Friday, September 28, 2012

Jon Kammerer guitars

HERE'S A VERY cool feature by PBS about our friend and guitar maker Jon Kammerer. He makes incredible instruments, and the music store mentioned at the beginning of the piece is none other than Second String Music.  Our friend Randy Phillips did the filming for this episode of Illinois Stories.

Jon will be in the store Saturday if you want to meet him and hang out. We have his guitars prominently displayed as you walk in, and I bought one from him a while back - best guitar I have ever played!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trash Day

NOT THAT I want to keep pontificating on the local meth problem, but this morning was trash day in Calftown, in more ways than one.

I'm sitting outside with the dogs drinking coffee before the rain came and lo and behold, I see these guys getting out of cars down the street and approach a house. Sheryl and I have known for a long time the people who live there are up to no good - mountains of black trash bags in the backyard, cars coming and going at all hours, people acting goofy all the time.

Sure enough, it's our local law enforcement, and they haul out a guy and his mother, and away they go. They didn't search the house or stick around, so my assumption is they had warrants or indictments and were simply being picked up.

What a coincidence - their yard butts up against the folks who live at another drug house. Imagine that.

Good. See ya, neighbors. Enjoy your stay at Fifth and Vermont. It's lovely up there this time of year.

The real sad part is the fact there are a bunch of little kids roaming around the house. Kids get dropped off there all the time, not sure if it's family or a day care.

They are the real victims. My heart goes out to them.

But the neighborhood just got cleaned up on trash pickup day, and that's a good thing.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meth Hits Home

DURING MY MANY years at The Herald-Whig, rarely a day went by when I didn't hear about, write about or encounter something about our horrendous local methamphetamine problem.

It is the most addictive of drugs. It destroys lives, dominates our local criminal justice system, requires constant law enforcement attention, costs us a fortune to fight. Toward the end of my newspaper days I became a bit numb from the constant exposure to writing about the drug. This morning, it hit home.

The online story was about a Quincy gal pulled over last night near downtown. Police say she had a "controlled substance" in her vehicle, and she was arrested. Sheryl gasped out loud when she looked at the gal's photo, because she's been in the store a bit lately.

She brought her young son in and signed him up for guitar lessons a few weeks ago. She seemed nice enough, a little high strung. The boy's guitar is a cheap electric that won't stay in tune, so they looked at some new acoustics. She works as a waitress. "I'm trying to save up," she told me. "But I have enough to start him on lessons."

So we started. The little guy is a bit rough around the edges, but he is trying really hard and seems interested. He is bright, has a sense of humor and lots of questions. We are going over basics, technique, learning the chords. Maybe he'll stick with it.

Maybe not. His mom is in jail. What will happen to him? I don't know much about his father or home life. What will he think when he hears about his mom?

The mom is innocent until proven guilty, and it's way early in the game, so I make no presumptions. But if this is indeed meth, I doubt we see her again.

And the kid has the deck stacked against him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Emily Hart!

SEE THIS GIRL with the goofy smile and glint in her eyes? Well, you could see the glint if she wasn't wearing sunglasses. Obviously she is my daughter. She is wearing a cone on her head, after all.

Emily Esther Hart barged into this world 21 years ago today, and I cannot believe how time has flown. My little pony-tail girl is a senior at Western Illinois University and preparing for graduate school. She wants to play music for a living. I learned a long time ago when she makes up her mind, it's a done deal.

Emily has been looking forward to turning 21 for a long time, mostly for legal reasons. I don't pry and I assume if she's like any normal college kid, she's going to have her fun. I also know she was raised to be a responsible and caring person, and to know her limits.

I can't and don't preach to my daughter. I'm thinking back to my 21st birthday - I was a sophomore at Central Michigan University, a bunch of my buddies from Grand Rapids came up, and my roommates, Marty Horjus and Tim Penning, got a keg and hosted a party. The good thing was we put away the car keys and had a lot of fun, nobody got hurt and nobody passed out. I also vaguely remember shopping cart races by the Towers dorms rooms and some other shenanigans.

I certainly hope my daughter isn't as juvenile and dumb as her old man was at her age. Heh heh heh ....

