Friday, December 29, 2017

You think we have winter here?

JUST GOT BACK from a quick trip to Michigan for a funeral. It was good to get away for a few days and see a lot of people for the first time in years. My immediate family is long gone from Grand Rapids but I have an aunt, uncle and cousins still there, and it was a joy to hang out with family.

I drove up Tuesday and got around Chicago without any trouble, but minutes after entering Michigan it was like running into a curtain of snow. I haven’t driven in snow for 22 years, save a for two epic snowstorms in Quincy. You creep along at 30 mph, unable to see the car in front of you, and cars on your left blow by at 90. Then there are flashing lights and cars in ditches everywhere and you grip the wheel even tighter and you say, “THIS is why I don’t miss the winters up here.”

Steve Hawkins, the former QU basketball coach, moved to Kalamazoo to coach at Western Michigan. Hawk is from California. He said, “It snows in Kalamazoo just for the hell of it.” He is right. You drive through whiteouts and blizzards, and then it stops, and then you hit another wall of snow coming off Lake Michigan and you grip the wheel even tighter.

I got to the visitation Tuesday but couldn’t get to the funeral itself the next day because I got stuck on the highway. There was a frightening four-car crash near Hudsonville that turned 196 into a parking lot. On M6, a car just ahead slid and hit the guardrail so hard that the bumper flew 50 feet in the air and other parts exploded into the road. The airbag went off and the poor gal driving was dragged away from the car. A guy nearly crashed into me at 44th and Kalamazoo in GR, and it took 10 minutes to get through an ice-coated intersection at Burton and Kalamazoo.

2351 Rosewood SE, Grand Rapids, home of the Harts in the 80s.
I was so traumatized from the winter driving that my awesome cousin Natalie decided to walk with me to the Last Chance bar on Burton Street on Wednesday afternoon. Like many things, the bar is way better now and looks different from the days I used to deliver Kingmas produce there. Then I strolled down to the old neighborhood, Rosewood Street, and it was like a picture postcard. Time stood still for a second and I focused on the good memories from our years there in the 1980s.

The drive home yesterday was better, but still nerve wracking. Man, am I glad to be home. It takes me five minutes to get to work, a two-inch snowstorm makes the front page and things just move more deliberately around here, and I love it.

It’s supposed to be bitterly cold this weekend, so bundle up and stay warm, and if you come out to see me and Paul Lester tonight at Revelry, or The Cheeseburgers at  The Club tomorrow night, we’lll keep you nice and warm.

Happy New Year and keep rocking, Q-Town, even in our winter wonderland!



Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas and let's rock in 2018

WE WISH EVERYBODY a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It's been rocking at Second String Music and we expect the next two days to be good, too. It's unhurried and it's easy at Fifth and Maine!

We will also be open Christmas Eve, this Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. Supposedly we are getting snow for Christmas, never a bad thing.

I'm taking most of next week off from HartyHarHar, so cheers to you and yours and be safe out there, and here's to another rock and roll year in 2018!

We leave with you with this little ditty that was filmed in the store a few years ago. Why Greg Ellery and Adam Yates didn't win a Tony is beyond me. Our friends Chris and Victoria Kelly at Table 16 Productions are supposedly still in a bidding war to turn the video into a series.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas tree catastrophe

MY COUSIN, ROLAND Hart, lives in Zeeland, Michigan. He and his wife, Amy, have three awesome kids. The Zeeland Harts take Christmas very seriously and they get a real tree every year.

Christmas Chaos In Zeeland!
Amy woke up early Tuesday morning to discover the Christmas tree had toppled over and there was debris everywhere. The term "debris everywhere" is not used lightly. The photo of the carnage looks pretty bad. Roland managed to save the presents, which were already under the tree, which means they were getting ready for Christmas early.

I wonder about people who are organized during the chaos of Christmas (a great name for a band, Chaos of Christmas). It seems their 14-year-old daughter, Elly, is a snooper and they were forced to wrap the presents and get them under the tree before they were discovered.

"Actually, I think Elly is already wearing some of her presents because she found them early," Amy patiently explains.

Some precious family Christmas ornaments were damaged, but all is not lost. As Elly pointed out,
only half of the ornaments were hung this year (a sure sign the kids are getting older) and there's still a box in the basement with plenty of Christmas stuff.

Amy isn't sure how the tree toppled over. Could there be a Grinch loose in Zeeland knocking over trees? Has there been any paranormal activity lately in the house? Did the dog or cat get loose and cause Chaos Of Christmas?

Nope.

"I think we got a defective tree," Amy says.

Seems the Douglas Fir was a gift from a friend. There was a lot of water at the base of the tree. Amy didn't necessarily say this out loud, but all indications appear the tree may have collapsed under its own weight. A reconstruction team from the Department Of Christmas Chaos was headed to Zeeland late last night, but we haven't heard if they've made an official determination into the cause.

"Somebody told me it might be a squirrel, like the one in Christmas Vacation," Amy said.

Did I mention how much I love my cousin's wife?

Anyway, the presents were saved and the Chaos of Christmas continues in Zeeland. Yet to be determined is if a new tree will go up in the Hart house.

And if Elly is reading this, stop snooping! Your Christmas will be grand because you and your parents rock, with or without a tree.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Online scams and the fear of robbery

IF IT'S TOO good to be true ....

Today's cautionary tale comes from a Second String Music customer who went online Monday night and ordered a $87 guitar package. It seemed legit? The website looked clean. There were good reviews.

When he went to hit "pay" he had a panic attack. He noticed typos and dangling sentences in the descriptions. He noticed a $1,500 guitar selling for $288. Hmmm ... could this be real?
Caveat emptor

Yes, it's a real website. But it's selling the discards from guitar makers. With a sinking feeling, the man realized he was ordering a hunk of junk with strings on it.

So he changed his mind, but by then his credit card info had gone through. He looked for a phone number and only found a shady @me.co email address. He cancelled the order as best as he could but was still unsure if it had actually cancelled. The next morning he called the bank and cancelled the card. They also put a stop payment on the seller, still fearing the website would take their money anyway.

Then he and his wife came to Fifth and Maine.The guitar was for their son, and they wanted something decent that would last, and they wanted their son to be happy. They told Sheryl what they had done with the online seller and could finally laugh about the situation. They debated all their options and settled on a great guitar.

Done. They bought an amazing guitar for a few more dollars, and got a strap, and free lessons too. The father played the guitar first and was happy with the way it sounded. They walked out relieved and excited that they were giving an amazing present for Christmas, and that they had a retail business standing behind the product - real people.

I've said this many times - I am not against the internet. We might not have that exact guitar you are looking for, and I understand the ease and convenience of shopping online.

