Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The bridge closes again, maybe

THE MEMORIAL BRIDGE between West Quincy and Quincy is closing for the summer. We think. The closure has been delayed twice, and now we are being told it will probably happen next week. It will be closed until November. Maybe.

I don't know anything about bridges. I do know we are spending $7.5 million to do maintenance and safety upgrades on the nearly 100-year-old bridge. Why it takes so long in anybody's guess, but I imagine it's tedious and possibly dangerous work, dangling above the Mississippi River. Bayview Bridge will now be a two-way road to and from Quincy to Missouri. 

When the bridge closed five years ago for similar reasons, Second String Music saw a big drop off in traffic and sales. You won't believe how many people come across the bridge and drive up Maine Street and say, "I saw your music store sign and we had to check it out." 

Because we are more established now, maybe it won't have as big of an impact. I hope we can get the District and the city to make sure the signage is apparent on Broadway and directs people south into the downtown area. Sheryl has given me the job of finding a way to encourage people to come to the store...

We also think it would be a good idea to turn both Third and Fourth Streets into two-way roads, instead of Third just going south and Fourth going north. But in Quincy, the Rocking Chair community, this would rock the chair too hard and there might be too many confused people going the wrong way, despite the big signs. Then we will probably start hearing about roundabouts installed on Maine Street and it would be total chaos.

We don't like total chaos. 

Thank you Bad Wolf Media for this stunning
sunset image. Mike Sorensen ROCKS.

So we'll have less people meandering up Maine Street at some point this summer. Meandering is a good thing and often translates into stimulating the local economy.

Here's to hoping the bridge opens back sooner than November. There is talk of building a new bridge over the Mighty Mississippi, and again we hope it would include direct access to Maine Street.

But for now, if you rely on the bridges to get back and forth across the river, be prepared for delays and the inevitable crash on the bridge to snarl traffic. Someday.

Friday, April 9, 2021

No more Red Light

IT'S SAD TO hear about the closing of the Red Light Bar & Grill, located just across the street from Second String Music on the Washington Park square. They are done after Saturday. They will be missed.

The Red Light was a great place to play music. It's a huge old bank building with high ceilings and sound that bounces around. For an acoustic act it was really good. For a band it was a bit more challenging but the atmosphere was always good and the owners took good care of the people who played. 

According the Chris and Kayla Griffin, the Red Light owners, they were told this week that the new owners are turning it into a bed and breakfast, and they've been ordered out after this weekend. This was one of the main reasons we bought our building from Dennis Prock 8 years ago. We needed to know we wouldn't be booted by a higher bidder.

I'll remember the great times playing music inside Red Light. I'll remember running over there to pick up lunch and talking with Chris, who was always smiling and upbeat in the face of tremendous challenges. We tried to support our local restaurants by getting food to go during the pandemic, and Red Light lunches were always good. I might have to sneak over there today or Saturday to get one more batch of chicken wings in the Naughty Sauce.

We've lost one of the few live music venues in Quincy, a good restaurant and a popular downtown destination. All our best go to the Griffins.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

We have it in stock. Amazing.

WE ARE FINALLY getting stock delivered to Second String Music. Of course we've had a ton of stuff all come at once, but we aren't complaining. Poor Sheryl had to deal with a massive delivery while I was in lessons all morning Tuesday. But she is organized and enjoys rearranging things. It is a win for everyone.

We have the $200 Fender acoustics back on the floor. We also received Casio, Roland, Gretsch and Takamine orders. The Takamine acoustic guitars are beautiful as always, and we even have a super nice Pro 5 on the wall.

Sorry about the glare!

It's tough when people come in and you don't have what they are looking for. Of course, nobody else does either. You know it's bad when the web warriors who normally wouldn't darken our doors come in looking for stuff because the internet is out. Whatever it takes. 

Last week a man from Jacksonville came in and bought a nice Fender electric case for his Telecaster. He said he's been looking in Springfield, Peoria and even St. Louis, and nobody had one. And he was told when new stock came in the cases were going to be more expensive. So it was worth the drive to Quincy and Second String Music.

We are expecting more deliveries as supply chains slowly get better. You can always check our Facebook or this blog for updates. 

Swing by if you want to see what's new!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Universal background checks are the minimum

 I DON'T OWN a gun. Never have. Hopefully never will. I know many people who own guns and enjoy shooting them, and I have no problem with gun owners.

Well, responsible gun owners.

The gun control debate rages around the country yet again after another shooting. My sister lives in Denver and it's a horrible thing to deal with, even if you aren't directly affected.

So let's put it bluntly and not sugar-coat it - what just happened in Boulder, Colorado, could very well happen in Quincy, Illinois.

Going to the grocery store is actually a pleasurable experience. We are fortunate to have stores like County Market and Hy-Vee. I go to the the Hy-Vee at 14th and Harrison at least twice a week. The people who work there are friendly and helpful. For a while, almost everybody wore a mask when shopping and the store was pretty strict about it. That's starting to wane as we get vaccinations and COVID fatigue, but that's another story for another day.

Imagine you are there doing your normal weekly shopping and you hear a gun go off. What will you do? How soon will it take to figure out who has the gun? Do you duck out the back? Do stores have plans in case of things like this?

Nah. It could never happen in our little sleepy river town. No way. 

A few years ago a young Quincy boy was shot to death while sitting on a front porch, the victim of mistaken identity. During the trial information came out about how easy it was to get a gun, to carry a gun, to shoot a gun. All here in our little river town. 

And if you think there aren't people walking around Quincy capable of going into a grocery store and randomly shooting people, you are living in a dream world.

