Friday, June 23, 2017

Another rock and roll weekend - GO

IT'S GORGEOUS DOWN here at Fifth and Maine, and we are ready for another rock and roll weekend. Start up the truck and let's go!

At 11:30 this morning, Blake Gardner plays for our Noon Blues show in Washington Park. Tonight's Blues In The District features Catfish Willie and starts at 5:30. After the show, continue your blues fix with the Matt Roberts Blues Band at The Club Tavern on North 10th.

Saturday night, The Cheeseburgers start our 2017 Summer Make America Cheesey Again Tour at the Party Cove in Monroe City, 8 bells is the kickoff. And Sunday at 2 p.m., Cori Lyssy and I return to our favorite Hannibal haunt, La Azotea, to hang out with April and the crew in the patio.

Sunday night I'll go to bed and hopefully wake up Tuesday or Wednesday, and let you know how it all went.

Time to Git Cheesey!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cars crashing into buildings

IN THE PAST WEEK and change we've had two major incidents involving vehicles striking buildings. One took place across Washington Park at Fourth and Hampshire. The alleged driver allegedly hit another vehicle and was allegedly being reckless when his van completely demolished the bottom floor. Allegedly he was impaired. Then he got out of jail the next morning, for some reason. He caused a ton of damage, frightened a bunch of people and displaced residents of the apartments above.

Look both ways before you .... enter your building?
I don't know the guy and I don't want to know the guy. I just hope he has a good lawyer and deep pockets. He's gonna need both. There's nothing alleged about that.

The other day two cars collided at 12th and Vermont and one smacked into a building on the corner. It happened at the same corner last summer.

A few winters ago a car got hit at our busy Fifth and Maine intersection, and had it not been for a pile of ice and snow, it may have hit our building. And I can't tell you how many times I've walked across the intersection with the light and had a vehicle turning left nearly hit me.

Then again, I'll thank the driver who stopped yesterday morning when my dogs got out of the store after they saw another dog across the street and got excited. That one is on me, and I'll do better.

During Q-Fest, Fifth and Maine was closed, but the intersection traffic lights kept working. Sheryl wondered if a drunk driver coming up the street would see the lights but not the barricades and just keep going. GUH.

You know the old saying - "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk or out of your building!" Funny, I guess, but all too true.

Be careful out there, Q-Town.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cats and trees

OUR NEW CAT, Josie, is growing up. She is now wandering around the backyard, keeping an eye on things. Don't worry, she is fixed and she doesn't go far.

This morning she climbed our backyard tree and caused a fuss with birds who have a nest up there. Then a neighborhood stray cat poked his head over the fence to check things out, no doubt smelling the patch of catnip we have growing by the shed.

The dogs chased the stray off, though Josie was intrigued and made strange noises at the other cat. There's another cat from a few houses down and I think they are cat buddies. I imagine they go on cat play hunts and exchange cat gossip - "Dude, that catnip patch is beyond wow, me-
ow," neighbor cat says.

I think it's great that Josie is an outdoor cat. She is very good at helping Sheryl weed the garden and at patrolling the fence so nobody gets into her catnip. That she knows, anyway. She is also quite lazy and will wallow on the patio monitoring the backyard for hours.

Our friend Josh Brueck had a hilarious Facebook post the other day - Josh was trying to swat a moth and his cat simply nabbed it out of mid-air, ate it, and looked at Josh like it was no big deal. Same thing with Josie, who is really into bugs, birds, spiders and anything that crawls or moves.

Ah, the life of a cat, especially a cat who thinks she is a dog. Go get 'em, Josie!

Just don't drag it back into the house.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rain and German outhouse fertilizer = huge garden

WE FINALLY GOT some rain last week. I went out of town Friday to work for Gus Macker and came back Sunday night, and I couldn't believe how much our backyard garden sprung to life.

We have cucumber, egg plant, tomato, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and a bunch of other plants in there. We also have lots of grass and succulent weeds. Sheryl has started cleaning out the jungle and I helped a little bit last night until the bugs and Gus Macker recovery stopped me.

It's not THIS bad.
Sheryl is finding plants underneath the weeds. Last week she dug out a huge cucumber and it was delicious. The basil plants smell wonderful and it's just basically an out of control garden wonderland. She needs help weeding, volunteers??

We attribute the growth to rain, sun, good dirt and the fact the original outhouse hole is still in the garden. All these years later, that good German poop is working wonders, right? We still find lots of old toys, nails and pottery, too. Maybe we should call an archeologist or something.

Anyway, we're gonna have a lot of fresh produce. Healthy and delicious Calftown garden shtuff is a beautiful thing!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More civility is just talk

ABOUT THE ONLY good thing to come out of yesterday's horrendous shooting in Alexandria was when Live With Kelly and Who? got pre-empted. Now people are calling for more civility and unity, which is usually the case in the wake of tragedy and evil intentions.

I'm all about it. Maybe we should have a baseball game between Rs and Ds every week. If they got along better, our government would be better.

I hate politics in general, mostly because politics means going to meetings and failing to compromise. At the state level, I think our government is a joke, a laughing stock, and I'm embarrassed to live in Illinois due to posturing and preening politicians who couldn't care less about us, the people.

It starts at the very top. It's not about disruption and treading water only on your side of the bay. It's about working with everybody. These are all high and mighty ideas and they sound great. But why is it once you slap an R or D on your chest, you are pretty much useless and you fall right into the same old trough of bipartisanship?

It makes me angry just to think about it, which is why I'm focusing on what the Capitol Police did and how it could have been a lot worse.

On Saturday, July 8, we are having an appreciation day for our local police, fire fighters and emergency responders. It will be in Washington Park starting early in the afternoon. We'll have more details soon, but let's just say it will be a big party and a way for all of us to give thanks to the guys and gals that protect us from so much danger.

So I'm not letting some POS from our state who nearly caused a horrific massacre bring me down. In fact, I'm not thinking about him at all after I write this. Pray for him and family if you want, but don't dwell on him or what he was doing.

United. We. Stand. And keep July 8 open to show your appreciation to those who keep us safe.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

EFB's new Listening Room

I REALLY LIKE what Ryan Christian and the Electric Fountain Brewing is doing with their Sixth and Hampshire space - turning it into an intimate acoustic venue.

EFB is having what they call a "listening room" show Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. They will have up to eight performers, each getting about 15 minutes, and original music will be encouraged. There is no PA system so it's really about playing, not hiding behind tracks or smoke and mirrors. This will take place inside the building.

I appreciated One Restaurant having an open mic on Thursday nights. It was a great chance for people not used to playing or even experienced musicians getting up to jam. However, many of the people who went to the open mic nights were there to socialize, not encourage the musicians. It was also a big stage in a big space and the feel sometimes got lost. This is no fault of the venue or the owners, Noi and Tenille, who were and continue to be great to our local musicians. One Restaurant is having success as an events venue and is handing over the open mic event to Electric Fountain.

I'm not sure an afternoon during the week is the best time, but EFB  wants to do it during regular business hours to gauge interest. I'm in lessons until 6 so I won't get a chance to check it out, but I'm hopeful they will extend it into an evening event at some point.

The original music is also a great idea. It would be fun to dig out the old Funions songs and try them out again - I had to fill in at the last second last Friday for our noon acoustic show in Washington Park and it was a blast playing a few originals. And why is it I can remember a song I made up 20 years ago but I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning? The way it works, I guess.