But if you roll the dice and save a few bucks, pray your guitar shows up in one piece and it's actually the instrument you ordered. Pray that if there is a problem, the website will actually care enough to help you.

We seem to discuss shopping local all the time. Supporting businesses in your OWN town and helping your own economy. Keeping your money in your town keeps jobs in your town. The internet will continue to grow and become increasingly tempting but it is a money suck to your economy. If you want to keep jobs and small stores, and thriving down towns  - you must support your local economy. You. Must. We all must.

We really do thank you for supporting a small and local business! Christmas is much more than just giving and receiving gifts, but we want the experience to be positive and the memories to last forever.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cleaning the lesson room

EVERY YEAR AT this time, I take a couple of weeks off from lessons. It's nice to take a break. It's been another great year and I have the best students, and 2018 promises to be another good one.

Yesterday I cleaned my lesson room. We have two rooms in the back of our first floor, one for me and one used mostly by Jim Bier. Jim keeps his room clean and free of clutter. Me? Pishaw.

In the midst of the clutter, I found 12 guitar picks, three lesson plans, seven song lyric sheets, two guitar cords, two other cords with strange ends that plug into something, one moldy dog treat, my broken bug wireless guitar rig, and a bag of microwave popcorn.

Should this tell us something? Am I a hoarder, or just unorganized, or does stuff just sort of pile up over the year?

I hate cleaning. But it's a good thing for the soul and mental outlook. I vacuumed the daylights out of the room and dusted. I tossed a bunch of stuff, put the bookcases and tables in different places, rearranged the chairs. I still have to go through a bunch of music books and old lesson plans, but I have a couple of weeks and I'm sure I'll wait until the last second. Heaven forbid I get ahead of the game.

The end of the year is a good time to take a deep breath, take stock and get ready for more.

Hey! Microwave popcorn! Bet it's still good and makes for a good snack this afternoon ....

Monday, December 18, 2017

ANOTHER Star Wars?

GEESH. THEY JUST keep cranking them out, don't they? Cash cows are cash cows and the need for new Star Wars movies will probably never end.

Not that I care. I went many years without watching any of the films. But I broke down last year and went to the Rogue One movie, the one where everybody dies. Then I watched one of them made before that and I'm still ticked off they killed Han Solo.

Apparently the latest installment has a surprise ending and lots of unanswered questions. And Carrie Fisher is in it. Wait a second .... everybody died in the last movie, yet a character played by an actress who actually died last year is still around? Maybe they did some scenes before she passed. Princess Leia is one of the iconic figures in film and I really hope George Lucas and the filmmakers don't keep her alive digitally.

Uh oh. It sounds like I give a crap. Did I tell you the story about hiking several miles to a theater in London, Ont., and waiting in line for hours to see the original movie? I did?

Nebermind.

So we'll probably suck it up and and go see the newest Star Wars movie. Don't spoil it for me. Does anybody else die? Does Princess Leia survive again? Is Luke Skywalker still stranded on an island and wearing a Michael Jackson glove on his fake hand? Is Bill Murray going to do the theme song for reals?

So many questions. Now we REALLY have to go see it.



Friday, December 15, 2017

Drums for Everyone

LAST YEAR FOR Christmas Second String Music sold a lot of drum stuff. So we are stocked up. Sheryl says, "We have a lot of drums. Drums, drums, drums. And we will put them together for you."

D1 drum kit
We have the ddrum starter kits, in three sizes. The D1 is a beginner kit with cymbals. The D2R is a 4 piece rock kit and the D2 is the complete beginner kit with a stick bag and 6 sets of sticks. All of them come assembled and ready to play.

We have bongos, cajons, cowbells, shakers, tambourines, stands, sticks and more. Drum stuff everywhere at Fifth and Maine!


Drummers are interesting people. They are inventive, creative and take pride in rhythm, tempo and timing. It is never too early to start on drums, either.

D2 Rock kit
All the drums we sell come with 4 free lessons at Vancil Performing Arts Music Department, 8th & Ohio, where your drummer can really get a great head start in music.

Come see us at Fifth and Maine. We've been rocking this month and we are open the next two Sundays, too.

It's Christmas - let's make a joyful racket!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Drive to The Cars and Dire Straits



THREE AMAZING BANDS are finally getting into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The hall had some head-scratching recent inclusions, but this year, the hall got it right. Three of my favorites got in - The Moody Blues, Dire Straits and The Cars.

Making Movies by Dire Straits might be the best rock album ever made. Yup. Album. You could listen to the whole thing, start to finish, and it was considered a complete work. Today we are used to hitting a button and going right to the song. Nobody seems to make albums anymore .... they are just songs strung together. The Moody Blues were good at it too, and it's hard to believe they are still around and planning a tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Days Of Future Passed.

Mark Knopfler is from another planet and nobody plays guitar like him, nobody. He could play the blazing licks and rock your socks off, but it was how he played, and his "less is more" technique and style is still a joy to hear. I dare you to listen to Romeo and Juliet and not cry. Double dare you.

Then there's The Cars. Look, the 1980s were the longest 15 years of my life and not necessarily a great time to grow up listening to music. At least we had bands like The Cars - they had a weird and strange leader, Rick Ocasek. They had a geeky keyboard player, a drummer with Flock of Seagulls hair who was replaced by a drum machine, a sex symbol bass player with an incredible voice and a left-handed guitar player named Elliot who tore it up. Some of their songs were direct and to the point (My Best Friend's Girlfriend) and some of them left you wondering what spaceship they were using (Moving In Stereo). I wore out albums like The Cars, Candy O, Shake It up and even Heartbreak City. A few years ago they came out with Door To Door and it still sounded great.

So hurrah for classic rock and bands that had talented players and songwriters. Long live rock!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Don't discuss politics - also, I like the Liberal Redneck



I HATE POLITICS. I despise our current president. I am in denial about our current political climate.

See what it gets us? Nothing but anger and despair. So I avoid discussing it out loud, unless I'm at The Whig and working the sports desk, and one of the guys working with me is a college student and political science major. Right.

Plus I co-own a small business. I couldn't care less if you are an R or a D. I'll help you with the R or D chord on a new Gretsch guitar without any preconceived notions. Politics and music don't mix. Actually they do, but not if I'm trying to sell you a nice guitar.

I'm staying away from getting into it. Really. Promise. Sheryl turns on CNN to watch the "best four minutes in the news," Anderson Cooper 360. Sometimes it is so depressing, I'm forced to go upstairs to the man cave and watch Tiny House Hunters. Well, THIS is more depressing.

