are traveling, and take time to enjoy the season. Sheryl and I will appreciate having Christmas day off, that's for sure.

Speaking of being back in town, the legendary Quincy band Legacy reforms on Wednesday night for a show at Port's Place. Kevin Allen is here from Branson and will be rejoining old bandmates Josh Brueck, Shaun Baker and Tim Hart. A band is in many ways a family so I'm sure it will be a blast and a fun time.

Peace!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas hours

THIS IS OUR fifth Christmas at Second String Music. For the first four years, and the last couple of weeks, Sheryl and I decided to stay open later to give shoppers more time. We extended our close time to 7 p.m. and experimented with later hours.

It hasn't really changed a thing. After 6 p.m., we have done very little business, except for one night when we had a customer drive past the store and happen to see the open sign. Experimenting with open/close times can be tricky but each year we try to get better.

There are destination spots and entertainment venues open late. The District worked hard as always to promote downtown businesses and encourage people to come out after work.

It's not a big deal to us, staying until 7 p.m., because I often have lessons until that time and Sheryl is here anyway. And in the small business world, opening early and staying late are part of the deal, and we don't mind a bit. I can't tell you how many times we have somebody call us minutes before we close and ask if we can stay open a bit longer. No problem - we are here to help and serve!

Last week we came in early and had customers in the store between 9 and 9:30 a.m. So this week and this week only, we will open at 9 and close at 6, our regular closing time. We will close at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. If you need us to stay late, call the store and let us know. We don't mind - (217)223-8008.

Christmas is our biggest time of the year and we have met some great family's and sold lots of instruments. It will be good again this week, and we still have all kinds of great stuff for the musician, from beautiful Breedlove, Luna and Dean guitars to tuners, strings, drumsticks and picks.

We are closed Christmas day, of course, but will be back at it Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is a balancing act for us. Making sure we have our own time and still making sure our customers have time to shop. Come by and visit.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Spoiler alert - I'm in the new Star Wars movie

STOP READING THIS right now if you are wearing a Darth Vader mask, buying a Light Saber at WalMart or looking at the instructions for putting together the Millennium Falcon model.

I am in the new Star Wars movie. I have a small but pivotal role. I'm going to tell you about it, and upset you since you've sworn off social media to avoid spoilers.

I also had a role in the original New Hope movie. I play one of the creatures with four eyes in the cantina. It's right after Han Solo blasts the bounty hunter. See if  you can pick me out.



I swore to George Lucas I wouldn't tell anybody about my role in the new movie. But then he came into Second String Music the other day and complained about the price of guitar picks. "I can get them online a lot cheaper," he said. "The Blue Book price on this vintage pick is 22 cents, not 25 cents like you charge. You don't really sell these for that price?"

I waved my Light Saber and I cut off his arm and I said, "George, I'm not your father. Leave me. Here's a free store pick for your troubles."

Anyway, in the new movie, I play a traveling minstrel and I'm performing in a cantina full of strange creatures. My guitar breaks, so I approach Luke Skywalker and say, "I'm screwed."

He says, "Not even I can fix that rusted trust rod, even with The Force. Call Don Rust in Ursa. He's the finest luthier in the galaxy, and he outruns Imperial star cruisers all the time." And I leave the cantina with tears in my eyes.

Aren't you glad you've been warned before going to see the movie? Let me know if it's any good. I'll give you a guitar pick for your review.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Letters, not emails or FB messages

THE OTHER DAY I got a letter in the mail. A real, honest to goodness, full of handwritten words letter. It was from one of my guitar students, and I almost shed a tear because it was beautiful and heartfelt.

I can't remember the last time I got a personal letter. Sure, we got the Christmas form letters from family, and they are fine, but it's not the same.

I used to write a lot of letters. I was upstairs the other night puttering around and I found two big bags full of letters more than 30 years old. Many were from my mom and other family. Some night I'm going to go back up there and go on a time warp.

We fall prey to the modern way of communicating. I'm guilty of dashing off an email or Facebook message. The other day I actually asked for my daughter's address in Toronto and it occurred to me I have yet to write her a letter or send her something in the mail. I'm waiting for her to get home for Christmas, so I figured I'd wait.

For what?

Today I'll probably type the letter, because my handwriting is so awful and the recipient wouldn't be able to read it. And it's faster to type it on the computer, and print it, and sign it, and send it off. Do they still use those little sticky things on the envelopes? Wait a second .... stamps. Stamps! That's what we used to use.

A hand-written letter is a piece of you sent to somebody else. We've lost that in the modern world, and we are worse off for it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ghost of Santa in our building

OUR FRONT DOORS keep opening by themselves. It's the wind at Fifth and Maine, or so they say.

The other day at Quincy Audiology, at Eighth and Maine, their front doors kept opening by themselves, too. "The door is loose. We've already called to have it checked," said owner Kevin Ballard.

I was going to mention Dr. Ballard removed several pounds of wax from my ears, enabling me to hear properly for the first time in weeks, but that's kinda gross and I wouldn't want to get away from this story. Right.

This morning the wind is howling again and the doors at Second String Music keep flying open. In a previous post I surmised that it was the ghosts of the bankers who used to work in our building. At this time of the year, I think it's the ghosts of Santas past.

During our amazing District Loft Tours 12 nights ago, several people said they remembered coming into our building to see Santa during Christmas. Apparently he had a house in Washington Park, but when it got too cold, he'd come into the back and receive the throngs of kids. "The lines would go out the door," one woman said.

Aha! That's it! The doors are being opened to let more kids in to see Santa. Granted, the bank closed more than 50 years ago, but what's a little time to a bunch of hopeful spirits hoping to see the fat guy in red?

We need to get the door fixed - it's a nasty cold wind out there today - but I'll let the ghosts of Christmas pasts in
to Second String Music myself. Not that they'd need a door, or anything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Peace and prayers for the Haubrichs

WHAT DO YOU say or do when this happens?

Zak Haubrich of Quincy, 21, was killed in a car wreck yesterday near Peoria. The other driver veered out of her lane and hit him head on.
The Gentlemen (from left) - Justin, Jared, Zak, Aaron.

Zak was a 2012 Quincy Notre Dame High School graduate and a student at Bradley University in Peoria. He played bass in the awesome Quincy band Jared & The Gentleman. He was a good Second String Music customer and an immensely talented musician.