It won't have to be loud. There's no PA, so no "my voice sounds better with reverb" thing. It's just you and the air and the people in the space, and it doesn't get any more natural than that. I'm also looking forward to events in the "Treehouse" space in the back.

If you have time Thursday, I encourage you to check it out. Kudos to Ryan and EFB for supporting local music, and I hope it's the first of many successful events!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The MacGyver of Quincy

SHERYL HAS A new nickname after saving another musician from the perils of equipment malfunction - The MacGyver of Quincy.

Friday night in Washington Park, Hurricane Ruth performed before a packed house. The drummer wandered into the store about two hours before showtime because he'd forgotten his rug to put his drums on, so we let him borrow one. It's what we do and the drummer was thrilled.

He was back about an hour later. Seems his snare stand was broken and he needed a quick fix. So Sheryl dug out her drill, duct tape and a screwdriver. Together they figured it out, and that's how he came up with the nickname. The rest of the band came over to enjoy a little Green Room hospitality and they were thrilled with the big crowd and the park vibe.

Sheryl is very good at diagnosing and fixing guitar and random instrument issues. We also have excellent resources and people who can do the bigger jobs.

Tools of the trade.
A few years ago, the Rockin' Jake band was in town for Blues In The District, and the bass player, Cleveland, came in with his bass almost in pieces. Sheryl spent nearly three frantic hours putting it back together, just in time for the show.

Sheryl likes the nickname. I think it fits too! Hurricane Ruth and her band put on a great show and we even got off the sidewalk a few times. In fact, the band came over and asked if they could get a bottle of red wine for after the show - so I headed to Tiramisu, and Roberto of course had what we needed. I even delivered it to the stage.

Here's to hoping Hurricane Ruth and her band had fun Friday and remember us in little old Quincy, Illinois. I guarantee the band will remember MacGyver over at the music store.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Noon, Blues and more sidewalk fun

BLUES IN THE District kicks off tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. in Washington Park. Hurricane Ruth is here to get us started for another strong season - click here for the complete lineup. Second String Music is especially fired up to sponsor The Matt Roberts Blues Band on July 28. In fact, you can head down to the Club Tavern on 10th between Chestnut and Cherry to catch Matt and the boys this Friday night after the Blues In The District show is over.

It ain't easy to get off the sidewalk and venture into the park for Blues In The District, but we'll make an effort. Promise.

Every Friday for lunch, we have local acoustic artists putting on shows in Washington Park. We start tomorrow with a special show - Jaki Kaufman starts at 11:15 a.m. and Bella Song plays about an hour later - and just like Blues In The District, it's free and open to the public. The Butcher Block will be right across the street from us at Fifth and Maine to serve lunch.

Here's the lineup for our noon shows. It's in the shade and the music is awesome, so please come down and support live and local music!

All shows start at 11:30 and go until 1 p.m., except for tomorrow.

June 9 - Jaki Kaufman and Bella Song
June 23 - Blake Gardner
July 14 - HartLyss
July 28 - Steve Rees
Aug. 11 - Akoustic Mayhem
Aug. 25 - Tyler Marquess

We will have more info on the Quincy Park Distirct's Summer Concert Series, but here is the lineup. Each show starts at 6 p.m. in Washington Park (Madison Park's lack of trees from the storm two years ago prompted the move downtown).

Thursday, June 15 - Soul Shaker
Thursday, July 6 - The Cheeseburgers
Thursday, July 20 - Raised On Radio

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cardboard and recycling runs

THE OTHER MORNING when we got to Second String Music, there was a huge and empty cardboard box sitting right in front of the store, flattened out.

We wondered who dropped it off. The box was from Walmart and it previously housed a big baby crib, and it still had packing material in it. There was black spray paint on the box, so it may have come from last weekend's Q-Fest, though why it showed up two days later in front of our store is a bit curious.

Really, it's been great around here after two huge weekend events. Gus Macker and Q-Fest were both awesome and the area around Washington Park has never looked better. Maybe somebody just wanted to make sure there was at least some debris laying around, so they threw it at our front door. Or, more likely, somebody knew we recycled and figured we'd take care of it.

It's fine. I make weekly cardboard runs to the recycle place about half a mile away. I stuffed the box into the trunk along with six or seven empty Jackson guitar boxes, and made a run. I saved a bunch of trees and just felt better about life. So I'm glad somebody tossed a big box in front of the store.

At least cardboard can be recycled.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Q-Fest and leaving my brain at Fifth and Maine

WHAT A GREAT weekend yet again at Fifth and Maine - this time, Q-Fest took over the streets around Washington Park, and it was a blast.

Q-Fest was formerly called the MidSummer Arts Faire, and it used to take place at the end of June. There was so much other stuff going on this weekend, yet it didn't seem to hurt the crowds. The street party Saturday night was wall to wall on Maine Street between Sixth and Fifth. And the Sunday attendance was the best I've ever seen.

Steve leading the Drum Circle
Certainly weather drives an outdoor event, and we had good weather. The musical performers in the Washington Park gazebo were well-received, and the revamped placement of artist tents around the fountain was well-done, too.

There were fewer artists than normal, to be expected when you switch dates. I thought it was easier to navigate and check out all the art - Sheryl got some great jewelry from our friend Mary Beth and found some small metal sculptures, too.

I walked into Jamie Green's tent to find he'd done a drawing of our building, so I bought it - we'll get it framed and hang it proudly in the store.

There are always things to tweak and make better. I'd like to see Fifth and Maine stay open until 6 Friday night instead of closing at 4 - it's only for a couple of hours, but it can be a big thing for a small business like us. I will say we had a big day Saturday, and the event drove traffic into the store - we even did a little business Sunday.

The street concert Saturday night was awesome - the band Members Only tore it down and it was nuts. I did feel bad for the opening band and for the guys setting up in the afternoon - perhaps facing the stage east would make it easier instead of baking in the sun, and maybe move it back up toward Fifth and Maine. Or use Jail Alley for the stage and flow everything in from there. Ideas.

Early Street Party Shot, Thank you Mike Sorenson
These are minor things and I know the Q-Fest committee will be reviewing things, after everybody gets some sleep for a change. And it amazed me how clean the park and the streets were all weekend - people who care make a difference. Everywhere I looked Saturday night, people were putting cans and cups into trash containers, not just throwing them on the sidewalk.

So, congrats to Maggie Strong, Kayla Obert and the army of volunteers who make this one of Quincy's best events.  Let's do it again! After we get some sleep, of course.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

More stuff at Fifth and Maine

WE ARE GEARING up for another big weekend downtown. This time its the renamed Q-Fest takes over Washington Park for music, food, art and a huge street dance concert Saturday night.

Q-Fest was known as the MidSummer Arts Faire for many years, and it used to be the last weekend of June. Changing the name and the date is a bit of a gamble, and we'll see what the crowds are like this weekend - to me, weather plays the biggest factor.

Q-Fest (MSAF) has always a good weekend for us at Second String Music. This year Maine Street will be closed between Fourth and Sixth, which limits access to the store. It's the second straight weekend the two blocks are closed - last Saturday we actually had a big day in the store, even with Gus Macker and all the chaos.

We are having a jam session in the store on Friday night, starts around 4 or 5 pm. We will also have the store open during the street dance concert on Saturday night. It will be a safe space for extra partying during the concert, green room style. BYOBeverages....

