Friday, April 29, 2016

By ear or by Snark, I'll tune it myself

THERE IS A new product floating around which promises to tune your guitar automatically. All you have to do is program it, plug it in, put the winder on the tuner, and let it go to work.

Great, right? Wrong.

First of all, it costs $100, plus shipping and handling, plus I'm sure you can get an upgrade on the warranty for just a few bucks more. But wait! There's more! You also get a free set of Gizmo Cutting Knives!

Secondly, by the time you hook it all up and figure it all out, you could already tune 10 guitars.

And lastly, the human ear doesn't lie.

I'm all about using technology to make music. I have a Boss digital recording studio which is a blast to use. Second String Music has  Boss floor tuners for noisy stages. We have guitar amps that make huge sounds and replace half stacks. We have beautiful Dean, Luna, Takamine and Breedlove acoustic guitars with tuners built into them. I have a Bose L1 sound system for acoustic gigs.

But whatever happened to tuning by ear? Probably went the way of telephone land lines.

I use a Snark tuner most of the time. It costs 85 percent less than the Gizmo Tuner of Doom. You clip it on the end of your guitar and it's easy to use. It takes less than 30 seconds to lock in your tuning. You have to pay attention and know your notes to use it.

And we have them here at Second String Music, which means you are supporting a small local business, not some dubious online operation.

I'm always getting in tune with the straight and narrow at Fifth and Maine. Swing on by and I'll play you a tune, in tune, and show you how easy it is. We can show you to tune by ear, as well.

And that's sweet music to our ears!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rain, mad weather guys and no rain

THE STORMS LAST night were impressive. Tucker and Angus didn't think so - Tucker huddled under the bedroom table and Angus wouldn't leave my side, then snuggled next to Sheryl all night. It's a dog's life and we just live in it.

I got a huge kick out of watching Rich Cain do updates on KHQA. We rarely watch TV, especially network TV, but Rich did a very good job of explaining what the storms were doing and where they were headed. The best part was when somebody told him a few viewers weren't happy he was interrupting their show. "Gosh darn it!" Rich said. "People need to know!" He's right, and I'm so sorry you couldn't watch "Survivor", "Nashville" or "NCIS Marbelhead" or some other idiotic and brain-sapping show.

Go get 'em, Rich.

We are praying for dry weather. This weekend is Dogwood Festival in Quincy and we need the skies to be clear and the weather to be fair. So I'm asking the Spirit in the Sky for a favor. It will be dry tomorrow at 11:30 when Avenue Beat kicks off our Concerts In The Plaza, but Saturday is a bit iffy for the parade and the evening concert.

Rain rain, stay away. We'll be here at Fifth and Maine, regardless, and the party will go on, but it sure would be nice to enjoy the show in good weather. Please?

The dogs would appreciate it, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our garden is buff, but not done in the buff

MAY 7 IS World Naked Gardening Day. I am not making it up. Click here for the official website, but be warned - there are pictures of naked people gardening.

Here's a quote from a free-swinging gardener which pretty much sums it up.

"When you're out there with a gentle breeze on you, every last hair on your body feels it. You feel completely connected with the natural word in a way you just can't in clothes."

Ah men. A Double Men.

It's a good thing I'm not a childish moron with a closed mind, or else I'd be throwing out phrases like "planting my seeds" and "watch where you drag that rake" and "I'd like to till your earth RIGHT NOW." See? Get your mind out of the gutter! Just because you are naked does not mean you can let your mind wander and turn 12 years old. Again. And again.

Being naked means being free and one with nature, and I'm all about that. True, you can't really put your gloves in your pockets, and if you are wearing a hat, are you truly naked? But I don't want to pish posh on the whole au naturale gardening thing.

Fortunately in Calftown, there is no such thing as observing Naked Gardening Day. Sheryl and I just got done planting our backyard garden and believe me, clothing was not optional. The mosquitoes made sure of that. It was a beautiful day in the sun and a lot of hard work - my arms feel like jelly after using the tiller, and Sheryl had to go to the chiropractor yesterday for her neck and shoulder. But we got it done and it looks like a real garden, and Sheryl will have a lot of fun tending to it this summer - probably barefoot, cause she likes to be a little naked - while I watch her work. With my clothes on. Of course.

