Friday, August 26, 2022

Sweet sounds in different places

 I HAVE NOT been good at keeping up here. Hopefully that changes. It’s been a crazy summer with the store closing, doing lessons from home and starting two new bands. One shows enormous potential, more on that in a future post.

This morning I was in my car at 8th and Jefferson when another car pulled up behind me. The driver had the radio cranked and was singing at the top of her lungs to the radio. The song was “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crowe, an awesome sing-along tune. The driver was hollering at the top of her lungs and it wasn’t close to being in tune.

It didn’t matter. She had a big smile on her face and she was jamming as she turned left behind me. To some it would be a horrendous noise, her singing. To me it was a beautiful thing. Sing along, friend! It makes you happy.

Then I had a guitar lesson with a young woman who can really sing. She is determined to learn the guitar. We are just starting so it’s bending fingers, technique and repetition.

She’s gonna be great if she sticks with it. We picked out some riff notes and I saw the joy in her eyes when it clicked. She stretched her fingers into that impossible C chord and with a little help figured out it’s all about the angle. When she strummed each note was clean and her face lit up.

Ahh, the power of music, in its many forms. Tonight I’m going to the season finale of Blues In The District, enjoy a beverage or four and checking out some other live music later.

It’s beautiful noises all around us. And it makes me happy!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Garage sales and letting go of stuff

 WE HAD A garage sale last weekend. We got rid of a ton of stuff. I call it stuff, junk, things, trinkets, whatever. Most of it came from the project house we purchased last November. It had no sentimental value to us and if it finds a new home and people are happy, great. Mission accomplished.

The Schwinn, far right, just before it sold.
I did sell two things that were near and dear to me, for no good reasons other they were links to the past. The first was my Schwinn 12-speed I bought in 1986. It got me through college because I lived far from campus and it's a great bike. Can't say I rode it much after that, sadly. But it always hung on a wall in a garage and I always smiled when seeing it because it took me back to Central Michigan University and more carefree days. 

I took it to Madison & Davis a few years ago and they said it wasn't worth much. So I sold it for cheap. It was to a guy who actually lives near us. He couldn't get on the bike because the seat was too high. But he wanted it. And off he walked, pushing the bike. 

I also sold a set of golf clubs. Right before they got snapped up, I noticed my old Ping putter in the garage and threw it in with the clubs. A guy came up and asked if I'd sell the putter separately, since the set already had a putter.

I bought the Ping putter in the early 1990s in Alpena, Michigan, back when I played a lot of golf. I vaguely recall it cost a lot of money and I didn't have any money, but somehow scrapped together the cash. Did it propel my golf game and make me deadly on the greens? Hell no. I couldn't putt then and I can't put now and never will be any good. I'm better off Happy Gilmoreing it with a hockey stick. 

But that putter was in the bag for a lot of rounds and some great times on some magnificent northern Michigan golf courses.

As we discussed a price for the putter, I noticed it was bent near the blade. Geesh. Maybe that's why everything went left. So I let it go for way cheap. 

Did I need them or use them? Nope. But they were reminders of the past, in a good way. I'm having seller's remorse today but in the end, the items found better homes and it's two less things to clutter up the garage. 

I thought about putting my massive collection of Gus Macker shirts and hats in the sale, but some things are still sacred. Even if they take up room and are never used. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Judge Adrian and Black Robe Disease

JUDGE BOB ADRIAN had a public gathering outside the Adams County Courthouse Tuesday to announce he is running for retention. It was a publicity stunt and it turned sideways when protesters showed up. Adrian is the judge who found a young man guilty of rape, then refused to sentence him to prison and threw out the conviction. It made international headlines. It got him busted down from criminal to civil court. And it showed Judge Adrian suffers from the dreaded Black Robe Disease, where he thinks his word is not just law but the end of all ends, and damn anybody who disagrees. 

I wasn't there, as I was recovering from having my left knee smashed into a pulp to break up scar tissue by my chiropractor, Jay Johnson. Believe me, having Dr. Jay poke and press into my knee is far less painful then enduring a press conference put on by somebody in politics. Or the law. Or both. Here is the Muddy River account and the Herald-Whig article. 

Whoever thought it would be a good idea for Judge Adrian to have this event needs to take Public Relations 101 again. Or maybe they never did. All the judge needs to do is be quiet and he'll have a good chance of retention. But he doesn't want to play it that way.