There is a lot of other stuff going on in Quincy this weekend, and here's to hoping you can cram it all in. As for us, we'll be right at home at Fifth and Maine. Come on down for the party!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Single home versus duplex

OUR NEIGHBOR ACROSS the street sold his house and moved to the country. It's a beautiful old German home with new siding and a lot of character.

He sold the house to a local contractor with a decent reputation. But the contractor apparently wants to take a stately single-family home and turn it into a two-family duplex, and the flags immediately go up.

The two houses to our west are both divided. The one right next to us is OK (and I know one of the tenants will be reading this with great interest). The other is iffy. The rest of the block is single-family.

The landlord business is tough - we go through it on a commercial level at Fifth and Maine. Decent landlords are hard to find around here and decent home renters can be a challenge to find as well.

Twelve years ago I moved into the top of a house at 9th and Monroe that had three units. The landord, Bob Pribble, was excellent and I never had issues with the other tenants. So it can work out, if people actually give a crap.

Our house in our quiet old neighborhood
My fear is that this beautiful house across the street will go downhill if two renters get in there who don't care about the property. A family that buys the home and lives in it would be a lot more likely to put the time and effort needed to keep up an older home.

We have four houses within a stone's throw empty right now. Two of them are in foreclosure with no relief is site, and have become nasty eyesores.

Geesh. Why don't people care about where they live, or properties they own?

I offer no solutions. But you can bet I'm keeping a close eye on the house across the street, and ultimately the new tenants. We hope the new owner/landlord will care about our little neighborhood as much as we do.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Remembering the good Gus stuff

THE OLDER WE get, the longer it takes to recover from another fantastic Gus Macker weekend. I think I slept for 11 hours last night .... Geesh.

As event manager for the national staff, my job is to basically deal with 2 percent of the people who cause 99 percent of the problems. Sure, I had my hands full a few times. But that stuff doesn't bother me - people are idiots no matter where you go and you just deal with it and move on. By the way, Washington Park looked amazing Sunday night after the Quincy Notre Dame football team came through and cleaned it up, like they do every year.

I choose to remember the good times and the many people who had a blast. And I always have one memory stick out.

This year it happened on Sunday afternoon at about 2 p.m. The Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team won a state championship the night before, so they got the traditional firetruck ride through downtown. We stopped all our games on Maine Street and let the parade go through and gave them some major Macker and Quincy love.

Photo by Lisa Smith on facebook
Caption: Gus Macker champions....... again — with Anthony Fairlee, Donovan Prost and Jirehl Brock.
On the court near Fifth and Maine, Jirehl Brock and his team were playing in the championship game. Jirehl is going to be a junior at Quincy High School this fall. He is an amazing athlete - I had to politely tell him to quit dunking so he wouldn't bend the rim. And what a great kid, him and his three teammates. Their games drew big crowds and were a joy to watch.

So the QND girls rolled by his court, and sure enough, Jirehl and his teammates stood up and gave them a standing ovation, and everybody else around the court did, too.

My daughter was a QHS Blue Devil and I experienced the QND-QHS rivalry firsthand, and it is pretty intense. So I got goosebumps when seeing athletes from one school saluting another.

There's hope in this world after all, you know?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

See you in the park this Macker weekend

SO WE KNOW it's about Gus Macker time when Noah Williams rolls into town.

Noah is the national staff foreman. He puts all the baskets together, makes sure the courts are ready (the Exchange Club of Quincy tapes them the week before we start) and gets everything off the truck. Noah is one of the best and one of many hard-working Macker national staff members who make things work and keep things moving during a hectic weekend.

I am proud to be the Event Manager for the national staff for the second straight year. This means overseeing the brackets and registration areas and putting out fires - I love Gus, challenges and logistics included. The previous 18 Quincy Macker tournaments I volunteered as an official and Dream Court organizer. I am also working for four other Gus Mackers in three states this summer.

This is the 27th year for Quincy's Gus Macker, a tribute and testament to the Quincy Exchange Club. They are the reason we are still going strong here.

I am not blind to the challenges this tournament puts on our downtown area, and I am sympathetic to the plight of businesses. We are right in the thick of it.

But Sheryl and I love Gus Macker, and we choose to embrace it and make it the best weekend we can. I am proud of our tournament and proud to say I am from Quincy when I travel to other tournaments in the Midwest.

So ... if you need to find me this weekend, starting at about 2 p.m. Friday .... come on over to Washington Park. I'll be wandering around somewhere!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Believe in yourself

WE JUST SOLD a microphone with a USB connector to a young man who wants to record songs on his laptop. He said, "I don't mean to brag or nothing, but I don't suck."

I don't know the young man. I've never heard him sing, or rap, or whatever it is he does. But you know what? He's all fired up and he is chasing his passion and dreams. Good for him! Second String Music is proud to help and we hope he makes it to the big time.

Sheryl and I have learned you can't judge a book by its cover. We are about supporting our local musicians, no matter what kind of music they play. Who knows? Maybe this young man will go on and be a big star and rule the world.

If so, we are proud to say we helped him along the way.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tiny House Hungers equals huge GUH

TODAY'S BIG HUGE rant is about something tiny. As in, Tiny House Hunters. As in, Sheryl is addicted to HGTV and when she gets tired of 10-person political panels on CNN, she flips it over to HGTV to watch a bunch of home improvements shows.

There's Property Brothers, Beachfront Bargains, Flip or Flop Vegas, and many different versions of House Hunters. The best show was when a poor family in Calftown tried to teach the father to overcome his allergies to power tools and drywall. Wait. That was real and called "Homeowners In The Hood" and it had record ratings.

But .... IT'S SO TINY.
The most ludicrous show, and they are all a bit ludicrous, is called Tiny House Hunters. This features people downsizing and tired of paying huge rent and mortgage payments. So they move into a closet, or something slightly bigger. The first one I watched featured a woman bellowing "IT'S SO TINY" every time she walked into a room. Actually, there was only one room. Good grief, where is she going to put her shoes? Hello! It's TINY HOUSE HUNTERS! The only thing more obnoxious is a person who types in all caps.

Last night's Tiny House Hunters featured a married couple from West Virginia. They moved into the woods and built their own tiny house. The woman has a good job and the man is a full-time musician. That's code for "stay at home husband" or "broke music store owner." But I digress.

The couple used musical instruments to make fixtures and the guy built a stage on the back of the house for his band. They didn't have running water or electricity during construction, though I seem to remember power tools being used - plugged into a generator or a big gerbil running around a turbine wheel generator, I suspect.

It was mesmerizing and I almost burned dinner on the grill, it was so interesting. Then they decided to get all their water from a nearby stream. The guy even tested it to make sure it was clean. It was never explained how their tiny bathroom got tiny water dribbles out of the tiny faucets and shower heads, or where the tiny toilet flushing went, but hey, it's a half hour show and the band played at the housewarming party, which is way more important than water supply and where the electricity comes from. Sheryl said, "That was a $25,000 ad for the band. It was a business expense."

So there it is, our new Monday night cable TV show. Tiny is the new big and big is just a state of mind. If tiny is your style, so be it and good for you - Sheryl and I are happy with our big old German Calftown Hart Manor. We do not think we could live in a space the size of our tiny kitchen.

Hmmm. Now that could be a not Tiny show. Fixing up Hart Manor in Calftown with the irritating Twinsy dudes from Canada?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Back the (dancing) Blue!

VANCIL PERFORMING ARTS had its annual recital Saturday and Sunday at the Morrison Theater inside Quincy Junior High School. Congrats to Cindy, her teachers and all the students for another great year.

