Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spirits and Scoundrels

DO YOU BELIEVE in ghosts? It doesn't matter. You can hang out with "Spirits and Scoundrels" this Saturday and next during the annual Woodland Cemetery ghost tours.

I'm hosting the 7 p.m. tours. They usually sell out, so I'd advise buying your tickets early. I got a sneak peak of the graves highlighted on this tour and there are some amazing stories. And, as usual, there are actors at several graves to tell the stories and give you a sense of the history of Quincy. 

I walk the cemetery every morning and I've never seen it in better shape. How the skeleton crew keeps up with all the work is beyond me, but they have done an incredible job.

The tours start at 5 and it will still be light. By 7 it won't be, so you might want to bring a flashlight and be ready for a spirit (or scoundrel) to appear. I actually think the tours done at night are a little more fun, and you can always come back and check it out on your own during the day.

See you Saturday night! I'm sure all the spirits and scoundrels will be glad to see you, too.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The best corner for conversation

Look at all the great conversation going on at Fifth and Maine!
OUR FRIEND JOE, a veteran musician and loyal Second String Music customer, just stopped by. We stood outside the front door and talked. He was playing for a band but he couldn't take the late nights, so he quit and now he's bummed.

"My idea of a good gig is playing in the afternoon in an ice cream parlor," he said, squinting hard into the low afternoon sun.

Joe was learning the pedal steel guitar. Now he isn't in a band and he is playing an instrument you don't hear much. It's too bad. It's an amazing instrument.

"I put all this time into it. It's like learning the Hittite language, and that's 4,000 years old and extinct," Joe said.

He asked if I still played. "Only in the afternoons, right?" he said. Well, no. Most of my gigs are at night. "Oh man," Joe said. "You ever get so tired you can't stay awake? Just eat jalapeno peppers."


"Yeah, jalapenos, really hot ones," he said. "Coffee, soda, splashing water on your face, it doesn't work. Eat a jalapeno. And don't wash it down until you cry. It shocks your whole body. Try it. It works."

I started laughing, and one of the Outside People walked by, and looked at me like I was crazy. The whole irony thing hit me between the eyes and I laughed even harder.

Joe started walking up the street, our conversation over. "Man, I remember when I was young," he said. He kept walking. I was still smiling. And that was our Fifth and Maine conversation.

YCMIU in our little slice of heaven!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The ebb and flow of our Calftown hood

OUR BELOVED NEIGHBOR, Don Wilper, passed away last night. He was 88 and lived in the house next door for 60 years. We are sad for his children and friends, and we celebrate a life well-lived.

We bought our Calftown house in 2009 and made friends right away with Don. He was quiet and friendly and had a lot of great stories about the neighborhood. He kept to himself mostly, but we'd see him out on nice days and he liked to putter around the yard. Every year Sheryl trimmed the Rose of Sharon bushes his late wife planted along our fence many years ago, and we kept an eye on him, as did our other neighbors. He bragged that you couldn't kill those bushes even if you tried.

Don liked our dogs. That meant Sheryl liked Don, who would lean over the fence and greet our often excited canines and pet them.

We got to know his daughter, Donna, who lives in town and frequently checked on him. She would buy Sheryl wine for some small help she had given. We hardly saw Don in the last year as he grew less mobile. Donna said he was fine and just liked to "hibernate" when the weather turned colder. Sheryl would bring a bag of our fresh tomatoes to his door every Sunday, and Donna sent us a photo a few weeks ago of Don enjoying them for dinner.

There was another character who lived next to Don for many years. His name was Jim, and there are all kinds of stories about how competitive they were and how they tired to outdo each other. The garden wars were quite fierce with them and Don blamed one of his strokes on pulling out tomato plants one year. Jim passed away a few years ago, and one of my last memories of him was sitting with Don drinking coffee in the backyard. Two old friends, just watching the world go by.

Now a young couple with a toddler lives in Jim's old house. We wonder what will happen to Don's place, and we hope whoever buys it treats the house with the respect and love it deserves.

Ironically, Don's house just got a new roof, and the roofers were there again this morning working on the gutters, back porch area and garage. Don kept the house and the property in great shape.

We love our block. It's quiet and we keep an eye on each other. The neighborhood is about the people who live in the houses, not the actual buildings. But whoever buys Don's house is getting a beautiful, sturdy and historic Calftown dwelling, and it's a great place to live.

Farewell, Don. I'm sure you and Jim are up there and starting a contest to see who grows the biggest tomatoes. Sheryl will keep an eye on your wife's Rose of Sharon and we'll smile when remembering you puttering around the yard and garage.

And we'll count ourselves fortunate to get another neighbor like you.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Josh Houchins and the power of positive attitude

IF YOU TAKE anything away from the gut-wrenching sadness of losing Josh Houchins, take away this - he never complained, he always smiled, and his attitude never wavered.

You and I would be screwed if we were in a car wreck that killed our friend and left us in a wheelchair for the rest of our lives. Not Josh. To him, a wheelchair was a way to get around, not a reminder he lost the use of his legs.

Others knew him a lot better than I did. This tribute from Matt Schuckman of The Herald-Whig sums it up - he was everybody's friend, and you felt like you knew him.

Josh was a fixture on the local sports scene, mostly as a morning radio guy at WGEM. But I remember him most because he started at The Whig maybe 12 years ago as a part-time sports writer.

One night I was in there and he was typing in bowling scores. Man, did I give him a boatload of bleep. Then I got conned into doing the PA for a Quincy University volleyball game, and Josh was there, and wow did I get a boatload of bleep. "Bowling writer!" I'd say. "Volleyball announcer!" he'd say. And we'd both laugh.

Another night I was leaving the office, and Josh was getting into his van. I watched the process with interest - it wasn't easy, took about five minutes, and it looked like a giant pain in the ass. Josh just went with the flow and dealt with it, and I'm sure to him it was all part of driving and getting around.

A few years back I made a bet with a guy at the Whig, and I lost, and I had to sing "Hang On Sloopy" on Josh's radio show. Some hosts would roll their eyes and nix the idea. He and Broc Hampsmire not only let us do it, they encouraged it and fed into the ridiculousness, and it was really funny.

Josh had a connection with a ton of people because of his sports radio work and his willingness to talk about his life and disabilities. One night at The Whig somebody suggested he should be a stand up comedian. "I would, if I could stand up!" he said.

Farewell, Bowling Writer. You made a difference in this wretched world. You will be one of those guys we always remember. That's what happens, when you lose a friend.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Closed Saturday

IT'S TIN DUSTER weekend in Quincy. This is when classic cars come downtown starting Friday night and stay until Saturday at 5 pm.

We think it's a great event and we welcome all the Tin Dusters. We have a number of events downtown and this is one of the biggest and best.

A few weeks ago a man named Pumpkin (You Can't Make It Up) came in, said he was one of the organizers, and asked if we needed anything or had any concerns. We appreciated him coming into the store and assured him we were fine and wished the event nothing but the best.

Sheryl and I have decided to not open the store Saturday. Fifth and Maine will be congested and it will be very difficult to park anywhere close. Our loyal customers tell us they just don't want to deal with the clogged streets. As much as we appreciate the Tin Dusters, and as much as some businesses down here benefit, we don't see the benefit of being in an empty store all day.

It will be nice to have two days off in a row where neither of us is sick. In past years we haven't done much business, and we never get to take a Saturday off, so it will be nice to get some stuff done and enjoy a day away.