The moral of this story is to keep your shirt on while you garden. Or not. Just make sure you use a lot of sunscreen if you don't, including down by your .... Geesh. Never mind. My mind is wandering again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sales tax money for the mall? Really?

THE QUINCY CITY Council is about to consider a request by the owner of the Quincy Mall for sales tax money. The mall owners wants to refurbish the space formerly occupied by JC Penney.

This is NOT a sales tax increase. Good lord, please don't let me read anymore insipid comments on Facebook posts. I don't need the blood pressure to shoot up that high.

Here's the Herald-Whig take on it. The mall owner is doing more than $4 million in renovations. Cullinan Properties wants 75 percent of the 1 percent non-home rules sales tax generated by retailers in space it leases, instead of 50 percent in select space if an amended mall redevelopment agreement is approved by the City Council.

If the Peoria-based owner finds its Target or whatever it wants to put in there, they'd get more than $400,000 a year, the paper reported.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the mall employs a lot of people and generates a lot of sales tax money. The owners are putting a lot of money into fixing up the space.

There are a lot of hard-working small business owners who have their shingles on Broadway. It has huge traffic. If you can afford the rent, more power to you.

On the other hand, I hate Broadway. I will brave it to get new shoes or Jimmy John's, but I don't go to the mall unless it's a Pepper Spray gig for charity or there is absolutely no other choice. I'm a downtown guy. I'm biased.

There is an overall picture here and I'm just not sure I want to see it, at least not from the corner of Fifth and Maine.

There are downtown programs to help small businesses - Sheryl and I attended the District's facade program meeting last week and it was interesting. We got a loan from the city when we bought our building. I believe the city is behind us down here. Nothing is free - you have to match grants and pay back loans at a very low interest rate, but the programs help.

How about this - I need a big chunk of change to fix our elevator in the historic Dodd Building at Fifth and Maine. Then I need another stash of cash to renovate the third, fourth and fifth floors. And put a garden on the roof.

Can we have a percentage of the sales tax from downtown businesses? I'm saving history, providing a big chunk of change for the tax base and just generally improving life at Fifth and Maine.

Maybe I'll stick an Olive Garden or Red Lobster or Cookie Cutters With Huge Prices up on the third floor just to really get people excited. Pffffft.

The most frustrating part is that we are not a nameless and faceless corporation from three hours away which owns a big chunk of prime real estate in town. So I'm probably not qualified to get the sales tax money. Right?

Anyway, cheers to us downtown, and let me know how that whole mall deal turns out. I'm not going out there.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jamming at The Club

I WAS RIDING my bike last night and ran into Jon Barnard, AKA Johnny B, slide guitar player of doom.

"Heading to The Club tonight for the blues jam," he said. "You should come."

I've tried to get over to The Club on Sunday nights. By that time I'm usually comatose from either watching too much golf or from running numerous errands. I'm not very good at being spontaneous, but last night I figured, what the heck?

Sheryl and I got the garden ready yesterday, so I could either lay around and feel my back protest, or actually do something. Sheryl encouraged me to go. "Endorphins kick in when you play. You'll feel better," she said. Of course she is right.

So I went to The Club. The Matt Roberts Blues Band is the house band on Sunday nights, and the first set was amazing. There was a big crowd and they were really into it. There is nothing fancy about The Club, and that's one of the best parts. It has one long room with the bar at one end and the musicians on the other. There's no stage, just the boys in the back, jamming away.

Johnny B played a few songs in the first set with the band, which features Matt Roberts, Mike Carter, Shawn Buckner and Pete Magliocco. Matt invited me to kick off the second set, and that's when it really heated up.

We got ready to start and I looked to my right, and lo and behold, Cheeks McGee was standing there with a trumpet. That's the best part about a jam night - you never know who will turn up and who will be playing at any one time.

There was a man and woman from out of town who got up and smoked through a bunch of songs, and Toussaint Smith was entertaining, as always. We capped the night with another raucous jam and it was more fun than you should be allowed to have.