The start the recital, several members of our local law enforcement agencies were invited to participate in a dance number. The response was tremendous and it looked like our boys and girls in blue had a lot of fun. Particularly graceful was Quincy Police Sgt. Adam Yates of Pepper Spray and Prospect Road fame - if you've ever seen him boogie to "Ice Ice Baby," you know what I mean.

Cindy and Frank have made Back The Blue a priority and have done a lot of good stuff to raise money and morale. We have another huge event coming up July 8 at Washington Park in downtown Quincy, so stay tuned - it will be epic.

And you might just see a few more dancing officers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell and the death of grunge

I AM NOT a fan of the so-called "Grunge" music scene. It killed hair bands and melodic rock, some say. Bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nirvana came around at the right place at the right time and changed rock music. I never understood it, but by then I was trying to grow up. I had a real job and a family, and I just never identified with it.

Still, it's sad to hear about the passing of Chris Cornell, who had an incredible voice and did some really interesting music. I liked Temple of the Dog, and I remember trying to learn "Say Hello To Heaven" for a student a few years back. The one thing I can appreciate about musicians like Cornell is that they were different and didn't really care about formula.

Some say grunge died a long time ago. I don't know about that - there are still bands out there playing music and making a lot of people happy, and filling concert halls.

The video below is from a live concert. No autotune here, thank you. This is a guy who could sing and project himself through his voice. Even a Youtube video shows it.

Cornell inspired passion. I'm reading comments from some of our local musicians I respect and they are just devastated by his loss. It sounds like he had demons and was pretty much a poster child for the tortured rock and roll musician, and vices were common in his life.

So it's a sad day for music. Peace to you, Chris Cornell, and the the many who celebrate his music and life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

This guitar scale life ain't no illusion

I HAVE A guitar student who went to St. Louis last Friday and saw Joe Walsh and Tom Petty play in St. Louis. He said it was an amazing show, and I regret not getting to check it out.

Joe Walsh is from another planet. By that, I mean NOBODY plays guitar like him. I love his solo stuff because it's not that hard to figure out but it has all kinds of guitar and other parts hemming in and out.

So, this morning, the student and I sat down and learned "Life of Illusion." I remember playing it years ago and figuring out the opening riff. All these years later, I realize I learned it in the wrong key and had no idea what I was doing. Now I have a whole new approach to life and to playing the guitar - Life of Illusion uses a D major scale, and if you practice the scale, you can learn the riff in no time.

Then we listened to "Breakdown" by Tom Petty, and he learned the little solo part. It's the descending Pentatonic scale in A minor. That sounds music-speak and the explanation is a lot longer and harder than it takes to learn.

Wait a second ... am I turning into what I loathe - the music snob?

Nope. I'm just learning and teaching, in that order. And that's not an illusion.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Josie the bird catcher

IT SEEMS OUR mouser is more of a birder. And that means bad news for our winged friends in Calftown and around Hart Manor House.

We got Josie the Calico a few months ago. Sheryl's excuse was that Josie was going to be our mouse catcher, but this winter we have not had mice in the house. Usually our dogs can catch them, but none compared to the Queen of Calftown, Lucy the Border Collie, who was adept at finding and killing mice.

Josie is getting bigger and hopping around like a kangaroo on her long legs. She loves going outside, running around with the dogs and hunting prey, and now she's fast enough and patient enough to snatch birds from the bushes around our house.

Three times in the last few days she's caught a bird and carried it back into the house. The bird, of  course, is traumatized and screaming at the top of its little bird lungs. Josie is quite proud of her catch and wants to show it off, but she hasn't quite learned how to kill the bird first to keep it quiet before bringing it in.

Of course the dogs think the bird is a new toy, adding to the chaos of Josie proudly marching around with a fluttering and bellowing creature in her mouth. Then Josie drops the bird by the bed and comes up to us with a smirk, as in, "This is was too easy. These birds think they are so smart. WRONG. I'm going out to get another one!"

This morning the bird hopped under the bed, and I had to herd the dogs outside while Sheryl put on gloves and tried to catch the poor wounded creature. She eventually got it, put it outside, and it hid under the porch. Later I saw it going across the lawn and into the safety of the neighbor's backyard, thought it is probably only safe until Josie goes back outside again.

We are somewhat horrified by our cat catching birds (and not killing it right away). Josie and the dogs think it's the greatest thing ever and consider it a big game. It all depends on your view, like anything else.

So the next time I'm sitting on the porch drinking my morning coffee in the glorious spring sun, and I hear an awful screaming and see the cat running up the sidewalk, I will close the back door and ask Josie to either put the bird out of its misery, or just play with it in the backyard.

Now, about catching mice ... go get 'em, killer!

Monday, May 15, 2017

A quarter means 15 - clock it

I WAS WALKING to the car Saturday afternoon when a teenager walking a dog stopped me and politely asked for the time.

"It's quarter after 2," I said.

"What?" she said. "Quarter? Does that mean 20 or 25?"

Can you tell the time?
This halted me in my tracks. How could you not know what quarter after 2 means? Then it dawned on me - I said "quarter," which in the teen's world means "25." The teen isn't dumb. And it might be fair to suggest the teen doesn't look at a clock when telling the time, but looks at a digital display, probably on a computer screen.

Man. The times they are a-changing, right? Wrong. They already done did change and I been left behind, is more like it.

I remember drive-ins, rotary dial phones, actually answering the door when hearing a knock, and looking up a number in a phone book. I remember being amazed by this new-fangled thing called the internet. I remember getting the afternoon paper the day after a big game and reading about it, or looking up the score from the night before.

I remember going around to talk to people face to face, instead of sending an email or Facebook message. Wait. I actually did go around and talk to people in person last week, and it's going to pay off. So there - go retro, and get results.

The point is, the young person in question isn't dumb - we just live in a much different world. I just hope she's on time, wherever she is going.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Original music with No Wake

THERE IS A very cool show Saturday night at Mark Twain Brewery featuring Hannibal's own No Wake. They have just released a new CD and are really excited about playing new and original songs. Capisce and Dark Below are also on the bill. It starts at 7 p.m. and there's no cover charge.

"An Act Of Defiance" is now available at Second String Music and iTunes, among other places. I salute Sean McHargue and his band for pursuing the dream of playing original music and fighting to the good fight to be true to their craft and not compromise.

When I started getting involved in the Quincy area music scene about 18 years ago, there were several awesome original bands and solo artists pursuing the original music goal. Wish I could say that now - while there are some great local acts still around, the band scene has pretty much died for originals, save for the odd Fielder show once in a while. Zeke Cernea is still out there - he sounded great at our Concerts In The Plaza last week, and there are players like Logan Kammerer, George Cate, Kayla Obert and more doing their own songs.

Love, love, love. Unfortunately, to play in the bars and venues around here, what few are left, people mostly want to hear songs they know. I play in a band (The Cheeseburgers) that plays all covers, and we are getting ready for a busy summer - we are a good-time party band, nothing more, playing all those Cheesey songs you know and love. We don't apologize for it.

Still, I miss the days of my old band, The Funions, playing our own songs and being really excited to make and perform our own music.

If you are out and about in Hannibal, stop by the Brewery Saturday night. Support local music. Best of luck to the No Wake guys doing their own thing!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Make downtown beautiful

ALL THE STUFF about the Dogwood Carnival is draining. I'm spending way too much negative energy and it's screwing everything up. So I'm trying to come up with solutions, not just telling the carnival to pack up and go away.

