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.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dead printers

THE MORE WE are in business, the more this paperless thing makes sense.

Yesterday our store printer stopped working. It just stopped. No warning, no sputtering, nothing. This is our fourth printer since we opened the store in 2011. If you aren't good at math, let's just say it's too many. But when you stop and think about it, a small business uses the printer a lot.

If a customer makes a purchase with more than a few items, we usually print an itemized receipt. I print a lot of song lyrics and notes for guitar lessons, and a lot of set lists. I keep thinking about getting an iPad or smaller computer for all that stuff - it would save a lot of paper and make things easier.

I barely know how to find the "print" thingy on the jimigig. Sheryl is the IT person and puts it all together. I do what I do best - stay outta the way.

This morning she managed to resuscitate the old one by cleaning the print thingy. She warned that it may just be a temporary fix, so the new one is standing by and ready if last rites are necessary. For the printer, I mean.

Then we'll need to figure out what to do with it. I just noticed you can turn old printers into shredders. Maybe they can be used as tuners or part of a drum kit. Who knows?

I'll just press "print" and Sheryl will make sure it works.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

You are in the way, tall guy

THERE ARE A lot of advantages to being 6 foot 7. You can see over crowds, tell when it's raining about an hour before the rest of the normal humans, and you can stretch banners across windows and reach cereal bowls on top of cabinets.

There are disadvantages. I would like to trade my back for a front. I have the scars on my head from forgetting to duck. And I get in the way.

Then again, when dealing with difficult people (like when I was a crime reporter, or at Macker tournaments), I try to stand right in front of them and look down. It works every time.

Here's a  great story from NPR about tall people at concerts. I admit it, I've been to many shows and had better views than anybody else. But I always try to be aware of people around me, especially if it's starting to rain and I can warn them.

A year or so ago we saw The Who in St. Louis and I we had floor seats, but we stood the whole time. I made sure the people behind me were good and could see. I tried not to move too much from side to side. I don't really think about being so tall, and most of the time it's an advantage, but there is such a thing as courtesy and being nice when you are in front of somebody.

Thank goodness I don't have a "cereal box head" to make it even worse.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

All aflutter over tweeting

I FINALLY JOINED the 20th century and got on Twitter last week. Sheryl set it up. It reminds me of a long time ago when Emily signed me up with this newfangled Facebook thingy. What a passing fad THAT was, right?

Anyway, I am now on Twitter. I am still not sure what the point is, though I am beginning to "follow" other people and things. I just followed some news organizations and my twitter "feed" is blowing up with news about Mooch and Smooch and Doosh and various other things that rhyme with Ooosh. It's kinda cool. Look at me "tweeting" and stuff!

Look. If the guy who is our president can dictate policy and tell us how wonderful he is, why can't I use it to push my worldview and tell you how to act and feel? Win!

Sheryl says she gets all her news from Twitter. When we drove up to Michigan 12 days ago, she was on Twitter with her phone and it was fascinating - we were getting news literally seconds after it was happening. My, how the world has changed. I remember deadlines and waiting until the next morning to finish a story. Who cared? Nobody was going to see it until the presses rolled.

God. We were just a bunch of Neanderthals. How did we ever live without tweets and posts and clicks and internet?

When I get done with this blog, I will go to the little bird thing at the bottom and click on it, and this blog link will immediately appear on my twitter feed. Then I will tweet about it. Fly, Robin, fly. Free as a bird, and look at me soar over my domain!

What? I have to have "followers" first? Also, I have a "handle" and it's HartyRRot. So follow me HERE on Twitter to see this blog post first! The irony. Sheryl is HERE.

Just click and tweet. The world will catch up, someday.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tim Smith saves country guys

TIM SMITH HAS a nickname, "Big Country." On Sunday morning, Big Country came up big time for two big country stars.

Saturday night at the Adams County Fair, the Brothers Osborne played a concert and wowed a large crowd. They are a big deal right now in country music. One of the brothers uses a Swirly Gig on his microphone stand, so they have to be cool.

Anyway, the brothers and the band were on their way out of town after the show when their bus broke down just outside of Quincy. The frantic manager started making calls because the two brothers had a huge gig in Nashville at 2 p.m. Sunday - they were opening for Little Big Town at the Ryman. Kind of a big deal, right? Another bus was dispatched to pick them up but was still more than five hours away.