Matt Roberts is an incredible guitar player and singer. Big Mike on bass and Shawn on drums are right there and Pete adds to the vibe with his hooting on the trombone.

Playing with those guys is a joy because it's all about spacing and dynamics. Blues lends itself to expression and soul, not just a bunch of noise and hammering out solos.

What a blast. I'll be back. Meanwhile, we get ready for Saturday night's District Street Concert during Dogwood Festival at Fifth and Maine featuring, of all things, The Matt Roberts Blues Band. Matt and the guys will play their hearts out - just like a Sunday night jam at The Club.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Farewell to Prince and the hockey playoffs

YESTERDAY WAS UP and down at Second String Music. The death of Prince put a cloud over the store, but I had a bunch of great guitar lessons and even figured out a few Prince songs. WGEM came over late in the day and put together a very good story about his death and legacy.

Then the Red Wings were ousted from the Stanley Cup playoffs. They coughed up goals late in games 4 and 5, and they played better than their opponents. But hockey, like life, is unfair. At least I won't have to stay up late until mid-June watching games.

Could be worse. Could be a Blues fan. How agonizing is it to be so close and yet so far? They lost in double overtime last night to the hated Chicago Blackhawks, but are still up 3-2 in the series. I'm rooting for them now.

I ran into a die-hard Blues fan this morning who said, "At least the Red Wings have had success. I've been waiting 40 years for the Blues to win the Stanley Cup." After last night, it feels like he might be waiting 40 more.

Maybe the Blues can bounce back Saturday night. You know, because they are still playing.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Angus, birthdays and Facebook dog friends

Jess, Angus' sister who still
lives on the farm
with momma and dad.
ANGUS THE YOUNG turned 2 the other day. He is as irascible, defiant and mischievous as ever. If you don't throw him the ball, he'll turn his Corgi Death Stare upon you and utter his vicious Corgi growl, which is actually his play growl.

We got Angus from a farm near Quincy, Their humans calls this breed Cowboy Corgi. It is a mix of a Corgi (momma, Snickers) and Cattle Dog (dad, Rocco). I will never forget the first day Sheryl brought Angus home, two weeks early. He knocked over my beer and then looked at me as if to say, "Well, this is MY place now."

He had a bunch of brothers and sisters, and after Sheryl posted happy birthday wishes to Angus on Facebook, several of his siblings also chimed in.
Only on Facebook can a post about a dog's birthday go viral and get hundreds of views, likes and comments. It was interesting to see what his brothers and sisters look like a couple of years later - Angus looks more like his Cattle Dog father, while his sisters and brother have the squatter Corgi body of their momma.

I think Angus is happy. Right now I'm in the back room of the store and he's laying right beside me taking a snooze. But a second later he has spotted Fast Eddie, so now there's a lot of chasing and barking and general mayhem - normal stuff on a normal weekday at Second String Music.
Angus' sister
*don't know her name*

Angus' mother, father and sister still live on the farm. One of these days we'll take a trip out there so they can hang out again. And I have no doubt what Angus will tell them.

"It took a while," he will say. "But I finally trained my humans to be just like I want 'em."

Angus our goofball!

Kristoff, Angus' brother.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Throwing away the old sweatshirt

I CLEANED OUT my bedroom closet last night. These urges to organize are getting the better of me, and please don't tell anybody because it could be very bad for my reputation.

Genie chewed up a few hats, shirts and shoes during her short time at the Hart Manor. I reluctantly parted with Six String Heroes and Central Michigan University ball caps. I am keeping a battered pair of running shoes, because the bite marks remind me of Genie and they are still good for mowing the lawn.

Then I found a wadded up Michigan sweatshirt. There is nothing fancy about it. It's gray. It has "Michigan" across the front. The sleeves are frayed and there's a big hole right below the front neckline.

I refused to throw it away because I've had it for a long time. I remember wearing it on a Lake Michigan beach and a Colorado ski hill. Is it wrong to have such an attachment to a ratty old sweatshirt?

Then I remembered I had two or three other sweatshirts with holes. That led to me looking at my T-shirts, and I must have hundreds of them. Some hang in the closet, others are stuffed in trash bags in upstairs closest. Why do I keep them? Are the memories that important?