There are other locations downtown to consider, like the Adams County Health Department. Or, how about right in front of the Kroc Center? Man, it's the perfect location, though I'm not sure people who use the Kroc to work out would like it, or the employees.

Clat Adams Park would be a great location, more than enough room. The trash will still be a huge issue - nobody wants all the stuff going into the river. Plus you have potential flooding issues down there that start about this time of year. It's just an idea, one worth pursuing. There are other riverfront locations to consider as well.

If we can move the carnival, I propose we have a Downtown Beautification Day. All the businesses in the downtown clean up there store fronts, almost daily, and would easily commit to more thorough cleanings once a year. Sheryl cleans the sidewalks in front of our store every week in the summer and gets all the nasty cigarette butts out of the cracks.

The District beautifies our planters and streets and makes sure the flags up and down Maine are in good condition. Let's make it part of Dogwood and really get people together to make things better for everybody. Hundreds of cities do this and it works - here's just one example. Put Second String Music down as a sponsor and I'll volunteer all day around Fifth and Maine.

We could plant, clean, paint and make everything around here just a little bit better and more appealing.

Let's channel all of this stuff into positive action and finding solutions.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Meetings, meetings and meetings

THERE ARE MEETINGS coming up I'd like to attend. Normally, I hate meetings. I don't like sitting there listening to people gab, especially when they just like the sound of their own voice. I had to cover and write about a lot of meetings when I was a reporter and I detested and dreaded going to them.

They are, unfortunately, necessary. I am in guitar lessons during the week most nights until at least 6:30 or 7, so it's hard to get out and go to some of them, but I'll make an effort this week.

Wednesday night, the Quincy Park District board meets at 6 p.m. at QPD headquarters on Bonansinga Drive. I'm told the Dogwood Carnival will be talked about, among other things.

On Thursday night at 6, there's a strategic planning meeting at the Quincy Public Library. Mayor Kyle Moore and other city officials will be talking about economic development and important issues in our community. It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and blame everybody for everything - I am guilty as anybody - so this is a chance to hear about very important things going on in our city.

And finally, at the May 15 City Council meeting, I'm hoping to talk to the mayor and to our alderman about some of our concerns with the Dogwood carnival, and offer some potential ideas and solutions.

As for the next meeting, I suggest we take the Congregational or Methodist approach, and schedule a meeting to talk about when the next meeting with take place, as long as there is another meeting about it. GUH. The end.

Monday, May 8, 2017

See ya, Dogwood Carnival

Fifth and Maine Sunday night. 
I GOT BACK last night from working for Gus Macker in Cape Girardeau, Mo. I was in a great mood. Sheryl and I went downtown to check on the store and see how things looked after the Dogwood Carnival torpedoed our normal Saturday business.

Would you like a side of curly fries too?
My mood turned sour. Almost as sour as the barbecue simmering on our sidewalk, with a side of curly fries festering nearby. Sheryl was ticked off too - she had an ugly encounter Saturday with a parent who was cursing in front of our store doors, and it didn't end well, and reflected very poorly upon the event. She closed early and had a much better rest of the day with three dogs and a cat. And peace and quiet.

I wouldn't have even opened the store. It's early Monday afternoon and I've already tripled the business we did Saturday. It kills us to lose the business, especially because of an event that has no economic impact for Quincy.

Back to Sunday night - the streets were full of debris. The southeast corner of Washington Park looked like a bomb had gone off in it. You couldn't even walk up the park gazebo steps because they were littered with crap. Food, cups, plates, gunk, everything. The streets were covered in noxious liquid spills.

It was unbelievable.

Bret Austin was there, and he was calling people. WGEM showed up and did this interview with me. I didn't act this angry during the whole thing, but it's accurate, and you can tell I'm obviously pissed off.

WGEM came back again this morning to do a followup. It's been a crazy morning and early afternoon, to say the least.

Thank you to the Quincy Park District for the quick response and for cleaning things up, and for the District volunteers doing the same. By the time I got down here about 9 this morning, the park was clean and the streets were getting that way..

The Dogwood Carnival must go. I'm talking to my fellow business owners on the square and getting a petition together. I am planning to attend a City Council meeting, maybe even a week from tonight, to urge our aldermen to not let the carnival back to Fifth and Maine.

Every other event down here cleans up. The notion that "it got cleaned up this morning" and that "people are pigs and should clean up themselves" is insipid, at best. If you have a damned event down here, CLEAN IT UP. It's pretty simple.

I'm gonna stop now before I get too mad and write something really dumb that I regret later.

If you were down here and enjoyed the carnival, good for you. You can enjoy it again next year, but not at Fifth and Maine. Promise.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Teacher, teach thyself

WAY too much fun with these guys .... except during the Folsom solo!
I AM LIVING the dream being a guitar teacher. I have amazing students and we have a blast in lessons. I end up learning just as much as they do, sometimes even more. I consider myself an average guitar player but I love the teaching part, and often it's more about listening and technique than reading notes and figuring out theory.

I just got a very nice note from one of my former students, Brian Pahlman, who moved to Scotland with his wife, Pat, last year. He is now listening to songs and watching people play them, and he's figuring them out on his own. I call it the antenna - you listen, and it filters down from there.

Last Saturday, I played with my Pepper Spray buddies Adam Yates and Justin Sievert at State Street Bar & Grill. We had a blast - the place was packed and people were really into it. It was nice to see so many friends and good people hooting and hollering along with us. I thought we played pretty well too, and it's all about the energy from both the crowd and the band.

We played the Johnny Cash song Folsom Prison Blues, with Adam singing. All of the sudden he says, "Rodney, play the solo!" I am an average strummer and lousy lead guitar player, but the solo is pretty simple in this song, so I went to give it a go.

And .... I froze. Clunk. Geshing. Scbhalshed. That's what it sounded like. I got a hair frustrated and gave up. I apologized to Adam and he said, "Why are you sorry? It's just so ... Pepper Spray!" So I felt a little better about it.

So guess who is working on transitioning from strum patterns to picking out a lead lick this week? Yup. And I'm making my students do it too, and they are really getting into it, so we are both winning. So. Much Fun.

Playing music requires practice and patience. I play a lot, but I don't always have a lot of patience, so I work on it all the time.

Who knows? Maybe I'll nail the solo next time when we play Folsom.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Prices and happy happy happy

HERE ARE FOUR stories about prices, being upset about prices, being reasonable about prices, and working together. It's all about love and harmony at Second String Music, or at least we strive to make it that way.

A young man came in last week looking for an item. He got upset about the price. I understand - we try to match internet prices on most items, but there are some things we just can't match. The young man mumbled under his breath and I believe cursed at me as he left the store.

We always have happiness on sale at SSM!
He came back a minute later. "Well, I have to have it," he said. He gave me the money, and I was prepared to give him his nickel in change. "Keep the change!" he said. So our Elevator Restoration Fund is five cents richer, and the young man is that much angrier.

Not long after another young man came in looking for a specific item. Actually, the same item, only pricier. He didn't bat an eye and was thrilled we had it in stock. He was happy. We love happy musicians.

On Monday night we sold our beautiful Gretsch hollow body bass guitar to a very nice man. He had been in before, done his homework, knew what he wanted. He was a joy to work with and he got a great deal on an incredible instrument. We want to work with all our local musicians, and attitude is huge when we do.