The manager even called the Quincy Police Department at about 4 a.m. and asked if QPD had any ideas. Then Sgt. Adam Yates showed up to start his day shift and heard the brothers were in trouble.

One brother to another - "We are in the Pepper Spray plane!"
So Adam called the manager, and suggested the manager contact Tim, who has ownership in a small plane. I'd like to say the manager told Adam, "Don't you guys play in a band called Pepper Spray?" He didn't. But we can still say he did.

The plane happened to be available, Tim happened to be available, and before 8 a.m. the Brothers Osborne were on their way to Nashville. Tim dropped them off and made it home by noon. Life in the Big Country fast lane, I'd say.

Tim got some photos and I'm sure he has some stories. Now Pepper Spray is opening for the brothers the rest of the summer. Not. But we can still say it's true.

Big Country saves big country, which was highlighted by Little Big Town country. HUGE!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We have leaks too, Mooch

POOR MOOCH. ALL these leaks and all this stuff flying around and there isn't anything he can do about it. Poor, poor Mooch. I hope he keeps it together.

Hey Mooch. You think you got problems with leaks? Try owning a 120-year-old building with five floors. We had rain overnight and I gotta head up there to make sure the roof is still intact. We have a few leaks and I keep an eye on them - you know, emptying buckets, checking sump pumps, and accusing the chief of staff (Frank Haxel) of pouring more water on the roof through the leaks.

I could go on, but why bother when all you gotta do is call Ray Davies and ask him to sing the best rock song ever? A song and video are worth a thousand words, right Mooch? You poor guy, you. I almost feel sorry for you, all that paranoia and self-destroyer.

Gotta go plug my leaks up there. Wouldn't want it to get swampy or anything.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

No beach? No problem!

THE POWER AND hypnotic beauty of Lake Michigan never ceases to amaze me. Some years we go to my uncle's place near Holland and there is tons of sugar cane sand. Other years the lake level is up and the beach disappears.

This past weekend, there was no beach. Recent changes in water levels and some severe storms have uncovered a bunch of logs stretching out into the lake. They were put in to break the waves many years ago and only this year have they become exposed.

2017 view of the beach... No beach.
So ... we had to move the annual Hart Goony Race up the beach several hundred yards, by Halfway Creek. The rules are simple - act as silly as possible while flailing into the lake. I always win the Goony Race but I let everybody else think they have a chance.

In the above video you can see how much fun Angus had with the cousins and the commotion - he plows into the lake a good 20 or 30 feet before the waves drive him back.

Below is the Hart Goony Race from four years ago, and you can see how much beach there was right in front of Peter and Helen's house. That spot is now a good 10 feet under water.

I could sit on that beach, or lack of beach, every day all summer, and never get tired of it. Never. Add good company and a cold beverage or two ... well, maybe three ... and life couldn't be better.

When are we going back?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jamming with the cousins, even departed ones

THIS IS A story about family, and therapy, and seeing a long-lost loved one. It's all good, believe me.

My cousin, Esther Hart, passed away from cancer at a very young age some years ago. She left a beautiful daughter, Sophie. Esther was one of my favorites - spunky, opinionated and passionate. We gave my daughter, Emily, the middle name of Esther because we loved the name and we loved Esther.

Sophie still lives in Toronto and stays in touch with her crazy Hart family. She visits every summer and hangs out in Grand Rapids and Zeeland. Sheryl and I made the long trip to Holland this past weekend and stayed with my Uncle Peter, who lives on Lake Michigan. Angus came with us and had a blast jumping in the lake and swimming in a nearby creek.

Emily was with us and finally got to meet the famous second cousin she is named after. She and Sophie got along famously.

Sophie, 13, is very close to her cousins Ellie and Hannah. Sophie and Hannah both play guitar. So Saturday night, as is our custom and tradition, we joined Roland (Ellie's dad) and had a jam session. I said, "What songs can you play?" They said, "We don't know very many." Right. About two hours later we were still jamming and hooting and hollering.

