Friday, December 30, 2016

The music store in Macomb

I WENT TO Macomb yesterday to write about the Macomb-Western Holiday basketball tournament for The Whig. It was a lot of fun and I appreciated the hospitality at WIU's Western Hall.

I hung out with Emily before and after the games. She lives on the square and around the corner from Macomb Square Music, so of course we had to pay a visit.

The owner, Adam Oliver, is a pleasant guy and we had an interesting chat about music retail and the trials and tribulations of owning a music store. It's always good to see how different small music stores approach the business.

Adam tends to take in more consignment items and he buys instruments. It's an easier way to build inventory, and we did the same thing in our first months of Second String Music. I'll never forget Steve Rees coming into the Eighth and Washington store and saying, "I have some odds and ends, do you want to sell them for me?" We quadrupled our inventory on the spot and had some really cool instruments, and it went a long way to getting us up and running as a business.

Adam's father comes in during the day to help out, and he has several customers who like to tinker and tune guitars, etc.

Emily bought a nice ukulele book and we both promised to come back. I wish Adam the best of luck in the wild ride called music retail - have fun!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Count everything in the store

IT'S THE END of the year, which means inventory time at Second String Music. Can you tell how excited we are?

Doing inventory means Sheryl prints out a list of everything in the store, and then we see if what's on the floor actually matches. She is much better at it than I am, and it's a bit mind-numbing, to say the least. Yesterday was a busy one at the store and I'd rather say hello or string guitars than count stuff, so we slowly but surely made progress.

I am in charge of counting all the books in the store. I had no idea we had so many. Somebody should buy this Brown Scales book - it looks fascinating. And look! We have three How To Play Fakebooks instead of two listed in inventory. "It happens. I have no idea why," Sheryl says.

Count 'em up - every single one!
I do. It's likely because I rang one of them up incorrectly. Of course, I'm just happy I can turn the computer on and off, let alone run the cash register. I'm trying to get better, but it's just like doing inventory - it's a slow process.

Sheryl actually counted up all the guitar pegs she has in her guitar tech area. There were 505 in inventory, and she counted 504. Obviously one of them grew legs and disappeared, or Fast Eddie ended up with a new play toy. And she counted every single guitar pick. Every. Single. One. GUH.

So excuse us if we are a little more brain-dead than usual as the week and the year comes to an end. Sheryl, of course, takes it all in stride and keeps plugging away. Me? Well, twice last week I made coffee in the Keurig but forgot to put my cup under the hot water.

I need more coffee, and I'll finish counting the books.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue One - Everybody Dies

WE SAW THE new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, last night. It was really good and I highly recommend you go see it. Several people in line said they were seeing it again for the second or third time.

Before we go any further, I will warn you that this post about the new Star Wars movie contains spoilers. But before I spoil it, here's a preview of another movie. And another movie. And another preview about other movies coming in June 2017! We must have sat through half an hour of previews. And they were all sequels - shouldn't Vin Diesel be dead by now and shouldn't there be a law about how many Fast and Furious movies you are allowed to watch or even make?

We got 3D glasses with our tickets. No wonder they were $9 a pop! I thought about the popcorn and drinks but I want to go to the movies again soon and buy groceries and pay my mortgage, so I refrained.

I didn't really like the 3D part and I don't think it added a lot to the movie. In fact, it made it darker and some scenes harder to watch. Star Wars is all about sensory overload anyway so the 3D part is overkill. At least we got to keep the glasses.

I'm not going into the plot in great detail, but it made sense and tied up a lot of loose ends. Rogue One immediately preceeds the original Star Wars movie and tells the story about the rebels obtaining the plans for the Death Star.

Here's the thing - like the first Star Wars movie, where Han Solo and Luke Skywalker avoid the bad guys with death-defying flying and risk-taking, this movie is full of heroics and courage and fighting for your life. But unlike Han and Luke and Chewbacca, everybody in Rogue One dies. And I mean everybody, even the droid. The main characters accept this fact and don't try to duck it, and realize their efforts will continue the rebel cause. And make George Lucas even richer. So it all makes sense, in the end.

Darth Vader makes a brief appearance. He's taking a bath at first, then chokes out the director and kills a bunch of rebels with his light saber. But he doesn't get the stolen Death Star plans. C-3PO and R2D2 are briefly shown, as is the guy who counts down the Death Star laser blasts (the original actor died 20 years ago and was hologramed into the movie, apparently). Even Princess Leia is show at the end, which was kind of freaky considering Carrie Fischer died yesterday.

So go see it, if you are one of three people in this world who haven't been yet, go. It's two hours and 15 minutes of escapism - or nearly nine hours, if you count the previews.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

No Obamacare, no Second String Music

SHERYL WAS INTERVIEWED for a Herald-Whig story about Obamacare being repealed. The reporter, Matt Dutton, did a good job providing two different views. Click here to read the story.

I'm going to give Sheryl some credit - she doesn't like doing interviews and hates having her picture taken. But she sucked it up and presented her side of the story very well, and it's a point of view people need to know about.

What it comes down to is this - without the Affordable Healthcare Act. however flawed it is, Second String Music would cease to exist. Let me make this a little more clear - We. Would. Not. Be. Here.

Not amusing at all.
If you are going to repeal it, please come up with something that makes our health insurance affordable. Right now, there are several plans floating around out there but nothing that seems to work. And yes, we WORK for a living, Mr. Trump. Just so you know.

It is a complicated topic. Solutions need to fit the needs of 20 million people. Sheryl believes that nutrition is key to good health and level blood sugars. Many medical visits could be reduced if people would eat lower carb, healthy fats, and moderate protein diets instead of the high carbohydrate recommendations of the federal government and dieticians. Ask Sheryl for details if you are interested. She lives it every day.

We are signed up with ACA for another year, so short-term we are fine. But the Republicans will ditch the program as soon as the new regime takes over, and it's anybody's guess what will eventually happen.

And there's nothing we can do but wait, and pray we can still afford to stay in business.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas with Grannie Annie

SHERYL AND I were adopted us a few years back by Bob and Anne Mays, and we are better people for it. We get to share in the fun that is the Frank and Mays Clan without too much heavy lifting.

Christmas is a beautiful thing but it can be lonely. Memories make good company, but if loved ones are gone, well, it's an empty feeling. Bob passed away a few years ago, so on our Woodland walk Sunday afternoon, I went past his final resting place, straightened the wreath and American flag, and told Bob we missed him.

The last couple of years we've spent Christmas night with John and Nancy Frank and their kids. John is the son of Bob and Anne. At one point we were all at the table eating a fabulous meal and Nancy said, "I think Rodney wants to say something profound."

Cody tolerating Molly
Not really. I was just enjoying the family vibe. I said, "Well, I have no deep thoughts." What I should have said was, "Sheryl and I appreciate being a part of your family Christmas. We feel like we are part of this crazy crew!"

Highlights included dressing the family dog, Cody, as Santa, and the legendary White Elephant gift exchange. I got a pizza night light and I was over the moon, but Sheryl snuck it back in one of the kid's gift bags. Hey. A pizza night light is the gift that just keeps on giving.

No Christmas would be complete without Anne giving one of her grandkids an extendable fork. I got mine a few years back. It made me feel like part of the family. Sarah will now be eating off her friend's plates in San Francisco.

Thank you for a great Christmas day, John and Nancy and crew. May the new year be good to you and yours, and we'll do again next year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No Facebook = Merry Christmas

HARTYHARHAR is going on Christmas break. I think the best present I can give myself is a turned off computer. So Merry Christmas to me - see ya, social media.. Fa la la la la, la la, la, la.