The Haubrichs have been through a lot this year. Peace and prayers to the friends and family.

I will leave it to Jared Holbrook to have the final words. He's the lead singer and guitar player from Jared & The Gentleman. He posted this on his Facebook page late last night:

"I don't pray to God to keep bad things from happening. I pray to God to ease the suffering of His people. May He grant eternal peace upon Zak's soul and comfort those who loved him."

Monday, December 14, 2015

I'll watch Star Wars ... later



LOOK. I LOVE the Star Wars movies. I remember going to see the original Star Wars back in the mid-70s, only to get there too late and be turned away from the full theater. The next week me and a buddy got the theater way early and were the first in line. It. Was. Awesome.

I look forward to the newest movie. Who wouldn't want to see Han Solo and Chewbacca battle the bad guy storm troopers? But it's just a movie. So I'll probably wait until it comes out on BLVD, Green-Ray, transporter beam or whatever technology is now out there.

Even in little old Quincy, the lines to get into the premier will probably be long. I had a guitar student who worked at the theater and she used to tell hilarious stories about the people who would come to see the comic book movies - yeah, he's dressed as Spiderman and he thinks he can spin a web from his hand. He's also 30 and lives with his mom. But I digress.

Stars Wars is everywhere. It's pervaded our culture. That's not a bad thing, since you could be rotting your brains playing video games or trolling YouTube. Wait. You ARE rotting your brains and trolling? Go see the new Star Wars instead. Then you can play the new Star Wars video games.

May The Force be with you. I might start getting into it, especially if it means you learn patience.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Your butts will get you a big fine

STARTING JAN. 1, you could get fined up to $1,500 if you throw your cigarette butt on the sidewalk or street.

I say, GOOD. I hate cigarette butts. It's especially bad across the street in front of the WCU Building or down the block in front of Irene's Cabaret, and in back down Jail Alley. I'm not quite sure why they don't have a butt can like we do in front of 505 Maine, and in front of Martini's at 515 another two doors down. Sheryl still picks up a ton of butts from our sidewalk each week.

We have a lot more pressing problems than people throwing cigarette butts, but I'd like to see the new law enforced. It's actually a bigger issue than people might think, click here for more info.

I wonder if we'll ever see the day when people stop smoking all together. I like a cheap cigar once in a while, and I will do my best to not leave the butt on the sidewalk or street. It could cost too much.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sweet coffee shop at Bittersweet Confections

FINALLY, A DOWNTOWN Quincy business that serves coffee after 2 p.m. - Bittersweet Confections in Jail Alley, right around the corner from Second String Music.

Michael and Nadine Mitchell own Bittersweet Confections and offer chocolates, cheeses, catering and a mobile chef service. Plus they do a tremendous job singing "Rainbow Connection" and could probably be convinced to sing it for you, under the right circumstances and without a bad guitar player, but that's another story.

The building is way cool - old-style brick walls and an inviting open area. It's the perfect place for coffee or an art reception, like the one Charlie Martin is having Saturday night. Plus the price of a 16-ounce coffee is half as much as a big chain brew, and the coffee is made with the Intellengentsia roasted beans.

Sheryl also appreciated the fact that Michael made her a latte with heavy whipping cream - delicious and carbohydrate free.

I remember about a decade ago when it was Mugshots and the legendary Greg Ellery was a barista. The old building oozes charm and history.

We get a lot of people wandering around downtown during the week asking for coffee shops in the afternoon, and now we know where to direct them. There are really good coffee places, but they all close early, and it's understandable when you've been open since 6 in the morning.

Bittersweet Confections is now open with added coffee Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Buy some chocolate and cheese while you are there too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Four murders in one year

NOW WE HAVE another alleged homicide in Quincy. That makes four in one year, not good in a small rocking chair town.

Yes, this is alarming and not good. Yes, it's quite interesting that all four incidents took place in one specific part of the city. I wouldn't feel safe if I lived in that area of town, either.

But each incident has its own set of facts and circumstances. And this is nothing new for Quincy.

I remember around 2004, when I covered crime and courts for The Whig. There were four or five homicides in Quincy and the surrounding area in a short amount of time, including several on the south end of town. One took place not half a block from where I now live. Another happened a block from my old apartment in Calftown.

There was all kinds of jumping up and down, blaming the police, blaming everybody for everything. Our city was going to hell and people were going to leave and not come back, and it served everybody who lives here right for "letting" it happen.

It can happen any where.
When Clyde Jackson was murdered on North 12th Street in July of 2008, the city simmered and it took a lot of effort by authorities and community leaders to keep things from coming unhinged. A lot of productive dialogue came out of those hot summer days and nights.

I hated doing stories about crime statistics, because numbers can be easily skewered and misinterpreted. But four murders in one year is four too many. We all need to address issues of violence and anger, culture and environment.

So I'm going to say now what I said back then. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Perspective tends to fly out the window when this stuff happens, and I understand that. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming everything around us, we need to look at ourselves and our community.

We all live here. We are all in this together.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Back the Blue

I COULD NEVER be a cop. They put up with too much crap from the great ungrateful and the grated unhinged. Ride along with a patrol officer and you'll see what they deal with every day. Yes, there are bad police officers out there, and you sure as heck hear about it, but in Quincy and this area our law enforcement officers are dedicated, hard-working and good people.

Cindy Vancil-Haxel, owner of Vancil Performing Arts, is showing her appreciation for local law enforcement officers by putting her time, money and effort into "Back The Blue." There is a press conference Friday morning at City Hall, and Cindy will start handing out "goodie bags" to officers and administrators at the Quincy Police Department.

Here's one thing about Cindy - if she puts her mind to it, it will get done. She organized a committee, went out to the community and raised the money, and she's determined to show QPD she is proud of their service, and appreciates what they do for us every day.

And, of course, the canine officers will get special treats. Cindy and her beloved dog, Eva, are very good at handing out presents to other animals - I defy you to find a music store anywhere that has not one but TWO Christmas stockings for the store cat. Fast Eddie, of course, loves it.

I'm helping Cindy with some PR for the press conference, so you'll be hearing more about it toward the end of the week. She'll be on WGEM's NewsTalk 105 Friday morning at about 8:10 with Greg Haubrich, and doing other media spots.