So I'm going to be short and to the point here. It really says something about our country when the only people who really make sense are the late night talk show hosts. Colbert for president!

Also, if you really want to get to the heart of it, have a comedian break it down. I have to warn you that this guy is profane and blunt, but sometimes you gotta go right to it. I might actually understand some of this being from the south thing, too.

Amen. Go Alabama, unless it's in football. And maybe we'll survive another three years of this madness.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Hours

WE HAVE DECIDED to keep regular hours during Christmas at Second String Music. In years past we've stayed open later during the week, but rarely did anybody wander in much past 6 p.m. We appreciate The District trying new things, like the Thankful Thursday's promotion, but it's tough to get the general public to come down here for shopping after hours.

So, Monday through Friday, we will be open for our usual 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours. Saturday we are here from 10 to 5. Remember, hours are just guidelines - we were here by 9:15 almost every morning last week and one morning had people waiting at the door. Then the miscreants kept us late a few Friday nights ago for happy hour and a few people wandered in after 6, including a father and son who came back the next day and bought a guitar and amp.

Well, I'm the lead miscreant, so it's all good.

I think a lot of downtown businesses are missing out by closing early on Saturdays. This past Saturday we were busy after 3 p.m. and rocked until close. It's common for the panicked musician to come in needing strings or gear.


We will be open for the next two Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. If you have stuff on layaway or want to keep the gifts a surprise, we are happy to store them here for you, safe and sound, until Christmas Eve. We will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Merry Christmas! We are here for you for the next 14 days straight and we'll make your Christmas shopping a breeze.

Friday, December 8, 2017

How to make friends

WE RECENTLY SAW a Facebook post from a young man who says he wants to meet people and get more socially acclimated to Quincy. He works for a small school district not far from town but lives here.

That's a tough one. I remember moving to Quincy 21 years ago, but I had no trouble meeting people because of my job at the paper. We also attended a church and got involved in Emily's school.

There is a group of people called Young Professionals of Quincy. I think they are fairly active, but I'm no longer young and many people question me being professional. I'm a pro at taking golf naps and finding fret buzz on guitars. Does that count?

There are some really good service clubs in Quincy, like Rotary, Lions, Exchange Club, etc. There are tons of volunteer opportunities around here, like helping with Kroc Center events. Actually, joining the Kroc Center or YMCA is a great idea. The District recently recruited a bunch of volunteers to help string lights in Washington Park. Help is always needed and appreciated. There are many art and historical society groups active online.

I'm not a big fan of hanging out in bars, but really, if you want to check out our many talented musicians there is always live music on weekends. Sheryl created the What to Do in Quincy IL page so that people would know what was going on around town.

We have many customers who just wander in to check things out and run into people they know, or make friends at a jam session. I've met a ton of people at The Club Tavern's Sunday night blues jam.


Really, it's about getting out there and getting involved. Best of luck to everyone who is looking for friends and becoming more active in Quincy.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Angus and chew toys

WE HAD A lovely visit this morning from Lois Costanza, wife of the late and legendary Lew Portnoy. Lew was a Second String Music Hall of Famer who passed away a last year. He loved to come in on Saturday mornings, sit in his green chair behind the counter and let Fast Eddie shed all over him.

Lois has been bringing us Lew's stuff - he was a hoarder and collector of all things guitar and music related. This morning she brought in a beautiful Tacoma travel guitar, which we are selling for her after Sheryl is done restringing. She says it is the last of his guitar gear .... Right.

Among the other things she brought in were two small pillows shaped like Martin guitars. Sheryl saved the smaller one from destruction. It is named "Fretty."

Angus, of course, grabbed the bigger of the two and immediately demanded to play. Lois was a little shocked at first but quickly realized it's his world, not ours, and she obliged.

Angus has been tearing the living bleep out of the larger stuffed Martin pillow. We can't tell if it ever had a name.

There is debris everywhere and lots of barking and growling. A very nice older couple just came in to get a music stand for their grandson, and they got a big kick out of throwing the pillow for Angus. He just grunted and growled and demanded they do it again.

Our store and lives long ago went to the dogs. We love it that Lew and his hoard continue to haunt poor Lois and brings us such joy in the store. Merry Christmas to Angus!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Won't miss Hardees

THE HARDEES AT 12th and Jefferson closed Monday. As always, the first thought is that this is a sad day because people have lost jobs, not that it pays anything. But a job is a job, and you wonder what happens to the employees.

I had a love/hate relationship with that Hardees. I loved the fact that we had a restaurant on the south end and just blocks from our house. But I hated the service and the food. A few years ago when Hardees introduced its Monster Burger, a critic labelled it "Food Pornography." Hey, everybody needs a little grease and the threat of clogged arteries once in a while.

One Saturday morning about 12 years ago I wandered in there after a long night and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited for my order. I felt bad for the server and the kitchen staff because the manager had no clue what was going on. So I left without my food. There was almost never anybody in there and the rare time I did go back I could hear my voice echoing in the building. "Why yes yes yes yes .... I would love curly fries fries fries fries ...."

There are two other locations in Quincy, if you really need your fill of a Hardees hamburger. The one on Broadway isn't bad. I've never been in the one on North 12th. Hopefully they keep going, but really, in the world of culinary experience, it's not a tragic loss.

Sheryl is fervently hoping for a Sonic in that location. If it's run well and the grease is made properly, it could be a great thing for our end of town, and she'd be over there three times a week, as long as she can dispose of the bun.

So let's start this rumor, just for fun. I hear that it's going to be an Olive Garden or Red Lobster. Yes! Quincy will be so much better for getting a major food chain. We'll just keep going to Tiramisu or Thrive or Thyme Square. But we'll be a real town.

Farewell, 12th and Jefferson Hardees. We hardly knew yee, and it's sad to drive past your empty parking lot and forlorn building. Wait. There's a lobster in the parking lot! And it's red!

Neber mind. It's just an old Hardees wrapper.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Love love love Christkindl

SHERYL AND I thoroughly enjoyed the Christkindl Market in the Washington Theater Sunday. The booths were interesting (we got Sweet Spirits Farm goats’ milk soaps) and I almost bought five or six other things I totally don’t need. The theater looks fantastic and it’s come a long way from the bird poop covered stage and crumbling walls and ceilings of a decade ago.

The music was amazing - Robin Walden was leading a violin quartet when we walked in and the sound of strings floated through the cavernous theater like feathers in the wind. It was a bit cold but that made it even more festive.

We had a huge Saturday at Second String Music and the Christkindl Market drew a ton of people downtown and to our store. The nice weather helped foot traffic and several of our neighbors reported good sales.