We'll be back a time or two before the end of the year. Things are crazy busy in the store right now and I wouldn't wait if you are shopping for musical stuff, especially ukuleles. We still have the best unhurried Christmas shopping experience you can find, and we'll get you hooked up.

We leave with an adult Christmas video. I apologize to nobody because it is from the best Christmas movie ever made. Don't argue with me, especially on Facebook, because I won't see it.

Merry Christmas and be good!


Friday, December 16, 2016

Jump right in, Jenna!

MEET JENNA DARNELL. She is 11 years old and lives in Canton, Mo. Her parents got her a guitar from Second String Music a few months ago, and she is taking lessons at Vancil Performing Arts.

Jenna jamming with "the band!"
Jenna likes to come into the store with her father before her lesson to show off her chops and give me some pointers. She has learned incredibly quickly - Lenny over at Vancil has her doing Beatles and Elvis songs, so of course she is rocking! She is always eager to grab a guitar and strum away, singing happily along without a care in the world.

Last night Paul Lester and I were working on some Christmas songs when Jenna, her sister Olivia, and her father, Phil, came into the store. Paul and I were jamming and suddenly, there was Jenna with a guitar joining right in.

"Of course I can do it!" she said, when asked if she was ready to play. I was amazed at how well she kept up - she's a sponge and learns in a hurry. Rudolph and Jingle Bells never sounded so good! As she told her dad later, she was "playing with the band."

A long time ago we had a store party at our old Eighth and Washington location. We had a bunch of people at a jam session merrily making noise. I looked at Frank Haxel and said, "That's the power of music."

Almost six years later, we are still experiencing the power of music. Thank you, Jenna, for putting up with a couple of old guys and rocking out on a cold December night at Fifth and Maine.

Lessons are done for the year both for me and at Vancil Performing Arts. But I have a feeling I might be seeing Jenna back in the store once or twice before the New Year. And we'll be rocking away again!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

All I want for Christmas is .... singing dogs

SINCE WE ARE playing Christmas music tonight in the store, I'm thinking of inviting Tucker and Angus The Young to join us, and maybe Genie, too.

Two years ago I made a Christmas CD featuring the smash hit "Be Nice To Your Pets At Christmas." It featured the late Bella The Destroyer howling at the top of her lungs and scrabbling her paws on our hardwood floor. Angus hit a perfect C note too and I think Tucker added a few harmony whoops. I heard it the other day and almost started to cry.

This morning Sheryl left early for an appointment, and the dogs took to singing about missing their mom. Angus started howling at the top of his Cattle Dog/Corgi lungs. Tucker soon followed and I think Genie whimpered out a few melodic notes, though she is a little bashful about her singing. I keep telling her to not worry about what people think and to just do it - reminds me of a certain girl singer who is scared to play her guitar in front of people.

Just. Do. It. Make noise, dang it! The dogs can howl!

Tucker and Angus aren't afraid to sing. Or wake me up. It's all good and I complimented them on their vocal abilities, and even extended the morning walk despite the frigid temperatures. They woofed their approval.

So come see Paul Lester and I crank out some Christmas tunes tonight at Second String Music. If the dogs are here, we might just do a rendition of "Bark The Herald Doggies Sing" and "It Came Upon a Kennel Clear," along with my favorite, "We Wish You A Woofy Christmas."

Tis the season, you know. Barky bark and woofy woof the New Year too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas music and pop up sales

ONE OF THE best parts of Christmas is the music. During guitar lessons I've learned the famous Chuck Berry riff to Run Run Rudolph, and who knew Twisted Sister made possibly the best Christmas album ever?

Second String Music is part of The District's Thankful Thursday series. So tomorrow night, from 6 to 8, Paul Lester and I will be playing Christmas music in the store. Actually it's more of a practice because Paul and I are playing a huge Christmas party Saturday night for the good folks at Vancil Performing Arts. Sometimes knowing the songs is a good thing, or at least having an idea.

Paul is one of the most amazing musicians I've ever played with, and he is a one-of-kind kindred spirit. Paul is a big guy with meat hook hands who somehow makes the tiny mandolin frets sing.

He's also Jewish. This makes playing Joy To The World even better. As Paul says, "Well, Jesus was one of ours, you know." He might just wear his Kippah under his Santa hat for good luck.

Sheryl has decided that we are going to have a really cool pop up sale tomorrow, too. Check out our Facebook page at about 4 p.m. on December 15th for details. It's going to be worth your time to head downtown and get some Christmas shopping done, believe me.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DO bids farewell

DENNIS OLIVER IS retiring after many years in Quincy radio. His last show is Friday morning. He's a legend around here, larger than life, yet Dennis is one funniest and most humble guys you will ever meet.

Media lines long ago got blurred. It isn't about the messenger, it's the message, but we long ago forgot about that in our entertainment and Kardashian-crazed world. Radio is a little bit different since the human voice encourages connection. This is the beautiful thing about Dennis - he didn't care about being known or pushing his own agenda. He was just a radio guy. People listened to him in the morning for a million reasons. Then you'd see him out and about and have a beverage with him, and he was just DO, Dennis Oliver. You know, the radio guy.

When it came time to publicizing an event or talk about music, Dennis was your man. You could go on his show with Jeff Dorsey and plug it. The best part about doing his show was the off-air banter between him and Jeff. I'm just glad that mute button worked at 24th and Broadway.

Dennis will disagree, but he's a legend in Quincy. He's one of the good guys. It's time for him to retire and do other things. Like relax!

Best of luck, Dennis. Quincy radio airwaves will be a little less lively with you off the air.


Monday, December 12, 2016

No more vinyl at SSM

A FEW YEARS ago, Sheryl bought a large vinyl record collection from a relative. Then we got another large batch, and we set the records up in our two front rooms.

We sold more than a few. We also found some rare gems, like the Beatles White Album. After a while we found fewer people coming in to look at them, especially since there was still some great stuff in there. A slow dribble of customers made the vinyl room sort of a waste of space.

The other day a guy came in and offered to buy the remaining records - We probably had 7 boxes left. He and Sheryl worked out a deal and let's just say he is happy. But so are we - two new rooms just opened up and we can clear the vinyl out of our inventory records.

I'm thinking office space or maybe an amp room, where you can try out a guitar or amp and let it rip a little bit. I used to use the space to give lessons, but we have two nice rooms in the back now.

We have a few great albums for our own collection and hopefully we can spin a few during Christmas, just to stay in the vinyl groove. GUH. So don't needle us about it. We have more stuff up our sleeves ....

Friday, December 9, 2016

Reasons for giving

THE YOUNG MAN standing next to me in this photo is Chris Spurgeon. He's been a loyal Second String Music guy for a long time, and we've appreciated his business.

Chris has a few guitars. A while back he bought a beautiful Takamine acoustic - Sheryl made him a deal and he couldn't refuse. He loves the guitar. In October he came to the store to browse and he said, "I have this guitar I don't play very much. I'd like to donate it to Six String Heroes." Last week he came back with guitar in tow, and the donation was made.

The program is going very well in Quincy - I have three Six String Heroes students in lessons right now, and the whole therapy through music thing has never been more evident. One is a beginner who wants to play a song for his wife next summer for an anniversary present. Another has a bunch of guitars but never really learned to play. And the third veteran already plays but needs navigational help, and the guitar is his life-saver, in many ways.

Chris might not think it's a big deal, donating his guitar, but it is. Donations like this are the lifeblood of Six String Heroes, which helps veterans but receives no funding from the government. Chris didn't ask for recognition, but I'm giving him some love because this guitar will find a good home and make a huge difference for a veterans.

Chris didn't say much and he was pretty low-key about the whole thing, but you could tell he got more joy and satisfaction out of donating the guitar than he did when he bought it, and that's a big deal for a guitar player.