Yes. No. I mean, uh, yes. YES. I must keep them. I must.

But the old Michigan sweatshirt finally went into the trash bin. Strangely, I felt better about it.

In the back room of Second String Music I must have 10 guitars stacked in a corner. Why? Do I need 10 guitars? No. Do I want 10 guitars? No. Actually, I want 20 guitars. But that's a whole different subject for another time.

My clothes closet is organized. I give it a week, maybe two, and it will be back to its normal disarray. I don't want this whole organized thing to stick, you know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two dogs are just fine

WE ARE BACK to just two dogs at the Hart House in Calftown. About a month ago, our Aussie-mix dog, Genie, went to a new home on a big farm, and she's adapted very well.

Genie when we first got her.
We got Genie last fall as a rescue dog out of Hannibal. Our friend Michael Bayles paid for the adoption fees and we loved her from the start. She's a great dog, friendly and playful, and oh how she loves to run.

During the day she had to stay in a kennel because she ate my stuff when she was bored - computer mice, clothes, remote controls, etc. Sheryl and I spend long hours at the store during the week, and since she really never adapted to coming to the store, she stayed home. Tucker stayed home with her too and missed hanging out in the guitar lesson room.

Sheryl talked to a friend who actually wanted Genie before we got her. The friend planted the seed in Sheryl's mind about Genie being happier on HER farm. As spring arrived and Genie became more insistent about staying outside, we decided to let them try Genie. They live on a 60-acre farm and have three other dogs. Now Genie is outside most of the time and has the run of the place - in other words, she's in dog heaven.

Genie, hanging with her farm family.
Tucker and Angus liked to play with Genie and join in her rambunctious attitude. But it's better for them, too. They can both come to the store now and the family unit seems more cohesive.

Sheryl mentioned the other day that we were happy with just two dogs. Then we were at a party Sunday and we met Stella, an Aussie-Lab mix puppy, and for just a minute I had a pang of regret. Fortunately, it lasted just a second.

Throw Fast Eddie into the mix, and we are a three-pet family. For good.

Monday, April 18, 2016

No worries - it's fixed

YESTERDAY I MOWED our weeds. Well, grass. You gotta love spring in the Q-Town - my Michigan friends are still shoveling snow and my sister in Denver is dealing with an April blizzard. Meanwhile in paradise, I've mowed three times and we spent yesterday afternoon at Bill and Kathleen Bursic's Patio 910 Chili Cookoff, with about 60 of their closest friends. I had to find the shade after a while.

I got the backyard done, but then the mower died. It's fairly new and I wasn't sure what I'd done. It had oil. It had gas. Nothing seemed out of order.

So I did what I do best. I told Sheryl, and sat back and calmly waited.

Sure enough, it took just a few minutes.

"The spark plug cap was disconnected from the engine," she said.

"Do lawn mowers have spark plugs?" I said.

So there you have it. Sheryl fixed it again. I finished mowing the lawn, and discarded the thoughts of wrecking a new mower.

Uh oh. Why doesn't this darn dishwasher turn on? Sheryl ....

Friday, April 15, 2016

The art of playing an album

HARD TO BELIEVE that the best Van Halen album ever, Diver Down, was released almost exactly 34 years ago. Click here to read what Eddie and Dave have to say about the album.

I'm not a huge Van Halen fan but you can't deny turning it up when one of their songs comes on the radio or iPod or CD player. If you are listening to a CD like I am this morning at Second String Music, well, more power to you.

Whether it was with Sammy or with Dave, Van Halen rocked. I have no preference either way. They were a beer-swilling party rock anthem band, and they didn't care what people thought. I remember watching "Jump" for the first time at a friend's house and thinking, "Wow, love the keyboards - these guys have it figured out." I believe it was 1984 and the video was on MTV. Gosh, do I feel old.

There is a lot of debate about Van Halen's best album. You could argue the first record (yeah, record, the shiny round black things) is the best debut album by a band. But I like Diver Down - it has a flow and a synergy to it. Eddie Van Halen is the baddest guitar player around, but his playing on this album is more melodic and subdued - great guitar players know what to play when, and when not to play.