Closing the doors, especially on what is normally our busiest day of the retail week, is not something we take lightly. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and we hope they understand, and we'll be ready to rock and roll Monday morning.

So enjoy a beautiful fall weekend. If classic cars are you thing, downtown Quincy is the place to be!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

More than just a music store

SOME PEOPLE COME into Second String Music for a specific item. Some just like to browse. Others want to play with Fast Eddie and/or Angus the Young.

And others get life, mental health or nutrition for Type 1 diabetes advice.

This morning a man was in the store picking up some guitar stuff. He works for one of the big social agencies in Quincy and he's a good customer. He started talking to Sheryl about a foster care. She used to do foster care and said IF she ever did foster care again, "I would only want to focus on kids with Type I diabetes, since I have so much experience managing the disease."

He mentioned there was a client who has Type 1 diabetes, and Sheryl dove right in.

The agency nurses have a tough time dealing with his ups and downs. So Sheryl got out one of her Dr. Bernstein books, and gave it to him.

"Here. It's yours. Have the nurses read this and it will really, really help," she said. "If they have questions, I can help answer those. I have achieved an A1C of 5.5 with the help of Dr. B."

"You mean you are just giving this to me?" the man said, "I think my last A1C was 5.7, how is yours better than mine?" His doctor had told him an A1C of 5.7 was just fine for a Type II diabetic.

"YES," Sheryl said. "I have a whole stack of them. It's what I do. Have the nurses read it! You can read it too if you like." He left with a bewildered but interested look on his face.

So you can swing by Fifth and Maine for a change of strings and a change in your reading habits. It might lead to better nutrition, better test results, and you'll be a better player, too.

See? It all comes around to one thing - come to the music store, and you'll feel better!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Calling in sick

WHEN YOU OWN a small business and are self-employed, you do not get days off. You cannot get sick, or be late, or have life get in the way.

But it happens. Rarely, but it happens. After a nasty bout with the flu the past few days, I'm grateful for good health. Don't take it for granted, peeps.

I started feeling it Friday night. It crept up on me Saturday, smacked me Sunday, and I could barely stand yesterday morning. Sheryl rearranged my lesson schedule and took care of the store while I basically slept for 12 hours, off and on.

Early last night I felt it break. I started to sweat and I thought I was going to pass out. The next minute, I was fine. I'm still groggy and we might be doing a lot of slow songs in lessons today, but I've lived to tell about it.

In the 16 years I worked at The Whig, I think I had maybe three sick days. Two were because of a bad back, and one was from a bout with death. I never took more than one day off. I can't recall ever calling in sick in Alpena, either.

Sheryl is the same way. She's had medical issues, especially with her shoulder, but missed only a day or two in the store since we opened 6 1/2 years ago. I think it's because she's a Type 1 diabetic - she's careful about what she eats and stays far away from sick people. Being mindful of good health has helped her have good health.

So I am moving slowly today and things should pretty much be back to normal in another day or so. Meanwhile, our cat is chasing squirrels, the dogs are killing squirrels and the store hums right along, and hopefully it's another six years or so before I have to take another sick day.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sick Day Blues

Rodney is home sick today. I have cancelled his early lessons and he plans on making it to his afternoon lessons after lots of dayquil and a hot shower this afternoon.... So I (Sheryl) get to recap our lazy weekend, which was fabulously full of doing nothing and playing with the dogs.

Yesterday Tucker surprised us all and caught/killed a squirrel in the back yard. Congratulations went all around for such a great team effort. All three dogs love to get into the action and contributed to the demise of the squirrel. Rodney got a photo of that on his phone but since he is home sick today, no photo. Poor Josie missed out on the action, she was in the neighbors yard stalking a different squirrel that needs killing.

Right after the KILL. Josie watched the whole thing.
Breathing watch, it was NOT breathing.
So this morning I am relaxing on the back porch drinking coffee and a commotion erupts by the fence. A squirrel thinks he can jump into the yard and tease all three dogs AND the cat. REALLY. No. It took about 3 seconds of chasing for Genie to pounce on the squirrel and throw it to the ground. Next comes Angus to grab it and shake the stuffin out of it. He threw it to the ground and then it flipped over... Nope, not good enough. Angus grabbed it again and shook it till it was truly DED. Dead this time. 

Of course, Tuckers job today was to dance around and bark. Then he took on the undertaker position of "watching the squirrel to make sure it was not breathing and really dead". He spent much time moving the body, touching the dead squirrel, and then rolling it over. I kept reassuring him that it was truly dead, good job boy!

Josie the cat got to watch this kill. She has been trying for weeks to figure out how to kill a squirrel. WEEKS. Today she witnessed what it would take for her to actually kill a squirrel and I think she took it very seriously.

So we are obviously quite proud of the dogs and cat for their efforts in ridding our streets of vermin and squirrels. Hopefully Josie the Huntress will let the dogs handle the big kills and keep our hood free of birds, locusts, crickets, spiders, and mice.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

I still hate press conferences

I HATED PRESS conferences as a reporter. You felt like you were being herded like sheep. It was a totally controlled and staged environment. I understood why they had to take place, and I dutifully arrived with my notebook, asked a few questions, got what I needed and got out as fast as I could.

There were different kinds of press conferences, of course. One was for an event, like a United Way goal announcement or breaking ground for a new building, or somebody running for office announcing he or she was going to to change the world.

If Quincy was a bigger market, I'd open my own PR firm and teach various organizations and businesses how to conduct press conferences, how to curry favor with the press, and how to react when the media approaches. It requires common sense, not a bunch of howling about fake news or #fakenews. You can't always steer the coverage, but you can build rapport and trust and it pays off in the long run.

The other kind of press conference is reactionary. An awful event took place, and the chief of police or fire chief didn't want to do a bunch of interviews. So the media was invited and the chief gave one statement, and we ran from there.

Two press conferences yesterday made me realize how much I don't miss them. One was in Carolina, when Panthers QB Cam Newton stuck his foot in his mouth and degraded a woman reporter. Grow the bleep up. Cam. I know it isn't easy being the face of the franchise and having to deal with all the questions all the time, but I have little sympathy for an immature brat of an athlete who doesn't get that women understand sports and can be reporters.

Last night Las Vegas law enforcement and FBI officials briefed the press on the latest developments in the Mandalay Bay domestic terrorist attack. Sheriff Joseph Lombardo was awesome, and you could tell the investigation, stress and lack of sleep are taking a toll. You can watch it here.

Toward the end, the sheriff and others grew tired of answering the same question and hearing the same questions asked in three different ways. I've been in these types of press conferences, and there are always two or three idiots who wreck it for us all with dumb questions. The sheriff knew who he was talking to and I guarantee he knows the bad reporters from the good. He was gracious and thanked them all at the end.

You have reporters covering a huge event and desperately trying for a scoop or anything new to boost ratings and readership. You have a sheriff who is at the breaking point and knows why he is there, and is trying his best, but I don't blame him for being short with some of the questions. He did a fantastic job.

We have a right to know. He has the right to conduct an investigation and say what he thinks needs to be said. The two sides collide all the time.

And there's nothing fake about either side.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Portugal The Man and band rentals

IT STARTED ABOUT 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Parents streamed into Second String Music to rent band instruments - cellos, violas, violins, trumpets, clarinets, more violins, flutes, more violins .... They were lined up three deep at the counter and we loved every minute of it.

It's not a really good day at the store unless a couple comes in wearing Portugal The Man shirts and tries out guitars. Yesterday was also about guitar picks. And ... we are big in Keokuk, apparently.