The judge, a Republican, said he didn't care "how much the left criticizes me" or lies about him or "tries to cancel me," whatever that means. His words show that politics play a huge role in who gets picked for what in our judicial system, sadly.

Look. If you are a judge and you run for retention, all you have to do is keep your nose in the books, issue fair rulings and keep the lawyers from killing each other during the high publicity trials. It's not an easy job, but until Judge Adrian, nobody around here had an issue with it.

Instead of taking his medicine and laying low, the judge has decided to make it worse. Judges are human and make mistakes, too. The difference in this case is a failing to recognize the failure and doubling down on believing you are infallible because you "swing the hammer of justice." To top it off, he's the subject of an official judicial inquiry, and who knows what will happen with that whole deal.

Here's a little piece of info for you, judge. I'm not a member of either political party, and have no plans to join either side. I consider myself a centrist and I hate the radical elements, both right and left. This guy in the middle is outraged by your behavior and saddened by your desperate attempts to hold onto office, and I know a ton of people just like me who feel the same way.

We will see in November if your strategy works. You need 60 percent of the vote to retain your job. Maybe you'll get it in a circuit known for leaning right. Or maybe you've ticked off enough people who have decided to get off their butts and actually register to vote just to see you unemployed.

Ain't no left or right on this wagon train, judge. Just somebody who thinks you made a massive blunder and you shouldn't be a judge anymore. We'll see what everybody else thinks in November, and whether or not you'll wear that black robe again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Legally Blonde guitarist


MONICA SCHOLZ IS one of my all-time favorite people in the world. How can you not laugh and feel better about things after hanging around her? She's quick-witted and has enormous energy and musical talent. Selling her a ukulele is one of the best memories I have about Second String Music.

Monica called me a month ago and asked if I'd be interested in playing guitar for the Quincy Community Theatre's production of Legally Blonde. Actually, here's the transcript of the call ....

"Hi Rodney how are you congrats on your retirement what are you doing with yourself this summer? Need a guitar player for the musical and the music is amazing and the band is smoking and I think you'd have a blast can you do it? Great! First practice is Sunday!"


Just kidding. But really, how can you say no to Monica Scholz? With the store closing and the summer in full swing, I figured I'd have time to do it. It's July 14-17 and 21-24 at the QCT and it will be a great show.

Monica dropped off the book for the music. Uh, what exactly is a Bflat dim 7th/9 over root of Pi? How do I stretch my fingers that far? This ain't 1-4-5 blues or rock and roll, baby. I've done a lot of listening to the soundtrack and I'll never be as good as whoever is playing guitar but I'll try. And I'll learn a lot in the process.

The band is amazing. Last night the rhythm section of drummer Thomas Gunsten, bassist Alex Waters, piano player Colby Schulz and I went to the theater and played the first act so the cast could hear actual live music while practicing. They've already done an enormous amount of work because everybody knows their parts - now it's a matter of practice practice practice and fine tuning.

Thomas is a young guy and he's the rare breed of drummer that doesn't smash everything in sight. He knows the production to the last word and he's solid as a rock. Alex just graduated from Iowa with a master's degree in stand up bass performance, and I've never played with a bass player like him - he's incredible. Then there's Colby, who is playing notes and in keys most musicians can't even fathom, and he's spot on the whole time.

As for me, well, I have a long way to go but it's fun getting out of the comfort zone and stretching as a player.

Also in the band is sax player Jack Inghram (old Funions never die, they just play in musicals!). And Emily's first piano teacher, Lana Anderson, is playing keyboards. Monica knows her stuff and is a hoot to work with as a conductor.

So come beat the heat and mid-summer blues at the QCT, and hopefully the guitar player won't screw it up!

Monday, May 30, 2022

No guitars at a guitar show? Nobody does that!

I WENT TO a guitar show recently and when I went in the door to the huge convention center, a security guard stopped me and pointed to a metal detector.

"I'm sorry sir. No guitars allowed inside the guitar show," he said. 


"I know. I know," the guard said. "But you can't be too careful with drop-tuning maniacs and guys who pick with their pinky finger."

I went through the detector and walked into the hall and was amazed to see row after row of empty tables and guitars with no strings. Most of the vendors looked pissed. I checked my ticket - I paid $89 to get in and there was nothing to see or play or drool over. 