What can you say about a band with a guitar player and drummer who call their dad so he can play dixieland clarinet on a rock album? And Happy Trails just kills me. Throw in Cathedral, Little Guitars, two killer cover songs and Little Guitars, and you have a masterpiece.

Some die-hard Van Halen fans claim Diver Down was hastily recorded (12 days) and complain about the production. What? Do you know who is in this band, and what they do? To me it sounds like spent 12 days hanging out and cranking out great music. You can tell when something is overproduced, and much of today's music is waaaaayyyy overproduced.

I don't know if anybody listens to an entire album anymore. I think you appreciate it more when the whole thing gets played. I think we've lost the art of listening and appreciation. Now days we just buy a single song off iTunes or cue it up on YouTube.

Sheryl just bought Foreigner 4 and The Grand Illusion by Styx and I'm tempted to pop them in the CD player today.

But I gotta cue up Diver Down one more time.






Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fear of Eating noises?

SHERYL HAS SOME issues with smells and noise. We think it might be part of an allergy problem, or perhaps something misfiring. She went to a naturalist nutritionist and chiropractor the other day to get some opinions and have some tests done.

She can't stand the smell of perfume, or cigars. Some strong cooking smells make her queasy. Then there are noises, specifically, The Glomp.

Sheryl suffers from a condition known as mandibleculitis, or the aversion to loud chewing noises (Misophonia, for real). Apparently I make these noises when eating cereal, chips, nuts, anything crunchy. She can in the bedroom and she'll hear me from the living room glomping, and she'll ask me to stop.

Well, "ask" might be putting it mildly. I could point out that the dumb movie I'm watching featuring Ah-nold blowing up bad guys is twice as loud as my chewing. But it's the chewing that carries through the room and gets inside her head. Since she can't eat any of these foods I am chewing, she has many negative feedback skillz to combat her addiction to these foods.

So I'm working hard on avoiding The Glomp. We were at the grocery store the other day and I passed on crunchy chips and nuts. But I did break down and buy cheese puffs. Hey, The Masters was on and I had to drown out the sound of the announcers feeling sorry for Jordan Spieth.

Now that it's getting nicer, I'm glomping my cereal on the porch. I'm trying to wait until Sheryl is asleep before demolishing a bag of chips. I'm just trying to be more all around considerate.

The Glomp. It's a terrible thing. Maybe I'll just smoke a stogie instead, outside.

Neber mind.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Stuff to keep and stuff to throw away

EVERY NOW AND then, like when there is an Apocalypse or when Angus The Young stops barking at squirrels, I clean. Last night I tackled my upstairs room, which contains a fake Christmas tree, golf clubs, a couple of old guitars and parts of three stereo systems. And that's just in one corner.

I started going through stuff on my desk and I couldn't believe how much junk had piled up in the previous century, decade or few years. Actually we've been in the house for seven years and my upstairs room has been cleaned once. So this seven-year itch to clean finally got scratched.

Then I dropped a television on my foot. I have this ancient and heavy TV that for some reason we haven't thrown away yet. I tried to lift it and I managed to get all of three or four feet toward the door when I lost my grip.

Ouch. Double ouch. If Dr. Beeper was in the room, he'd say, "Well, that might be a fractured ulna." I've been limping around like an old man ever since. Wait. I am an old man. "Neber mind," as my niece Erin Youngsma likes to say.

Ironically, Sheryl's father cleaned out his garage yesterday and brought over a bunch of stuff, including a big plastic storage bin. So I dragged it upstairs and used it to store important artifacts. In no particular order, they included ....

- Historic Second String Music guitar picks from our original location.
- Many pictures of Emily as a baby and playing basketball.
- Rare and valuable ticket stubs, like the one from a 2008 football game in DeKalb, Central Michigan at Northern Illinois. It was an adventure with Scott (Gus Macker) McNeal. Saved!
- Grocery lists from camping adventures.
- A stuffed cheeseburger pillow.
- Numerous CDs, including a 2008 Funions show recorded at The Elks. Good grief, I gotta find time to listen to that one.
- Checkbooks.
- My 1997 Masters media pass button.