The only music store in Keokuk, Iowa, about 40 miles away, closed down not long ago. We had a woman come in looking for a guitar pack for her son's 13th birthday. Grandma was with her and she ended up buying a fabulous Luna ukulele. "We live in Keokuk. It's worth the drive to come here," she said.

That made us feel good. Throw in a doctor's appointment for Sheryl and my awesome as always guitar students, and we had ourselves a regular rock and roll day at Fifth and Maine.

Guess what? We are ready to do it again today, with another adventure awaiting about 70 miles away. Let's go!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

No Sunday off

WE DIDN'T GET a "Sunday" yesterday. In our world, where we are at the store six days a week, a "Sunday" is a day off and a chance to recover from yet another busy week. Sheryl naps, I watch football - there have been some great games this season and nothing is better than a football nap on a Sunday afternoon. We might putter around the yard, I might walk the dogs more than once, and there might be a stogie and beverage or two disappearing.

Our pile isn't quite this big ... but my back thinks it is.
But in the end, we are good at doing nothing and preparing for another week in the wild adventure we call retail.

Yesterday we didn't get a chance to do nothing. Our good friend Nick Hopper is moving to Colorado soon, so I went to his house yesterday and got stocked up in firewood - he has tons of it after several trees came down from storms the past couple of years. Why is it I'm so sore and can't move after simply tossing pieces of wood into a truck, then into the yard, then into a pile?

Because I'm old and a dumbass, but that's besides the point. Now we have enough firewood to last a long time, and I appreciate Nick being so generous.

Then we went to Emily's Quincy Symphony Orchestra, and it was .... geesh. Words fail me. My daughter was stunning and left the Morrison Theater crowd in awe, and she got a standing ovation for her efforts. So I'm bragging, and I'm proud, and I have to say I am incredibly lucky to have such a talented and amazing daughter.

I'm not dreaming - that's actually my daughter!
Then we had a reception for her at a beautiful house on Maine Street, and the whole thing was like a dream.

A pain pill and more football last night helped put me to sleep. Then we woke up to hear about the Las Vegas shooting. So we are dragging a bit this morning, and getting ready to make it through another week of guitar lessons and school band instrument rentals.

Well. There's always next Sunday to recover....

Sheryl would like two, please....

Friday, September 29, 2017

Reasons for playing

WE ARE IN the throes of school band instrument rental season. They are flocking to Fifth and Maine and we are expecting an onslaught of slightly bewildered parents and excited kids in the store today and tomorrow. Thanks to Boyd Music, we are stocked and ready.

Most children are told by the schools what instruments to pursue, but we hear all kinds of stories about why kids get into music. One parent told us his child simply woke up one morning and "wanted to play the drums," which led to piano, trumpet and other instruments.

A mom and her curious son came in yesterday to rent a trumpet. The kid says, "I want to try other instruments too." By that he meant he wanted to strum every guitar in the store, poke at the keyboard and ask about that big guitar with the thick strings. Curiosity might kill the cat (or maybe make him throw up all over the store, like our Fast Eddie) but curiosity sparks imagination and creativity in music.

A dad came in with a used clarinet the other day and asked us if it was good enough for his daughter. "I just want to get her into it," he said. It looked fine, but we told him to check with the teacher to make sure it was playable. He came back a few days later extremely grateful and happy that we gave him good advice and answered his questions. It's what we do. We are happy he's happy. "She's playing the clarinet!" the excited dad said.

Video games are expensive too!
I would never tell a parent what to say to a child, but when a mom looks at her kid and says, "You are getting really expensive," it kind of irks me. I understand the economics of renting an instrument and it isn't cheap. But you can spend just as much on video games, computers and DirecTV. In fact, you can spend a lot more. Getting your child away from the computer or cell phone isn't easy, and kudos to parents who realize an instrument is far more than something you lug to school every day.

Lastly, I had a guitar student come in yesterday. He was dragging and beat up after a long day at work. He is employed in the medical field and does very well for himself and his family, but you can tell he's challenged and doesn't always enjoy what he does for a living.

"This is the best part of my day," he said. "It's therapy and I really need it."

Sounds like the best reason of them all, and I know exactly how he feels!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hey! That's Emily Hart on the poster!

HAPPINESS IS LOOKING at a Quincy Symphony Orchestra poster and seeing your daughter's smiling face.

For weeks we've had it hanging in the store and I can't believe how many people say, "Hey! That's Emily Hart on the poster! How is she doing?" That's usually followed by a discussion on the blood DNA sample I had to provide to prove she's actually related, but I digress.

I am proud of Emily. She has worked very hard and has attained great success in a very short time as instructor of oboe at Western Illinois University. She is the Guest Artist at Sunday's Morrison Theater Awakenings Concert. If you have never heard the oboe, I encourage you to come and hear it with a great orchestra and music. It's a high and lonesome sound - it sort of drifts through the room, and it's very moving.

We are in the midst of school band rental season at Second String Music. It makes me think of how Emily got started, and how the music teachers influenced her. I remember vividly going to Lana Anderson's house near Berrian School on Eighth Street, then to Marianne Peters, and to Larry Finley for piano.

Lana and Marianne both play in the QSO and I'm sure they are bursting with pride when they see Emily and hear her play.

Emily also got tremendous instruction and opportunity at Quincy Public Schools, and I'm forever grateful for people like Kathy Dooley. Both the public and Catholic schools have massively successful music programs and have pushed countless students to great heights.

Yup. That's our Emily on the poster. She's all grown up, teaching and playing music for a living. Fortunately it's the opposite of her old man, who never grew up but actually does teach and play music for a living. What a strange world we live in!

We can't wait for Sunday afternoon and I hope you can join us for a great concert.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reactions to music - priceless

A GROUP OF parents with young autistic children visited the store this morning. The idea was for me to play a few instruments and introduce them to different noises and sounds, and how to play them.

As always, it's an awesome reminder of the power of music.

We started with a ukulele, and each child got to strum on one. We had the teacher play a flute and tell them about it. Then I showed them an acoustic guitar and electric guitar, a bass and a keyboard. This was the watch and learn part, and the children were very curious about all the strange noises.

Then came the fun part - kazoos! Each child was given a kazoo and taught how to hum into it. I wish you were here to see the reaction on each child's face as he or she started making noise. That's all it is, making noise - but it's magical, and the pure delight and awe on their faces told the story. Same goes for the parents!

We've got another group coming in this afternoon and we'll make more noise. Music is already a big part of the early childhood curriculum, and I hope it remains a constant and positive thing in their lives as they grow older.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

September sale

WE ARE HAVING a guitar sale at Second String Music. Why? Because we have a lot of great new guitars  in stock and we want you to save money.

This week only, all our new Jackson, Gretsch and Fender guitars are 15 percent off. That's a lot of dough and if you are thinking ahead for Christmas, this would be the time to save money and get a great guitar.

The Fenders are the famous Stratocaster Bullet and Affinity brands. We have a bunch of packs, which include the amp, chord, strap, picks and everything you need to get started. Steve Rees went through them all and said they are in ready to rock. We have the Fender Mini and Jackson Minions too for the small children.

Speaking of Steve, he'll be working every afternoon next week because school band rental season has kicked in big time. We rented a bunch of instruments Saturday and we are well ahead of last year's pace. Once again we are partnering with Boyd Music of Jacksonville, and they offer new or nearly-new band instruments at great prices. Plus you can't beat the service and we answer all your questions - renting an instrument can be intimidating, so we are here to help and make it easy.

