Friday, June 22, 2018

Ready for a wild weekend

IT'S HERE, THE annual Q-Fest in Washington Park, and we are really excited to be in the thick of things at Fifth and Maine.

Artists are already arriving and setting up tents. We are having our noon blues show under the QU tent just west of the gazebo, with the fabulous Bella Song performing, and James Armstrong takes over tonight for the Blues In The District. It's going to be a bit cooler and hopefully the rain stays away.

We love this event and it's good for us. That being said, Maine Street will be closed between Fourth and Sixth starting at noon today. We are not happy with the streets shutting down early - with Blues In The District tonight, you are really cutting off access to the park, businesses and a lot of the park, and it will be a bit of a cluster down here tonight, so please come early and be patient.

Somebody setting up said something about this being about art this weekend, not about blues. Well, this isn't true. Music is art, no matter what the form. And we have tons of talented performers in the gazebo this weekend, all local and all very talented. The street party tomorrow night is right in front of the store on Maine Street and will be off the hook fun.

Jared & The Gentlemen, a Quincy band, opens at 6 p.m. The headliner is from St. Louis and called Griffin and the Gargoyles. Once again there are some who suggest we should only have local talent for a big event like this. I could not disagree more - if we get a chance to see a killer band in the street downtown, it's a great thing, and we intend to enjoy ourselves to the hilt.

So, see you downtown for the party!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

806 S. 9th is awful

WITHIN HALF A block of the Hart White House in Calftown, five houses are empty. FIVE. One is for sale and the sale is pending. Two have been vacant for years with little hope of somebody moving in anytime soon. One is ... well, taken care of. The owner is on the lam from the law so his mom comes over to mow the grass and keep an eye on the place.

One small brick house on the northeast corner of 9th and Washington is about to fall down. It's owned by a person from out of town who couldn't care less about it. The city comes a few times a year to chop down the weeds. It's sad that people don't care.

And then there's 806 South 8th Street, Quincy, Illinois, 62305.
A picture, 100000000 words.

The woman in there rents the house. She attempted to mow her grass in May. There are two lawnmowers on her porch. There are usually trash bags, mattresses and debris all over the place, too. She mowed half the lawn in May. And now it's overgrown with weeds, strange-looking plants and corn. Yup, corn. The squirrels drop the kernels and they sprout up in the grass.

Part of me thinks she's just a little overwhelmed. The city came by and shut off her water not long ago, and the rental place reclaimed appliances and a big television. I'm not sure what kind of struggles she has but her landlord is giving her plenty of leeway, for some reason.

So I try to have some sympathy for her. Unfortunately, the sympathy disappears when we see all kinds of people coming and going from the house at all hours, and we think there are four or five other people living in the house from time to time. Last year there was a massive brawl in her yard, and not long ago we had to call the cops when she was arguing with a man in front of the house.

The owner of the house couldn't care less, and it's really disappointing. All he wants is the rent money, presumably. Is he even getting that? It's on the resident to take care of the house and the lawn. If they don't, well, so what? We are confused.

I know, I know - first world problems. But we all do our best to keep our properties up, and it does drive property values down when other neighbors and residents simply don't give a bleep. We live on a residential street with houses. We care about our neighborhood and neighbors.

Done venting. Don't feel better. And I hope the yard gets mowed soon, though by this point you'd have to take a machete to chop down the taller plants and weeds. Yes, the city has been notified.

Calftown proud, baby.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Back from Canada

WHAT A BLAST we had at the annual Hart family reunion near Orillia, Ontario. It was four days of driving and three days of fun in the sun, and worth every minute we spent in the car. We got to see Jon and Mariann Barnard in Kalamzoo to boot, along with Sheryl's Uncle Schuyler Davis, Aunt Connie and Cousin Bryan that live in Pontiac, Michigan.

Will gives good tummy rub.
We stayed at Geneva Park, a YMCA camp on Lake Simcoe, part of the Georgian Bay. Our Cabin was within feet of the lake and the beach. Except for not having bathrooms (they were a short walk away), the cabins are rustic and perfect. It's different for men, of course - third tree from the left, Hoser. They are updating the cabins and the new ones will have bathrooms, so when we come back in a few years it will be a little better. Sheryl adapted but does love a clean bathroom.

The best part about being there is the suspension of time. You do what you want, when you want. Heading to the Chippewa tribe-run humidor to get real Cuban stogies, duty free? Go for it. Jamming with cousins Klaas, Roland, Edward, Mark and Uncle Ron? Make it happen! Drink real Canadian craft beer for lunch? Done! Sheryl enjoyed the special roasted coffee created by Mark Hart, lots of fun and laughs with Natalie, Amy, Michelle and Ingrid - all Harts. It was incredible to hang with a bunch of family that actually like to hang out together.

My favorite part was when my Uncle Henk and Uncle Peter told stories about World War II in the Netherlands. My Opa Hart was active in the resistance and some of the third generation were held spellbound by the stories. That's going to be the subject of another blog, along with immigrants coming to Canada and later the United States.

Loving the crisp water!
Angus also had a blast - he's a water dog all the way and there were endless games of chasing sticks and Frisbee into the lake. At night he'd disappear and we'd hear splashing from the lake, and there he was, frolicking around and cooling off.

We had perfect weather, just perfect. Great company. Music all day and night. Geesh, it was a little slice of heaven. Even the border crossings were smooth, though we dealt with typical construction delays on the highways. Also, I-94 around Detroit is brutal, even worse than Chicago, and that's really saying something.