When I think of Emily, I think of playing sock football on the front lawn, going to her high school basketball games, watching in amazement while she played the oboe at concerts, and her peals of laughter when she hung out with her buddies.

Emily  is very independent and I love her fiercely, and many times I simply let go because she's her own person and knows the drill. My parents were the same way and I was good with it.

Emily Esther Hart, all grown up with the world ahead. Blessings to her on a big day, and if she should know anything at all, it is this.

I am one proud papa!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Shaving and Guitars

I AM TOO Dutch, which I means I'm always looking for a deal. Not a bad thing, sometimes.

The other day I went to the store to buy shaving stuff. Sheryl has to bug me to shave once or twice a week, and it's a pain, but it makes my ugly mug cleaner. I guess.

Anyway, I usually buy a bargain brand of shavers. This time I picked out the store brand, and the $5 I saved wasn't worth it. I gouged my face Monday morning and look like a pimply teenager now. The next time I go to the store, I'll buy a better brand.

This works with guitars, too. You can go to a cheap outlet and buy a piece of plastic or wood they call a guitar, and when it falls apart three months later, well, you got what you paid for.

We have some inexpensive guitars that are great for starting out, don't get me wrong. The more you play and the better you get, the more you will figure out every guitar is different, high end or beginner.

Maybe I'll just go for the bum look and not shave. But I won't go without playing guitar!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

More On The Book

SO I'VE BEEN told by The Boss I need to toot my own horn, which is a very dangerous thing to tell a Hart, but I'm careening off subject. So let's get back to talking about my new book.

Read my previous blog entry to get the coupon so you can download it for just 99 cents. Yes, Frank Haxel, it's the best 99 cents you will ever spend!

It's available for apps like Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, txt, online html reading, etc. I think has the app for reading the Kindle version on Smashmouth.

The digital book is available on Amazon now, here is a link to my author's page. Most other online book outlets like Sony, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, Diesel, Page Foundry and Blio will have it within the week.

The key to this whole 99-cent deal is ratings on Smashmouth and reviews on Amazon.  We need YOU, the purchasers, to give feedback on these two sites to help spread the word. Sheryl is just getting the paperback copy arranged and will be ordering them soon. I hope to have a book signing at Great Debate Books scheduled when it comes out.

Thank you all for helping out by rating the book for me. Good, bad or ugly, the ratings and reviews will help me sell more books and also encourage me to continue writing them.

What fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


MY WIFE IS amazing. She's navigated the wide open world of self-publishing, special digital formatting, editing and re-editing. It only took 14 versions to get the Table of Contents to work properly. My new book, Rock N Roll Shorts, is now available.

Click here to purchase the book, a collection of five short stories. Music is the theme and they are works of fiction, but I did base them on real events. One short story is about a guy who gets fired from his band, and the more ludicrous I tried to make it, the more realistic it got.

The book is $2.99 and available only online for now. Use this coupon code, EG26G, and it's only 99 cents. The coupon expires Sept. 30. If you could rate the book on Smashword's after reading it, we would appreciate the feedback. Check out the great cover art by our Cheesy Bass player, Jeff VanKanegan.

Wow. I'm published! Way cool ...

Outdoor ice skating in Quincy

 THE QUINCY PARK Board agreed Wednesday to have a Quincy couple operate an outdoor ice rink at Clat Adams Park.

My first reaction is that this is a great idea. I don't know who the couple is but apparently they are from Colorado and want to give it a go. The rink will be built between the bridges in the park, located right next to the Mississippi River.

The ice will be "synthetic," whatever that means. How will it be built? Does the ice need to be cleaned regularly? Is there a roof over this place? Will pickup hockey be allowed?

I'm in favor of any project promoting outdoor activity, and this is a great way to get exercise and have some family fun. Admission will be $2 for kids and $5 per adults, which doesn't seem too bad, but people in Quincy simply don't like to pay for stuff.

How muck are skate rentals? A family of four is forking over $14 for a few hours of afternoon fun, not a bad deal and way cheaper than a movie. Yet my biggest fear is that the novelty will wear off and the owners will struggle.