Let's have a rock and roll week!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Meeting a star, and how to be a star

Holly and Chris, down on the farm in Mount Sterling. (Photo by Adam Duesterhaus)

SATURDAY NIGHT OUR jam band Pepper Spray played at a private party near Mount Sterling. The owner of the beautiful farm threw a bash for his niece and her fiance. What a blast! The people were great we had more fun than should be allowed in a gorgeous outdoor setting.

The owner called me a few weeks ago and asked me to do sound for the "opening act." It was an acoustic duo and they played about 300 yards from the farmhouse in a very intimate setting. I had no idea who the woman was, or her partner.

So I get there, set up the equipment, and I find out the "opening act" is Holly Williams and her husband, Chris Coleman. Holly is the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., and granddaughter of Hank Sr. Chris played with the Kings of Leon for five years and is also well-known for his painting. Geesh! I felt like I was in way over my head.

They could not have been nicer, and their hour-long set was incredible. They were down to earth and super easy to work with, and they played their hearts out.

Here's the main thing I took away from the experience. We were talking about Nashville, where they live, and how there are thousands of incredible musicians trying to make it. Chris said, "It's not about how great of a player you are. It's about your style of playing and what sets you apart." Chris recently played percussion and recorded an album with Miranda Lambert, and he said it was recorded live in a rundown garage in Nashville. "It's about the feel," he said.

The other thing? These are regular people who like having a good time and meeting other regular people.

Man, what fun. It was an honor to meet and work with Holly and Chris, and after a raucous Pepper Spray gig too (and much fun with The Cheeseburgers at the Hannibal Country Club last night), I'm gonna need a day or five to recover!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Living Downtown

OUR GOOD FRIENDS Chris and Victoria Kelley have moved into a downtown loft and are throwing a party tonight. Sheryl and I are going early and I'm eager to see the new Kelley digs.

We get asked a lot about our building and if we have apartments. The answer is no. It's always been zoned commercial and it wouldn't be cheap to convert the space. Never say never, but for now we have no plans for residential use.

I think it would be cool to live downtown. You could walk everywhere and there are lots of decent restaurants and bars. Now a place at Seventh and Maine has opened called the Yum Factory and it's another nice addition to The District.

We have a great house in Calftown, and having three dogs makes it tough to live without a yard. We are a mile away from the store. So there's no need or desire to move downtown, but I think it's great there's a push for better housing in the downtown core area of Quincy.

The District is the place to be. We have our share of challenges but there's no other place for Second String Music, and for people who live down here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lotsa stuff, staying organized

WE ARE BURSTING at the seams with guitars and music stuff. Already we have people looking for the dreaded Christmas present, and right now the floor is full of great gear.

We think it's full, anyway. Yesterday a man came in and looked around and commented about how open and clean everything looked. It was a very nice compliment, and Sheryl has a sharp eye for display and how to make things look good.
What seams?

We have a room behind the counter full of stock and guitar boxes. The other day I went back there and took all the empty guitar boxes to the bank vault space, and Sheryl reorganized the stock. Now we can actually find stuff without looking too hard and it's a good feeling to be ready for a hopefully busy time.

Maybe it's in the water. On Sunday I went through a closet at the house and pulled out vintage Gus Macker shorts and shirts, old jeans and a bunch of other stuff. We also had a extra bag of sheets, blankets and pillows, so a trip to the Salvation Army helped us unclutter.

Unclutter? Yup. Unclutter. Not only is it a great name for a band, it's a great way to describe staying organized.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Getting the birthday present right

IT'S A GOOD thing the women in my life are easy when it comes time to buying presents. Sheryl is pretty simple, and Emily goes with the flow.

I can still screw it up. The track record doesn't lie. Fortunately the most recent birthday present was a success, and it's very true that the gift giving is better than receiving.

Emily turned 26 yesterday. What the .... TWENTY SIX? She got some pretty cool birthday presents over the years, and she still has her Barry Sanders No. 20 Detroit Lions jersey we gave her when she turned ... 7? Something like that.

Emily spent her birthday teaching in Macomb, then driving to Quincy for a Quincy Symphony Orchestra practice (she is the guest artist at the Oct. 1 concert, much more on that next week). We are planning on helping her with a major purchase next month, but I wanted to do at least a little something for her big day.

So, as usual, I ran down to the Sweet Apricot in the Maine Center and Sara saved me.We picked out two really cool candles - Emily likes candles. See? Easy Peazy! I met Emily at her QSO practice and gave her the present and she was too busy to look in the bag, but she was happy.

I got home from working at The Whig last night about 11. My phone beeped. It was a text from Emily - "These candles smell amazing! Good job Dad - 10 out of 10, you nailed it!"

Nah, Emily. You've been nailing it for 26 amazing years. Thanks for putting up with your dorky and crazy dad, and I'm glad you had a good birthday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Interesting music store questions

WHEN YOU OWN a music store and there is a big sign on the front that says "Music Store," you get a lot of people coming in and asking questions. A lot of them say, "I know this is a dumb question, but ...."

There are no dumb questions. If you don't know, you don't know. If I go to buy a watch or a birthday present for my daughter (Happy Birthday today Emily Hart!), I'll be asking dumb questions, too. It's okay. Ask away and we'll try our best to answer.

Lately we've been getting some, well, really interesting questions. So here's a list. You can't make it up, even in a music store. Ah, the adventure of retail and owning your own business!

1. What are string winders for?
2. Do you have any left-handed pan flutes?
3. Can I pawn my typewriter here?
4. Is this a bank? (To be fair, it was a bank, and it still says "Bank" above the front door).
5. Can I have your cat? Is he dangerous?
6. Why doesn't this kazoo work?
7. Really? You have to plug it in and the light has to come on?
8. Can I just have this guitar? I'm broke this month but I promise to make payments when I get my check.
9. I'm looking for 501 Maine. Why is there no 501 Maine? (Look for 510 Maine, please.)
10. Do you have Zumba CDs?
11. I just bought this guitar online and it doesn't work. Does it cost anything to fix it?
12. Why can't I play Stairway To Heaven? Wayne's World? What is that?
13. Is Frank Haxel here EVERY Friday afternoon?
14. Can I charge my phone in here for a minute? Do you have a charger?
15. Why is there a dog bone in the middle of the floor? (Fair question, actually, if you haven't met Angus.)
16. Does Rodney really need all those guitars?
17. Don't you think it would be good exposure for your band?
18. Is there an instrument Steve Rees can't play?
19. Why aren't you organizing more free concerts in the park?
20. Wait a second .... you mean I can park all day just down the street for free?

See how it can be very entertaining to own a small business in a relatively small town? We enjoy every day and always find the humor in the many questions we may have to answer. Come down and ask us a stumper!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Major scales work

I WILL NEVER be a good lead guitar player. I can strum and keep rhythm. I'm going to keep trying. I might get there, some day.

Last week I filled in at the Club Tavern and Todd Boyer tore it up on lead guitar. Geesh ... you hear a guy like that and it makes you either want to quit or to get better. I ain't quitting. So ... I'll work on getting better. The guy I was filling in for (Matt Roberts) is a monster, too.

One of the things I stress in lessons is learning scales. It's more about ear training than anything else. It helps to navigate on the guitar and to learn where the notes are, and why they work.