Then came the man who walked in last week and asked to see our recorders. They are $5. He said, "Do you have any Yamaha recorders?" Unfortunately, we don't. "Well, I only play Yamaha recorders," he said.

We showed him what we had. He liked the price. He bought the recorder. He's happy, we are happy, everybody is happy, and Fifth and Maine is all about being happy.

We do our best on prices. We love working with our customers. And we appreciate donations to our Elevator Restoration Fund. Rock on, Q Town! It's all about being happy, all the time.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Please move the Dogwood Carnival

THERE ARE A handful of events in Quincy which shut down the streets and impact Second String Music at Fifth and Maine. We are fine with it. We are proud to be on the square and it's all part of being downtown.

However, this weekend's event really drives us crazy and I'd like to see it moved. The Dogwood Festival is a Quincy tradition and we love most of it, like the parade and other events. But the carnival down here kills us every year, and we might even close our doors Saturday and write it off.

Yup. The Heart Flip shuts the street down ....
There is a huge difference between Dogwood and the other events. Gus Macker pretty much shuts us down every Memorial Day weekend, but we love Gus and the Quincy Exchange Club. The new QFest is the first weekend of June and we'll see what closing the streets does to us, but the event itself tends to draw a more arts and music-loving crowd, so we will stay open. The last couple of years we even opened on Sunday and didn't do much business, and it was fine.

Tin Dusters is a bad weekend for us. You'd think these folks would be interested in our store and what we sell, but the past couple of Tin Duster weekends have not been good. There's another long backstory to it and it's not worth rehashing, but let's just say we aren't huge fans. But it's a good event for Quincy and does bring a lot of money here, and other businesses do well.

There are other parades and events which shut down the street. So be it. They are about Quincy and so are we.

Here's the huge difference between all these events and the Dogwood carnival, and it's local, local, local. The Dogwood carnival is, to the best of my knowledge, the only event that comes from out of town and doesn't have any lasting economic impact here. If I am wrong, I apologize.

Nobody knows anything about the group that comes in there for the carnival. The Chamber of Commerce organizes the Dogwood parade and does PR, but they are very quick to distance themselves from the carnival itself. Nobody at City Hall seems to know who this group is, either. I finally did get a local contact and left her a message yesterday. She called this morning and left a message, said she was going to be too busy today to talk, and referred me to somebody else on the committee.

We are not the only business not happy with Fifth and Maine being shut down. To be fair, there are others in favor of the carnival and that do well. And I want to stress we love Dogwood and everything about it, and we applaud the Chamber for all the hard work it does.

Would it torpedo the carnival if we moved it?  I don't think so. There are plenty of places to put it within a six-block area downtown, and keep Maine Street open.

I'm out of town this weekend. It's up to Sheryl if she wants to keep the store open Saturday, or do what she did last fall during Tin Dusters, and take most of Saturday off.

And, as always, we are proud to be at Fifth and Maine.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Another busy summer

I expect to see at least this many people tomorrow in the Plaza!
WE START OUR Concerts In The Plaza series Friday. Geesh. It's almost May already?

Sheryl is a stickler for using the online calendar. I'm getting better, and after I learn to move the thingie to the green-colored slot and use the right password, I might get better and actually get organized, too.

So here's a list of stuff coming up this summer. It includes our Concerts In The Plaza, the Noon Blues Acoustic Shows in Washington Park, and our updated Cheeseburgers gig list. All shows subject to change, weather, impaired calendar operators and random acts of kindness. Go!

Concerts In The Plaza
First Mid-Illinois Bank, Seventh and Maine, Quincy
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday, April 25 - Jacqueline Kaufman
Friday, May 5 - Zeke Cernea
Friday, May 12 - Kayla Obert
Friday, May 19 - Tim Smith

Noon Blues
Washington Park, Fifth and Maine, Quincy
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday, June 9 - Bella Song
Friday, June 23 - Blake Gardner
Friday, July 14 - HartLyss
Friday, July 28 - Steve Rees
Friday, Aug. 11 - Akoustic Mayem
Friday, Aug. 25 - Tyler Marquess

The Cheeseburgers
Make America Cheese Again World Tour 2017
Saturday, May 13 - Buh Bye to The Dude Party - Private
Saturday, June 24 - Party Cove, Monroe City, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, July 4 - LaHarpe Community Fireworks Party, 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 6 - Quincy Park District Summer Concert Series, Washington Park, 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 15 - Private Party, State Room, Quincy
Saturday, July 29 - Clark County Fair, Kahoka, Mo., 9 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 13 - Flatland Summer Jam, Macomb Ill., 3 p.m.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How young should you start lessons?

A MOM JUST came into Second String Music with her 8 year old daughter and 5 year old son. The daughter plays the violin, and we talked about taking lessons, approaches to learning, and how to motivate young people to play music.

Both her kids were polite and seemed very bright. I showed the boy a smaller sized guitar and his eyes lit up. She had a lot of questions and really wants her kids to be involved in music. I looked up at the clock and realized we'd been chatting for 45 minutes, and it seemed like just a few.

I get asked a lot about what age to start your child with guitar lessons. It depends, but through trial and error, I've learned 8 is about the youngest I'll start. I have a little girl about that age right now and we are having a blast - she's picking it up quickly and writing songs about her little brother, 2, who is LOUD and ALWAYS running around. So. Much. Fun!

If your child is ready to learn, we are ready to rock!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Name at Sixth and Maine

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO Michele Wilkerson, owner of Grown N Gathered. The property has undergone an amazing transformation - the apartments upstairs are almost ready, Ryan Christian's Electric Fountain coffee space now has a working garage door, and workers just put down concrete in the outdoor courtyard behind 601 Maine.

Michele is looking for a name for the courtyard. "The Patio" is boring and already taken. I like "Chele 601" or "Chill 601" or "Anything Is Better Than Calling It Courtyard 601." She's open to suggestions. Also, try the Guatemala coffee. It will keep you up until Friday, which is exactly the idea.

It's nice to see a business thrive at Sixth and Maine, instead of sitting empty. It takes a person with guts and determination to make it work, and I encourage you to check all of our way cool downtown businesses. Go see Michele today and wish her a happy birthday, and make sure you check out the artichokes, peanut butter chocolate, Goose Island beer selection and all the Yoga stuff next door.

And help the owner come up with a new name. She might even let you draw on her sidewalk with chalk.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Art, sidewalk style

Follow that Yellow Brick Road into Second String Music!
WE HAD A blast Saturday using sidewalk chalk at Second String Music. I have asked for no rain for the next, oh, three years so the amazing art will be preserved. Well, at least for a few days. Sheryl is always thinking, of course, and snapped some great pics for posterity.

Katie Hogge, Cadi Lyssy, Stephanie Boyer and others sat in the sun and chalked up a storm. Cadi and Katie are really creative, and Steph even drew a picture of me, then colored in the Yellow Brick Road leading into the store.

We even had a young gal draw a tree after her mom bought a ukulele. Name another music store where you can purchase a quality instrument AND draw on the sidewalk when you are done!

The thing about chalk is that you don't have to be any good. I drew a peace sign that looked more like a rabbit with a bad hair day. Didn't matter. And who cares if my guitar looks like a hair dryer? Or if my cat looks like a fish? With Katie's help, we turned it into a catfish. See how this art stuff works out?

 Expression is what it's about, and it's all in the eye of the beholder. Just don't giggle or look perplexed when viewing my latest sidewalk chalk creations.