Tossed were old guitar strings, golf tees, paid hospital bill receipts (I shoulda never had that $2,000 MRI on my back that showed nothing), remote controls, bandages and nail clippers. I probably should have saved the bandage for my foot, and the nail clippers.

So my upstairs room is clean again, save for the Christmas tree and golf clubs in the corner. I'll leave 'em up there, since it adds atmosphere and doesn't take away from the ambiance.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sports and confusion

SHERYL AND I actually had this conversation the other night at a restaurant. There were TVs with games on. She asked a bunch of questions. And she got more confused after getting the answers.

SHERYL: How come there is basketball on? I thought March Madness was over.
ME: It is over. This is pro basketball, the NBA.
SHERYL: How long does it go?
ME: I don't know. I hate the NBA. I think it goes until June.
SHERYL: That's too long.
ME: (Nods in agreement).
SHERYL: Okay, now there's a hockey game on. Is it hockey season?
ME: Actually, the regular season is almost over. It started in September. Now it's time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They go until June, too.
SHERYL: There's a difference between the Stanley Cup and the regular season?
ME: No. Not really. At the end, one team wins the Cup. That's it.
SHERYL: What?
(Pause as food arrives.)
Magnolia Lane of Augusta National. It's a Major road.
SHERYL: Now there is golf on. Golf? In April? A tournament already?
ME: Yes, The Masters. It's in Augusta, Georgia. It's one of four majors. A major is a major tournament. It's the first one of the four. It's very important. This is why everybody is tucking in their shirts and speaking in hushed voices. It's a Major event.
SHERYL: Like these chicken lips are majorly addicting and I can't stop at one?
ME: Yes. Majorly. I will have to take a five-hour golf nap Sunday afternoon, it's so Major.
SHERYL: You take a five-hour golf nap every Sunday. There is nothing Major about it.
ME: Yes, but I will try to wake up every few holes to keep track. Unlike most boring tournaments, where I wake up only once at the end, this tournament is so Major that I have to wake up a lot. It's tough. But I'm ready.
SHERYL: You are a dork, enough about sports. Please pass the salt.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Predicting store traffic - I'm leaving now

I HAD A lovely five-hour golf nap Sunday while The Masters was on. I did wake up in time to see poor Jordan Spieth implode on the 12th hole. I thought he showed a lot of guts and class the rest of the way. Too bad he only made $880,000 for finishing second - no consolation to him, but a whole bunch of Fifth and Maine renovations could be done with that kind of money.

Golf, like life, is all relative.

I was also awake during a computer company commercial which talked about "dark data" and businesses using rain, er, a cloud, to predict trends.

We don't need any high-falutin' computer or overpaid accounting executive to predict our trends at Fifth and Maine. You see, all I need to do is leave, and then we do big bidness.

Predicting store traffic is impossible. I would love Second String Music to be busy every second of every day. It simply doesn't happen that way, and Saturday was a prime example.

Between 10 a.m. and noon, we didn't have a single customer. I don't think that has ever happened. A few years ago I would have been alarmed, but Sheryl has taught me that the whims and cycles of retail are what they are, and sometimes you can't control them.

I uttered the magic words. "I'm going to walk the dogs," I said. And a few minutes after I left, customers started showing up. In the hour I was gone, Sheryl sold a lot of stuff and even got to visit with her favorite musician, Logan Kammerer, and his three adorable little kids.

Thank you Mike Sorenson for the Rock N Roll photos!
When I got back, it was all quiet. So quiet, I decided to take a nap in the back room (a raucous HartLyss gig the night before was partially to blame). I kept hearing the door ding and kept coming back until Sheryl ordered me to "just sleep." She closed the door to the back and kept the dogs up front. So I slept, finally.

I woke up about 3:45 p.m., and sure enough, the store had customers. The legendary Luke Lyter was giving free guitar lessons, people were looking for vinyl records, and a guy had just walked in looking for an acoustic amp. Fortunately I was able to help sell the amp and other stuff, and Luke kept showing young guitar players how to play a barred F chord.