We Back The Blue. Thank you, Cindy, for helping us show our appreciation.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The benefits of shopping small and local

SHERYL AND I watched a show on PBS Sunday morning called Growing a Greener World about an independent garden center in Austin, Texas. The owner explained how the big box retail outlets are the main competition, how they have a financial advantage and how his business counters.

The video is HERE, start watching at 12:30 thru 14:30 to get the meat of the message. It can be impossible to compete against businesses that have such huge financial competitive advantages. We encourage everyone to shop their local independent small businesses.

Just like an independent music store, the independent garden center has knowledge specific to its customers. Their prices might not be quite as low, but his business thrives because of dedicated employees and the extra services his store provides. It's more than just a place to buy plant stuff - customers get information, advice and encouragement. The store offers free clinics, seminars and displays to explain how easy and fun it is to work with plants.

We draw a lot of the same conclusions. Our main competition is online, so we try our best to remain competitive in price, but offer more. Sheryl and I have specialized knowledge that you can't find easily on the internet. We work with our products intimately and can help you make your purchase decision. We also give free support for our products that you buy from us.

You can't try out a guitar online. To us, that's the bottom line. Plus you will be greeted when you walk in the door and you won't have to fight through massive store traffic or wait long to be checked out. You can ask real questions to a real human being. And you can feel good about supporting a local independent small business. In turn, we do the same thing - in the space of a week, I purchased a watch, shoes and a winter jacket from my favorite local stores. All are owned by people I know and trust.

It makes a big difference.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lights lights lights

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL Friday morning in the Q-Town, and life is good as we head downhill toward Christmas!

Thank You Mike Sorenson for
the great photo's!
- The lights in Washington Park are awesome. Thank you Bruce Guthrie of The District, Bret Austin and everybody who helped get the Avenue of Lights displays. It was great to see the park full of people last night and wandering around. Get down here and check them out.

- Rockin' Jake and the boys put on another great show at the Club Tavern last night. The guys are crashed in our back room at Second String Music and head to southern Missouri later today. Life on the road ain't easy so we hope a little hospitality goes a long way.

- The District's Loft Tours are tonight, and we are proud of Missy Myers at M2 Photography for showing off her second floor space in our building tonight. Our 1920 Hollister-Whitney bird cage elevator will also be decorated for the season and we can't wait to show people what a little love and hard work will do to restore historic spaces.

Come down and enjoy all the great events in downtown Quincy!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

When your car goes click click click

THERE MAY NOT be a more disheartening feeling than getting behind the wheel, turning the key, and hearing nothing but a faint click.

Turn it again. Click. Again. Click ... click ... click.

It always helps to yell at your car when it fails to start. "BLEEP," I said. "I mean, we've only been at work all day and I just want to go home and have something to eat and pass out. These are big plans for a Wednesday night, car. Turn over dangit!"

Click. Click. Click.

We got a ride home from the infamous Greg Ellery. Then I called Frank Haxel. Of course! He's never in the right place at the right time. He picked me up and we went downtown and he put on the jumper cables, and the lights came on, but the engine didn't turn over. It just went .... well, you know.

This happened last night. It's the first time in a long time. After a while you just get used to your car actually working, even though you've paid thousands of dollars for it, and that's just the insurance and license fees.
2007 was a good year.

This vehicle has been good to us, nary a problem in the five years we've had it. So this morning we called a tow company, and we took it to RJs Imports at 10th and State. The Towing Solutions driver was extremely professional and we appreciated the prompt response. Sheryl and I are all about supporting our local small businesses, and Randy Shade at RJs has a good reputation, so it was a no-brainer.

He laughed when I came in this morning, sensing my obvious frustration. Randy is about the most laid-back dude you'll ever meet. "You musta been talking bad about it," he said. "No problem, man. We'll get it figured out."

Anybody who has a Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix dog to greet you by the front desk, along with a recent Humane Society rescue mutt, is No. 1 in our book. They just made me feel better. Is that silly or what? I'm glad Second String Music and Schuecking's aren't the only places to offer canine therapy. I certainly needed it this morning.

Hopefully it's not a big deal. We've borrowed Sheryl's nephew's car for the time being. And really, we can get around without a car for a little while. It's even supposed to be 50 and sunny the next couple of days.

And the only click sound I ever want to hear again is either my seat belt or my computer mouse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Epic Animal drum-off



IF YOU DON'T like The Muppets, you are not a happy person. The newest version airs Tuesday nights and you have to watch carefully to catch all the humor - a true mark of comedic genius. Sheryl accidentally watched the first one and we have enjoyed this new take on an old favorite.

What they really do well is the non-verbal stuff. Watch the clip above of the epic drum-off between Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Animal. When Grohl says something about school being in session, catch the priceless look Animal gives him.

I used to get teased about looking like Beaker from The Muppets. I hated it back then, but now I consider it an honor. My favorite character is the guy with the glasses and no eyeballs. And who doesn't love Kermit The Frog?

About a month ago they showed the band in a van, and when Janis said something about getting paid, Animal said, "What do you mean, we get paid?" I about fell off the couch and I almost cried instead of laugh - truth is comedy, and comedy is life.

Rock on, Muppets.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Washington Park stage

ONE OF THE things I'd love to see in our beautiful Washington Park is a new performance stage. Right now we use the gazebo for concerts, gatherings, etc. It's functional for things like Blues In The District, MidSummer Arts Faire and other events. But a stage would put performers a little closer to the people attending and would make setting up and tearing down easier.

A decent stage would put performers a little closer to the crowd
It could be portable. It could be fitted around the gazebo entrance and still keep the gazebo as the backdrop. Since it would have to be heavy-duty, I'm sure it wouldn't be cheap. The District, the city and the Quincy Park District could surely come up with some ideas for a stage.

There's a very cool lighting ceremony taking place Thursday at 6 p.m. in the park. I'm glad the Avenue of Lights displays will be used this Christmas in Washington Park after the annual Moorman and Upper Moorman park event was called off this year. Wouldn't it be really nice if we had a stage to show off some of the displays, or perhaps have a Christmas concert of some kind in the park? Weather permitting, of course.

I know there are a lot of things on a lot of plates, and this isn't a do-or-die issue. It's just an idea. I'm all about maintaining and improving our facilities, within reason.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Decorations


IT'S TIME TO put up Christmas decorations in the store. We do have a tree at home, but because Genie likes to eat things like remotes, oven mitts and glasses, our living room might not be in the most Yuletide of spirits this year.