So I went up to the information table. A guy with a man bun and shirt that said "PLUCK YOU" was behind the table. He gave me a harried look and held up his hand.

"Stop" he said. "I know what you want to ask. You want to ask why no guitars are allowed in a guitar show. It's a safety thing. Plus you know who is giving a speech here in half an hour and we can't have somebody playing Stairway and causing a stampede before he arrives."

I looked around. The place was packed. Nobody seemed upset about not bringing a guitar or being able to see or play a guitar.

"It's the times we live in," the man behind the table said. "It's all those bleeding heart liberals and their idealism about harmonics and inverted diminished chords. They've ruined it all for us. They want to take away our rights to own guitars. So we have to be more careful."

"I want my money back," I said.

"Sorry. No refunds," he said. "But here. Take a complimentary E string for your troubles."

I walked into the middle of the room to look at a Cort acoustic with no strings. "This is nuts," I said out loud. There were about 20 people around me. "This is like an NRA convention where guns aren't allowed."

Silence instantly enveloped the room. The thousand-yard stares were aimed at me and fingers pointed. Finally, a woman said, "That could never happen." And everybody in the hall erupted in laughter.

Silly me, I thought. I walked to the exit. I was going to miss a famous guitar player give a speech but not play his guitar. There was a long line forming to get in, and my head was spinning as I left.

Thoughts and prayers to everybody attending a guitar show with no guitars. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Don't leave us hanging, Mr. Lewin

TO: Jonathan Lewin

FROM: Rodney Hart

RE: Quincy Police Department Chief of Police.


Don't take this job. You will regret it. If you take it, you'll be miserable because you'll be working for an ignorant and petty man who happens to be the current mayor of our city.

You were offered the job nine days ago. You have yet to say yes or no. I think you've been doing your homework. I think you've been reading stories like this one and this one. I'm willing to bet you are wondering what kind of hornet's nest you are entering.

I like you, Mr. Lewin. You came off very well at the public forum nearly two weeks ago. Yes, you are from Chicago and you don't know squat about Quincy or what we are all about. But a fresh set of eyes is sometimes a good thing. I want you to know if you do take the job, I'll be among the first to congratulate you and welcome you to Quincy.

To say the mayor has bungled this whole thing is like saying gas prices are too high. But unlike gas prices, where we have little control, we might be able to do something about our mayor. We can certainly make him a one term mayor. Let us worry about that. You have better things to do with your life, Mr. Lewin.

This mayor has made the lives of QPD brass miserable from the day he took office. He's convinced the department is in shambles. He says he gets complaints all the time. But he has yet to produce one shred of credible public evidence about the complaints about the department. He and Mike Farha, an inept alderman, keep talking about all these problems at QPD. Then show us the proof, mayor. 

The mayor and the aldermen have succumbed to the one thing you should never do when you are a decision-maker - they believe the 1 percent of the people making 99 percent of the noise. And it's made a mockery of this search. Why bother going to the police department and talking to all of the officers and staff when you can believe the Kool-Aid coming from just down the street from your office? I'll tell you more about that whole deal later, if you want.

I will also say Adam Yates, one of the three finalists, is one of my best friends. So this is biased and completely one-sided. Believe what you will. But you yourself know how qualified Adam is, and I think you were impressed with him.

The mayor torpedoed Adam and the other candidate, Shannon Pilkington. He stacked the deck with ridiculous and inappropriate stakeholder selections. The two people he picked as stakeholders had no business deciding who was going to be chief, none. Why there wasn't somebody from a social services or criminal justice background in the stakeholders is beyond me. They are the ones who gain or lose the most in this deal.

The mayor has angered and baffled the Police and Fire Commissioners. These are good people who have made good decisions for many years. Make sure you read the story about Steve Meckes I linked above. Enough said.

Whatever you do, Mr. Lewin, you need to make up your mind now. Quit leaving us hanging while one of the most important jobs in the city hangs in the balance. If you want the job, take it. We'll welcome you and the mayor and his ego are all yours to deal with - good luck.

Or turn it down so we can move on. Thank you for your interest in our city and our department. I hope most of this has been a positive experience, and I'm sorry it dragged on so long. 


Rodney Hart