At Christmas, it's all about the giving. Thank you, Chris. Your donation won't be forgotten.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Small business and wrestling

I THINK IT'S great that our president-elect has nominated Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration. She a kabillionaire who donated a lot of money to the presidential race, so why not return the (small) favor?

I used to love pro wrestling. Now I watch "Super Girl" to get my soap opera fix. Don O'Brien left town earlier this year and now I have nowhere to go to annually watch one or two WWE pay per views. It will be a lonely WrestleMania this year.

The first thing Linda McMahon should do is put Kellyanne Conway in a sleeper hold. Then she should try to get in touch with small business owners around the country and find out what they are going through. BWAHAHAHAHA. Gosh. I crack myself up.

Maybe she really wants to help. Good for her. I long ago gave up on entitlement. Yes, we've had help building Second String Music, but nothing is free, nothing. If we wanted help, we'd go sit in Washington Park all summer and stare at the sky. Wait a second .... forget it. Too easy.

Wanna help, Linda? Then put the state of Illinois in a figure four leglock and cut back our ludicrous sales tax in Quincy. Fix the internet sales tax divide. Make it easier for small businesses to compete in a global marketplace.


So I'll wait for you to be confirmed, then I'll give you a call. Come to Quincy and we'll do lunch and maybe even open the fridge for a Happy Hour, and we'll get things figured out.

We look forward to working with you. Bring that Vince guy along too - maybe he can convince me to watch Monday Night Raw again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dance like nobody is watching

SOMETIMES YOU JUST gotta dance like nobody is watching, or don't care if anybody else is in the room.

We shot some Second String Music promotional videos a few weeks ago with Table 16 Productions. They feature Greg Ellery, who owes me a lot of favors after drinking all the booze in my fridge at our last store party. Or maybe he's just a nice guy and he did it to help us out. Sheryl got it arranged.

You can be a goofball at Second String Music. Really, we don't care. What do you think I do around here all day, besides give guitar lessons and screwing up the electricity? Music is a beautiful thing and it's all about jumping in without worrying about what others think.

The video is a bit long but priceless, if you watch closely enough. And it only took two or three takes, from what I remember. Greg took three days to recover.

Speaking of Greg, he's moving back to California at the end of the month, so we're throwing him a little party here at the store. Planned right now for December 23rd, stay tuned for more details.

And don't be afraid to dance with him at the party!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ghosts in machines, and why stuff doesn't work

WE'VE BEEN WITHOUT internet at Second String Music since Saturday. Sheryl finally got through to our provider's "customer service," and they determined it was a bad router. "Bad Router" would be a great band name, right?

Anyway, our provider agreed to send us a new router. Then, mysteriously, for no reason, the old one started working again. I'm not questioning it, because I'll jinx it if I do. But even Sheryl is baffled.

There is a term for this, Ghost In The Machine. Apparently it's the title of a 1967 book about the brain and why we self-destruct, or something like that. It's also an incredible album by The Police. In our case, it refers to stuff not working for no good reason.

The only Ghost In The Macine in like .....
Last week Sheryl installed a new pickup into an acoustic guitar. I checked it and it worked fine. Then the owner showed up and just to make sure, we tested it one more time. Guess what? It didn't work! Surprised? I wasn't. Fortunately we got to the bottom of it and now it works fine.

Two weeks ago I was playing a show in Mount Sterling with Pepper Sprayer Tim Smith. My guitar stopped coming through the PA. I checked everything. Then it started working again, for no good reason. I am thinking there are Ghosts In Machines everywhere.

I recently lugged all the Christmas stuff out and strung up lights inside the store. Then I got the tree down from the haunted third floor, plugged it in, and realized only one of every 15 lights worked. Of course they don't work! They were fine last year. But the Ghosts have been playing with them, I'm sure.

Now a bank of lights is not working in the store. We've called our electrician. I'm sure he'll show up, flip a switch, look at the lights, and say, "They are fine. What's the problem? I'll send you the bill." Actually he's a great guy and wouldn't do that. But I'm sure the lights aren't working because they just don't want to work.

We just want stuff to work. Go away, Ghosts. Leave the Machines alone. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

The art of Breathe EZ Massage

SHERYL STRAINED HER back the other day cleaning up after Tucker. He finds pleasure in marinating himself in disgusting filth. He's a dog. I am not making it up. She's been miserable ever since and it's even causing headaches, and we have enough stress and challenges right now. Not that there's ever a good time to wrench your back.

Craig and Shannon Lewis were in the store the other day. Shannon is a licensed massage therapist. She and Sheryl went into our back room and Shannon stretched her out. Sheryl immediately felt better. By the end of the day she could actually walk without pain. Shannon worked a miracle!

I have had a few massages, and most were helpful. I once went to a local spa and got a massage and was sore for a week after - the person wasn't careful and pretty much just steamrolled her way through the session. But I was willing to give Shannon a try because Sheryl NEVER lets anyone touch her back and Shannon had somehow worked this miracle.

I went to see her yesterday because I have two shows this weekend and on Sunday, I will feel like crap. There's an old saying in the music business that we don't get paid to play, we get paid to set up and tear down. This is especially true with The Cheeseburgers, plus I am jumping around for three or four hours because it's a high-energy show. It used to take a day to recover. Now it takes two or three.

So I ventured over to see Shannon at Adjustin Chiropractic on Broadway. Her business is called Breathe EZ Massage. Shannon is indeed into breathing and "letting go," as she puts it. She did a lot of gentle stretching and pulling, especially on my arms. There was very little deep muscle pushing. The whole thing was very relaxing and therapeutic. She is into doing gentle pressure point stuff, and this morning my neck and shoulders are unclenched for the first time in, well ,,,, I can't even remember when I felt this good.

The whole thing was very relaxing and unhurried. Shannon definitely takes her time. I will go back, and her massages are worth every penny.

Stressed out and need to unwind? Go see Shannon. She rocks! HartLyss plays tonight at One Restaurant, and The Cheeseburgers play in Carthage Saturday night for a Christmas Party. Now I'm ready to set up and tear down, and rock and roll!

NOTE: We don't do sponsored blogs. We are very grateful to Shannon and love her but we also pay our friends and neighbors for all the great experiences they give us professionally.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Staying open late

WE ARE STAYING open late tonight as part of The District's Thankful Thursday Christmas promotion. We'll be here until 8 p.m., along with many other downtown Quincy businesses. Come out and shop!

We love the idea. Our downtown area is quiet after about 5 p.m. We stay open until 6 or 7 most weeknights and it's always dead when we leave the store to go home. I think it's a shame - there is so much potential down here and it would be fun to actually see people out and about when it gets dark.

But owning a small business makes us realize how much harder it is to stay open longer. It's a Catch-22 type of deal - we stay open later to make it convenient for people, but then nobody shows up. So we end up a little less likely to extend hours every year. You gotta try, I guess.

In previous years we stayed open until 8 during the Christmas season, including Saturdays. We aren't doing that anymore because we didn't get the traffic. We have 6 p.m. posted as our closing time ( 5 p.m. Saturday), but truth is we are here later than 6 most nights because of guitar lessons. And if somebody is in the store and we are doing business, we aren't shutting off the lights or kicking out customers.

Many times we get a panicked phone call late in the day and the caller asks when we close. We'll stay open later if we know you are coming. We are here for you especially if you warn us you are coming!

Last year we were open for a few Sundays in December and nobody, and I mean nobody, came in. So we will probably not be here Sunday, our only day off. There are other businesses downtown closed on Mondays, but we think that's a huge mistake. Again, we understand small businesses have only certain resources and abilities, but being closed on a weekday is like cutting your own throat. Sheryl would never stand for that.