The first Christkindl Market in Quincy was four or five years ago in Washington Park. There were huge tents and tons of vendors. I think it was our first Christmas at Fifth and Maine and it helped lots of people to know about our new location.

The District couldn’t rent tents the following year, so it moved to the Senior Center. I’m gonna piss some people off here by saying this, but the location was terrible and we saw no extra business, even though it’s two blocks away.

Then it moved to the old Dick Brothers Brewery. Great old building, tons of room for vendors, lots of people. But again, it didn’t drive much business downtown because it is on the southeast edge of The District.

I get it. The District is far more than just Washington Park. We need events throughout the downtown area, and we already have annual festivals and gatherings around us.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to The District and everybody who made this year’s Christkindl event rock. We’d love to have it again in the theater or back in the park. Let’s hope it becomes a longstanding Quincy tradition.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Love for delivery guys

WE HAVE A COUPLE of delivery drivers who are in the store almost every day. They are awesome. I’d like to think it’s because they are friendly, courteous and professional.
Angus ain't bustin nothing. Tucker peeks over the edge.

But really they just like us because of Angus.

This time of year is tough on our UPS and Fed Ex guys, and our regular mail carriers. They start getting glassy-eyed and sometimes they even forget to greet Angus. It’s like being a sports writer during playoff season or being a music store owner at Christmas. We just get through it one day at a time.

In the madness of the season, it’s a good idea to stop, take a look around and remember what is really important. We salute everybody who works harder and busts more tail this time of year. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Shop local and make it fun!

ALL SIGNS LEAD to another rocking Christmas season at Second String Music. More people are getting gifts earlier, while our stock is still plentiful. We had a tremendous Small Business Saturday and also a huge Un-Cyber Monday. Take that, online retailers.

We see it every year after Christmas - grandma comes in with a $30 Amazon special guitar. “And three of the strings are already broke!” she cries. Right. Your grandson will chuck the piece of wood with strings sort of attached into the fire pit after a week of not making music and will never want to learn how to play music ever again.

This week a woman came in with the dreaded “Amazon Wish List” from her kids. But she turned the tables by actually coming to a retail outlet. “I’d rather shop local,” she said. Amen! Sheryl loves to clear those wish lists with musical gear you can touch, see and try out.

You can play or hear what you are buying. If it’s a guitar, I’ll play it for you. With every instrument purchased you get four free lessons from Vancil Performing Arts so your child or grandchild can properly learn a frustration free instrument.

We just became Fender dealers and already The Squier basses and guitars are flying outta here. We have amazing Fender amps I stock, including the Blues Junior tube amp and Rumble bass amp. We. Have. Stuff!


We will make it easy for you. We love our local musicians and the aspiring players. Plus you can say hello to Fast Eddie and Angus. Heaven forbid you have FUN Christmas shopping, but we’ll make it painless and you might actually enjoy it.

Thank you to all our awesome loyal customers, and if you haven’t checked us out, come on down to Fifth and Maine.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Scooping for Tucker

SHERYL TOOK TUCKER, our beloved Border Collie rescue, to the vet this morning. He’s been wheezing and pooping in the house lately. The vet checked him out and said he has allergies and a heart murmur. A heart murmur?

Tucker runs like the wind and appears to be his normal high strung and loving self. We love our dogs but we are not in a position financially to be doing doggie heart surgery. We have faith Tucker will be just fine. Unless he poops in the living room again.

My job is to collect a “sample” so the vet can check for worms. This is a polite and medically approved way of saying I am bringing the vet a bag of Tucker’s shit. We clean up Metric tons of dog poop from the yard every week, so it’s no big deal. I can do it. I have experience in the fecal matters.

It’s not as simple as you might think. Tucker does what we call the Tuck A Dump, where he walks and poops at the same time. It takes balance and patience to Tuck A Dump and his poop gets scattered over a wide area so you gotta watch him the whole time.

So Tucker is on steroids for his allergies, I will develop a heart murmur when I see the vet bill, and soon I’ll be delivering a bag of poop to the vet. Hopefully Tucker feels better soon. It’s all part of having kids. Er, dogs.

Where are my poop bags, anyway?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

QPD food drive

WITHOUT FANFARE, OFFICERS from the Quincy Police Department organized a food drive last week and handed out groceries to needy families. They have done this for several years, and they do it because they are good people.

You can do all the community relations you want, but nothing works better than public interaction and showing people you care. There were families literally in tears when officers asked if they needed groceries.

Here’s a video about the event. Good for QPD and the volunteers who helped! I love the music, especially the third song .... thank you, QPD!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Ain’t like it used to be

A CRABBY OLD man walked into the store Saturday and said he was “just lookin.” I don’t do well with crabby old men, mostly because I’m turning into one myself. He said, “Things downtown ain’t like they used to be.”

He was born and raised in Quincy and left, came back, and left again. “It sure went downhill downtown. Never came back, either,” he sniffed.

I stared at him and said, “Actually, downtown has come a long way in the past few years. We like it here and we do well here.”

Then I walked away and went to Ally’s next door, but they were so crowded I could barely walk in the door, and they were out of mimosas already. I came back and the crabby old man was still in our store.

I invited him to the tree lighting ceremony in Washington Park. I hope he was there, because the park was jammed and it was very cool.

Look. I get it. Before Broadway, downtown was the place to be. There isn’t as much stuff down here and we have perceived and real issues, like parking and empty storefronts. Long gone are the days of huge crowds spilling out onto sidewalks, and we will never have Black Friday insanity down here (a good thing, actually).

Crabby old man left, and Steve Rees of course calmed me down by pointing out it’s a matter of perspective.

You can sit in glass houses and sing Glory Days until you are blue in the face. Or you make your place the best it can be. Everybody pines for the good old days .... even though they are right here, right now.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Happy Thanksbirthday

EVERY FEW YEARS my birthday falls on Thanksgiving. Two birds, one stone. Or, a bird and a lamb, to be more precise.

Sheryl and I enjoyed an awesome meal and company at the annual Mays family Thanksgiving gathering yesterday. We are honored to call them friends, and hanging with Grannie Annie Mays is the best. She and Bob Mays “adopted” us some years ago and she is always sending us cards and checking up on us. She has been a wonderful mother to both of us orphans.

Then it was off to the annual Noble family and friends Thanksgiving. Cori and I played for them for the third straight year, and I knew it was going to careen out of control when they sang Happy Birthday to me minutes after walking through the door. They know how to have fun and it’s one of the best gigs we do all year.
A Noble Bash.

It helps that Roberto Stellino shows up with a lamb dinner. Yup, the owner of Tiramisu makes us dinner. So let me get this straight - we get hired to play music for a bunch of happy and crazy people, AND Roberto makes us dinner?