Quincy has a very small but loyal group of ice skaters. Our window during the winter is only a few weeks for pond hockey. I would hope this group would support such an endeavor, and I will for sure try it out once or twice, but we'll see after that.

I do wish the owners the best of luck, and good for them for bringing something new to the Q-Town.

The rink is scheduled to open Nov. 7. There is a website but it's not functional yet at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Job searches and hearing my mother sing

SHERYL CAME UP with a great idea after I walked away from my job at the Herald-Whig. "You need to write some short stories, and we will self-publish them," she said.

The book world, much like the newspaper business, has been rocked with change since this little thing called the Internet appeared. So we are entering that world with fear and excitement, and it could be the coolest thing ever.

This morning I finished a short story about a week spent on my uncle's Lake Michigan beach seven summers ago. I kept seeing my mother and hearing her voice - she'd passed away three months earlier.

It was a powerful and therapeutic time and I've never forgotten it. To put it into words years later wasn't easy. But I feel really good about it.

Last week I got my old Boss digital recording system out and listened to a song I put together shortly after that beach experience. It brought back a flood of memories and nearly made me cry. The demo is really rough but the idea is there, and it sparked me to finish the short story. I'm thinking of a way to include the song with the self-published stuff.

One more short story and we have enough to self-publish a short collection, and into the brave new world we go.

Another thing I've discovered is that you have to make time to do this. So I'm spending my mornings upstairs in the office. My office. My own office. Not somebody else's office.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Cheeseburgers Ten In 10 Tour

AFTER ABOUT A month off, The Cheeseburgers are getting ready for the "Ten In 10" tour, coming to a bar or party near you.

We haven't played since the riotous Knights of Columbus gig Aug. 10, so we are raring to go. If you haven't seen us, we are basically a party band playing a variety of songs from the Beatles to Def Leppard, Johnny Cash to ZZ Top. Get your dancing shoes on and prepare to have a good time if you are coming to see us.

We are playing the next 10 straight weekends, hence the Ten In 10 Tour moniker. We start Saturday night in Keokuk and we have some potentially awesome gigs lined up. See you in Partyville!

All shows are on Saturdays unless noted.

Sept 8 - Keokuk Yacht Club, 8 pm
Sept. 15 - One Restaurant, 6th and Hampshire, Quincy, 9 pm
Sept. 22 - Kammerer wedding, Lake Hill Winery, Carthage
Sept. 29 - Cheetaville Racing Party, Plainville, 8 pm
Oct. 6 - Wood Inn, Carthage, 8 pm
Oct. 13 - Private Party, Quincy, 8 pm
Oct. 20 - Terstriep Party, Payson, 8 pm
Oct. 27 - Dreyer Retirement Party, Cedar Crest Country Club, Quincy, 7:30 pm
Friday Nov. 2 - One Restaurant, 9 pm
Nov. 10 - Adams Trading Post, 8 pm
Nov. 24 - Keokuk South Side Boat Club, 8 pm
Dec. 1 - Kohl Party, Quincy, 8 pm

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sibling Summit

SHERYL AND I JUST GOT BACK from a great Hart Sibling Summit in Phoenix, or the great suburb of Chandler, to be more exact.

After my mom died in 2005, the four remaining kids decided to try and meet at least once a year, on Labor Day weekend if possible. I had to quit my job to make it this year. Just kidding. Sort of.

In Phoenix, you need two things to survive summer - air conditioning, and a pool. My brother has both. We spent a lot of time floating and playing pool volleyball while trying not to spill Stella Artois, and I spent much of Saturday watching college football. I hate Alabama, by the way.

The idea is to do a lot of nothing and enjoy the company. By 9 or 10 at night I'm usually wiped out. Fortunately my 20-year-old daughter, Emily, kept up and stayed up all night.

I even managed to sneak some golf in on a very warm Monday afternoon/early evening. About the only bad part was my fingers getting soft from the pool. We got back Tuesday afternoon and at lessons Tuesday night, my students were wondering why I was crying. Well, playing guitar for several hours after your fingers go soft is a good reason.

Life is too short to not hang out. I appreciate my family more and more as time goes by. And now we look forward to the Hart Sibling Summit 2013 in Denver.

And no more vacations, for a while.