I encourage you to come down tonight. I'm thinking about having a jam session or at least Paul Lester will come on down to play some Christmas music on his mandolin.

The lights will be on at Fifth and Maine. And Fast Eddie and Angus say they'd love to see you, too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

All a-twitter about sports

THIS NEW AGE media thing has passed me by. Then again, we didn't have running water or electricity when I was a cub sports guy. I actually pounded out stories on a typewriter when I worked for the Central Michigan University newspaper and yearbook in the mid-1980s.

Four years ago, when I quit my full-time reporting gig, I was frustrated by all the new-fangled technology. It used to be I'd go to game or meeting, write a story, and move on. Now it's all about posting on social media and getting video. And you can do everything from your phone. A reporter today with a college education is versed in the visual end of things, not just the written product.

I leave it to younger and better people.

All you need today in sports.
Last night I was working at The Whig, getting information on a bunch of area basketball games. In the olden days, coaches would call in results. Now they text, tweet or Instagram game statistics. This whole twitter thing is beyond me - apparently you can do it from your phone. The only thing I know about my phone is that it's orange, and a half-eaten apple appears when I accidentally hit the on/off switch.

The latest version is called an iPhone 7. I believe I have an iPhone negative-3. Actually it's fairly updated, I just haven't bothered to figure out a lot of stuff.

Last night we were emailed results of a very close game. I wanted to find out how it ended and we were having issues tracking down the coaches. So Whig Sports Writer Mat Mikesell called up a tweet from a fan, who had the end of the game recorded on his cell phone. We were able to watch the final seconds and determine how the game ended, and it made the story a lot better.

I was working with part-timer Sam Douglas. He was literally writing stories from texts on his phone, texts from coaches with a photo of the scorebook. His phone has all these thingies and devices called apps, and the picture quality is staggering.

I understand it, and I am doing my best to adapt, and not pine for the old days while getting sentimental.

After all, even an old sports guy needs to be relevant in this half-eaten apple world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Driver's license photo

I AM GOING to the Illinois Secretary of State office this morning to get a new driver's license. I'd rather stick needles in my eyes. In fact, I cracked a tooth in half a few days ago and have an emergency appointment at the dentist scheduled soon. I'm actually looking more forward to the dentist drilling holes in my face than to getting a new license.

It's usually not too bad. The people who work there are pleasant enough. Sure, I'm paying way too much to drive in a bankrupt state run by politicians on the graft, but hey, I'm in a good mood this morning. So I have that going for me.

Sheryl suggests getting google eyes for the photo. My current license picture is awful - I look like I've just committed a terrible crime. Maybe I was still working for a living back then. I look like I needed coffee really bad. I looked like I had to pee or had just figured out my tooth had cracked.

I could make a fish face, close my eyes, put my head in my hands, stick my tongue out, or look sideways. Maybe I will insist they use my latest Facebook profile photo, taken by Second String Music legend Mike Sorenson of Bad Wolf Media.

Or maybe I'll just stare at the camera and think, "I'm almost done. I might actually smile."

At least this year I'll actually get new stickers in time, instead of forgetting about it and going three months with expired tags.

I'm ready to go all the way across town and to get it over with. Wish me luck. Hopefully I'll be pretty as a picture, for the picture.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyber Monday, retail style

TODAY IS CYBER Monday, which isn't the greatest thing for a small retail business. We've noticed a lot of bigger stores offering the convenience of ordering online and then picking it up in the store, calling this Cyber Week! Let's do it.

So the way Sheryl and I figure it, you can still do Cyber Week at Second String Music. Heck, you can do Cyber Christmas, if you want.

Cyber Week for Small Business!
It's simple. Click on our website and check out our various brands we carry and pick your items. If you want to order something from us, you can send it in via email, Facebook Messenger or even by calling us. Call Sheryl at 217-223-8008 if you want something you aren't sure we carry. Contact info is easy to find on our website.

We'll order the item for you and let you know when you can pick it up. Or, if we have it in stock, we'll let you know immediately. Small business can do Cyber Week just like big box stores, give us a chance!

We had a great Thanksgiving weekend in the store and we look forward to Christmas and helping you find the perfect gift. Music is a beautiful thing and we want to make it happen for you - online or in the store. We are here for you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bright Friday

SHERYL AND I wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. Be grateful and be safe, and if you have time off, appreciate all the great things this city and country have to offer.

You won't see this at Fifth and Maine, unless you want to pet Fast Eddie.
We'll be closed tomorrow and back open at our regular time Friday morning, We call it Bright Friday. We are not participating in the madness and lunacy that is Black Friday. If you think it's fun jostling elbows with strangers and fighting over 50-inch televisions on sale for less than $250, well, rock on. Even better, go right ahead and wreck your Thanksgiving Day festivities by going to the many stores open on Psycho Thursday.

Can you tell I'm not a big fan? I had to write a story about Black Friday 16 years ago for The Whig and I'm still in therapy and trying to recover.

We have great prices and awesome service at Fifth and Maine. We match internet prices, by the way. You can shop in your underwear (if you can stand the cold) or kick up your game by buying a great new guitar. We are here to spark your imagination, help you play better and rock OUT!

I saw an interview this morning with the CEO of Target. He claims his employees look forward to working Thanksgiving night. Right. My fourth and fifth floors at Fifth and Maine are in good shape and my elevator is working, too. Why would I want to be at work with nutty bargain hunters when I could be at home with family recovering from a turkey coma?

Saturday is Small Business Saturday. We invite you to come downtown and avoid the Big Box chaos. Shop small, shop smart, and actually enjoy the experience. That's what we are here for!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Zeke and Paul make a CD

WE ARE ALL about original music here at Second String Music, and we support the local artists that support us. So three cheers for Zeke Cernea and Paul Wood, who have collaborated on a new CD called "Moving On." Click the link above for more info - that's a pretty good looking photo of them in front of an old elevator, if we do say so ourselves.

It's not easy to pursue your dreams of recording and performing your own stuff. Zeke is one of the few artists around here to do it, and more power to him. Paul is a percussionist and plays with just about everybody in town, including HartLyss from time to time.

Zeke wrote all 10 songs and they were recorded at Greg Fischer's Nice Guy Studios in Quincy. He and Paul are having a CD release party Wednesday night at Martini's, just a few doors down from us on Maine Street.

Zeke and Paul are loyal SSM customers, and we are grateful for their business and support. Zeke just bought a gorgeous Gretsch guitar from us and says he loves it.

We have the new CD here at the store, and it's also available online at iTunes. Best of luck to Zeke and Paul and we encourage you to pick up a copy and support two of Quincy's truly original artists.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mail, curtains and kittens

OUR KITTEN, JOSEY, loves to play in the curtains of the front room. She tears them down and romps around in the curtain heap. The curtains are right by the mail slot, so sometimes the mail gets tangled up in the curtains.

Last week my father, who lives in North Carolina, called and asked if I had received a check from him for my birthday. He was wondering why I hadn't gotten around to cashing it.

"Haven't seen it," I said.

"Hmmmm," he said.

"Don't blame me," Josey purred.

So Sunday morning, Sheryl picked up the curtains from the floor when the aforementioned piece of mail popped out. Now we can afford to pay for a looming  car insurance bill. Or new curtains. Or a door to the front room - the baby gate works for the dogs, but not a curious kitten with springs in her legs.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Deported to Canada

I HAVE CANADIAN citizenship. I was born in Philadelphia, PA, but moved to Nova Scotia before I was 2. I lived there, in Montreal and in London, Ontario, for 14 years before moving to Michigan in 1980.