Happy Birthday to ME!

Geesh. This birthday on Thanksgiving business is too much.

Anyway, we lived to tell about. Thank God we don’t do Black Friday, just our regular 10 am - 6 pm hours. Steve Rees and I are decorating the store today and we are gearing up for Small Business Saturday. Come on down and help us clear the cobwebs, and recover from Thanksbirthday. The Keurig is on!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Low carb pumpkin pie

GENERALLY SPEAKING, SHERYL doesn’t cook. We both are lower carb, she eats way fewer carbs than me. I don’t mind making steaks and vegetable meals. Sometimes it can be a challenge finding new ways to cook mushrooms and asparagus. Dessert is really hard to make, so we go our own way after dinner.

We have a Thanksgiving dinner with the Mays tomorrow and we usually just buy a couple of pies to take. This year Sheryl wanted to try to make a pumpkin pie and see if it tasted good enough to share with family. So she found a recipe and tried to make sure we had all the ingredients. (HyVee to the rescue again!)

Sheryl made a test pie last night and bought extra ingredients to make one to share tomorrow. I mixed ingredients because “you have better mojo in the kitchen,” she said. Sounds like a way to keep me from watching the hockey game, but if it keeps her away from Flip or Flop Ursa on HGTV, we both win.

After grinding the walnuts, finding all the spices and putting the new ingredients around our tiny kitchen, Sheryl realized we still needed a few items from HyVee. (“What? We are out of almond flour for the cornbread?”) Sheryl popped her creation into the oven, and she also made low carb cornbread. Both turned out well and we even had pumpkin pie for breakfast this morning. It was guilt free and delicious.

Wow, who knew I’d eat low carb pumpkin pie and enjoy it? I might have to demolish a bag of Doritos to make up for it, but it’s not bad and I recommend it to anybody watching the carbs and eating better.

Can we use almond flour and walnut meal to make pizza?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Recovery, Keurigs and the NFL

WE HAD AN absolute blast Saturday at the annual pre-Thanksgiving party. Our friend Karen Armstrong won the guitar raffle and is super excited about learning to play. The jam session was epic and my fingertips were like raw hamburger after hooting and hollering for eight hours ..... so much fun! Ev Ben had some Cheesey drumming. Thank you to everybody who joined the fray.

We recovered by doing yard work yesterday. Now we can’t move. See what hard work gets you? Nothing but pain and a clean garage, shed and mulched leaves. I’d rather jam for eight hours.

So I watched a lot of football, too. I enjoyed the Lions win and they are so good at teasing us, n’est pas? I am watching other games just to watch. Also, Sheryl bought a backup Keurig because we only have two and you never know when one might break or Sean Hannity might show up for coffee. (Plus they were on sale!) So we are good to go.

It’s going to be a great week at Fifth and Maine, with Thanksgiving, milestones and two HartLyss gigs looming. Come on by for coffee this morning and we’ll both get ready!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stranger things in the backyard



WE JUST GOT done watching Stranger Things, both seasons. I liked it because the main characters are geeks and nerds, so I can relate. The story requires you to suspend belief and logic. It’s based in the mid-80s so there’s awesome and awful songs as the soundtrack. And lights flicker. A lot.

The other night we were binge-watching our way through the second season when we hit pause and I stepped outside with the dogs for a minute. Sure enough, the light above the back door of our neighbor’s house flickered on and off four or five times. It happened again last night when we got home late from the store and running errands.

This wouldn’t be so strange, except our beloved neighbor, Don, passed away last month after living in the house for 60 years. I think the light is motion sensitive, so maybe it was the wind, or a critter by the back door, or a loose light bulb.

Or maybe it was Don saying hello and wondering how he was going to get the backyard leaves picked up.

Nah. I don’t believe in that ghost stuff. It’s too strange, and there’s an explanation for everything.

Right. Now, about the light in my mancave doing the same thing .....

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Electric Co. scams

TWO YOUNG MEN from Ameren Illinois were just in the store and are downtown today to warn businesses about scammers pretending to be utilities.

Not a month goes by that somebody doesn’t walk in and ask to see our electric bill. The answer is a polite but firm “no.” I’m sure you are legit and I’m sure you will save us a lot of money, but we are good to go, thank you very much.

This is a brilliant PR move by Ameren. All the major media outlets were down here to do stories. Look! Ameren is warning us about bad guys! It makes them look good and you can’t blame them a bit. When I was a reporter Ameren was one of the best companies to deal with when it came to PR, and they know how to play the game.

When it comes to scammers, it’s like locking your car or front door - a little common sense goes a long way. If somebody calls you and promises you the moon, asks you for immediate payment or your debit card number, it’s obvious something ain’t right. Be smart and always be on guard for people trying to take you for a ride.

In other words, keep the lights on. It’s what you pay the power company to do.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rare Gretsch find

A FEW MONTHS ago I bought a 1968 Gretsch Cutter. It’s a long story but let’s just say we got a good deal, and Sheryl worked her usual magic to fix it up and get it playable after it sat unused for many years. It’s a single pickup hollow body with all original hardware and it sounds like a choir.

It’s missing the pick guard, and it has the original owner’s Social Security number etched into the back plate. It has a tone unlike any guitar I have ever played and I’m taking it to gigs.

We’ve named her “Stella” after the original owner. We put light gauge strings on her, and she had some intonation issues - shoot, we are about the same age and I have intonation issues too. She’d go out of tune quickly and I’d fight all night to lock her in.

Steve Rees looked her over last weekend and suggested thicker strings. I wondered if the old girl could handle them, but Steve was right as usual, and the tone is even purer coming from the aged wood and chambered body. Stella is staying in tune and I can’t wait to play her more with Cori Lyssy and solo shows, and this Saturday at our store party.

The older the better!

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's party time ... already!

HARD TO BELIEVE Thanksgiving and Christmas are sneaking up on us. It can only mean one thing - store party!

Saturday, Nov. 18 at Second String Music from open to close, we'll be celebrating the arrival of the season and give a toast to our good friend Pat Cornwell, who passed away about this time in 2010.

Raffle on 11/18
We've had various musical entertainment at this party over the years. This time we'll have a jam session starting around 1p.m. and an open mic event starting at 3 p.m. Come in and have a great time showing off your talent or just hanging out at the coolest music store in the tri-states area.

We will have food and libations and plenty of holiday cheer, and a store special or two. The famous raffle item is really cool ... an Ibanez miKro Guitar in Walnut Sunburst (with a gig bag) and a Fender Frontman 10 watt practice amp.