Our other dogs and cat were well cared for, and Steve Rees did his usual fine job manning the store. Now we are back and I'm recovering just in time for another great weekend, this time Q-Fest in Washington Park and on Maine Street in front of Second String Music. We are open Friday, Saturday AND Sunday (12 - 3 pm). Come by and hang out.

Thank you, Hart family, for an amazing time. We can't go every year, but already I look forward to the day we return!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Keep the street open, please

WE ARE A little sensitive when it comes to street closures around Second String Music. We understand it happens during events, and we are fine with it. But when a construction company taking out air conditioners across Maine Street doesn't pay attention to the street closure permit, well ... we are still nice about it. Sort of.

Saturday I was gone working for Gus Macker in Cape Girardeau. It was awesome, thanks for asking. Anyway, Sheryl arrived at the store and found Maine Street between Fifth and Sixth blocked off because of the AC units being removed. She'd been alerted by email by the city about the closure, which was just for Maine Street between 5th & 6th.

However, the construction company also put barricades on Fifth Street, which wasn't in the permit. Sheryl went out and politely asked if they could move the barricades, as drivers of vehicles coming up to the intersection were getting upset and it was unnecessary to place them on Fifth.

The worker didn't appreciate her request. Sheryl was as polite as possible and actually found the whole thing quite amusing. It was really funny when a little white car driven by a little old lady simply ignored a poorly placed blockade and puttered through the crane area down Maine street, causing the flustered worker to run after it and his boss to curse him out from the lift nearby.

"I'm only doing my job," the worker said. "Well, your permit doesn't allow you to block Fifth Street," Sheryl said. She went back in and alerted the proper authorities, and they guy actually took the blockades away from the intersection at Fifth. Sheryl then went out and thanked him, but the guy wasn't happy and said to her, "You could have been nicer about it!" Apparently he hasn't seen Sheryl when she isn't being nice..... She told him to re-evaluate his definition of nice and walked back into the store.

Later, Officer Erin Dusch showed up, she and Sheryl agreed that people needed to actually look at their permits and to not illegally block streets. Fortunately the rest of the day went smoothly, even though they finished up an hour later than they were supposed to. Sheryl let it go. It's all peace love joy at Fifth and Maine, you know.

We will have several events in the month of June that will block 5th & Maine. Please keep in mind that the store owners on Maine need YOU to shop our stores even when the streets are blocked. Have patience with us, with the downtown events and help us stay in business by shopping your local small businesses.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A pro at getting lost

I AM A PROFESSIONAL when it comes to getting lost and taking the wrong road. It's an acquired skill, mostly from my mother. I'm not proud when it comes to getting lost, though I can usually figure it out. Usually.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Cape Girardeau, Mo., to work for Gus Macker. I'm stopping in St. Louis to pick up Marshall Newman, the event manager. I have his address. I have the directions.

And, I will get lost.

In the immortal words of the J. Geils Band, "It's okay I understand this ain't no never never land." My lack of directional skills drives Sheryl nuts, and understandably so. She can find places by following her nose. No GPS needed.

We are soon heading to Canada (assuming what's his name, the guy at the White House, hasn't done something else dumb to endanger border relations to the north) and I will put Sheryl in charge of the directions. We made it the last time we went there, three years ago, and I remain ever hopeful we'll arrive in one piece and without getting lost.

At least I'm a pro at something.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Where is our trip to the White House?

IN 2007, THE Herald-Whig sponsored slow-pitch softball team dominated the Division IV league. I don't think we lost a game all year, and we ended the season with a convincing win in our final game to clinch the championship. We celebrated with beer and champagne showers, and the trophy is still sitting on a filing cabinet in the Whig editorial department.

I think we were called the Herald-Whig Demons. Don O'Brien, then the sports editor, wrote a blog recapping each game. It's probably still out there on the dark web. It was required reading after each game. 

My memory is foggy in general, but I seem to recall us trying to arrange to visit the White House to commemorate the remarkable season. Unfortunately two of us didn't stand for the national anthem before a game ... wait. We never did play the national anthem before our games. What the ... no wonder we didn't get an official invitation!

So I called the White House the other day and asked if we could still get in - it's only been 11 years. The assistant to the district supervisor of the left half of the cubicle told me our request would be filed and considered, since there are no other teams visiting the White House right now.

He called me back this morning. "Sorry, you SOB," he said. "You have no respect for your country since you didn't stand for the national anthem. Plus we found out you are Canadian and used to write for the fake mainstream news. VERY SAD. We don't like journalists and we hate Canadians and our beer is better. So. Don't call back."

Rats. Time to come up with another way to celebrate our historic milestone of a season. We could congregate at a Blues In The District this summer, or gather at a local pub, or even go up to Moorman Park, the scene of many a Demons triumph.

Or we could visit the REAL White House. You know, the Hart House Manor in Calftown. It has white siding, barking dogs and a cat that thinks she's a dog, our kitchen is torn apart and the garden in the back is completely out of control. In other words, it's chaos in Calftown, sort of like it is at the other White House.

Wait a second ... Chaos In Calftown would be a GREAT name of a band. We will hire them to play at the Herald-Whig Demons championship celebration. It will be more fun, anyway. Besides, it's too hot in Washington this time of year.

And we'll party like it's 2007.