I've been learning a ton of songs with the new app Sheryl got for me. It's been life-changing - I've known and loved these songs forever and now I can finally tackle them and it's so much fun.

My mother, God bless her soul, was a huge Cat Stevens fan. I think Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman are two of the greatest albums ever made. Yup. Albums. Records. Those black cylinder things that you put on a device called a "record player." The scratches and pops just made it sound warmer.

Anyway, I dialed up the classic "Wild World" and learned it. In the chorus it has little riff, right after "Oh baby baby it's a wild world .... duh duh duh duh duh duh duh dub .... " I heard it and I thought, I'm in trouble, I'll never be able to figure it out.

Wrong. It's a simple scale. It took all of 30 seconds to learn it. I'm stilll not very good at it - a little practice and timing and I might be able to pull it off.

I'll never be mistaken for a great guitar player. But I'm having fun and I'm learning every day I pick it up, and it just gets more and more interesting. A bunch of my students had fun with Wild World last week, too.

It is, indeed, a Wild World.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Yes, we do have lefties!

That looks... Wrong.
FOUR OR FIVE times a year we have somebody come into Second String Music and ask if we have any left-handed guitars. The answer is yes - we always have at least one left handed acoustic Ibanez and one left handed Ibanez Gio electric, both great guitars.

I wish we had more in stock, but they simply aren't in huge demand so we carry what we can and special order lefty's for our customers.

The other day a loyal customer ordered a gorgeous lefty Takamine acoustic, a GN-51, and it arrived today. We also hooked him up with a lefty Ibanez hollow body a few years ago, and he is over the moon with his guitars.

There is a raging debate about playing lefty versus righty. I'm fine either way, and I have a really good lefty student who bought an Ibanez acoustic from us. We've even restrung guitars upside down for left-handed players, though it's not generally recommended.

Most of our guitar brands offer left-handed guitars, and we're glad to order stuff - it only takes a few days, and you don't have to worry about warranty or shipping issues.

Left or right, it's still rock and roll to me!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Blog writing in bars

I TRY TO write a blog every day, or at least Monday through Thursday. Sometimes blogs write themselves. Other times it's a struggle and the screen stays blank for a long time.

Routine is important - I try to do it first thing when we get to the store. It doesn't always happen, and there are days where it gets done a few sentences at a time.

This is an image of a blinking cursor...
Last Friday I was playing at Revelry, and Kellie Mast came in, got a glass of wine and started pecking away at her phone. This isn't unusual - people tend to peck at phones at all times, no matter where they are.When you play a solo acoustic gig in a bar, you are mostly background music and it's not about the audience going crazy, or even knowing you are there. It's more fun when they do, but I just like to play. I don't worry about all that other stuff.

Kellie was actually writing a blog, using her phone. For her, sitting in a bar watching somebody play and sipping wine is a way to motivate her and get a blog done. Whatever works.

There might not be a more helpless feeling in the world than starting at a blank screen. The idea is the key, and getting started in the toughest part.

Well looky here ... I'm done with another blog!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Parking Wars Update

IT'S WORKING. OUR efforts to enforce the two-hour parking on Maine Street between Fifth and Sixth are paying off. In the more than five years we've been here, we've rarely seen open spaces during the weekday. This week, we've had customer after customer comment on how easy it was to park and how nice it is to be right in front of our building. Yesterday the UPS guy parked right in front of the WCU Building and delivered packages, instead of parking at the corner or simply in the street. Sheryl witness the look of shock on his face. He probably thought he was being punk'd.

If more people knew parking wasn't so bad downtown, then we'd have more customers. So ... we have parking! For now, anyway.

A Quincy Police Department officer issued 11 tickets Friday morning. Five more were issued Monday. Sheryl and I are watching the street, writing down tags and taking photos, and reporting violations.

Several times we've called and waited for an officer to show up. That's fine. They have important things to do and our parking issues are down the list, and we are patient. When they do show up, we very much appreciate their time and understanding. They have been great. We are supporters of our local law enforcement and We Back The Blue every chance we get.

We have no wish to make anybody mad. We just want the law to be enforced and for people who work down here to be courteous, respectful and to keep the customers in mind. I also walk the walk and I'm making sure to not park in front of our store, but up  the street where there is no parking limit.

Most importantly, this has been a group effort. One person complaining all the time does nothing to fix the problem. Second String Music, Ally's Boutique, Kristopher's, Martini's at 515, the businesses in the Maine Center and the clothing store across the street are all in this together. We reported violations for more than a week and remained polite and respectful during the process before action was finally taken, and we've learned that persistence pays off.

We are willing to talk about the parking issues and we appreciate everybody who has concerns, ideas and solutions to the issue.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Big sale first thing

SMALL RETAIL IS an adventure. So it's always nice when you arrive at your store half an hour before your posted opening time, and a man is waiting, and we open the door for him.

Then he buys a really nice Luna acoustic guitar for his granddaughter's Christmas present.

That's right. I said it. The dreaded "C" word. It's a little more than three months away. Look, I hate the overhype of Christmas, but in our world, it's a our biggest time of the year and we count on the business. So we are ready.

The man is happy, we are happy, and we are off to a great start this Tuesday.

Oh - he parked right by the store, too!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Blown down in storm coverage

WE'VE BEEN WATCHING a lot of storm coverage lately. Hurricane Irma is winding its way up the Florida coast and into Georgia, and we get to watch a lot of windblown TV guys getting soaked and telling us it's really windy.

Sheryl, as always, is entertaining when we watch such things. "Get inside, you big idiot!" she screamed at one of the hunky CNN reporters. He was wearing waders and a black T shirt, and having trouble standing up in the 120-mph winds. Then they cut to Anderson Cooper. "You are STILL on the air?" Sheryl said. "GET SOME SLEEP."

At one point yesterday, a reporter was doing a live shot from the "eye of the storm." Apparently when the eye passes over, the rain and wind stops, but it picks up again. "What are you doing? You are going to get whacked here in a second. LEAVE!" Sheryl said. But the guy didn't listen and he kept talking about flying debris and power outages and why everybody else should leave Florida.

Sheryl grew up in Florida and was taught much about what to do in a hurricane. She gets stressed when people put themselves in danger. I think they should listen to her.

These hurricanes are no laughing matter, and my heart goes out to the millions dealing with flooding and damage. But after a while the coverage becomes a bit numbing and it's hard to comprehend what is happening.

Many times I had to write about storms and floods and pestilence. It wasn't hard to find the human element and tell stories - they told themselves, really.

But I was always glad I was a newspaper guy, and not somebody standing in the storm of the century.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

All Dressed Up

I HAVE A MEETING today with a local institution, relating to our business. It's something Sheryl and I take very seriously and I'm trying my best to be prepared.

So, I got up this morning and I did something I haven't done much of the last five years, namely, put on a nice pair of pants and a nice shirt.

Hey - this guy is wearing my shirt!
I think it's important to look good and professional. But I spent 24 years of tucking my shirt in (most of the time) and it's just as important to be real. I'm not fooling anybody by coming to the store in a 3-piece suit. Sure, you'll have to appreciate my Cheeseburgers allegiance and know how many guitars I have by the number of different guitar T-shirts I wear, but that's part of being in the bidness.

We were at State Street Bank this morning and Bobbe White commented on the fact I was "all dressed up." It took a moment for it to sink in, before I realized I wasn't wearing white socks.