The store will get the usual treatment. We will string lights around the windows, bring the tree down from the third floor, and put up the stockings that Eva Marie, Cindy Haxel's dog, gave our three dogs a few seasons ago. Sheryl has also switched over the store music - I heard Angus howling on a song Saturday, so it must be Christmas! And the amazing Logan Kammerer brought over a fresh batch of his Christmas CDs Saturday.


In addition, Missy Myers of M2 Photography has been decorating and cleaning on the second floor of our building. Her business is part of this Friday's District Loft Tours, and wait until you see what she's done with our old elevator - way cool!

The District is also installing some lights outside our building on the fifth floor. Combined with the old Avenue of Lights displays going up across the street in Washington Park, it's definitely starting to look a lot like Christmas.

Come downtown to enjoy the Loft Tours, See the lighting of Washington Park Thursday at 6 p.m., and shop local small businesses!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Last minute gig

ONE OF THE many things I like about playing with Cori Lyssy in Hartlyss is the flexibility. We have two people, a small PA and a ton of songs. Oh, and Cori's husband, Benny, to drive us around in his new to him Escalade, and to set up and tear down.

On Thanksgiving night we are playing at a family house party, and Saturday night we just booked a show at One Restaurant. The One gig came about because they had a cancellation. Are you available? YES. We love to play.

It's a little harder to do with a band because when you have five or more members, life tends to get in the way. A lot. Arranging schedules is just as important as having practice and booking gigs.

So see you Saturday night at One. Hartlyss still has a few other weekend dates available in December ..... hint hint.

HartLyss is available on short notice. We don't lay down on the job, either. Ahem.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Banjos galore

FOR SOME REASON banjos are all the rage at Second String Music as we head into the meat of the Christmas season. Banjos are fun to play and unique instruments - not that hard to learn, but boy does it take a while to get good.

Consignment Banjo's in the store now!
We have new Dean and Deering banjos in stock and ready to roll. This morning one of our long-time customers brought in some amazing slightly used banjos to put on consignment - these are great instruments that are hardly used, with cases or bags. WOW.

I was never any good at the three-finger roll technique, but it's fun to pluck away at a banjo and make noise. Whether you are an experienced player looking for a high-end instrument or just wanting to learn, we have it here at Fifth and Maine. Plus you can take lessons from our own Steve Rees.

Pluck away!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Epic birthday anniversary

"He's 21 and he has a beer on his head," bellowed Tim Penning (right).
I WAS GOING to write a sappy missive about birthdays and age being a state of mind. But I just remembered today is not just a birthday - it's the 30th anniversary of an epic event.

Let's face it - you remember turning 21, or you don't remember, because it's a big deal. Thirty years ago I was a sophomore at Central Michigan University, and turning 21 was important because my two roommates were 21 or older, and now I "legally" could join the fun.

I did more partying in one year at Calvin College in Grand Rapids than I did in three years at CMU, but that's more about environment and state of mind. We didn't let minor inconveniences like the legal drinking age screw up a good time. Right. Still, turning 21 meant you were an adult. HAHAHAHAHA. Gosh, I love a good birthday morning laugh.

All I wanted for my 21st birthday was my Gilligan hat.
Anyway, I'm trying to recall the events of Nov. 23, 1985, which have been softened and blurred by time. And a lot of cheap beer. We had a gathering in our apartment and I believe there was a keg involved. Some of my buddies came up from Grand Rapids, and toward the end of the night there were stolen shopping kart races, I think. My high school buddy Mark Hendricks must have been there because I remember trying to watch the hockey game on our CBC feed, in the midst of blaring music and general chaos.

Tim (left) and Marty drop the ball. Marty is drinking apple juice.
But the best part was the night before. As the clock ticked toward midnight and me officially coming of (legal) age, my roommates took me out for my first legal beer. Tim Penning and Marty Horjus were proud to usher me into official debauchery. We went to the Cabin, which was just down the street from our apartment. I peeled the label off the beer and kept it in my wallet for a long time.

You don't forget about stuff like that. Thirty years? Really?

Really. And I'm still smiling when remembering.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Store Bash

IT'S TIME ONCE again for the annual Second String Music Weekend Before Thanksgiving/Pat Cornwell Toast/Rodney's Birthday party. We are gathering at Fifth and Maine tonight to have a jam session, toast our good friend Pat and celebrate the fact we have about a month to go before Christmas day.

Happy Pre-Thanksgiving!
The toast for Pat is at 6:30 pm. It's hard to believe it's been five years since he's passed. That also means SSM is almost five years old, also hard to believe.

We'll have beverages and goodies and music and lots of glass-raising. I'm hoping it doesn't quite reach the level of our party last year, but that was for my 50th birthday and such levels of celebration are rarely reached.

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, and we have 10 percent off everything in the store, 12 percent if you pay cash. Sheryl loves offering cash options and people seem to love saving the extra moola. The Cheeseburgers play at the annual Elks Lodge Cash Bash Saturday night, so it's just another mayhem-filled rock and roll weekend.

Cheers!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stolen Gear Blues

OUR GOOD FRIENDS in the Rockin' Jake Band are on the road right now and were the victims of theft the other night. Jake and the boys are from Florida, and they were up in Topeka, Kansas, for a show. While the band stayed overnight at a hotel, their trailer was vandalized and several items were stolen.

The thugs took guitar player Mark DeDominicis' two guitars. Fortunately he has another one to play. The dirtballs also took pedals, microphones and gear belonging to Jake, who sings and plays harmonica.

There are few worse feelings in the world than being the victim of a theft. The thugs used bolt cutters to slice through the lock and grab the stuff. You have to wonder if they really know what they've stolen - all they probably see are dollar signs. Good luck trying to pawn that stuff off in the Midwest, jerkoffs, because the word is out and we are watching for the stolen items.

I had a gig bag stolen from my car last year. It had cords, microphones, tuners, strings, all the little stuff. It was probably worth $400 or more. But it's not just the net worth - instruments and gear are special. They become a part of what you do and who you are. We really hope the thieves get caught.

Not that lowlifes who steal stuff in Kansas will try to pawn it off in Quincy, but you never know.

The day after the thefts, Jake and the boys ran into bad weather heading to Colorado, and they had to wait it out for a night in a small hotel until the roads cleared. Here is to hoping they have better luck during the rest of the tour. There are good people out there who will help the band out, I'm sure.