Near the end of the night, Sophie said, "Play that song that goes, 'Tell me, tell me, tell me!" She was referring to "Do You Love Me" by The Contours, of course. It's a Cheeseburger staple. So here we were, working it out baby and doing the mashed potato, and Sophie stood up and started jumping around. You know her Uncle Rotknee wasn't going to let her do that by herself. Angus even joined in fun. You can watch the video here.

And for a second, just a second, I saw her mother, my cousin Esther, standing right there in the room, laughing and jumping up and down with us.

The power of music is a mysterious thing. I cannot explain why I saw Esther in the room. I just did. Music and little bit of soul, perhaps, summoned her. With Sophie there, I felt Esther's spirit a lot Saturday, and it made me smile.

Thank you to Peter and Helen for hosting us, and to Sophie and Hannah and Roland for the amazing jam session and to everybody else for a great day on the beach. It was hard to leave. It's always hard to leave.

So we promise to do it again, make more memories, and see long lost loved ones again, if even for just a second.

Roland, Sophie, Hannah and RotKnee

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's hot. Stay inside. The end.

ABOUT THIS TIME every year, the boss would stick his head out of his office, see which unfortunate victim was still sitting at his or her desk, then fire off an email. It would be titled "Weather Story." If my name was on it, I'd start cursing and wondering what I'd done to piss him off.

I. Hated. Weather. Stories. To me, it was pretty simple. It's hot, so stay inside, drink liquids, run in the early morning, drink liquids, don't mow your lawn, wear sunscreen, drink liquids, blah blah blah. In other words, have common sense.

We'd be directed to find "real people who are impacted" by the hot weather, and to look up the historical data about hottest days ever, when the last time we had rain, blah blah blah. I remember one particularly miserable summer where it didn't rain for months, and we did a lot of stories about it, but that was different since agriculture was such a huge issue around here.

So I'd grit my teeth and do it. I understood it. A daily paper needed daily stories, and people liked to know about the weather. It wasn't hard to do - everybody has to deal with the weather, and in Quincy we got used to 100 degree summer days.

Sure enough, yesterday's Whig had a front page story about the hot weather. I didn't see the name of the reporter who evidently didn't duck in time and was chosen for the honor.

I seem to remember during my last summer at the paper five years ago doing a story and then doing a video at Indian Mounds Pool. I put the camera in a plastic bag and went down the water slide. Later, Steve Eighinger and I did a bit at Sheridan for our legendary "Perfect 10" segment. It was all about getting the story, right?

It's hot. Stay inside. Drink a lot, preferably water. Or, do what we are doing soon - flee north and find a beach that time forgot.

It's big news, you know.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What's your name?

I AM TERRIBLE at remembering names. Funny - I can remember Who lyrics from a gazillion years ago, or Van Halen's forgotten singer, or the Stanley Cup Finals MVP in 1979, but come up to me and say hello and say, "Remember me?" I do. I just don't remember your name.

This is hereditary. On the long and dreaded drive to the Hart cottage in the 1970s, we'd start acting up and my father would get mad. "Rod! I mean, Charys! I mean, Kathy! Stephen? No. Greg. Be quiet!" He'd run through all five names, figuring he'd get one right. I used to be offended. Now I'm just sympathetic.

Sheryl has this issue, too. Yesterday she called our vet and said she needed flea medication for Bella. BELLA! You know, Bella The Destroyer, who's been dead and gone for a long time. I call Tucker "Angus" and Angus "Genie" and Josie "Tucker". See? It's a big vicious pet cycle, from what I vaguely remember.

I have a lot of guitar students right now. Yesterday I called Lauren by the wrong name, Katie. It seems Katie comes about an hour later. So I was either jumping forward, or couldn't remember, or just blurted out the first name that came to my mind. I hope Lauren was not too offended. It's just the big dumb guitar teacher, but still, your name is your name and you would think he'd be better at remembering.

Thank you for your patience and reminding me about your name. I appreciate it. I will make a mental note and lodge it into the deep recesses of my brain, back by our phone number in Montreal (471-8389) and the address of the house I lived in on Burton Street one long summer 32 years ago (830).