It's kind of cool, actually. Looking good is feeling good. GQ ain't calling soon, or ever, but I still tuck my shirt in and try to make a good impression - as long as it's just once in a while.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Maine Street parking wars continue

THERE ARE SEVERAL businesses inside the WCU Building across from Second String Music. Several of the employees park on Maine Street and ignore the two-hour parking limit signs.

10:30 am Wednesday morning.
It's frustrating. We'd like as many spots as possible open on Maine Street for customer parking, not for employees. To make it even more maddening, count how many vehicles on Maine Street have PDQ passes. Yep - they pay big bucks for indoor parking at the Fifth Street parking facility. Yet they feel the need to park half a block closer to their office and take up a space on Maine. Why?

There are 14 vehicles parked on the south side of Maine Street right now (10:30 a.m.). Eight have PDQ stickers. EIGHT. There is one parking spot open.

Ooops. That spot just got taken, and the woman who got out of the car isn't happy with me lurking around and taking pictures. And ... she has a PDQ pass in her windshield. Lovely. That means nine of the 15 vehicles parked in front of the WCU Building are owned by people who work in the building.

A parking ticket is a whopping $5 fine so is no deterrent for this behavior and there isn't a real parking enforcement officer anyway. That needs to change, and we have started working on it.

Two things can't happen. We can't confront repeat offenders - they know who they are, and nothing we can do or say will get them to be less lazy or more considerate.

And we can't rely on the Quincy Police Department to send an officer down here every day to write parking tickets. They have way more important things to do.

Then again, Sheryl and I just paid our property taxes and we are not afraid to let the city know this is an issue, and we'd like to deal with it.

Stay tuned - we are working with QPD and we think we may have a solution to combating the day-long parking problem. In the meantime, we are watching carefully and keeping track of the many repeat offenders.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Long weekends rule

SHERYL AND I enjoyed our two days off. It's the first time in forever we've stayed in Quincy and done nothing. It was great seeing my old friend David Wilkins and his wife, Susan, who were coming back from Colorado and decided to stop in the Q-Town.

Susan was really impressed with Quincy. "It's like a real town!" she said. Then we took her to Woodland Cemetery and she was in awe. They stayed at a very nice hotel in town and were very pleased with the services and hospitality.

Come back again when we can hang around for a few days, Susan!

NOT Quincy IL
Our friends Nick and Lori Hopper came by last night for hamburgers, beverages and stogies, and not necessarily in that order. Well ... Nick and I took care of two of the three. Just before they showed up the sky turned a weird yellow and it was strange outside. Turns out the smoke from the Oregon forest fires was blowing over the upper atmosphere. Then the moon came out as it got dark and it was glorious sitting by the fire.

It was great company and a nice way to cap a restful weekend.

Most of the time we go somewhere on Labor Day Weekend. The decision to stay here was the right one. Maybe next year we'll join the annual Hart Sibling Summit in Phoenix or trek back up to a Lake Michigan Beach. But for now, I'm happy we stayed home.

Oh, by the way ... another rock and roll weekend awaits!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Farewell, old friend

I HAVEN'T HEARD the name Kim Kozian for almost 30 years. We worked together on the Chippewa Yearbook, back when Central Michigan University still had a yearbook. Like many of the people I knew back then, she simply drifted away as we all got busy with life.

Kim died of cancer the other day. It took me a minute to place the name and lodge it back in my feeble memory banks, but when it finally registered, it was a sad moment.

I stay in touch with some of my CMU buddies through Facebook and other social media. I learned about Kim's death that way. I clicked on her obit and was fascinated that we shared a love of music and Northeast Michigan (she had a condo in Oscoda, I lived an hour north in Alpena for seven years).

This is more for Kim's family and friends. I'm sure she fought her cancer like a lion. Now she's in a better place.

Kim and I were copy editors on the yearbook staff our junior years. We both decided to put in for yearbook editor. I got the job, she didn't, and she wasn't happy. Kim was the first person I went to see, and I begged her to stay on staff and make my job a lot easier.

She did. She was professional and courteous and she busted her butt working on the yearbook, and I was forever grateful.

It's sad, how time and space drifts us apart. I wish I was closer to Kim and many other people from my hazy and crazy college days.

Peace, Kim. I was a better person for knowing and working with you all those years ago.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How to act covering a disaster

NEWS COVERAGE OF the Houston flooding is wall-to-wall and a bit overwhelming. Hey, at least it knocks some other people off the front pages and the cable talk shows. 

Spending 24 years in journalism makes you take a different view. Ten years were in sports, and it isn't easy talking to an athlete or coach moments after a gut-wrenching defeat. Then there were more than a dozen years as a crime and courts reporter, and you learn how to approach (or not approach) people going through hell and pain.

I remember the flooding in Quincy in 2008. Certainly it pales in comparison to what Houston is going through, but it was a huge deal around here back then and exhausting. I remember walking the levees with the late Chip Gerdes, and going on night patrols in West Quincy. It brought out the best in people, and we tried hard to bring out the good stories.

When you go live, you roll the dice, as the above video shows. Certainly you can't predict human reaction and there probably wasn't a lot of time to prepare for the interview, but you have to try and predict the depth before wading in.

I saw several other clips of reporters dropping the microphone and actually going out to help people. It's the human element we often overlook and fail to hone, and I'm grateful some still have it. It isn't fake news, folks. It's real life, and we're all human.

So prayers to people down there and to the many around here who are trying to help, whether it's with cash donations or sending supplies south. There are still a lot of great stories out there, and I hope those stories are told with dignity and respect for what flood victims are going through.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Keeping it local

SECOND STRING MUSIC is now officially a Fender dealer. We approached this cautiously and will start with Squire guitars, Affinity basses, Fender amplifiers and go up from there.

Fender, of course, is the bomb when it comes to guitars. I bought a USA Fender Stratocaster 12 years ago and it's still a workhorse and plays like a dream. I would love to have a wall full of American-made Strats and Telecasters, but Fender's business model makes that impossible for a small retail store like Second String Music, so we'll do the best we can with our first order and small business finances.

It's the same thing with Martin, Taylor, Gibson and Epiphone. They make incredible guitars, and I understand the brand loyalty. But they also make it impossible for us, the little guy, to afford the buy-in and yearly sales commitments.

Instead of being bitter about it, let me tell you a story about a guitar player I know who came in a few days ago and started strumming a beautiful Takamine acoustic. He fell in love with it right away, but he made the wise decision to hold off on an impulse buy and continue his search for that next guitar.

He went down to St. Louis and a large retail store, and played a bunch of acoustics. Yesterday he came back and purchased the Takamine from us, saying he just could not forget how great it sounded. We couldn't be happier.

He shopped locally and he bought locally. He didn't go online, he compared guitars out of town but decided to drop his hard-earned money at his local music store.

Sheryl and I are immensely grateful. We love what we do and we plan to do it for a long time, and I pinch myself every day for living the dream. Customers like this keep us optimistic there is a place for a small retail music store in a small city like Quincy, Illinois.

We'll let you know when the Fender guitars arrive, and, as always, we strive to be the best business we can be for our local musicians and customers. Keep on rockin' Quincy.

Monday, August 28, 2017

iPads and lyrics

SHERYL BOUGHT ME an iPad. I've wanted one for a while, mainly for music stuff. It looks sleek and I've learned how to turn it on with just half an hour of training.

On this iPad is a thing called an app. An app usually what we devour at Tiramisu or Chicks On The River. In this case, it's a little thingy that you swipe called "Guitar Tabs HD." You can call up any song in any key and use it to learn the song. And it has the words. Geesh! The next thing you know this will replace my word house and will start saving trees so I don't have to print out songs.