This is oversimplifying things, but we need to wake up. NOW. Stop being political about "gun control." It's about common sense and keeping guns out of the hands of evil people. There are ways to do it so responsible gun owners are not harmed and nobody's Second Amendment rights get violated.

But what do I know? I'm not a gun owner, so my opinions don't count or matter. Sheryl on the other hand has been in the military, and also been subjected to gun violence. She has great anxiety about this issue from personal experience. Her opinion does count. (Spoiler: It's the same as mine.)

You have to have a federal background check in order to run a day care, be a teacher or substitute teacher, be a foster parent, hold any security clearance, be a police officer, work at a dispensary and many more reasons. It is so common place. Why can't it be like this for guns?

I pray we as a community don't have to go through a mass casualty shooting. I'm hopeful it won't happen. I'm not going to stop going to the grocery store. 

We need to do something, and something on the federal level now. Federal law would make gun control consistent from state to state.

Dismiss this as being sensational or emotionally-charged. But don't say we weren't warned if something terrible happens in Quincy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Twice convicted of murder, Clarence Starks is free

I REMEMBER CLARENCE Starks. He killed two people and spent most of his life in prison. The first person he killed was 3 years old. The second was a homeless man, and he stuffed him into a closet in an abandoned house. 

And now he's living three blocks from our business. 

I saw Clarence Starks in a courtroom several times when I was a reporter for The Herald-Whig. In court he had a dead stare I saw in only a few other diabolical people. He got sent to prison in 2007 and I wrote about him. But let's start at the beginning.

In 1985, Starks killed his 3 year old step-daughter. He did things to her before he killed her. He abused the little girl's mother. It was beyond cruel. The little girl had a sister who is now a friend of mine, and I cannot imagine what this was like for her.

This was about four years after the Alan Madden case that rocked Quincy and the entire country and led to a lot of legal reform. Yet there was little reaction in Quincy when Starks killed the girl. It was .... strange. 

Starks was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He served 22. You can look all this up on the Illinois Department of Corrections website. Back then, you could get day for day credit, even for a violent crime. Starks also served time in 1980 for battery and taking indecent liberties with a child.

In October 2007 I was in the newsroom when police scanner traffic indicated a chase on the north end of town. Seemed a man had stolen a pickup truck at Fifth and Hampshire and was fleeing from police. He was heading back into town, and on a hunch I headed to Clat Adams Park to see if police would catch him.

When I got there, an officer was pushing Starks into the back of a squad car. The stolen truck was on the railroad tracks on the north end of Clat Adams Park, where Starks crashed it trying to make the turn just past the Pier Restaurant. Starks pleaded guilty to several charges and started serving an eight-year sentence.

When Starks was booked into the Adams County Jail after crashing the truck, police noticed what appeared to be blood on his boots. Then information came out that Starks was a suspect in the murder of a homeless man in Quincy. The boots were still in evidence.

I remember the man Starks killed, John Kelley. He used to wander around Washington Park and I'd see him collecting cans for recycling. I went into the park and talked to some of the regulars to find out more. Seems there was an abandoned house less than a mile away at Sixth and Oak where homeless people stayed. There was a pecking order to the arrangement - you stayed in a certain area, you left before dawn and you didn't come back until it was dark. From what I remember there were actually titles given to certain people who made the rules and kept order in the abandoned house.

John Kelley supposedly ran afoul of the so-called rules and there was a confrontation with Starks. Kelley was strangled to death and stuffed into a basement closet, and his body wasn't found for a few weeks. A man doing work around the house noticed the smell, located the body and called police. What they found wasn't pretty, obviously. They had to cut the hands off the body, use water to pump up the skin on his fingers, and then get the fingerprints to finally identify him as Kelley.

Information developed that Starks was involved in the murder. Police remembered his boots, still in an evidence locker, and they were tested for DNA. The evidence led to Starks pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and he got a 22-year sentence.

Of course that sentence was served at the same time as the eight-year sentence. It was all part of the plea bargain deal. There was no way it could go to trial because of witness issues, and it was the best outcome at the time - forget about all the horrible things Starks did 20-plus years ago. Starks' court-appointed attorney called it a "fair" outcome. It was two homeless guys, and most of Quincy shrugged.

On Monday, the Quincy Police Department issued a press release about Starks. He's been released from prison. It gave his address, the hotel at 200 Maine Street. 

This is not right. How can this awful excuse for a human being be out? He should have never been released from the 1985 murder, let alone another homicide. It's a frustrating example of the numerous cracks in our criminal justice system. 

Take a good look at his photo. And stay away from him. Men like Starks, and I use the word "men" loosely, usually dig their own graves. He'll get into trouble again. 

I just hope it isn't for another murder.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Greg Ellery - Q Town legend!

 IT'S ALWAYS GREAT to see our friend Greg Ellery pop by Second String Music. Greg is from Quincy and has been living in California for a few years. Now he's moving to New York City and pursing some promising acting gigs. 

Greg and I have "acted" before. The picture on the right shows us reenacting the infamous "International Dropping Guitars Off The Roof Of Second String Music contest" a few years back. The video is linked. It never gets old. In the immortal words of Sam Middendorf, "NEEEEEVVVVEEEER."

I also unearthed some videos we did in the Calftown backyard a decade ago. You can type in Funions Follies on YouTube to find them. I think Greg is a genius. Life around here isn't quite the same without him. 

Good luck in New York City, G-Dawg. And I'm glad you can swing by your old stomping grounds once in a while or between life adventures. Go get em in the Big Apple!