We encourage art in all forms. We still have plenty of chalk, and our sidewalk is always open, even if it isn't Friday afternoon.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Family war history

MY AUNT WILLA recently sent out a family email. She has my Opa Hart's World War II "Netherland Freedom Medal," and she wants to make sure it gets into proper hands.

Klaas Hart was a pastor and active in the Dutch Resistance. There are many family stories of his feats and activities during a horrible time. He was wanted by the Gestapo and escaped by the skin of his teeth several times.

One day in London, Ontario, when I was about 11 years old, he came for a visit from his home in Toronto and I asked him about the war. I don't remember much of the conversation, but later my parents said Opa Hart talked to me about it, which he rarely did.

Willa has decided to give the medal to her son, and it will be treasured and kept in the family for generations. There is some speculation about what the medal is worth, but really, it doesn't matter.

It's a priceless piece of family history, and it will stay in the family. And that's all that matters.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mind reading and bad reviews

WHILE ENDURING YET another riveting Property Brothers episode on HGTV last night, Sheryl said we had received a  one-star review of Second String Music on Facebook. This isn't a cause for concern - 99 percent of our reviews are positive. Every review teaches us something. We look at the information, learn from it and move on. This is how we grow into a better store and serve even our grumpiest customers better.

We have deduced that the only way to give every person a five-star experience in our store is to read their minds. So Sheryl and I are enrolling in mind-reading school in St. Louis. We will close the store for a month, get a fancy hotel room and earn our living on the streets, I will bring the guitar and enjoy busking on street corners to help pay for everything and Sheryl will spend it as fast as I earn it. She loves being the irresponsible partner in this relationship.

What frightens me most is that I may learn what Josie, Eddie and the dogs are thinking. "Hey tall guy, take us for a walk NOW," Angus thinks. "And this new dog food is about to give me the runs. And I am about to barf on your new rug, and the cat just dragged another half-eaten bird into the house. Where are the pork chops you cooked last night? I might have snarfed them down too!"

After learning to read minds, I can only imagine what the next disgruntled review will look like. "That tall guy knew my every thought and action before I even realized it. Those music store people are creepy!"

So we decided to imagine our next review after learning to mind read. We would know it before he wrote it and preemptively turn off reviewing before he could post it!

"I went to Second String Music today and frankly, I was disappointed with the service. I didn't know exactly what I wanted, and when I said I need a thingy that plugged into my amp via a connector thingy, the woman behind the counter said she knew exactly what I needed. How did she know? She made me feel really small and insignificant, being so informed. It's like she was doing her job or something and I didn't like it. Why would these people be so intuitive? My wife had a long conversation with that woman and came back to the truck acting 'different.'

"Then I was talking to the tall goofy guy and he seemed clueless but nice enough. He said, 'I'm sorry sir, but I have to give a guitar lesson in a few minutes. Sheryl can answer any other questions you have.' How rude! Guitar lessons, during the day, when the store is open? How can you possibly survive doing that? Why does he even own a music store??!!

"I was about to ask if they carried any real brands of guitars, and the goofy guy said, 'Well, Fender, Gibson, Martin and Taylor won't work with small retailers. I'm sorry, but we are unable to carry these brands, though we have some awesome used items.' What? They won't work with you? I guess I'll just have to go online and order one, then. And I can order three guitars stands for the price you charge for one. Actually I did that a while back, and they all broke within two weeks of arrival, but I saved money and that's the main thing.

"In short, I felt slighted and uncomfortable. These people seemed to think they knew my every thought. I stormed off into Washington Park after I left and commiserated with some very nice people who said they'd been sitting at the picnic table for a decade. (That was a joke I'm sure. At least I think I'm sure.) They don't like you either. It made me feel better. I won't come to this store again and next time I'll head down the street or just order it online.

"Sincerely, Blah. M. McBlahBlah.

"P.S. How much were those converter thingies again? Nobody else seems to have them and I guess I'll have to buy one from you eventually. Thanks, Mucphers."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sidewalk chalk party

SHERYL RECENTLY BOUGHT a box of sidewalk chalk. We intend to use it at Fifth and Maine. I flunked graphic arts seven times in high school, though my lack of education never hurt me none.

Keep it clean at Fifth and Maine!
I can't draw to save my life. When we need something written on a sign or a sales tag, Sheryl does it, because my handwriting is terrible. Writing in cursive is a lost art, and I gave up on it a long time ago when I wrote down directions to a Macker tournament in Indiana and ended up in Wisconsin instead.

But it can't hurt to try.

Sidewalk Chalk, of course, is the name of a late and great Quincy band, one that never let the music get in the way of a good time. So it's only appropriate.

One of my guitar students got very excited when seeing the chalk. Her name is Katie Hogge and she rocks. I said, "We are thinking of doing some drawing on Saturday." She said, "I'll be here!" Then she said, "Wow, you have brown and black chalk. Those are missing from my box." Geesh. She must be a serious sidewalk chalker or something.

Maybe we should do it during our regular Friday Happy Hour(s) gathering. Now THAT could be interesting, as long as we keep it clean. We are not allowed to write down the actual name of the duo formed by Ted Holt and Pete Magliocco, because it could be considered lewd conduct and a Class 4 felony, allegedly.

Anyway, we'll do it on the next nice Saturday at Fifth and Maine, and make an event out of it. We use the sidewalk a lot when it gets nice out and there are events in the park, so why not decorate it and make it cool?

Just keep the band names clean and the drawings creative, and we'll be fine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What goes in at Sixth and Maine?

KIRLINS IS CLOSING its Hallmark store at Sixth and Maine. It's been there nearly 70 years. This is a blow to downtown Quincy, but as always, there are several things to consider.

For one, Kirlins will keep its corporate offices in the upper floor. Owners say they want another business in the space. It's very nice in there, but is there a business big enough to pay the rent for all that room and flourish downtown? This is a great opportunity to ask what is really needed down here, and to see if somebody has the intestinal fortitude to make it happen.

Hmmmm. Wonder if it's been done before, like, say, a block away.

This is a business decision. And it's too bad. I have no interest in going to the Kirlins in the Quincy Mall, which will remain open. I'm sure it has more traffic and makes more money. So be it. Enjoy fighting your way down Broadway to get those Christmas ornaments.

Sixth and Maine is an interesting intersection. On the northeast corner you have the new and flourishing Grown N Gathered, with refurbished apartments about to open on the second floor and Ryan Christian's coffee business ready to roll, too. On the northwest corner is the gorgeous Maine Center, which has great businesses but hasn't been able to fill the key Joseph A. Bank spot.

Then there's the dollar store on the southeast corner. I go there only to get my chocolate fix or if we need a light bulb or something in an emergency. The place is always busy and it fills a niche.

Sure, Kirlins closing the downtown store is sad, and part of the ebb and flow of life. A piece of Quincy dies when a longtime business shuts down. From the ashes, something will rise, and maybe we'll all be better off for it in the long run.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tucker the ... camel?

AS YOU KNOW, I like to take the dogs into the bank every now and then. Last week Tucker was with me and the bank employees went their usual nuts, giving him treats and praising him for how handsome he is. Tucker is a great dog and he totally sucks it all in like good Border Collies do.

This morning I was in the bank without dogs. Employee Bobbe White said, "I had the strangest dream about you. It was about Tucker, actually. He came into the bank, and behind him was a bigger Tucker, like the size of a cow. Then came a Tucker like a horse, and then a Tucker like a camel."