The Canadian government recognizes dual citizenship. The United States does not. I have no plans to move back to Canada, unless I say something negative about our new president.

So I won't do that. I mean, it's just too easy. And Kellyanne Conway misspells her first name on purpose.

I'm sure there are many reasons I could be deported ....

1. I still occasionally say "eh."
2. I still love the Habs, er, the Montreal Canadiens.
3. I still pine for a cold Canadian beer.
4. I have a Canadian flag resting inside an empty Coors bottle on my desk. Colorado and Canada are beauty ways to go, eh?
5. I think Bob and Doug McKenzie should move here and be president and vice president. Or press secretaries.
6. At one time, I actually thought Chilliwack was a great band. That's enough to get your banned to outer space, let alone from the United States.
7. Canada's national anthem is beautiful. The "Star Spangled Banner" pales in comparison and is really hard to sing.
8. I have mixed feelings when Canada plays the United States in any sport. Especially hockey.
9. I still have a lot of family living in Canada, and they are not happy with the way our election turned out.
10. I still think football is goofy here in the United States. It isn't real football unless you have only three downs, the field has a 55-yard line, and you get a point if you miss a field goal and the other team doesn't return the ball.

Relax, Kellyanne. I'm not being critical of your or our country. It's a great place to live and I pledge allegiance to it all the time. Beauty, eh?


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bob Havens and keyboard stands



IT'S NOT EVERY day a world famous musician with his own Wikipedia page buys a keyboard stand from Second String Music. So it was our honor and privilege to meet Quincy legend Bob Havens Wednesday.

In case you don't know Bob, well, he's one of the finest trombone players in the world. Yup, the world. Take Lawrence Welk's word for it, if you want proof. Click here to read more about Bob and his amazing musical career.

The recent Washington Theater concert to honor Bob was a huge success in Quincy. Now he's teaming up Jeff Schuecking and others for a Dixie Dads project - more info on that later. He's an inspiration to musicians every year, and age simply doesn't matter. Just keep blowing that horn!

Bob couldn't have been more unassuming and gracious in hour store. In fact, Sheryl only recognized him after he gave us a check to pay for his keyboard stand. We normally don't accept checks, but Sheryl had no problem taking one from Bob.

After all, anybody who played for Lawrence Welk for more than 20 years is good for it! And thank you, Mr. Havens, for humouring me with a photo.



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pre-Thanksgiving bash at SSM

EVERY YEAR ON the last Saturday before Thanksgiving, Second String Music hosts a Pre-Thanksgiving Store Party. Two years ago it coincided with my 50th birthday. Fast Eddie and Angus, the party sponsors, tell us it was epic.

We do it for a couple of reasons. The most important is to remember our good friend, Pat Cornwell, owner of Vegas Music. Pat passed away six years ago about this time of year - hard to believe it's been that long. At about 6 Saturday night, we'll raise a shot of Southern Comfort in his memory and tell a few stories - I miss The Funions practicing in the back of Vegas Music. Man, those were good times!

The other reason is because we are a small business that can't really compete with all the Black Friday specials. We will have 10% off everything in the store this Saturday and that is how we thank our loyal customers and get ready for the Christmas shopping season. 

We open at 10 Saturday morning and the party starts at 9:58 a.m. We'll be jamming in the afternoon and we have acoustic performances lined up from Ted Holt and Pete Magliocco, The Cheeseburgers, The Fuller Band and more. It's kid-friendly until 6 p.m. and there's no charge, of course. Bring your own beverages, and the fridge will be open as usual.

Christmas is coming, so you may as well get ready with a Fifth and Maine celebration!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Does Walmart even have guitar strings?

WE JUST HAD an older guy come in and look for guitar strings. We should have known something was up when he said he wanted acoustic strings for his vintage 1960s Les Paul. You know, an electric guitar. He insisted on getting acoustic strings. Fine. The customer is always right.

He wasn't happy about the price of our strings. "I should just go to Walmart and buy a set for five bucks," he groused.

Now. You can do many things in Second String Music. You can question prices, or wonder about certain items being in stock, ask to consign your old cymbal, or even question the sanity of opening a music store. You can complain about cats and dogs being in the store. You can bitch about us not carrying Fenders, Martins and Gibsons. We understand.

But mention Walmart in our store? Or buying it online after trying it out here?

Nope. Nope. NOPE.

Sheryl calmly took the strings out of his hand and said, "Well, you should go to Walmart then." And that was that. He left quickly and I presume he went across town.

Does Walmart even have guitar strings? I wouldn't know. It's been a long time since I've shopped at Walmart.

We get tons of great customers in our store and we love helping them. But I could write a book about some of the more interesting people who have wandered into Second String Music. Like the guy who started cursing like a sailor when he was told our awesome Kyser capos were $20. "I suppose you gotta make a living," he grumbled.

Nah. We are just doing this for fun, and to have Happy Hour on Fridays, and huge store parties like the one we are having this Saturday. Let the good times roll, baby. The mortgage on our historic Fifth and Maine building will pay itself.

Bombs dropping in Second String Music
Then there was the young man who started a "Let's get a Guitar Center in Quincy" petition. That didn't go over very well with us, though it was laughably silly to think about - Quincy isn't big enough, and Guitar Center has trouble keeping its stores open where they are, much less in our little town in the middle of nowhere. Eventually the guy came in and apologized. Then he asked if we could make a donation to a charity he was maybe sort of possibly supporting. "Heavy sigh," I said. "Heavy heavy HEAVY sigh."

We have a lot of local musicians who have supported us, and a lot of people we've made happy with affordable instruments and great service. So that's what I'm thinking about.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta call Frank Haxel and tell him to get us some "supplies" for our big store bash Saturday. All I know is, he ain't going to Walmart for those supplies.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Room road trip



I LIVED TO tell about a road trip with Greg Ellery, which must be worth something. We headed to Michigan and then to Chicago over the weekend, and ended up at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival. Greg, as you all know, had a role in the legendary cult film The Room, and he appeared in a mockumentary about The Room. He's the guy in the upper right hand corner. So he's, you know, famous.

"Wait a second ... I recognize you. You were in The Room!" Yes, this sentence was actually uttered a couple of times. On Sunday we stopped in Macomb and my daughter, Emily, said, "WHAT? You were IN The Room?" Fame has its price, I guess.

The mockumentary was very good. There were another 10 films or so, all excellent. Then there was a Q&A at the end, and Greg was in the same line as Jane Lynch, among others. She's actually taller in real life. It was awesome.

As usual, the educational aspects of the adventure were the best parts. I learned that it costs about $10 to use the Chicago Skyway. Whoever Dan Ryan was, I bet he was congested, because the Dan Ryan Expressway is frighteningly congested. Rogers Park is very cool, as is the Flatts & Sharpes music store, located across from the theater. Walking is en vogue around Loyola University, and it's easy to get lost at midnight looking for Lakeshore Drive.

And you can always, ALWAYS, get stuck in traffic on I-55. Especially when it's a few miles north of Joliet, and it's 1 in the morning, and there are guys jack-hammering concrete all over the place, and traffic is reduced to one lane. Hey! Why just have traffic jams during the day when you can make life interesting at night?

So it was a blast, and I will do it again someday, if and when Greg stars in another movie and gains even more cult status.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Affordable health care

MANY PEOPLE VOTED against Hillary and for Trump because of Obamacare, or, the Affordable Care Act. Premiums are going up. People are mad. So they voted for Trump, who says he will repeal the ACA.

If it wasn't for the ACA, Second String Music would not be in business, period. Sheryl is a Type 1 diabetic and we are not be able to afford regular health insurance. Many of the Type I diabetics she talks with online are also worried about the future of their health insurance. A lot of this is because many of Trump's ideas have no detail. Fear of the unknown can be the worst.