Keep the faith, Jake.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ghosts and wind

IT'S VERY WINDY at the corner of Fifth and Maine. This is normal and we are used to the wind tunnel, as we like to call it, since our building and the WCU Building across the street form a perfect jet stream area.

The front doors at Fifth and Maine keep opening and shutting by themselves. It's annoying at best, and sucks the heat out of the first floor at the worst. So Sheryl has taken the pins back out of the doors and locked them, for now. That means you'll have to tug and wait for us to open them.

The more I think about it, the more I think it's not just the wind opening our doors. I think two people are responsible - Hattie Dodd and H. Schroeder.

Hattie Dodd was the woman who built and owned our wondrous five-story structure in 1897, and named it after her father. She only lived a few more years after the Dodd Building was constructed, and I wonder what she thinks of it today. For many years it was in decay. We are trying to bring it back. I hope she's proud, and I bet she's coming in and out just to see what we've been doing.

The other person is this mysterious H. Schroeder. I don't know much about him, only that he operated the original business on the corner where the door is located. When this building opened there were five businesses on the Maine Street side, including one operated by Schroeder, described by the newspapers of the day as the best-known and oldest druggist in the city.

It looks completely different now - Mercantile Bank bought this building in late 1905 and revamped the first-floor space. One of these days I'm going out to the Mercantile headquarters on 33rd Street, since there are supposedly photos of Fifth and Maine back in the day. I suppose a banker or two might be still trying to get into our building.

So if you are coming to visit today, tug the doors and give us a second to open them, and say hello to Ms. Dodd, Mr. Schroeder and various other dignitaries opening and closing our doors today.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Every day is Black Friday

SHERYL AND I are rolling all four eyeballs between us at the insipid "Black Friday" deals as the Christmas season approaches. Can't our advertising geniuses come up with something better?

Then again, we are all sheep led to the slaughter when it comes to Black Friday. Sheryl calls us "Sheeple." We can bitch and moan about businesses being open on Thanksgiving Day and at 4 a.m. the next day, but guess what? We are all in line. Well, most of us. I refuse and I will never do an early morning Black Friday again, since I was scarred for life 16 years ago doing a story for The Whig.

I'm so glad a local auto dealership has Black Friday deals all month long. I'm so glad the big boxes on Broadway are doing the same thing. So glad.

Here at Fifth and Maine, we've come up with a brilliant advertising idea. Every day has always been Black Friday here. We have low prices and great deals all the time. Looking for an amazing Breedlove acoustic guitar or Ibanez electric? Hey! It's Black Friday every day, especially today! You won't have to line up at 4 a.m., either. And you get four free lessons at Vancil Performing Arts when you buy an instrument at Second String Music. All. Year. Long.

You can't beat that, or beat up the idiot next to you who just jostled you out of the way to get that amazing Christmas present.

Friday is just a day. Actually, this Saturday is Small Business Saturday. Just pretend it's Black Friday and skip ahead. Or back. What? Now I'm confused .... screw all this silly Black Friday business. We have great stuff every day, and that's all that matters.

If you take that attitude, you'll get to sleep in the day after Thanksgiving, too.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Reading to a 6-year-old

SHERYL'S GREAT-NEPHEW was at the house the other night and bored. He's a hyper 6-year-old with a big imagination and it's not easy to keep him focused. Sheryl was reading "Dead Wrong (Blackmore Sisters Mystery Book 1)" on her Kindle, so he snuggled up on the couch to listen while she read out loud.

Here's a kid who'd rather play video games or watch a movie on the laptop, but he sat in rapt attention as Sheryl read to him. It was hilarious to hear her read about a family finding out they owed a huge property tax bill. Sheryl started laughing, and so did her great-nephew. Apparently he made her read the ending to him the night before so he would know who the killer was and just wanted to hear more of the book. They had a good time.

We read stories to Emily every night of her childhood. Every night. I could probably still recite "Goodnight Moon" to her by memory. I believe it helped her as she grew up. I believe parents get just as much out of it as the kids. We didn't have video games or cell phones to keep Emily occupied - Sesame Street was my "baby-sitter" in the middle of the afternoon, but only for an hour.

Sheryl is one of the sharpest people I've ever met and she's a voracious reader. It's not a coincidence. I'm trying to read more too, though I get sucked into watching football while dozing on the couch on my only day off (Sunday).

I am not telling you how to raise your children. But I urge you to read to your youngsters. You will both benefit.

There's no better way to bid good night to the moon, promise.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Donating, Benefitting and Polite society



SOMETIMES IN SMALL business, you can't win for losing.

Pepper Spray played in the Veterans Day parade last Saturday and had a blast. Check out the awesome video Adam Yates put together. We were part of the Six String Heroes parade entry.

There were some guys from our local Machinists Lodge 822 watching the parade. They liked what we were doing (goofing around and rocking out, I presume) and they came into Second String Music the other day and presented us with a $50 check for Six String Heroes.

We can't tell you how much it means for Six String Heroes, and the men and women it helps. The members of Pepper Spray gladly donated their time for the event, as did Frank Haxel, Tournear Roofing, Steve Stoner of Six String Heroes and many, many others.

Then, of course, somebody had to chime in with an insipid Facebook comment. Unfortunately, people that should be more sensitive are not always sensitive. There are some incredible ironies when you consider this person who made the remark.

As usual, no good deed goes unpunished.

The gist of the comment was, "Remember this the next time a veteran asks for a benefit donation." It has since been removed from the post, thank you. But, puh-lease. You are chiding us about donating to causes? Second String Music? Sheryl or me? You may not be paying attention to everything we do but at least give us credit for what you have benefited from personally.

Not a week goes by that we don't have somebody coming into the store asking for a donation - some weeks it is daily. We do the most we can. We are a family owned, small business and we simply don't have the resources to help everybody. So we pick our causes, benefits we have a link to, people we care about, like helping out the legendary Sonny Settles for his benefit this Sunday.

We've donated guitars, baskets, money and other items to many a benefit, and never asked for anything in return. I give free guitar lessons to veterans as part of the Six String Heroes program and it's not because I'm such a great guy. Far from it. It's just something we believe in and it's a very small way to show our appreciation.

So yes, I will remember. You are welcome to come into the store, shop a little, tell some friends about us, and ask us to donate to your cause. We will consider every request.

But not because someone bullied us into donating.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

SSM Chicago connection

FOR SOME REASON, Second String Music has developed a Chicago connection.