It's quiet this morning again. So I'm about to walk the dogs. Come in and have Sheryl help you!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Unique Spaces Tour

I'M ALWAYS GLAD to show off our historic Fifth and Maine building, time permitting, of course. People are amazed at the five stories, the history and the potential.

On April 16, The District is hosting a "Unique Spaces Tour" downtown and there are five buildings to explore - the History Museum, Gem City Cabinetry, Washington Theater, Phoenix Building and Masonic Temple. Click the above link for tickets, times and more info.

I've been through a couple of the buildings, but I'm particularly intrigued by the Phoenix and the Masonic Temple. If they are anything like our building, the walls practically beg to tell you stories and the history is everywhere.

Last year we got to show off our second floor on a District Loft Tour and we had a ton of people check out Missy Myers' photo studio. If you have a few hours a week from Saturday, I encourage you to check the tour out and learn about our history, and to see how grand an old building can be.

Come check out the Washington Theater April 16 as part of the Unique Spaces tour

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Merle Haggard and Cheeseburger hair

I'M NOT MUCH of a country music fan, but the passing of Merle Haggard yesterday is worth noting.

Haggard was one of the those outlaw guys who didn't really care about the rules or the way things were supposed to work. He also figured out playing great songs meant surrounding yourself with great musicians and keeping it simple.

This leads to a story about a Cheeseburger show. It was a wedding reception in town, and it was toward the end of the gig. An older guy walked up to our guitar player, Eric McCaughey, and issued a bold statement.

"Ya'll ain't got a hair on your ass if you can't play Merle," he said.

Eric looked back at him and said, "No problem." Then he looked at us and said, "It's in A boys. Follow me." He played that awesome lick at the beginning and we ran with it from there.

My memory is a bit blurry, which means it was a really fun time. I just remember that old guy standing there with his mouth open, watching this Cheesey cover band blow the doors off by playing "Working Man's Blues."

So here's to Merle Haggard, who is waking up the angels as we speak and probably getting ready for a lifetime engagement at the Pearly Gates Honky Tonk Bar & Grill.

He certainly had hair where it counted.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What's the password?

WHEN IT COMES to remembering computer passwords, I'm a complete, utter and totally useless dumbass.

This morning I tried to get on our local bank website. We have bills coming up with our checking account autopay. Sheryl told me the user name and password. And ... it didn't work.

Of course it didn't work! It would makes sense if it worked. It would be totally easy and logical and a breeze. We certainly can't have that in the way of the computer world.

Either that, or I entered the names incorrectly. There's no chance that could happen. Right.

I got pretty good at navigating cyberspace when I was writing about bad guys. Those skills are long gone. And I rarely check the bank account balance, leading to today's frustration.

Apparently just one wrong move locks out the account and takes 20 minutes to make a phone call, get the account reset and have them reset the password. THEN we have to change the password again when we login for the first time..... Can you see why I just let Sheryl do these things?

Anyway, we got it figured out. It was just one more aggravation Sheryl had to deal with, but now we are set and I know what is going on. She even showed me how to make the computer remember the password and user name.

It's amazing how I can remember song lyrics from 35 years ago, or where I was when Lanny McDonald scored in overtime of game 7 against the Islanders in 1977 to help the Leafs win the series. Wait a second ... it was 1978. I was so excited that I woke up my brother, Steve, and jumped up and down on Riverside Drive in London, Ontario.

It's more important to remember Lanny McDonald than some dumb bank password, anyway.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tucker is down in the dumps

POOR TUCKER. OUR beloved Border Collie is down in the dumps this morning and moping because North Carolina lost the NCAA championship game on a last-second shot. Had the Tar Heels won, Tucker would have won the Hart Family Madness pool, besting 20 other entries.

"Well, at least Aunt Charys' dumb cat finished last," I said.

When is football season??
"Woof. Whatever," a disconsolate Tucker replied.

Tucker wanted to watch the game last night. I told him it didn't start until 8:30, well past his bedtime. He asked for coffee and settled into the couch and said he was going to stay up late.

Then we found out it wasn't on network television, but on some obscure cable channel. Cable? Really? What are we doing, living in the 90s? I tried dialing it up on the laptop but the streaming was spotty and Tucker got tired of staring over my shoulder.