Sheryl and I even bought a new Charlie Brown Christmas tree, three of them, actually. They are small and we put one on a table in our living room - we'll see if it survives Josey The Huntress and our dogs. The other two will go in the store, though I refuse to decorate until the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe we should have a party that day, too.

Anyway, store party! There's no better way to get ready for the season.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sean Hannity - ICK

I rarely watch ignorant scumbags like Sean Hannity. My head hurts enough just watching the local news and trying to find middle ground. Hannity can say what he wants and if you swallow it up, we’ll rock on, that’s your problem.

I listened carefully to his statements about the Alabama guy. They. Were. Horrifying.

Then came his apology, which was even more horrifying. You make up your own mind.

Screw you, you pontificating hypocrite. You talk out of the side of you mouth and you spew hatred and ignorance at every turn. You just clearly said a grown man groped a 14 year old because she agreed it was okay. The swamp and sewer of Washington hates Roy Moore so they are making a big deal of this little thing. Then you blamed the lazy media for taking it out of context.

I was a full time member of the media, and I’m tired of us getting blamed for everything. This time I couldn’t be quiet.

Let me know what he says next. I won’t bother watching or listening to an idiot like Hannity ever again.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Don’t leave your keys in the car

THERE WAS A misleading WGEM story this week story about car thefts. The station stated that Quincy “residents” are claiming the Quincy Police Department told them they don’t have the resources to investigate car thefts.

First, the story only quoted one person making the claim. I know this person. I like her. But she later admitted her claim wasn’t entirely accurate. People used to call me with wild accusations all the time, and I would always do homework before jumping in too deep.

One other person was interviewed. She made no claims about QPD. She was upset her vehicle was stolen from her driveway. I don’t blame her. 

Look. A dirt ball is a dirt ball. And I don’t know the specifics of the case. But let this be a friendly reminder to lock your car doors and take your keys with you. I'm not even sure why that has to be told to anyone.

KHQA had a story this morning of a similar nature, and quoted a Keokuk police officer telling people to take “the extra step” of not leaving keys in the car. Really? Are people that lazy? 

Yup.

Sheryl’s nephew is living with us. He warms up his car every morning before going to work, while he is inside the house. He will come out one morning to find it gone,  and I won’t feel a bit sorry for him.

It’s the world we live in, folks. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The great new (used) car buying adventure



OUR BELOVED IMPALA will soon be resting in pieces. We took it to a local body shop, and the extensive damage from Sunday’s Fun With Hydroplaning experience was severe. It will cost more to fix than the car is worth.

Our insurance company is awesome - you know it’s good when the adjuster, Marc Meyer, walks in and asks how his dad is doing with guitar lessons. Marc played drums with legendary Quincy band Superimposed, so you know he’s a good guy.

So we are on the hunt for a car. We test drove one last night, taking Angus with us to make sure he could jump up into it. Sheryl is doing all the work and out poking around as we speak and we are getting closer.

She’s a master negotiator. We are trying to do this without a loan and on a budget, and it’s not easy. Sheryl has way more business savvy, so we should be okay.

What’s strange about the whole wreck thing is that yesterday, two days later, I started to get the shakes and see my life flashing before my eyes. I asked Sheryl if it was PTSD. “Nope. It just means you are human,” she said.

A human with a new (to us) vehicle, hopefully.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Another great Vets Day parade

WE HAD A blast once again playing in Saturday's Veteran's Day Parade along Maine Street. There were a record number of entries and Pepper Spray rocked and rolled on the flatbed. We represented Six String Heroes, Vancil Performing Arts and Second String Music to salute our veterans.

We always get a huge reaction. People like live music, even if it slides by you and you only see it for a few seconds. Of course, Sheryl says you can hear us coming up Maine from several blocks away, but that's Pepper Spray. We take pride in being loud! Not necessarily all that good, but loud.


This is a big deal for Frank Haxel and we appreciate him getting everything organized. People don't realize sometimes just how much work goes into getting the trailer, truck and marchers all together. He and Pepper Spray keyboardist Adam Yates spent a lot of time Friday night setting up the PA and plugging everything in. I helped by bringing bad stogies and drinking Frank's beverages, but that's just the kind of guy I am.

Adam, a veteran of the Marine Corps, played his heart out from the front of the trailer. Adam, Tim Smith, Justin Sievert, Adam Duesterhaus and I don't get together all that much so it's way cool when we do whamma lamma jamma.

The man in charge of the parade, Dick McKinney, is retiring. I remember doing a story for The Whig many years ago about Dick rebooting the parade, and he'll be missed. Thank you, sir, for your service!

And that goes for everybody who served, all of our veterans. It was our honor and privilege to play for you again. Let's do it next year too!

** Thank YOU to Steve Rees for these great action shots of the parade performance!***

Monday, November 6, 2017

Strangers helping during car crash

HERE IS A story about good people doing amazing things, and not because they were forced to do anything at all.

Sheryl decided to attend a book signing/Keto Talk near St. Louis Sunday featuring an author she really likes. It's part of her Type 1 Grit group for low carb, moderate protein blood glucose managements. She was excited about going. I planned to stay home and sleep away a Sunday afternoon. But she asked if I wanted to go to drive, and I noticed there was a lot of rain in the St. Louis area. So I agreed, especially since we got to stop at Sonic in Hannibal on the way down. The have the BEST cheddar bites in the history of fast food (according to Sheryl). I agree they are professional grade A cheddar bites.

It started raining near New London and by the time we got about a mile south of Eolia, it was coming down hard. We were going about 60 mph and I was trying to pass a truck when we hit a flooded part of the highway, and we started spinning out of control - hydroplaning, to be precise.

Most of us have been in a wreck or two. Is there any more of a helpless feeling than knowing you are completely out of control?

We spun once, twice, and veered toward the right side of the road. Miraculously we didn't hit another vehicle. We hit the shoulder, then shot across the wet grass, and plummeted down an embankment some 70 feet to the bottom of a ravine. Sheryl's glasses flew off her head and stuff spilled out of her purse.

Our seat belts definitely saved our lives.

We hit fairly hard before coming to a stop. We sat there for about 10 seconds, and there was a knock at my window - incredibly, in the pouring rain, five motorists stopped and two guys ran down the embankment to our car, just seconds after the crash.

We got out slowly, shaken. Sheryl doesn't remember being led to a car. I left my wallet and other stuff on the seat, and I was shivering from shock. But we were alive. I got put in a car and they drove off down the road.