About a month ago a young man came in looking for a nice guitar. He played one of our new Breedlove acoustics and instantly fell in love. He also liked the Roland AC 33 acoustic amplifier, and we put together a good deal for him. He didn't even blink at the price and told us how much he appreciated our good service and our prices. He happened to be in town with buddies, camping at Siloam Springs. We thought it was a fluke and moved on with our day.

Last Saturday another young man from Chicago came in because he heard from one of our local customers that we had a beautiful Gibson Firebird on consignment. He took one look at the guitar and the price and was hooked. He would have never guessed that our store might have a gem like that and he was amazed that our price was lower than the internet. Again, it was nice to see our prices look better than the Chicago market, and we think our attention to customers does, too.

Today a man from south of Chicago is driving to Quincy to look at one of our Takamine acoustics. They are hard to get right now because of a distribution issue. We have one GD 93 acoustic left, and he's been looking all over the place for one. He can't find it in Chicago, Springfield, or Peoria so he called our little shop in Quincy as a last possibility.

We've had people from Columbia, Mo., St. Louis, even Ohio come into the store and find the right instrument. Quincy isn't small but it isn't big. We must be doing something right.

We appreciate and support our local musicians. They are the heart and soul of what we do, and we'll keep doing it. But it is nice to know we are attracting musicians from the big cities based on price and the quality of instruments we stock. It's like a scavenger hunt sometimes and we feel like a prize to these guys. It makes us proud of what we have been able to accomplish in our five short years in business.

It's a great big world out there, even from the eyes of a small business in Quincy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lofty goals at Fifth and Maine

SECOND STRING MUSIC is located inside the historic Dodd Building at Fifth and Maine. Sheryl and I are excited to be part of The District's Loft Tours on Dec. 4, and we are proud to show off our progress since we bought the building a few years ago.

Mercantile Bank
Hattie Dodd had it built in 1897. Mercantile Bank bought it in 1905 and it became known as the Mercantile Bank Building. The bank left in the early 1960s, the start of a serious decline for the grand old structure.

When Sheryl and I bought it in 2013, we were the only business and the four floors above us were vacant. Frank Haxel renovated the far east end of the first floor, where the original bank vault still stands, and it was home to Vancil Performing Arts' Dancer's Dream store for about a year. The space is open and up for lease again.

The second floor was renovated and is now home to Missy Myers M2 Photography and MO ILL Studios. Both tenants have done an outstanding job of renovating their spaces. Missy will be in her studio on Dec. 4 and will be proud to show it off during the tours. You'll also get a look at the amazing 1920 Hollister-Whitney birdcage
elevator just off the main entrance of 505 Maine St.

The third floor is still in decent shape, but there is no power or plumbing. The fourth and fifth floors are long gone, ruined when a previous owner failed to fix a leaky roof. You'd pretty much have to start over if you wanted to renovate up there.

The Loft Tours on Dec. 4 are from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There are three lofts on North Sixth and one near Fourth and Hampshire on the tour. Here is a link to the FB event.



Monday, November 9, 2015

Jamming and way outta my league

SHERYL AND I ended up at the Club Tavern Saturday night to "celebrate" her birthday. Actually, it was to celebrate the fact that the three-week "Vortex of Crazy" before her birthday has ended. It's a long story and let's just say we survive it every year, and we are ready for the Christmas season.

Anyway, there was a big old jam session going on and I ended up jumping into the fray. Tell me there is anything more fun than getting to play with guys like Paul Lester, Rick Parrish, Shawn Buckner, Mike Carter, Carson Gay and the incredible Matt Roberts - more about him in a minute.

Most of your basic blues songs are just three chords and the truth and the arrangements aren't that tough to follow. Of course Carson had to remind me on one song that I was completely out of key (it was a little hard to hear, normal for a jam session). I got asked when it was over if I'd ever played with those guys before, and the truth is, no, not really. It's just an ear thing, which is how I learned, and you just do it. There's nothing that hard about it.

All of the above-mentioned musicians are way out of my league. It's a hard thing to explain, but when I got done I felt honored and grateful they even let me plug in and play, and I hope I didn't screw them up too bad.

When we got done, Matt said to me, "Man, you gotta play more leads!" Well, I flunked Lead-Guitar 101 many years ago and could never pass the class, though I like to mess around. I'm just an old strummer and hummer, a rhythm player who tries not to mess it up.

Playing lead guitar means practice, knowledge of scales and the ability to both let it go and concentrate at the same time. That leads us to talking about Matt Roberts, who has come a million miles in a very short time.

Seven or eight years ago I saw Matt jamming in a backyard for a benefit, and I thought he was pretty good. He spent many an hour perfecting his craft, because how he's the premier blues guitar player in the area and his showmanship and singing are top-notch.

Some of the nationally-touring blues guys who have passed through town have said the same thing. Matt and his band are now playing in St. Louis and other places, trying to get noticed. They are that good. Shawn Buckner on drums and Mike Carter on bass make for a killer trio.

Great fun with great people, and we lived to tell about it yet again.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dirty Dogs, Life with Boys

ONE OF MY favorite things about having dogs is running them at a local out-of-the way spot. They sprint like the wind and have total freedom, yet they stay fairly close, behave if encountering other people and dogs, and terrorize the local squirrel and mole population.

This week, however, has not been good for our long walks. Tucker and Angus, the boy dogs, have engaged in the ancient canine ritual of Rolling In Death.

When we humans see roadkill or something dead, we shudder and walk away. Not Angus and Tucker. Their ears go up, eyes widen and their purposeful strides become urgent. "Hey. A dead raccoon. Sweet! Let's go roll in it!" Tucker says.

"I already rolled in it yesterday. But I'll join you because I don't want you to have all the fun," Angus says.

This morning we strolled and I watched them the whole time and didn't see them roll in anything. Yet when we got to the car to head home, Angus was coated in Death and Tucker had it all over his face and neck. Genie, our lovely girl dog, rolled her eyes and said, "Don't get any of that bleep on me, you sick bleeps."

After bath time in the fire pit. Thanks boys.
Tucker has had three baths this week. In the warmer months I can just hose him off in the backyard, but now that it's cooler, Sheryl grabs him and Angus and puts them in the tub. They look up with mournful eyes and say, "Sorry, mom. I'll never go Rolling In Death again." Then they go outside, shake off the bath water and say, "Can we go back for another walk now? I thought I saw a dead skunk!"