Please don't be mad when I can't dig your name out. Kind of murky and muddy in there, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dennis Oliver - one of the good guys

QUINCY RADIO LEGEND Dennis Oliver made it public last week - he's dealing with Alzheimers. He's fighting hard. And you can help.

Dennis left Y-101 last December after spending 40 years on the air. He's one of the good guys around here and he actually gave a bleep about local music, promoting and playing it all the time. If we had a big event to push, Dennis was always glad to give us time and help us promote it.

When he left last year it was just time to retire, but he knew the Alzheimer's was progressing. Judging from the clip above, he's hanging in there and is the same positive and fun Dennis we know and love.

His partner in radio crime, Jeff Dorsey, has long been a board member of our local Alzheimer's association and familiar with the horrendous implications of the disease. To see his best friend and colleague go through this is unimaginable. So Jeff is doing what Jeff normally does, namely, do something about it.

This Saturday at the Elk's Lodge in Quincy, Jeff is being roasted. Click here for details. It won't be PG and it won't be for the faint of heart, fitting for the subject!

Fight on, Dennis. We are rooting for you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's a long way to the top ....

IF A PICTURE is worth a thousand words, then so is a song.

Yes, playing in a band IS fun, more fun than you should be allowed to have. I wouldn't trade all the band experiences, adventures, ups and downs for anything.

But it ain't easy being easy, or Cheesey. That being said, Saturday night was a blast with The Cheeseburgers at a 40th birthday party, and I'm still shaking off the Rock N Roll Truck.

So here it is, and it pretty much summarizes the whole deal

And I'm ready for the next gig.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Half off sale

WE HAVE A lot of stuff you might not think of in our music store. So we are putting some of it on sale, half off the price, get it while it lasts.

We have pick guards, specialty guitar picks, microphone cables, capos, tuners, percussion items, drum heads, phone holders, violin and viola care kits. We have three rack mount tuners which are normally $100 - $50 takes it home.

It's all on a table by the front of the store, and already things are starting to find new homes. I doubt most of the items stick around for long.

We thought about giving Fast Eddie away for free with any purchase, but despite his large waddle, propensity to get locked in the back room and finicky digestive system, he's going to stay. For now, anyway.

Half off at Fifth and Maine! Sounds like an excuse to go to the music store. Who needs an excuse anyway?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Someday we'll go on a real vacation

SHERYL AND I are planning a Lake Michigan getaway. It will have to take place over three days. It takes a day to get up there and a day to get back. I wish I could take a week and find a beach and do nothing for five days, but it doesn't work like that anymore.

It's the joy and frustration of running your own small retail business. We have an excellent part-time employer, Steve Rees, who has helped us out on numerous occasions and can work flexible day hours. But the simple reality is that we can't leave for more than a day or two, and we can't just close the store because we need a break.

It's OK. Quality time, not quantity. We'll make the best of it and soak in as much as we can, and be better off for it when we get back.

Monday, July 10, 2017

To stage or not to stage

Pepper Spray on stage! Photo by Mike Sorenson/Bad Wolf Media

I HAVE PLAYED a million shows on a million stages. Stages are big, small, rickety, built up and torn down, and part of the show.

If you are in a venue, and there is a stage, you play on the stage. The Cheeseburgers just played at The Party Cove near Mark Twain Lake. It has the biggest stage we've ever been on - huge. There's lots of room and it felt good to roam around.

I've played on stages so rickety our stuff fell off. One particular Catholic parish picnic party comes to mind. Another night we were in front of the Quincy Boat Club and Marty Tappe save my amp from falling off the wobbling flatbed trailer about seven times.

Last Tuesday in LaHarpe, The Cheeseburgers played for the community fireworks show and we had a trailer for a stage. We put our drummer and keyboard player up there, and the other three guys stood in the grass in front of the trailer. I thought it looked really cool and we loved how it worked.

Thursday night we played for the Quincy Park District's summer concert series in Washington Park. We set up in front of the gazebo. It was more efficient and I think we were more accessible for the crowd, and it was a really good crowd for a weeknight. I loved having the room and not worrying about tripping over something on a stage. I understand going on the gazebo when it is Blues In the District, and 3,000 of your closest friends are in front of you.