Wait a second .... you mean you can use this thing like a teleprompter? Well, that's not very professional. I mean, if you are going to play out, you should have everything memorized and not rely on a piece of paper or a computer.

Right. So that thing on the ground by Bruce Springsteen's feet is just for watching cartoons. In the awesome Mumford & Sons "Road To Red Rocks" DVD there is a photograph of the stage, and you can see the teleprompter plain as day with a Beatles song on it. Bono uses one. Just about everybody uses one.

Elvis just used paper. I caught a movie about one of his tours the other day and he was singing his brand new hit song, "Hunk of Burning Love." He simply pulled out a piece of paper and sang the words with it right in his face. He could not have cared less. He was ELVIS, for crying out loud.

In the amazing Who Live In Texas 75 DVD, Pete Townsend has a guy come out with lyrics on a flimsy music stand so he can sing "However Much I Booze." The song has a lot of great lyrics. I don't blame him a bit for not remembering them all, especially when you've quit drinking and write a song about it.

Then I see a guy like Jon Anderson of Yes perform every song from Close To The Edge without missing a single word, then sing a new Yes song that's longer than the Lions' Super Bowl drought, and I just shake my head.

So I'm going to work on this new iPad thing and start putting songs on it.

Wait - how do you turn this thing on, again? "Sheryl!!!"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dog hair is important

WITH ALL THE chaos and controversy going on in the world, it's time for us to talk about something really important - namely, dog hair.

If you have dogs, you have dog hair in your house. Angus has short hair, but Genie and Tucker don't. They get stuff stuck in their hair all the time, and we usually suck up two or three vacuum containers of hair a week. The car gets filthy in a hurry, even with a bed sheet covering the back seat.

Genie needs nothing.
So this morning Sheryl took the dogs to be groomed. "They aren't getting shaved," she said. "It's just a cut and a style."

You mean these two dogs are getting their hair styled?

"Of course," she said. "It's not like they are going to a spa or anything. It's just a hair cut."

True. We know a dog that actually goes to a doggy spa every week. It's the same dog that had knee surgery in Columbia, Missouri, by a dog knee surgeon. A DOG KNEE SURGEON. I am not making it up. The same dog gets bottled water and chicken dinners made daily. So getting her hair styled isn't a big deal. It's just part of the routine.

Angus in his "spa"
Tucker and Genie, however, are not so pampered. We'll brush them and hose them down after they roll in death on their walk, but that's about it.

I'm curious to see them this afternoon. Chances are they'll look and feel better. Tucker and Genie have a lot of stringy hair by their butts and back legs, and a good trim will probably make them more aerodynamic and less prone to getting the nasty dingleberries stuck back there.

If you look good, you feel good, and I bet our dogs will feel great. Especially without the dingleberries.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Back at Fifth and Jersey

IT'S BEEN FIVE years to the day since I left The Whig. I don't miss it. I do miss some of the people I worked with, and the five years have flown by. I laughed when reading about it here. Geesh. Five years?

One year ago I went back to work a few nights a week in sports. Last night I went back for my second year of taking calls, writing up short stories and working with some of the younger guys. We were busy and the three-plus hours flew by. It was just like falling off a bike.

Steve Eighinger was working last night. I hired him nearly 20 years ago, you know. I fell off my chair laughing when he told me stories of the latest Quincy Raceways follies and his grandkids. Matt Schuckman was slaving away doing fall sports previews. Same old Schuck ... between him and sports editor David Adam, there isn't anybody who knows more about our local sports scene and the rich history of Quincy sports.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm still doing it for peanuts, or, more accurately, beer money, but that's OK. Every little bit helps, and it's good to stay sharp and challenge myself.

In the immortal words of former sports editor and reporter Don O'Brien (who I also hired 20 years ago), "Whig Whig, baby!" It's good to be back.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

All love in Washington Park

WITHOUT FANFARE, A significant event took place in Quincy Sunday night. "Stand Together In Love Quincy" was organized in response to recent events in Charlottesville, VA. It was put together in just a few days by Rev. Tony Metz and a few others, and it took place in Washington Park.

It was very simple. There were a few speakers, and the idea was to let everybody know we will not tolerate hate or ignorance. Others stood up and made a one-sentence proclamation about what they stand for, and why. And Second String Music legends Ted Holt and Pete Magliocco performed from the gazebo and were amazing. To me, the best part was hearing about 300 people sing along  to "Blowing In The Wind" and "We Shall Overcome."

There was no sound system, which I think added to the ambiance of the event. Yes, it was hard to hear if you were in the back, but there was no PA when Lincoln debated Douglas on the very same spot, either, and they did just fine.

There were so many people from different walks of life, not just the ones fighting injustice and providing social services in Quincy. The messages were clear, it doesn't matter who you are - we are the same inside, and there is no room, NONE, for hate.

To the many of us who showed up, it was powerful reinforcement that we aren't alone, that reasonable people have voices, that there is no place for hate. It was an event to help others see that there is support in the community for everyone.

We now have signs in our store and at the house stating "Hate has no home here." Much love and kudos to Tony and the organizers, and it's good to know we are strong and we will stand up to hate in our community.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Tizzies and stuff happening

TWO EVENTS YESTERDAY made the news and drove people into tizzies. Wait a second .... tizzies? Let's change that up a bit and call it "The Tizzies" and announce a world tour, because a band called The Tizzies must be the bomb.

Anyway, there was a shooting at Fourth and Maine about 8 a.m. A woman from Iowa allegedly fired an alleged gun into an alleged vehicle as the vehicle allegedly tried to get away. Instantly there was police tape and flashing sirens and news crews driving 100 mph an entire block to get exclusive coverage. Then the social media outrage and rumor mill started overflowing, just like a Mississippi River town with drainage problems.

Calm down, web warriors. It's not good and I'm not saying we shouldn't wonder, but QPD made an arrest and people kept turning left onto Fourth Street from Maine. Wrong place, wrong time is my guess on what happened.

A few hours later there was a natural gas leak from a house just a few blocks from where we live. More news crews rushing up streets, more firetrucks and flashing lights and Ameren crews asking for permission to go into basements - wait, that's us at Fifth and Maine once a week, never mind. People were evacuated from homes and yes, this was serious stuff and I'm glad nobody got sick or blown up.

Five years ago, it would have meant a busy morning. Now it's just stuff that is happening and you wonder about it and move on, because selling guitars and giving lessons is every day life, and that's what matters.

Here's to hoping today is much quieter, at least outside of Fifth and Maine. Inside we have tons of guitar lessons and people getting school band instruments and the general music store mayhem.

So keep me posted on what happens in the real world.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

High hopes

THE BEAUTIFUL THING about teaching guitar is being exposed to different music. My students learn everything from Metallica to Taylor Swift. I love hearing songs from people we've never heard of, and I'm not talking about the latest pretty face or hunky beard.

I have students who come up with the most interesting groups and songs. One of them suggested a song by the band Kodaline - I learned some of their songs a while back and they are unbelievable. Why am I not listening to them more often?

Then I stumbled on this video of their song "High Hopes." Warning - it's graphic and disturbing and heart-wrenching and ultimately a story of love trumping evil. Pun intended, of course.

Fitting for our times.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New places for gigs

PLAYING A SHOW at a new venue or new event is always a treat. This weekend I get to do it not once, but twice.