The people who stopped were from St. Louis and just finished playing softball in Eolia and were heading to a diner a few miles south. Softball? In November? They got us to the diner and Sheryl called the authorities. The softball team ate lunch and made sure we were okay. Sheryl had coffee and I had tea, and the waitress said it was on the house.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper, Trooper Neighbors, met us at the diner and said he counted two places in the grass where we spun completely around. Had it not been wet .... we'd have rolled over. The trooper called a local towing company, and the driver was already out and about in the rain, since he figured he'd be busy.

Sure enough, the trooper said there were four or five reported wrecks reported in the area due to heavy rain. The highway had just been resurfaced and was super slick, and the tow truck driver said the spot we hit wasn't draining properly.

Poor Frank Haxel. Always in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Sheryl called him and he jumped in his truck to head down, about an hour from Quincy. He stopped before getting to the diner and talked to the trooper and the tow truck driver, and told the driver to meet us at the diner.

I thought we were screwed with the car. There was no way it was driveable, no way. There was a lot of body damage, especially under the front of the car. It's covered in mud on top, both taillights are cracked, and the back bumper is all messed up.

We got it off the flatbed tow trailer, and I drove it around the parking lot, and it was fine to drive. The bill was $210. "I'd pay him $500," Sheryl said. The tow guy was awesome, and how he got our car out of there so quickly I will never know.

Unbelievable. The softball team hugged us and cheered that the car was driveable. They were as happy as we were that our wreck didn't wreck our week. They were truly happy to help and be neighborly, just like Trooper Neighbors.

We got it home, with Frank trailing behind us to make sure we were okay. Sheryl drove because I had some "confused" moments and she thought I shouldn't drive.  I got some rock and roll therapy at The Club with the Matt Roberts Blues Band last night, and didn't sleep  much when I got home.

This morning we are both sore. But we are alive.

The car can be fixed. Sheryl can hopefully go to another book signing or grit meet-up in the spring. I can get behind the wheel and drive on the highway again.

And the kindness of strangers and Frank?

It's a beautiful thing, thank God.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Hitting deer

EMILY IS LUCKY she wasn't seriously hurt or even dead after she hit a deer earlier this week. It was on the highway leading out of Macomb to Quincy, and she smacked it going the legal speed limit. It broke the passenger window, showered her with glass and totaled her brand new Suburu.

She was wearing her seatbelt, and she says it probably saved her life.

The deer crashed into her window, flipped around and broke out the rear window with its butt. Emily flagged down another driver, a sheriff's deputy and ambulance arrived, and her friend Dr. Erickson from Macomb came and got her. She was bleeding profusely from the face due to glass, so the ambulance crew cleaned her up and asked if she wanted to go to the ER.

She wisely said no. She was nicked up and very sore but otherwise OK. When she took a shower later she pulled three large pieces of glass from her ear. She was also covered in deer hair and she pulled a tick off of her body later.

The photo doesn't do the crash justice. And I could show you the one of her bleeding face - it looked like Halloween makeup - but I think you get the idea.

The deer didn't make it. Emily said somebody stopped and asked her if he could take it. "No. I'm going to have it stuffed and mounted in my living room," Emily said. Well, she didn't, but she felt like saying it.

I've hit my share of deer over the years and it's an awful thing. Many years years ago I was bombing down a Michigan back road heading to Traverse City when I smacked a huge buck in our Honda Accord. The front end was demolished and incredibly, the car still worked. We got it fixed, and a few years later in Quincy the air conditioner quit. When the mechanic went to replace it, he found it covered in deer hair.

To make matters worse, Emily is being forced to move from her downtown Macomb apartment because it's infested with cockroaches. Yup. Infested, as in, she hasn't slept in her bed for weeks because it's full of  bugs. This has been going on for at least 6 months and her landlord said she was "overreacting."

You know the movie where the father says, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" Yeah, well, Emily 1, Landlord 0. Be careful if you are looking for a downtown Macomb apartment. 

So she's breaking her lease and moving to another place, and I'm going up Saturday to help her out.

Hopefully I don't hit a deer.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Renting the winning drum

YESTERDAY ABOUT NOON, an excitable chap wandered into the store, looked around with a wild look in his eye, and said, “Please tell me you have a bass drum I can rent.”

This was a first for us at Second String Music, and we’ve heard them all. A bass drum?

“I need it for a rally we are having at the Oakley-Lindsay Center,” the man said.

Turns out he wanted to be the loudest vendor at the “rally.” It was for a vacuum company. He already had an air horn. And now he wanted to pound on a bass drum.

I wasn’t sure. We don’t rent out stuff like guitars and drums. But we do have a used Pearl set, the four shell pieces. So Sheryl said, “Sure!”

For one low price, he rented the bass drum and a set of mallets. He even thought about buying the four pieces until his wife came in and put his idea to rest. “Like, you really need a drum kit,” she said, with the dreaded eye roll.

It’s a bit risky to do stuff like this for people you don’t know. But he was desperate and we figured, why not? So off they went, happy as clams.

Sheryl figured the wife wouldn't want the bass drum to come back to their home so they would certainly return it to the store. Smart.

He returned at 5 p.m. with a massive smile on his face. “We won! We won!” shouted the man. He pointed to the back of his van. “You should see the trophy!”

Sheryl made him get it out and we posed for a photo. I don’t even know his name, what a rally is or why he was making noises for Kirby Vacuums.

But he was loud. And he won. So we are both happy!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Suspicious people

THE ATTACK IN New York Tuesday was a terrible thing. I don't even want to know about the POS who did this, but I understand we have to learn more and be vigilant.

The mayor of New York City was on the news this morning, and one of his main points was to encourage citizens to report "suspicious" activity. Just what constitutes "suspicious" is up to interpretation. I certainly understand what the mayor means, and it's the age we live in - his point is that alerting authorities can save lives, and we shouldn't worry if it turns out to be nothing.

Quincy and New York couldn't be more different. I see "suspicious" people lurking around all the time, in my neighborhood, in Washington Park, everywhere. I don't call the cops if somebody looks a little shady, though I won't hesitate if it's obvious something is wrong.

This morning I drove to the cemetery to walk the dogs, and as I was heading up Fifth Street just south of Jefferson, a guy was walking north on the sidewalk. He looked .... suspicious. He appeared to be yelling and talking into his hand. The dogs got riled up (a sure sign something could be amiss) but I kept driving.

Should I have stopped and asked if the guy was OK? Should I have immediately pulled over and called the cops?

We were walking in the cemetery on the northern loop and I looked down to the street, and sure enough, a Quincy Police officer was out talking to the guy. I watched for a while, but it didn't appear to be too serious and the "suspicious" person was cooperating. So I kept walking.

In the end, it makes me feel grateful for living in Quincy. In New York City, a guy rents a truck and runs down innocent civilians, and we wonder why we didn't do something before it happened.