We got married five years ago and I put her on my Herald-Whig insurance, and the premium was not great. I am not blaming my employer at the time, I think they did the best they could to keep costs down.

In November 2013 we were able to price our health insurance through the Marketplace. We realized it was way cheaper, and had vastly better coverage with lower premiums, we jumped in. And we haven't regretted it a bit.

Yesterday Sheryl re-enrolled us. Yes, our costs have jumped. But it's still cheaper than what I was paying five years ago. A lot cheaper. And a lot better.

I am willing to give our new President a chance. But if the ACA is abolished, he and his Republican buddies better come up with something that works and is affordable.

Otherwise, there is no Second String Music. And I fear the same fate would apply to many others.

At the heart of all this is that I don't think Trump gives two bleeps about small business, I really don't.

God help us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Politics and rear ends

POLITICAL OPINIONS ARE like rear ends. Everybody has one, and there is no need to be too loud about it. Also, everything comes out in the end, or through the end.

Angus still has a cutie butt.
So this morning the sun came up and the dogs and I had a beautiful walk through Woodland Cemetery. Fast Eddie is chasing bugs, Angus is chasing Fast Eddie, and I'm excited about playing at the Maine Center tonight for the Thanks To You event.

Sheryl and I had a great visit to Grown N Gathered before we opened the store, and owner Michele made us a fabulous blend of coffee called "Thankful." We still live in the greatest country in the world, no matter how screwed up we make it.

It's going to be a veeeerrrrrryyy interesting next four years. They won't be dull, that's for sure. Sheryl and I are terrified because if the Affordable Care Act ends, there is no more Second String Music. It is THAT important to our lives.

So we'll wait and see. And it will all come out through the end.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Early voting call

DALE WAACK GREW up across the street from Woodland Cemetery in Quincy. He lives in Iowa now. He had a great Facebook post about past elections days .... so here you go, and stay outta the bars until after you vote. Although, with the way this election has gone, maybe we need to stop in the local pub for a pint or 10 to help make up our minds .... Right. Anyway, I voted this morning, and I hope you did too, and during our morning walk in Woodland I swear I heard a voice say, "Here ye, here ye. The polls are now open!"

Here is Dale's post. He lived on Monroe a few houses up from Fifth. The shed he's referring to was replaced some years ago in the same spot.

As the chaos of this campaign finally draws to a close for some reason I am reflecting back on a simpler time when elections would occur. I grew up in an old primarily German section of Quincy, Illinois, proudly designated as "Calf Town". The only thing between our house and the Mississippi River was Woodland Cemetery, a 500 foot bluff and an old paper mill right along the river. The maintenance garage for the cemetery, a quarter block away, served as the poling place for our precinct.

On election day at 6:00 AM the person in charge of the polling station would walk out to the street, ring a bell, and holler "Here ye, Here ye, the polls are now open"! At 6:00 PM the same a actions would be repeated only this time announcing that the polls were closed. Absentee ballots were for those who for real reasons were unable to vote on election day and early voting had not yet been invented.

I'm sure my parents were some of the first to vote as dad liked to do it before going to work and not have to wait in line later in the afternoon. In Illinois the taverns and liquor stores were closed on election day until 6:00 PM when the polls were closed thus preventing supporters of a candidate from buying a few too many rounds and then hauling someone off to the polls with instructions on who to vote for. (Voter fraud is nothing new.)

During my high school years I realized that next to his drivers license, the most important paper in my dad's wallet was his voter registration card, possibly from having fought in WW 2 in order to preserve the freedom to vote. Dad really valued his vote!!! Politics was not a common topic around the dinner table when I was growing up. I know dad liked Ike, but can imagine him being a pre Johnson era Democrat. Were he alive today, this may be the first election in which he would not vote as neither candidate would DESERVE his valued vote. Hmmm.......Interesting concept.


Dale Waack
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Monday, November 7, 2016

Everybody loves a parade

FOR THE SECOND straight year, our little jam band Pepper Spray played in the annual Veteran's Day Parade down Maine Street. We gathered Saturday morning at 14th and Maine, warmed up a bit, then rocked it all way to Fifth Street. Gosh, what great fun!

Joining us again was Steve Stoner, co-founder of Six String Heroes in St. Louis and a Quincy native. "I don't know any of the songs," he said. "Neither do we," I said. "Three chords and the truth, baby."

Pepper Spraying our way down Maine Street!
Thank you, Frank Haxel, for your unwavering support of Six String Heroes and for putting together the float. Thank you, Adam Yates, for the PA system and unbridled enthusiasm for playing music. Thank you, Justin Sievert and Adam Duesterhaus, for playing Saturday and for making it more fun than you should be allowed to have. Thank you, guys from Tournear Roofing, for driving us, and thank you, all the kind folks from Vancil Performing Arts, for walking with us.

Playing on a parade float is interesting, because so much stuff is going on around you, but you have to at least make an attempt to play the song and stay in the moment. I looked up and saw so many familiar faces, and before I knew it that G chord was botched into an H chord, and so forth. That's the thing about Pepper Spray - it's the original Second String Music jam band. We never practice, we never will, and we just want to play and have some fun, and it always works.

One thing is for sure - we'll never play before that many people again, until next year's parade, anyway. Quincyans lined the streets and showed great appreciation for the men and women of our military.

Adam Yates is a Marine veteran, so even I got into the Toby Keith patriotic stuff - you couldn't help it, knowing where Adam has come from, and especially because he's a law enforcement officer in a really uncertain world. Yup, even in little old Quincy, Illinois.

Sheryl was in the store and said we were really loud coming up to Fifth and Maine. It was probably because of the tall buildings forming a sound canyon. This morning I saw a local news clip of interviews during the parade, and you could barely hear the people being interviewed. But you could hear Pepper Spray belting out Folsom Prison Blues!

What a great morning, and God bless our military and the men and women who have made it happen and given so much.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jamalama Friday

WE ARE HAVING a jam session Friday afternoon at Second String Music. We don't do them much anymore - it seems like there is always something going on and we're too busy. This is the first weekend in forever I haven't had a show, road trip or something going on.

Hogwash! We should never be too busy to jam. Here are some reasons we are doing it Friday ....

- The fridge will be wide open.
- Cubbies!
- We might have new bad country songs everybody can play. Three chords and the truth, baby. Beyonce.
- Colder weather is coming, meaning Washington Park is a lot nicer and quieter.
- We can warm up for the always-epic store party before Thanksgiving. This year it is Saturday, Nov. 19. I'm lining up some really good music and we will toast our late and great friend, Pat Cornwell and the inimitable Luckycat Vegas.
- The Vortex Of Crazy is nearly over. To put it simply, this time of year always has strange stuff going on.
- Strange stuff includes next Tuesday's election. I. Am. Tired. Of. It. Stick a sock in it, shillers and drillers. I've gone deaf and I don't care. But I'll remember who lied and who got stupid in the stretch run, and that includes the local races.
- We are celebrating my CMA Award. That's right, MY award. It's for "Having No Idea Who That Was lip-synching with the Dixie Chicks." I will polish it up and have it on display.
- It's fun! We get players of all kinds and all skill levels. Strum and hum along - we don't care. We're just ja-ja-ja jamming.
- Why not?
- Fast Eddie approves. Nuff said.

Just a few things to remember - please bring your own instruments and refreshments. This is acoustic and we generally don't plug in. Kazoos are encouraged. And no death metal medleys or emo. You can just hang out, too! Fast Eddie would love it.

See you Friday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Game 7 tonight? If I can stay awake

SO THE CUBBIES are playing game seven of the World Series tonight. Good for them. I actually watched a couple of innings last night but fell asleep after Chicago grabbed a big league.