On Friday night, Cori Lyssy and I are playing in the Treehouse behind Electric Fountain Brewing as part of Grown N Gathered's event. Happy Hour is open to the public from 5:30 to 7, and dinner reservations are required after that as Chef Micheal Mitchell is creating his version of turkey, lamb and beef dishes. If you haven't eaten his creations, I wouldn't wait - he is amazing.

On Saturday the Cheeseburgers are playing in Macomb at the Flatland Summer Jam in Veterans Park. The Cheeseburgers are just a good-time party band, so for us to be part of a music festival playing with other bands and doing a 90-minute set in the afternoon is really special. We are going to pull out a few old tricks to go with our usual sing-along jam songs, and the nice thing about playing only 90 minutes is that we can pretty much go all out the whole time.

I know of some Quincy people making the 70-mile trip, and I'm hoping Emily Hart is over her Thailand jet lag so she can enjoy the show. There is no charge to enter, though I believe parking is $5 at the park. You can take a free shuttle from just a few minutes away.

The Cheeseburgers are coming off an incredible summer. Our last few gigs, starting with the Washington Park show last month, have been a blast. Last Saturday night we were at an outdoor wedding reception near Coatsburg and the party was on from the first note. A beautiful night on a nice stage with happy people means rock and roll heaven for us! Congrats to Andrew and Aimee Gunther, great people with great friends. It was an honor to play at your reception and we had more fun than should be allowed.

As always, please do your best to get out and support live and local music, no matter what the venue or event. We live to rock and roll, and we'll sleep when we are dead!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Red Wings aren't the right

THESE IDIOTS MARCHING in Virginia over the weekend are just that - idiots. A pile of dung has more integrity and brains. Sure, let's just grab Tiki torches, wooden sticks, pepper spray and shields. Let's chant Nazi slogans and drive into people that are counter protesting you. Let's then claim you are not racist. Whatever. World wars were fought to stop this kind of racism, Civil Wars were fought to stop this kind of racism. What century are we living in?

One of the things these alt right psychos (Alt Right Psychos would be a great band name) did was use the Detroit Red Wings logo and convert it into the Right Wing logo. This REALLY ticked me off. I mean, being ignorant and evil is one thing - using one of my favorite sports teams as your symbol of ignorance and evil? Geesh. Dr. Evil himself just called Mini Me and denounced you, Alt Rights.

The real and only logo.
I think the Detroit Red Wings need to sue these Alt Right idiots for copyright infringement. Tiki Torches released a statement denouncement the use of their product during the marches. Good for them. I'd sue the Alt Rights for every penny they do or do not have.

So today, I am wearing my new Detroit Red Wings shirt as a symbol of protest against the Nazi/White Supremacist "protesters." Shit heads. Why couldn't you have picked a seal or a porcupine or a sloth or something?

You Right Wings just don't get it. And you can't use my favorite logo, either.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thailand and staying home

A MONTH AGO Emily announced she was going to Thailand for a week. Just like that. "Dad, I'm going to Thailand." Why? "Because my friend is going and she invited me and it sounded like fun."

Man ... to be 25 and have the summer off and to just go wherever. Of course when she gets back she has three days to get ready for the first day of teaching at Western Illinois University.

She's young. Jet lag ain't a big deal.

Any traffic cones in Thailand?
In contrast, Sheryl and I have decided to stay in Quincy on Labor Day Weekend. I'm tempted to fly to Phoenix for the annual Hart Sibling Summit, and there's always Michigan to visit and a beach to sit on.

I can't remember the last time we had more than one day off at home. For us, by the time you fly or drive, hang out for a day or two, and come home, you are wiped out and need a vacation to recover from your vacation.

There's something about home, and something about having more than one day off at home. Rock on, world travelers. I'll toast you from the backyard both Sunday and Monday, of Labor Day Weekend and hopefully wake up Tuesday ready to rock again.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Humor up the .... well, you know

RANDY PHILLIPS IS one of the most creative and funniest people we know. His wife, Marcy, is having a colonoscopy today. So they've created an event on Facebook and posting updates.

I've never laughed so hard in my life.

The procedure has started .....
Look. A colonoscopy is nothing to laugh off or take lightly. I had one a year or so ago. The night before wasn't pleasant, but the rest was easy, and I've never had such a good nap after eating a large pizza. Once you hit 50, get checked. It's pretty simple and can save your life.

Randy and Marcy know this is serious. But why not have fun with it? Yes, this is adult humor, but there's no nasty language or people sticking middle fingers in your face. I consider it good clean fun. After the night of 1,000 waterfalls, as the prep is called, everything is good clean fun.

In a world of social media liars, grinding cable news shows and being forced to watch Tiny House Hunters, it's refreshing to look at a serious subject and have some fun with it. Nobody is getting hurt, unless you count spraining your spleen from laughing so hard.

Here is Randy's Facebook page. I'm not sure if "Marcy's Colonoscopy" is public or if you have to be Facebook friends. Check it out if you can. And get checked out if you are 50 or older.

We want you around so we can all laugh ourselves silly in a serious and insane world.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Put away the phone

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if you didn't have your cell phone for a few days? Have you really thought about it? Would you survive? Or would you go nuts?

Or would you actually enjoy it?

I went to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, last weekend and worked for Gus Macker. It was a great tournament, well run and right on the beautiful Lake Michigan shore. I couldn't get any reception to go online on my phone. So I put it away. Except for a few texts from Sheryl, I didn't look at it all weekend, and I didn't miss it a bit.

At about 5 p.m. Sunday, in the championship game of a high school boys bracket, I was officiating and finally had enough of the constant whining and crying from a few fans. So Sheboygan learned Rodney from Macker was tired, was ready for the seven-hour drive home, and was going to sleep like a baby when he got home, and was NOT going to listen to anymore crap. As soon as I stopped the game to announce this, at least a dozen phones went up in the air to record my tirade.

I'm gonna guess I was on Facebook within a few minutes of my announcement. Thankfully I kept it clean and it actually helped - the players and parents were better the rest of the game.

Lately there have been a lot of people walking around Washington Park with their eyes glued to their phones. Why? WHY? Maybe this stupid Pokey Man thing is still going on. Maybe they are watching cat videos or learning a new language or texting their friends as they walk. Hey. It takes skill to walk and text at the same time. I can't do it. I can't even put the dog in the car without being smacked in the head with the door, but that's another story.

Last night I walked the dogs and there was a group of about 30 people at the cemetery. Normally this is a good thing - we need to learn more about our history and the people who came before us. But every person, and I mean EVERY person, was holding their phone right in front of their faces. They weren't taking photos or video. Perhaps there is some sort of interactive online app for the cemetery - even our building has a barcode thing on one of the windows you can scan with your phone, and you can read more about the history of the building.

But these people seemed incapable of just walking around and enjoy the incredible views and appreciating the fact the founder of our city, John Wood, stood right where they stood in the 1840s and said, "Quincy will appreciate this forever, especially the ones who aren't addicted to their phones." Perceptive fella, that John Wood. There was a guy addressing the group, but again, not a single person put down their phone and appeared to be listening to him.

I challenge you to put away your phone for a day. I double dog dare you. Get out your guitar and play it till your fingers bleed.

I bet you wouldn't make it an hour. I bet you are so consumed by technology you simply can't function without it. Of course, the irony isn't lost here, as I sit behind a computer and type and then hit "Publish" and put this online. You are probably reading it on your phone.

Just don't walk and read at the same time, please.