Tucker looks like a drowned rat. He tried the old "sad eyes gazing at my owner" trick this morning, but it didn't work. He's still nasty. Angus has shorter hair and right now he's on the couch next to me, oblivious to the world and dreaming of a great big park with huge Rolling In Death puddles. He is also licking himself like a cat.

Boys are disgusting in general. Boy dogs are just really, really gross. Tucker and Angus don't want to talk about it and seem to think it's no big deal. All I know is that I nearly threw up when they climbed back in the car for our ride home this morning.

Sheryl thinks it is just the time of year and level of decay fall brings. The boys are just wallowing in it a bit too much this year. And we'll wash it off again.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The dreaded "C" word and shopping early



LOOK. I KNOW it's still three weeks until Thanksgiving, but you still gotta start thinking about it.

Wait a second .... it's only three weeks until Thanksgiving?

Here at Second String Music, Sheryl and I have been thinking about, uh, it, for a long time. It is a word that starts with a C and ends with an S. It involves overcommercialization, a fat guy with a long beard and red suit, and reindeer.

I'm still not going to say or spell the word out loud. But it's coming. And you can't stop it. Ahhhh! I feel like the Knights Who Say NEE.

If you are thinking about a musical instrument or related item for Chr .... uh, it, do it now. We've done our best to get stocked up and have a lot of cool stuff at Fifth and Maine, but already we are seeing people coming in getting ready for it.

We have a room in the back that holds all the lay-a-ways for it.

Support your small local businesses, boost your local economy and get a leg up early for the season. Make this one a great one and memorable.

I'll wait until after Thanksgiving to say the word out loud.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jury trials and long waits

QUINCY HAD TWO high-profile murder trials in the past few weeks. Both defendants were found guilty. One jury took less than 90 minutes. The jury yesterday in the Gavin Masters murder trial took more than five hours.

I covered about half of each trial for the Quincy Journal. I would have predicted the jury times the other way around. But you can never tell what a jury will do, because they are made up of human beings. Jurors are supposed to check all prejudice and judge the case solely on the evidence .... but that doesn't always happen.

The Steson Crider murder trial dragged on for nearly two weeks. There was a lot of evidence and a lot of testimony from "profoundly imperfect people," as State's Attorney Jon Barnard put it. But the jury took a relatively short amount of time to find Crider guilty. I think jurors were tired and basically figured it out quickly. The victim was a completely innocent 12 year old boy waiting for a ride home and sitting on a front porch. I think the jury got it right.

The Masters trial took only four days. Again, there was testimony from rather challenged people, if you want to put it politely. The man shot to death was fleeing from a house after stealing a bag of weed, and defense attorneys Drew and Casey Schnack were brilliant. Their job is to throw up smoke and make the jury consider all kinds of possibilities, to muddy the waters. Nobody is better at it than Drew - if I ever got into trouble, he'd be among the first people I'd call.

I have not talked to anybody who served on either jury. But I suspect there were one or two jurors last night who were hung up on some issues and who were seriously considering a not guilty verdict. All 12 have to agree and it only takes one juror to halt the whole thing - I saw it happen in several major trials during my years at the Whig, including one case involving a man accused of beating an infant child. One juror refused to budge. The verdict came back not guilty. Many of the jurors were crying when the not guilty verdict was read, because they knew they got it wrong. But that's our system, flawed as it is.

I have a feeling attorneys, investigators and Judge Robert Adrian, who presided over both trials, will appreciate a few days off and time to reflect, and maybe to sleep.

There's always another big trial looming, and another jury to pick.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Veterans Day Parade and Pepper Spray

Not even Yoda messes with Pepper Spray
OUR NEVER-PRACTICES JAM band Pepper Spray is getting ready to play in the Quincy Veteran's Day Parade Saturday morning.

We will be teaming with Six String Heroes to get on the float and jam away as we head up Maine Street. It starts around 10 a.m. near 12th and Maine, and if the weather cooperates (right now it's supposed to be chilly but sunny), it will be a blast. Joining us will be Six String Heroes co-founder and guitar player Steve Stoner, and we promise to not practice but give him at least five seconds to get ready for each song.

Playing in parades is a lot of fun. This one is a great way to honor our veterans and to spread a little rock and roll cheer along Maine Street. Hope you can join us to salute those who served and continue to serve.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Shhhh .... don't tell anybody about Woodland

Law Library
AS USUAL, THE annual Woodland Cemetery tours were well-received Sunday. It was an incredible first day of November, the actors at the grave sites did excellent jobs and a lot of people came through the cemetery gates to get a first-hand look at Quincy history.

I enjoy giving tours and showing people just how amazing Woodland is, and the history behind it. It never ceases to amaze me how things get connected together, and how the giants of Quincy history repeatedly have their names brought up.

VERY heavy safe on the 5th Floor
The last grave on the tour was for Freidrich Wilhelm Schmiedeskamp, who came to the area around 1845 and was a stone cutter by trade. His grandson, Heinrich, became an attorney in Quincy, and the firm is still going strong. More than 100 years ago, Heinrich, or Henry, joined up with a man named Wilson in a building at Fifth and Maine in Quincy - the Dodd Building, now known as the home of Second String Music.

Up on the fifth floor, where the firm had offices until the early 1960s, there is still a safe with the letters "Wilson & Schmiedeskamp" visible.

See what I mean? You can't get away from the history around here. It's all about who we are and how we got here, and Woodland stands as a shining example.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is it possible to distract a diabetic from death?

MY WIFE HAS started writing a blog about her daily struggles with diabetes and changing the way she eats to please herself. Click here for today's offering, which is about eating.

Sheryl is a very good writer and anybody who deals with diabetes and health issues in general will get something out of it.

Sheryl DOES find this hilarious.
A few days into the blog, Blogger took it down because the Blogger robot determined it was spam. The way of the world these days .... her idea brainlessly halted. You Can't Make It Up. Anyway, that issue has been resolved with a nice email this morning letting her know a human had reviewed the blog and realized it is not spam.

Sheryl has made a concerted effort to limit carbs. She's lost weight and her blood sugar levels don't spike as much. No headaches, less mood changes (although she is still a tough nut sometimes) but it hasn't been easy, and living with me isn't easy, either.