Cubs fans, and there are a lot of them around here, are die-hards. I'm sure Sheryl's dad will be watching tonight. Cub followers have been through it all. I hope Chicago wins tonight, I really do. Especially against a team from a state south of Michigan.

If the Cubbies do win, I pray the city doesn't burn down. Thank God it's in Cleveland - if Chicago clinched World Series at home, well, I shudder to think what might happen in the city. Celebration is fine and it's a huge deal, but some people can't mix the booze and the bender. No matter what happens tonight, Chicago's finest will be busy, and I wish them more than anybody the best of luck.

So. Go Cubs Go. It's a great story, and I might watch a few innings tonight. If I can stay awake.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It's not that bad

I JUST GOT back from my annual physical. Everything still works. It was a good visit, and my physician, Dr. Rick Noble of Quincy Medical Group, is the best.

I should just leave it at that. But last week, a couple of women who work at a local TV station had mammograms and decided to make it part of the morning show. I didn't see it, but it was on the internet so it must be true.

It's a good thing to get checked for breast cancer. Awareness is huge. So if they can do it, I will take this opportunity for all three people who read this blog and tell them if you are a man and you are 50 or older, get yourself checked for prostate cancer.

According to my online sources, one of the TV women's mammogram results were unveiled live on the air. So I feel entirely comfortable telling you all about my prostate exam this morning.

Actually, I don't, other than to say everything checked out and I'm fine. I kept thinking of Fletch. And I feel better about being done with the physical.

Prevention is the cure, my friends. Any of this "I don't like to visit the doctor" or "I'm not comfortable with that kind of thing" is crap. People who do that are the ones that live in regret when they find something wrong later. If they live at all.

My insurance plan means I get up to three wellness visits a year with my family physician. I'd be a fool not to take advantage of it. I've been paying health insurance premiums for a gazillion years and I'm not about to apologize for going once a year to make sure everything is OK.

BTW, if you are easily offended by watching this tremendous Family Guy clip, well. Good. You probably need to get checked out.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sports and good people

IT WAS REALLY cool to go back in time and be a simple sports writer again. I went up to Camp Point Saturday afternoon and watched Central play Carrollton in a Class 1A state playoff football game. Sadly for Central, they were routed by a really good Carrollton team, 48-0.

Covering blowouts is never easy. You have to find an angle or get an idea to write the story, because recapping a lopsided game isn't fun. Fortunately, the two coaches made it easy.

Carrollton coach Tim Flowers is an impressive man. He gathered his team at midfield and had the parents and fans who made the long trip surround the team. He recapped the game and gave his players credit for a great effort. Then he made his seniors stand in the middle of the circle, and each one gave a very short but direct statement - what a great way to recognize kids, and make them own the moment.

Then I tracked down Central coach Brad Dixon -  he and his team have faced a lot of adversity this year, from injuries to the illness of his young daughter. Whig sports writer Mat Mikesell had a great story about him a few weeks ago, click here. Coach Dixon addressed his team calmly after the game, then held his child in his arms and got hugs from family, players, coaches and fans.

When I went up to him, he said, "Thank you for coming out and covering our game."

Wow. It might not seem like much, but think about it for a second - your season has just ended and you just got thumped at home in the playoffs. Yet he remained composed and gracious and kept it all in perspective.

What a class act. Central is fortunate to have him. I hope he can decompress and actually spend some time with his family now - most of us have no idea of the hours and how hard it is to coach at any level.

Also, thanks to the staff at Camp Point and friendly guys in the press box. It was a nice experience. Writing about a game is just like "falling off a bike," as former Quincy University guard Jay Driscoll once said. I hope I get to ride it again!




Friday, October 28, 2016

Back in the press box

I'VE BEEN WORKING a night or two in sports at The Herald-Whig this fall. It's been a lot of fun. Basically I'm just working on the desk, taking a few calls, writing some short stories, and helping the younger reporters. Whig sports guys David Adam and Matt Schuckman have been very good to me.

Saturday I fall off the sports guy truck and am covering a high school playoff football game in Camp Point. It comes almost exactly 18 years to the day I last wrote about a prep gridiron contest. It was Oct. 31, 1998, in Rushville. I think the home team lost, from what I barely remember. I do recall hurrying back to Quincy from Rushville to see Emily in her Halloween costume, then spending the next seven hours at the office. I worked about 20 hours the day before. It's a wonder I lasted as long as I did in sports.

Going to football games was one of my favorite things to do as a sports guy. There is nothing like the feeling you get on a crisp fall Friday night, driving up to the field and seeing the lights. Saturday afternoon is supposed to be gorgeous, and I'll miss the lights, but the feeling of going to a game and knowing there is a lot of excitement in the air is unmatched.

From what I've been told, you still get four downs to make a first down, a touchdown is still worth six points, and there is no instant replay at the high school level. I have never gone to a Camp Point Central High School football game, so it's all new and intriguing to me. I do know Brad Dixon is the Central coach and is respected around here for turning the Panthers into a really good program.

Best of luck to all of our area teams - Quincy High School has a home playoff game Saturday too. Go Blue Devils! It will be a blast getting back to the field and press box, talking to coaches and players after the game, and writing it all up.

You can take the boy outta sports, but you can't take the sports outta the boy.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Teal Pumpkin event a winner

SECOND STRING MUSIC is proud to be part of Saturday's Teal Pumpkin event in Washington Park. It's sponsored by The District and Quincy Medical Group. It's a great alternative to traditional Halloween candy grabs, though I love grabbing candy, too.

It's simple. Come to Washington Park between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday to participate in the festivities. It's free. You can can download a form on the website here, or sign up when you get to the park. Bring a non-candy item to give away. Fun stuff like picks, a small toy, stickers, etc.

We are one of many stores in The District to participate, and we have a bag full of fun non-candy items to give to your kids when they trick or treat downtown Saturday. Plus there's entertainment in the Washington Park gazebo, a parade, and it's the last farmer's market event of the season.

As usual, Fifth and Maine is the place to be on a busy Saturday morning. Come on down and enjoy our downtown and have some fun in the park.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fasting means going slow

SHERYL IS ROCKING her low-carb diet. She has Type 1 Diabetes and takes her health very seriously, and has to be careful about what she eats. This means a lot of steak, bacon, eggs, fresh vegetables, full fat dairy/cheese, butter, avocado, mushrooms and the dreaded salad. They are all things we can eat together.

This is good for me, too. Avoiding bread, pasta, rice and other carbs in general makes me feel better. When I make hamburgers, I don't need a bun. I've ended my addiction to Nutty Bars, finally. I rarely buy ice cream. These are choices I make, and Sheryl doesn't care if I eat them or not, but it's nice to support her and be good to myself.

Of course I'm still addicted to chips and Peanut M&Ms. My brother will second the theory that Hart boys don't so much as eat a bag of Doritos as we demolish them. So I try to eat those away from Sheryl, or not eat them at all.

Lately Sheryl has been learning to fast, called Intermittent Fasting. It is a way to test her basal insulin dosage and change her weight set-point. It is also very good at keeping her blood sugar even more stable. Dr Jason Fung's "Obesity Code" has been her guide. He has a new book out now called "Complete Guide to Fasting". Both are good reads according to Sheryl.

LCHF food pyramid, Delicious
I respect her desire to improve her always difficult health. She does a lot of research and she challenges her own short-sighted physicians on the benefits of low carb, healthy fat, moderate protein way of eating for good blood sugar control. Sheryl is active on the TypeOneGrit facebook page which has helped her through many of the challenges of this way of eating.