Saturday night Pepper Spray played in the exact same Washington Park spot. This time we had a huge flatbed trailer for a stage. It was donated and I appreciated all the hard work and effort that went into the Back The Red, White and Blue Festival - we had a blast and a lot of people enjoyed it. Several people mentioned they liked the stage with the gazebo as a backdrop, and again, we had a lot of fun playing.

All the world is a stage, right? This weekend The Cheeseburgers play a private party at The State Room in Quincy, an amazing venue with a wide but not deep stage, and I can't wait to get up there and rock it to the ground again!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Get Cheesey in the park tonight!

AS USUAL, FIFTH and Maine is the place to be!

It starts tonight with The Cheeseburgers playing in Washington Park as part of the Quincy Park District's summer concert series. We play at 7 sharp until at least 8:30, maybe longer. We had a lot of fun up in LaHarpe Tuesday night for the city's fireworks event, but only got to play for an hour because of the rain. There is no Blues In The District Friday, so get the weekend kicked off early and catch our only free and public show in Quincy this year.

Saturday is our big Red White and Back The Blue Festival in Washington Park, honoring our local emergency services personnel. Pepper Spray and friends will be playing in the park around 7 ish, and the event is free and open to the public.

Blues In The District resumes a week from Friday with a big show and some surprises, from what we hear.

As usual, Second String Music is in the middle of it all, and we love it. See you downtown!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hey Frank! Any room in the dumpster?

WE ONLY GET one day off during the week, Sunday. Much of the time it's spent recovering from another adventure in small retail and playing gigs. Yesterday, however, we decided to take the rug out of the master bedroom (the original hardwood floors are still in great shape) and clean the back porch.

This should fit in Frank's dumpster, no problem.
That meant removing my old recliner and Sheryl's granny chair. I've had my recliner for 12 years - I bought it when I moved into the apartment at 9th and Monroe. It's old and cranky and doesn't work that well anymore, kinda like the owner. The granny chair is still usable.

I thought about having a Calftown Garage Sale - putting my recliner by the street and hoping somebody picks it up. But halfway to the curb it broke. It no longer reclines, there's a gash on the side and the stuffing is coming out.

In other words, I'm calling Frank Haxel and saying, "Uh, Frank, why did you pick up the phone?" and "Got any room in your dumpster?"

We also have a pile of nasty carpet. We filled two garbage bags full of just debris and dirt. We actually scrubbed the back porch to within an inch of its death. Then Sheryl busted a window killing a fly. She didn't die from the puncture wound as it slowly healed. I got a carpet nail wound on my right middle finger. And pulled a hammy. And both our backs don't work, nor does Sheryl's right shoulder. No biggie.

We called Custom Glass this morning and Leo said, "I'll be right over." He got the back window re-glassed and glazed to perfection. Now THAT is small town service to perfection! And Sheryl vows to not kill flies with the bare hands anymore.

We feel better about the clean porch and bedroom. But maybe the moral of the story should be, "Take Sunday off and drink beer in the backyard shade, Hoser." Nobody gets hurt that way.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Last second bill pay

I WENT TO the Secretary of State office today to renew my scooter tags. It was packed. It's the last day of the month, and a lot of people are also renewing plates. I only had to wait about 15 minutes, and the line was starting to go out the door when I left.

I suspect most people just wait until the last second out of habit. Not me. For months I've had the renewal notice. I could have done it online. I could have done it a month ago. But I purposely waited until the last day as a way of showing my frustration with our screwed up, dysfunctional and useless state government.

Illinois is broke. I couldn't care less if you are an R or a D. Just fix the damn problem. Get rid of your ideological ego, Mike Madigan, and get off your high reform horse, Bruce Rauner. FIX THE BLEEPING PROBLEM.

Sorry. Too simple. So I show my frustration by waiting until the last second to pay for my new scooter tag. It doesn't cause a ripple or make anything better.

But. I'm in a better mood. And my tags are updated so I can zip around on my scooter. And I made an eye appointment and fixed my pedal board this morning, too.

In other words, I got more done in one morning than our elected officials have tried to get done for years.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Homemade burrito

SHERYL'S GARDEN IS growing out of control, and it's a beautiful thing. She's put an enormous amount of work into weeding and cultivating all the plants and vegetables, and they are starting to pop out.