I can eat anything I want, at any time. It's just not fair and I have to be a little bit careful about eating a huge bowl of ice cream in front of her when she is fighting a stubborn high blood sugar. I also am a loud chewer, so I try to not eat too many chips, nuts and crackers in front of her.

But it pales in comparison to what she goes through every day. She has my respect and admiration for putting up with our often frustrating medical community and the grind of dealing with needles, blood sugar levels, malfunctioning insulin pumps, endless doctor's visits and blood work.

She rocks. Read her blog and you will gain insight into the challenging life of a diabetic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Morning Cheese

THE CHEESEBURGERS HAVE played a lot of interesting gigs. Saturday morning should be interesting, to say the least.

That's right. Saturday morning. As in, 9 a.m. The only pre-show beverage I'll be having is coffee, but that's OK.

A few months ago we were contacted by Quincy University to play for the QU vs. Truman State tailgate party. The game was supposed to start at 6 p.m. But because it's being broadcast by one of the ESPN stations, the start time was moved to 11 a.m.

We're gonna have all kinds of fun at this place Saturday.
That means we are playing in the north parking lot at 9 a.m. until game time. From what I've heard, it's quite the atmosphere by the recently refurbished stadium, and we can't wait.

Rumor has it Dale Steinkamp will be taking the band to the gig in the "Eleven Bus" and cooking up biscuits and gravy for breakfast. We haven't played for a while and we are raring to get going, and since it's Halloween, we might be breaking out costumes, too.

I think there is a fee to park in the lot, but I don't think it costs anything to get in. If you want morning Cheese, here's your chance. Go Hawks!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Murder trial and reality

A YOUNG ARIZONA man was found guilty Monday of murder. You can click here to read my Quincy Journal followup story, with comments from the prosecutor and the victim's family.

Justice for Ray Jr
It took jurors only 90 minutes to deliberate. I thought it would take at least four or five hours. But they'd been there for almost two weeks and perhaps they'd figured it out. Basically it means the verdict was a slam dunk - I've sat through much longer deliberations for cases just as strong.

The thing that scares me about testimony is the fact we have young people in Quincy running around with guns. And by young, I mean 17 years old. I'm not oblivious and I know we have issues in the Q-Town, but not only were they doing all this thug stuff, they were doing it right where we live. One of the main witnesses lived a block from us in Calftown. And the guys involved were smoking and drinking at a house two blocks away just hours before the shooting.

It's real life. And it scares the bleep out of me.

Our criminal justice system is not about the truth, but how we perceive the truth. It was painfully obvious that there was a lot of lying going on during the investigation into the murder, and even more obvious there was lying from the witness stand late last week. It doesn't get you anywhere and the jury saw right through it, and in the end, it sealed the murderer's fate.

I cannot begin to understand how Ray Humphrey Sr. feels when it comes to losing his son. He sat through the entire trial and how he did it, I'll never know. He said last night he was satisfied justice was served. If my child was murdered .... I can't even think about it.

A sad chapter in Quincy ends, but the pain of losing a 12-year-old boy doesn't. Even if we didn't know Ray Humphrey Jr., a little bit of us died, too.

His father is working hard to keep the memory of Ray Jr. alive, check it out and be a part of it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dead Elvis and wedding vow renewals

CHRIS AND VICTORIA Kelley are two of the most interesting, creative and fun-loving people we know. They own Table 16 Productions and we've worked on several projects together. Chris has used Second String Music locations for several videos and feature film projects.

Chris and Victoria decided to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony. We gathered in Washington Park, and the theme was Victorian Era meets the Walking Dead. The ladies and gents dressed up in the fashion of the day and got properly zombified with makeup.

Cori Lyssy and I played at the ceremony, with the help of Craig Freeman on cowbell. Yes, we played "Don't Fear The Reaper." Yes, it needed more cowbell. Craig did a great job. Cori dressed up as a gypsy and I was Dead Gold Lamé Elvis.

Mike Sorenson, photo credit
It was perfect. We gathered by the Washington Park fountain for the short ceremony, then did a pub crawling before ending up at Martini's 515. HartLyss played for the party and had a blast. You gotta love a gig that is literally two doors down from Second String Music.

I can now say I've played in the streets of Quincy, as we led the procession from bar to bar. We also crashed a wedding reception at Winter's West Wing - yup, Dead Elvis and The Gypsy got plenty of stares. We knew the bride and groom. It all worked out.

What great fun! It was an honor to be part of the event. I need to take a nap until Tuesday.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Calftown argument advice

I'VE SPENT MORE than a week sitting in a courtroom and listening to evidence in a murder trial. It's a heartbreaking tale, and it's too bad there weren't more voices of reason. Also, it's good idea not to disrupt the trial. But I digress.


So here's a story about somebody taking free advice and hopefully doing something good with it.

The other night Sheryl was sitting on the couch reading when she heard a man and a woman arguing on the sidewalk. Sheryl went out, and the man was walking away. The woman shouted to the man, "Don't you walk away from me!" Sadly the man kept walking and the woman kept yelling.

So Sheryl said, "No man is worth it. Let him walk away."

The woman looked at Sheryl, looked at the man disappearing down the sidewalk, and turned around.

"That's some good advice," she mumbled under her breath, as she walked away.

Sheryl went back inside, the hood returned to its sometimes normal peaceful self, and everybody lived to tell the tale. It's not often you see someone take a stranger's advice, especially when it is given from a front doorstep.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Help Natalie fund her book

MY COUSIN, NATALIE Hart, is working on a book project about older children adoption. They've chosen Kickstarter as a way to fund publishing this book, and they need our help.

Click here for more information about the picture book and the funds they are raising. The book tackles the difficult subject of adoption and the ever-present monster ready to rear its ugly head - "You aren't my real mother!"

I had an adopted brother who had many demons, and I really wish there was something like this back then. He struggled with this very issue, as did my parents. Sheryl did foster care from 1999 - 2003 and understands the huge struggle these older children have accepting any home. This is a topic that is important to both of us.

His mother reassures him: “I’m as real as it gets and I’m not giving up. I’m your mother in truth. Your mother. Forever.”
Natalie is a very talented writer and you can read her blog here. She's partnered with talented visual artists and the renditions are stunning, to say the least.

There are only a few days left for the $30,000 goal to be met and they need only $6,000 more. I urge you to take just a few minutes and view the website, and if you can, help out.