So I went to bed. And North Carolina lost.

"If we had stayed up I would have used my willful doggie rays and made that guy miss that last shot," Tucker grumbled.

It's of no solace to Tucker that I finished a distant sixth, and Angus nearly finished last. "That's cool. Give me a treat," he barked.

Look. There is always next year. And when I reminded him that without me, he'd have no entry because he can't type, he just glared at me and curled his lip.

"You are lucky I don't have opposable thumbs," said Tucker. "Otherwise, I'd rule the world."

Monday, April 4, 2016

Don't have to be loud

THERE WAS A young man in the store Saturday trying out a 40-watt Cube amp. He didn't have it turned up very loud - but it was still plenty loud.

We let him mess around for a while, and he seemed to be perplexed about how to work the amp. The kid could play - Metallica, Zeppelin and even a Joe Walsh lick - but he had little regard for the volume.

His mother was looking on with a patient and weary look. Finally I approached him, complimented him on his playing, and showed him how to switch channels and get different tones.

"Well, I don't like echo or reverb. It's cheesy," he said. You gotta love the inadvertent compliment, but that was besides the point. We had a talk about volume, and that's when I got the "I'm 17 years old and you aren't" eye roll.

His mother didn't say much, but I think she appreciated somebody telling her son it isn't about turning it up as loud as you can and blasting everybody out of the room.

When I was younger, that's what it was all about, and I have the ringing in my ears today to prove it. I used to tick my parents off all the time by cranking up my cheap boom box and cranking out Who's Next. I vaguely remember even going into the basement so I could keep the volume up and the complaints down.

So I understand it. I won't preach to anybody. But I'll tell anybody that hearing is a precious thing, and if you want to get better at guitar, you don't have to blister your ear drums. In fact, turning it down will help you hear the little things a lot better and work on your technique.

The mom bought the amp for her son. He was smiling from ear to ear when he left. So was mom when she found out the Cubes have a headphone jack.

Wanna crank it up to 11 and rock till you drop? I hear you. Sort of.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Redoing our historic building

SHERYL AND I have huge news - we are redoing our historic Dodd Building at Fifth and Maine and making some massive changes. This has been some time in the making and we've waited until the first of this month to make the announcement.

We have the first two floors renovated and leased out. So we've decided to remove the top three floors. We've struck a deal with the city to move them over to Fourth and Maine, site of the old Newcomb, and the building will be renamed "Outside People Central."

Anything to get them out of the park, you know.

Everybody wins in this deal. It will take an enormous amount of work to rehab the third, fourth and fifth floors. We have a handshake agreement with Haxel, Yates & Pezzella to fix them up. Their new company is called "Dancing Fire Pepper Spray." The windows will stay boarded up during the rehab so the birds and Outside People don't get in. And no scrapping or scavenging allowed, period.

We don't need those stinkin' extra floors.
Frank Haxel insists all we have to do is build a scaffold, get about 100 guys, and lift the floors. He's making a system of pulleys and levers to guide them a block west.

"And if little single serve bottles fall out after I smash the floors with a baseball bat, I call dibs," Frank said.

Some City Council members were a little reluctant to back the plan, which they did in a secret vote last Monday. We greased their palms and promised to plant trees on right of ways, and build a hydropower facility on the river with our profits. The city has guaranteed 100% property tax exemptions for life and also agreed to build a new bridge, and it will be open this summer when the Memorial Bridge closes for two years. Months. Whatever. I also got the city to throw in the old cardboard box plant land on Front Street, and we've named Mike Sorenson as director of the new Hartfelt Concert facility.

I'm a little bit sad about this because the view from our roof is spectacular. Oh well. Take some pictures now, while you still can. Pepper Spray is planning a blowout rooftop concert just before the three floors are removed. Get Back, baby. Sign the waiver before you party with us five stories high.

Win, win, win. Our building will look better, for sure. Just wait until you see the aquamarine peaked roof we've picked out over our second floor. It will have peaks and baffles and battlements and all sorts of code violations. We can't wait.

It was tough, waiting until today to make this announcement. We are so excited. Let's have a serious Happy Hour(s) this afternoon to celebrate!