Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Annual physical and mortality

I TURN 55 on Saturday. Birthdays can get depressing as you get older, but we are celebrating with a store party, jam session and other mayhem. The advantage of turning 55 is that you are a little wiser and you learn it's a marathon, not a sprint. Hopefully.

I went to my annual physical this morning with Dr. Noble, and everything is fine. I know I write about this every year but I'm gonna do it again today - men, get an annual physical and don't be afraid to go to the doctor. There's a serious Hart family history with prostate and other cancers so for me, it could literally save my life.

There's a million excuses to not see the doctor, but annual physicals don't take very long, and I'm fortunate to have an awesome doctor like Rick. He is thorough and it's as much about the mental side of things as it is the physical. You know he cares when he tells you to make sure there are working smoke detectors in the house and to wear your seat belt!

I'm wearing 55 like a badge of honor after another annual physical. Men, take care of yourself and don't be afraid of the doctor.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Torn down sign

SOMEBODY RIPPED ONE of the signs off the wall beside our Second String Music entrance. We could tell because there is a hand-shaped bend and a huge bend on the lower half of the sign, like somebody was hanging on it and really had to work to pry it off. I found it this morning on the Maine Street side just around the corner against the building. Sheryl spent the morning straightening it and scraping the old super sticky glue off the back of it and off the wall outside.

There are two signs on either side of the front door. One says MUSIC and the other says STORE. The Music sign is still attached. We tried to pull on it and it wouldn't budge. So somebody, or maybe more than one person, had to go to a lot of trouble to yank it off the wall. I want to believe it was just the wind but Sheryl says probably not.

Why? The more we ask this the less we seem to know. It just seems random and senseless. I think it was just some bored dirtball walking around downtown Quincy late last night. We've had all kinds of random acts of unkindness here at 5th and Maine.

One morning Sheryl found a cake that had been thrown against the front doors. Another time Rodney found a small bike and it had to be politely relocated down the block. Plants have been destroyed, cigarettes burned through planter boxes. We also had the tree out front replaced because someone liked to keep destroying the poor thing. We caught those two and the police knew them well.

Sheryl has ordered the outdoor double-sided tape and we'll put it back up in a day or two, and life goes on at Fifth and Maine. We just keep moving past all the nuisances and that helps us move forward enough to stay in business.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Let's jam!

IT'S PARTY TIME again at Second String Music, as our annual Saturday Before Thanksgiving bash kicks off at noon Saturday. It also happens to be my 55th birthday, so please, no gifts monogrammed with "RFO" on them. Actually, no gifts at all, your presence is enough.

We are going to kick off the party with a jam session. It's been a while and I miss the spontaneous sessions we used to have here, so it will be good to whamma-lamma-jam. I've written about the rules for jamming before, but it bears repeating if you want to hang out.

First of all, it's acoustic. We don't plug anything in, unless it's a bass. The less we have to plug in, the better. Jim Percy and Lincoln Smith will be here with percussion stuff, but they don't bring an entire kit, just enough to make noise and keep the beat.

Second, please bring your own instrument. I know it's tempting to just show up and grab something off of a stand, but remember, these are almost all new guitars and new guitars tend to get scratched up during jam sessions. One of the reasons I stopped doing regular jams was because we had one or two guys who claimed they owned really nice guitars, but they never brought them and instead mangled our new guitars with loud strumming and string bending. I have a few extra acoustic guitars just in case you want to jump in for a bit.

This is for all ages and experience levels until around 4 pm. There will be really good players and players just learning. This isn't a recording session, it's for fun and fun only. If you are new to the guitar and want to get better faster, find some people to play with and hang out with us Saturday.

I love to play and I'll be sitting in, but it's also a big social deal. I'm hoping some of our better players who know a lot of songs show up to sort of lead the way.

So let's have some fun Saturday and celebrate me being really bleeping old and the arrival of another Christmas season. About 5:30 we will have our annual toast to the late Pat Cornwell, and we will probably toast Tucker too. Let's have some fun!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Learning to sing

MY GUITAR STUDENTS are the best and I have way too much fun in the back room of Second String Music. I have about 25 students right now, and we are heading into the final month of lessons for the calendar year.

My favorite students are the ones who are open-minded and know what they need to do to get better. I spend time getting ready for every student, but some sort of plot their own course and every lesson is an adventure. And, truth be told, I learn as much or more than the student sometimes!