Last night we picked fresh spinach leaves and a cucumber, and had them in my burrito. Everything tastes better when it's straight from the ground!

We have a nice little farmer's market on Saturday mornings at Fifth and Hampshire, a block from Second String Music. We are going to have a ton of fresh produce, and we sort of jokingly mentioned this morning we should set up a booth at the farmer's market.

"Why not?" she said. "Actually, we could do it right in front of the store."

That won't happen - for all we know there are rules and regulations about mixing guitar picks and picking cucumbers, and we don't want to get anything mixed up, and we'd get taxed to death on more stuff.

So we'll probably just eat as much as we can and give away the rest, though the farmer's market idea is sounding kinda cool.

East fresh and eat local!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I'll never Stop Making Sense

I TACKLED INSOMNIA headfirst the other night by finding The Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense on the tube. Ho. Lee. CRAP. This has to be the best concert film ever made.

I have the record, thanks to our good friend Ted Holt, and it's pretty good, but it's also a bit edited and only has half the songs of the film. You can say this about very few bands out there, but The Talking Heads have to be seen to be heard. They were art and form in the age of mediocre new wave music.

I remember seeing Stop Making Sense not long after it came out and I was too young and stupid to appreciate it. Maybe I'm not much smarter today, but the movie just smacked me in the face and left me in awe of a great band at the absolute peak of its live powers.

The movie begins with David Byrne coming on to the empty stage, hitting play on his boom box and launching into a riveting acoustic version of "Psycho Killer." Then the stage slowly gets built as the show progresses. Director Jonathan Demme wants to show the stagehands plugging stuff in. He wants you to see the drum riser wheeled out. He wants you to see the weird lighting and David Byrne hugging a lamp. The beauty is in the build and the anticipation.

Then there's the songs. Geesh - the funk just drips through every tune. Little wonder, since Bernie Worrell of Parliament Funkadelic and Alex Weir of Brothers Johnson are in the band.

I wonder what David Byrne did to get in shape for this tour. Run a marathon? Go to the gym every day all day for a year? Everybody in the band is moving around, most of the time in chaotic togetherness. If you watch them, you can see the sheer joy of playing and how much bleeping fun it can be.

There are a lot of people around here who should be required to watch this movie. A concert isn't just music, it's an event and a show, and nobody did it better than The Talking Heads.

I'm going to Stop Making Sense again. And again. And again. Just to see how it's done.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Five years at 5th and Maine

GEESH. HAS IT really been five years since we've moved from Eighth and Washington to Fifth and Maine?

Yup. You'd think we'd have a party or something to celebrate. Maybe we'll just remember the move and tell everybody we are happy as clams downtown.

I remember that it was really hot the weekend we moved. The Cheeseburgers had a gig that Saturday night somewhere, so Sheryl packed everything up without me getting in the way. The next day I corralled the crew and Alan Lawless showed up with his "Great White Buffalo" truck to get the big stuff.

I was amazed at how much room we had - we could move around without running into stuff!

Eighth and Washington is still vacant, sadly. The price just got dropped. I know the Realtor and she is awesome. It would make a great space for a specialty business.

The moral of the story is .... don't blink. It goes by waaaaaayyyy too fast.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Top 10 Rock & Roll Recovery Tips

WELL, NOBODY GOT hurt and nobody died. There may have been a pulled hammy or two, but we survived another glorious rock and roll weekend.

Of course, recovering is the thing, innit?

Top 10 ways to recover from a rock and roll weekend ....

10. Sleep until Tuesday.
9. Make the dogs serve you breakfast in bed.
8. Move. Very. Slowly.
7. Watch Live With Kelly and Whoever. Dumb it down. Don't think.
6. Take advantage of Aspirin sale at grocery store.
5. Put rubbing alcohol on tips of sore fingers. And on sore head.
4. Take comfort in the fact Frank Haxel isn't moving fast today, either.
3. See No. 7, only substitute Tiny House Hunters and HGTV in general.
2. Man, there is dog hair everywhere in our Calftown house. Wait a second... dog hair? Hair of the dog?
1. Take comfort in the fact you get to do it again this weekend!

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.