She is always talking to people about changing their diet and making smart food choices. She also blogs about her struggles at Distractions from Death. Be warned, she has a strange sense of humour and a doctor that hates her way of eating. Doctors also hate using U in humour. GUH.

Last night she was 23 hours into a second fast, so I made dinner for myself and ate it upstairs in the recently refurnished man-cave. Unfortunately I didn't clean up until I was done eating, and when I came back down Sheryl had already taken care of it. Cleaning up my food preparation, however, caused her to get hungry and break her fast, and I felt awful about it.

"Don't get bummed out. It's live and learn and we just have to do better," she said.

It's true. If this can actually get me to mend my life-long slobby kitchen ways, then it's yet another benefit.

Low carb rocks. We are learning to roll with it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Go Cubbies or Indians - let me know who wins

I AM NOT a baseball fan. I lost my appetite for the big leagues many years ago. I have been to one Major League game in 20-plus years, and it was because of free tickets. So I really couldn't care less about the World Series.

I used to be a huge baseball fan. Then came the strike of 1994, when my beloved Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays were the two-time defending World Series champs. My father says he has a good memory, it's just short. Well, I'm the opposite. I have a bad memory. But it's long. The last time I watched all nine innings of a baseball game on television was 1993.
Memes abound.

The Cubs, of course, are the story, and it's a good one. For the team, the city and their many long-suffering fans, this is a magic ride and I hope they enjoy it. Sheryl hates baseball (and 108 is not her lucky number! She finds it hilarious), but her father is a huge Cubs fans so I imagine he'll be watching. I can't even name one player for Cleveland, unless LeBron James plays for the baseball team, too.

I might watch a few innings if it's close, or if I have insomnia. I will turn the TV volume off and listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer, who call the games on the radio and have a sense of humor, and know everything there is to know about the game without being condescending. I listened to a few games on long road trips home from Mackers and other adventures, and they made the trips easier.

So, Go Cubs Go, and yes, it's happening. Let me know how it turns out if I don't catch the last game.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Josie the Mouser

Sweet Josie!
WE HAVE A new member of the Hart family in Calftown. Her name is Josie. She weighs slightly more than a feather. She's three or four months old. She has long legs and is not afraid of dogs. She isn't a cat, really. She's a "Mouser." And that's why she's hanging out in the hood.

We have mice in our old German house. Sheryl has set traps and we've caught a few. A long time ago, Lucy, the late and great Queen of Calftown, caught a mouse or two in the house and there was a great deal of banging and clanging and screaming and ultimately praise heaped on a super smart Border Collie. She was the greatest dog ever.

Unfortunately, our three current dogs are not mousers and only play with the mice after they've been caught in the trap. We can't have that. So now we have Josie and all the mouse glue traps need to be removed.

Josie did not take long to fit in. She sat on the top of the couch, surveyed her new kingdom, and very calmly said, "Where is my litter box?" Sheryl took her into the basement, and Josie has been spending some serious time down there. This morning she was playing with something by the litter box - we hope it's a mouse. Or, more exactly, was a mouse.

Josie comes to us from Sheryl's sister, who found the cat on her porch and of course couldn't bear to leave her outside. And then, of course, she convinced Sheryl that we needed a mouser. Or did Sheryl convince Stephanie that we needed a mouser.....  Either way, we have Josie the Mouser.

So. Josie is settling right in, the three dogs are mildly interested but generally leave her alone, and Calftown has once again gone to the dogs. And cat. Um, I mean, mouser.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Coach Connell and tonight's big game

CONGRATULATIONS TO QUINCY Notre Dame football coach Bill Connell, recently selected as a finalist for the U.S. Cellular Most Valuable Coach award. Coach Connell is one of 15 finalists from around the country. This is a huge deal, and I'm going to vote for him, and I hope he wins the whole dang thing.

I have a lot of respect for Coach Connell. First of all, he's a huge reason our Quincy Gus Macker continues to thrive. His football team shows up every Memorial Day Weekend to help us with set up and tear down, and I'm never so glad in my life as I am Sunday afternoon when the Raiders arrive to help us with the final push. They. Get. It. Done. Period.

Coach Connell is a character, with his booming voice. But you know one thing about him as soon as you meet him - he demands respect and doesn't tolerate foolishness. You might be the star player on the team, but if you don't follow the rules or if you goof around, well .... you'll look good from the bench.

Secondly, Coach Connell has impacted young lives for years at QND. Look, my daughter went to Quincy High School and her Blue Devils had some epic girls basketball games against Notre Dame - name the last time Quincy High School beat QND in girls hoops (hint, it was when Emily was a sophomore, it was in a regional semifinal game in Springfield, and it was nine years ago). So I'm not vested at Notre Dame, but I respect the school and the fact they represent Quincy.

Actually, I think Rick Little should also be nominated for this award, given the incredible job he's done for the QHS football program. It looks like the Blue Devils will host a first-round playoff game next week and it's great to see them get state-wide respect - winning a Western Big 6 title will do it for you.

Tonight is the big QHS vs. QND football game at 10th and Jackson. The place will be packed and I'm sure emotions will run high. But keep it all in perspective, and remember that this is high school athletics, not the freaking Super Bowl.

Best of luck to all the players and coaches. It doesn't matter who you cheer for - we all win, with such great coaches and leaders.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's a small, small world

I HAD MORE fun than should be allowed hanging out with Professor Emily Hart Tuesday at Western Illinois University. I did a very poor Elvis imitation but the discussion about Elvis and his impact on music and culture in general went over well with the students, I think.

The Rev. Wally Carlson made the trip over from Canton, Ill., to watch. Emily ended up getting him talk to the kids for a few minutes - he actually met Elvis once in Nashville and he remembers seeing Elvis on television, and how his parents and older people in general feared and loathed Elvis.

Wally was a pastor of a Quincy church for many years and we had some musical and worship adventures, specifically with our U2charist services with Rev. Bob Morwell and the young people of his church. Gosh, those were fun and powerful experiences.

Wally's son, Nick, just got a job in Michigan working at a theater. Emily asked Wally the name of the town. "Ah, you probably never heard of it. It's called Alpena," Wally said.

Well, we have heard of Alpena. In fact, Emily was born there. In fact, I spent seven years as sports editor of The Alpena News newspaper, and they were great years. Oh, to be that young and dumb again! I'm sure Nick is much smarter than I was at that age - Alpena is a beautiful place to live, as long as you can shrug off the long winters, and the people up there were good to me. I still have friends up there and somebody I'll get back for a visit, I hope. Nick picked a great place to start the ride, that's for sure.

Small world, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dogs and commercials in Washington Park

IT'S A GOOD thing when Chris Kelley of Table 16 Productions walks into the store and says, "I have to wear a dog costume for a commercial we are shooting. Can I use your back room to change?"

Chris and Victoria Kelley are the most creative and outside-the-box people we have ever met. I recently watched the video they did for Second  String Music a few years ago and it never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, Chris and Victoria were in Washington Park yesterday afternoon, shooting a commercial for Farm & Home. I won't let the cat (or dog) out of the bag, but it involved a dog reading a newspaper.

I got to help by being a body double so Chris could position the camera and lights, and by blocking the sun and keeping a dog food bag in the shade. They could have asked some of the Outside People - they were out in force yesterday, but fortunately on the other side of the park.

Watching them work and watching our video gets us fired up about having a jam session at the store. We don't do them all that much anymore. So, here it is - Friday, Nov. 4, 4 p.m. until .... whenever.

And don't forget about our store party on Saturday, Nov. 19. We'll have a jam session, a performance by one of Quiincy's best bands (details coming) and all kinds of food, fun and mayhem.

It's enough to make us say .... "WOOF."