In Quincy, a guy is talking to his hands, and it's just another day in the Hood.

For now.




Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween treats

WE HOPE YOU have a safe and scary Halloween today. It’s already been fun here at 5th and Maine. The kids from Cheerful Home have been over and we’ve been handing out non-candy treats.

We did the same thing last Saturday for the District’s Teal Pumpkin event. We had hundreds of kids and parents come in and we even did a little business along the way. It’s a good way to get people to come into the store and we handed out a ton of vampire teeth, spider rings and emoji erasers.

I loved Halloween as a kid and still have fond memories of trekking the neighborhood on cold nights. And tonight is the third or fourth anniversary of the first time I played with those Avenue Beat brats, at open mic night at One. Good times, Monster Mash style!

Be safe out there and bundle up if you are going out. Stop by Second String Music today for a treat, too.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New Leafs hat!

LAST WEEK MY Detroit lions hat was stolen. After watching them lose in the usual awful way to an average Steelers team last night, maybe it’s a good thing.

I was more bummed about losing my winter hat, especially with Woodland Cemetery tours on Saturday. Did I run out and buy a new one? No. Of course not. That would have made sense. I was happy to wallow in my angst over needing a new winter hat. I'm Dutch, and that should explain it.

So to the rescue Saturday afternoon came Phil Darnell of Canton, Mo. He read my post about the hat thief and happened to be searching ebay for fishing lures at the time. He found and ordered a Toronto Maple Leafs hat. He delivered it Saturday afternoon and made me cry. Then I gave him a "Thank You bass lesson" and showed him how to play “Blue On Black” by Kenny Wayne Shepherd. And we both cried. Wait, no, I just cried.


Phil is a Second String Music legend, having helped up with a huge roof project, learned and taught his daughters about economics of a music store and found a way to buy guitars and bass for his church, himself and his daughter Jenna. His daughter Jenna, is a guitar student who once taught Paul Lester how to flip bacon with calloused guitar fingers. So many legends, so little time. It gets confusing.

Anyway, I was shocked and surprised to get such an awesome hat. It kept me warm Saturday night and even the ghosts in Woodland commented how good it looked. We will see how long it takes for the dog to eat it or for me to misplace it.

Go Leafs Go! My warm ears approve too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stealing my Lions hat

Somebody stole my prized Detroit Lions winter hat. Maybe I'm not the only one in Quincy who follows a perennial loser.

Yesterday Chris Kelley called for help with a Table 16 commercial. We shot several scenes in Washington Park. I was wearing a light jacket and I brought some other props, so I put a bundle of clothing and items down in a pile in the grass where we were shooting.

We moved down to the corner, maybe 25 yards away, so I left the pile and we shot more scenes. When I went back about 10 minutes later, my Lions hat and a really nice checked shirt were missing.

I saw a guy on a bike lurking around the area and I suspect he snatched up the hat and the shirt. What's strange is that my expensive prescription sunglasses and my really nice heavy winter coat were still there - maybe the person who took my stuff likes to be blinded by the sun and figured the shirt would keep him warm enough.

I would like the dirtball to know that the Lions hat is actually the third one I've owned in less than a year. Genie, our otherwise gentle English Shepherd, ate the first two. They are a delicacy to her. So you now have a hat that survived a hat-loving and Lions-hating canine while in hiding the past 6 months. Congrats.

A few hours before, I made a video with Paul Lester to promote our Friday night show at Revelry. That's me wearing the shirt. Just in case, you know, our dirtball is proudly wearing it around.

Sheryl, as usual, was the voice of reason. "At least you didn't take your phone and wallet with you," she said. "And maybe he needed the shirt and the hat. Next time take my Dolphins hat. No one would ever want that one."

True. Winter is coming, as Jon Snow likes to say. I wonder what I will do when I see the guy wearing the hat - I doubt anybody else in Quincy has one, and if they do, they need their heads examined for being a Lions fan, anyway. I'll probably just laugh at him and question his sanity.

What I really want is a Toronto Maple Leafs winter hat, since they'll be winning the Stanley Cup in the next year or two. So maybe this will all work out, as stuff usually does around here. And it's a good reminder to never leave stuff unattended in Washington Park.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fifth and Maine love, and old pictures

DERON JOHNSON OF Maine Street Magazine did a story for the October edition about our Fifth and Maine building. It's very well done and we appreciate the love for our little slice of Q-Town history. We have copies in the store or you can go online and read the entire edition, our story is on page 12.

We are careful about who goes up into our historic structure. When we first got into the building I used to take people up there all the time. But past the third floor it's not in very good condition and it's a liability at best, so for the most part we are happy to just tell people about our amazing space.

I love finding old pictures of our building, especially the ones pre-1920 before the north addition was added. This photo from the Illinois Digital Archives is way cool ... check out the signs in the windows, and the guys hanging out and lounging against the building on the Maine Street side.

The there's this photo to the right, sent to me recently by a friend, taken from the ground level, and again before the building expanded.

I love how history is all around us. Last Saturday I took a tour through Woodland Cemetery and we had some great re-enactors and stories to tell. Near the end I couldn't resist showing my group Dr. Koch's boulder grave marker - he was married to the woman who constructed our building, Hattie Dodd. I don't think it ended well. Oh, the stories that could be told!

Again, thanks to Maine Street Magazine for the great story, and we are honored to keep a piece of Quincy history alive and well.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Free guitars! Well, sort of ....

WE HAVE TWO acoustic guitars we are giving away. Well .... sort of. They don't have any strings, or hardware but they'd make great wall hangings or art projects. And they are free, first come, first serve.

By the Front Door
One is an old classical guitar somebody gave to us. About once a week we get a person with a battered guitar wondering if it's worth saving, and we are pretty honest about it. If it belonged to grandpa and is no longer playable, keep it and put it on the wall. You can't put a price on a family instrument like that.

On Saturday a woman came in with a derelict Ventura 12-string. The bridge is caving in and the neck has more bumps and curves than an off-road motorcycle course. It was her lucky day - Sheryl happened to need a certain style of tuning peg, and there were 12 on that battered old Ventura, so she bought it for a few dollars and the parts have gone to good use.

So the two guitar bodies are free to good homes. You could use them for a painting project, or drop them from a roof, or smash them in the parking lot next to the store. Wait a second .... shouldn't we keep at least one of them?

Nah. They are yours, if you want them, but they won't be here very long, because free is free.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spirits and Scoundrels

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The best corner for conversation

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

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

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

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

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

What?

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

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

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

YCMIU in our little slice of heaven!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The ebb and flow of our Calftown hood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Josh Houchins and the power of positive attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Closed Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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