Yesterday a young student came in asking for help with her singing. Now, I am an average strummer and even more average singer. I like to sing. I can hit the notes. But I hate the sound of my own voice and I like it when other people sing. Until yesterday, I'd never given a voice lesson.

Playing the guitar and singing is a hard thing. My advice is to keep it simple - don't start by picking out an intricate pattern and then trying to sing over it. The other thing is to make sure you can hear yourself, and make sure you project enough volume.

The student is learning a song for her school talent show this spring. When we played it in previous lessons I could not hear her. So yesterday we got my Bose PA out, put a microphone in front of her and let it rip.

Wow - she could hear! With each note her voice got stronger and she started hitting the high notes, in key and in tempo. Her smile grew wider and the look of astonishment was replaced with determination. Magic!

Now if only I could get better teaching the circle of fifths and time signatures .... there's always next week!

(Sheryl says to teach her to sing it like this....)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Grow up puppy - but not too fast

LOOK - THE LITTLE bleep is adorable. I'll admit it. And he's especially sweet when he's asleep. Because when Malcolm is awake he's a handful. A great big happy puppy handful.

Malcolm is three months old and has fit right into the Hart family chaos. He loves to chase bones and balls. He's more cattle dog than Corgi, with long legs that are learning to gallop not hop. He chews sticks, blankets, and furniture. It isn't too bad but enough to ease his teething and sore gums. He's into everything - I caught him chewing my looper pedal in my lesson room the other day - maybe it will keep time better! He loves people and he licks them in the face when they demand to hold him. Then he grabs a mouthful of hair and pulls. Really, really hard.

Yup. He's a puppy

The thing about a puppy is that you can't take a second off from watching him. They are cute and you just want to scoop him up and cuddle with them, but if Malcolm is not asleep, he wants to do crazy eights in the yard and kiss Genie, hop on Coco and lick Josie's face. Puppy fun is amazing and exhausting just to watch.

We are working really hard on the potty training thing and it's going well. We take him out to pee all the time. Then he comes back inside and he pees. His little bladder is making progress. We are patient.

Last night Malcolm squatted to do the dreaded No. 2 and Sheryl yelled really loud for me to grab him. Scared the you know what out of me and forced the you know what back into him. I took him outside, and he just stared at me like, "It's cold out here you big dummy. Take me back inside so I can poop in your lesson room and you can find it later right before you give lessons."

Malcolm doesn't back down from the bigger Angus or Genie, who have learned to tolerate him but are snippy at times. Then there's the two cats at home - slowly but surely, Josie and CoCo are getting better at dealing with a puppy who wants to play and lick them. All. The. Time. The hissing has lessened and the ticked off looks from cats are starting to go away. But they only take so much and every now and then we'll hear a SMACK and BANG, then the sound of feet scurrying across the floor. That is when we know the cats have had enough.
Malcolm and Josie
warming up by the heat vent

Eventually, he falls asleep, many times in Sheryl's arms. "Pretty soon I won't be able to do this because he'll get too big. So I may as well enjoy it now," Sheryl says, with a sleepy and smiling Cowboy Corgi nestled in her arms.

Malcolm has already learned to jump onto the couches, and Sheryl wraps him up in a blanket and he crashes. He is sleeping through the night in his kennel and he has a good appetite, so all in all he's doing pretty darn well.

Come see us at Second String Music for your dose of puppy madness. Tire him out for us! Malcolm has found a home and we are settling in for many years of more Cowboy Corgi love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Buh bye, Don Cherry

I WAS DISAPPOINTED to hear of hockey icon Don Cherry's remarks and firing over the weekend. I enjoyed watching Coach's Corner with the flamboyant Cherry. Yes, he was a cretin and Neanderthal and old school and stupidly bull-headed, but he was certainly a passionate Canadian with outspoken and often wrong views. He said what he thought and didn't back down from tough topics.

His firing was a long time coming and maybe past due, but make no mistake about it - his remarks about immigrants were despicable and angered me.  My father's family emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands. Later we emigrated to the United States, though I was born here and technically still have dual citizenship. My brother and two sisters were born in Canada but now live in the U.S.

So I'm part of the "You people" Cherry was talking about. I respect veterans and what they've done for this country and for Canada. I didn't wear a poppy Monday, but that doesn't make me any less patriotic.

As a side note, check out The National's reporting in the video above. It's well-rounded and a sharp contrast to much of our news broadcasts and divisive media reporting.

Like all people who jump up and down and say things to just say things, Don Cherry has been silenced and his end is inglorious. See ya, Grapes. Loved you and Blu, but your time has passed.