What does it all mean? We pondered it for a second. Tucker has rolled in death on two of our last three walks, and he got a thorough scrubbing this morning (as did Angus, who wouldn't give up rolling in something nasty for the world). Does that have something to do with it?

Are Bobbe's dream and Tucker's bath somehow linked? Why does Bobbe remember this dream in the first place? Is Tucker a symbol for something bigger, like how the Blackhawks are going to get swept in the first round of the playoffs? Is Tucker a larger-than-life figure? Is he really a camel in an oasis of banks?

So many questions. And yet another reason why going to State Street Bank at 8th and State is always a cathartic experience. For the dogs, I mean.

Bobbe says I am a "word guru," whatever that means. Yet words fail me in this case. I do not really know what the dream means, or why she dreamed it, or why Tucker is a camel.

Hopefully I have to make a deposit tomorrow and we'll learn more about what the dream means.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Falling asleep to hockey

I WAS EXCITED last night about the start of the NHL playoffs. There were five games on, and thanks to to our new Sling package, I could watch four of them. A few years ago I vowed to never watch hockey again after the player's strike, lockout, copout, greed-infested work stoppage, whatever you want to call it.

But if Trump can flip on NATO, surely I can watch the playoffs.

Another exciting night in Calftown!
Sheryl was happily sequestered on the couch and watching HGTV. All I heard from her was "Don't buy that house" and "Of course the bathroom is too small" and "Property Brothers drives me crazy." Or something like that. I escaped upstairs to the man cave, flipped on the third period of the Canadiens-Rangers game, and got ready for an exciting night of watching hockey.

I fell asleep. Right away. I woke up with a minute left in the game and the Rangers were scoring into an empty net. I hate the bleeping Rangers.

So I flipped it to the Blues game. They are playing in Minnesota. I made it through about five minutes and, well, you might find this hard to believe, but I fell asleep.

I woke up and it was in the second period. I went downstairs to check on Sheryl. She was, you guessed it again, asleep in bed. I thought, "Gosh, it must be midnight." I looked at the clock. It was 9:30.

I went back up stairs, tried staying awake for a few minutes, then gave up and went to bed. By 10 I was sawing logs, presumably.

The moral of the story is, when you get older, you go to bed and you get some sleep.

Also, you forget to take your baby Aspirin and old man Centrum pills in the morning, but that's another story.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pull the pins, and now we are REALLY open!

I WAS FEELING pretty good about myself this morning. I dropped Sheryl off at school (two more days of subbing, and then she's ready for a break). I took the dogs for a long walk. I drove alllllll the way across town and got the oil changed in the car. I went to the bank. I parked the car at Fifth and Maine about 9:30, and an older couple was standing in front of the door.

They were about to walk away when I came up and said hello and told them we were getting ready to open. "There's no sign with your hours," the woman said. Uh, yes there is, a large one in the south window, but the customer is always right so I stayed above the fray.

They were looking for an amp for their grandson. They poked around a while, and I turned on lights, booted stuff up and answered their questions. They were actually quite nice and I'm glad they stopped in, though they left with the dreaded "We might be back later."

So I'm puttering around in the back and trying to avoid an obnoxious Fast Eddie when the phone rings. "You guys going to be open at 10?" the man said. I looked at my watch. It was a few minutes after 10. I said, "Yes. We are open right now, actually." The man said, "Well, I'm standing outside your doors and they are still locked."


Turns out I forgot to pull the locking pins on the doors. The customer was very understanding and laughed. He bought some strings and we had a nice visit. Now we are really open for bidness at Fifth and Maine.

No matter how well you think you are doing, no matter how hard you try, there's always something. Right?

Not long ago Sheryl and I actually forgot to pull the pins when we left for the night, and we set the alarm. The next morning, an unfortunate soul entered before we got there, and the alarm went off. I can only imagine how high the person jumped and how terrified they were - the alarm is not just loud, it's massively supersonic loud.

Ah, the joys of doing the little things. It's a good reminder to slow down, take it easy and to take care of the important small details.

Thank you for your patience and for shopping local. It's very important, as this story from last night so aptly points out. And I vow to do better and unlock the doors when we open, and lock them when we close.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Recovering from .... tilling?

SHERYL SPENT MUCH of Sunday working on the garden and replacing fence posts. I mowed the lawn, tilled the garden, walked the dogs, took two large golf naps and puttered around the house.

This morning, neither one of us could move.

To be fair, tilling the garden is a nasty job and I pulled muscles I don't remember having, though it probably was the same last year. I don't wonder why anymore. It's pretty simple - getting older sucks.

Tillers are evil. But the garden looks good!
Then again, everything is relative. When I worked in the Grand Canyon National Park about a gazillion years ago, I'd walk down to the Colorado River and back up to the South Rim on the same day. I could barely walk for the next week. We used to call it the "Kaibob Shuffle" after the trail that goes to the river. People would look at you funny and you'd say, "Kaibob Shuffle," and they'd nod symphatheticaly.

A few years later I was at Central Michigan University and a bunch of us gathered to play football. Tackle football. Without helmets. Just stupid college stuff, no doubt fueled by Falstaff and being young. I remember trying to catch a punt, and my roommate, Marty Horjus, came out of the nowhere and flattened me with a vicious tackle.

We all laughed and played on, but I do remember the next few days of doing the "Horjus Shuffle."

I knew I was in trouble a few years ago when I woke up after a Herald-Whig Demons softball game and could barely move. Then came the harsh reality of recovering from a weekend golf tournament. Now I'm sore after a raucous Cheeseburger or HartLyss show, which we call recovering from the Rock and Roll Truck.

I refuse to let it slow us down. After all, how much slower can you go? Me and my buddy Aspirin will get through it. A glorious New Belgium beverage never hurts, either.

Life is too short to get bent out of shape about being sore. Bent, of course, being the operative word.

Now. Help me reach up for that guitar on the wall, would ya?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Finding the grave, and a bonus dead mole

ONE OF THE many things I like about Woodland Cemetery Superintendent Eric Bruns is that he is very hands-on. I walk early in the morning and he is almost always on the grounds and doing something.

No more cemetery digging for you, pal.
This morning he was literally digging a grave, getting it ready for an afternoon funeral service. It's near the John Wood site and it belongs to a longtime Quincy family. Eric said he had trouble finding the stone, put in place two years ago, because it wasn't registered in the official books. A little help from the local monument companies and he was able to track it down, no easy feat considering there are 60-plus acres and more than 60,000 burial sites.

As we were talking the dogs were up ahead and barking. I pointed to them and said, "You are welcome." There, clutched in the jaws of a very excited Border Collie, was a nearly dead mole. They've been catching a lot of them lately.

There are many different ways to catch moles - bait, traps, etc. Emily's grandfather, the late and great Charles Hook, used to grab a bucket and sit on by the mole tracks with a pitchfork. He'd see the ground move and then strike. I'm not sure how many he nabbed over the years.

Angus and Genie usually dig up big holes and miss the mark (I always patch the holes back up). Tucker, the Border Collie, sneaks up on the moles because I think he can actually see the ground moving, or maybe he can hear them. One swoop of his paw in the soggy dirt and boom, the mole is exposed and a new play toy for the dogs.

Sorry, PETA, no headstone for the mole, and no feeling sorry for a disgusting creature which does a lot of damage.

BTW .... Woodland Cemetery looks fantastic. Eric and his small staff have worked very hard and it's beautiful right now.