Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Memories

HALLOWEEN WAS ALWAYS fun when I grew up. We dressed the part and hit the neighborhood hard, and the challenge was to make the candy last as long as possible.

One year in London, Ontario, I remember playing a hockey game on Halloween night, so I simply put on my gear, made the rounds and then went to the game.

One of the best parties I ever went to at Central Michigan was a Halloween bash. My roommate, Marty Horjus, made me go to a thrift store and I bought an old dress and went as a cross dressing double secret agent spy. In my purse was a toy Luger pistol, and I told people I was actually pretending to spy for the Germans, which confused everybody even more. Then at the end of the night, a guy nicknamed "Bits" (long story) kept feeling me up, and I got worried because he was having trouble with reality by the end of the night. As were we all.

My daughter, Emily, was huge into Halloween. We dressed her up from a very early age and carted her all over the place. The other day I saw on her Facebook page she was dressed at a traffic cone for a social gathering, the politically correct way to say party. Because I really don't want to think about it. Don't do anything I would back in the day, Em.

Three years ago my old band, The Funions, played a righteous Halloween gig at The Elks. We borrowed some jail uniforms and The Mighty One's wife was the Naughty Warden. She led us on stage as we were chained together, and later Rock A. Bye Johnny B. came out as Elvis and tore the house down. I still remember Pat Cornwell refusing to wear the shirt because "it didn't fit."

The last two years, The Cheeseburgers have played out at a party in Payson, and some of the costumes were tremendous. I will not talk about the farmer with the sheep. The band was in prison garb one year, doctor's scrubs the next.

No parties this year. We are handing out candy at the store, and Fast Eddie is threatening to dress up as an evil veterinarian and giving everybody shots for tapeworm. Maybe.

So, happy Halloween! Be safe out there. And bring me your extra candy, I'll bite the bullet and eat it for you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Random Walking Thoughts

I DID SOMETHING this morning I've never done before - I walked to work downtown.

It's only a mile. It's a gorgeous fall day. I put my iPod in my pocket and earphones on, and it took about two seconds, or so it seemed.

My mind was racing the whole time ....

- I'm done with four chapters of my next book project. I walked right past Eighth and Washington. I looked up at the second floor windows of the old store. I swear I saw somebody move up there.

- The sidewalks are clean and the walk is gently downhill from Seventh to State. But when I got to Seventh and State, I stopped. On the left is the big apartment where there was a fire a few years ago, and several people died. It was one of the bigger stories I covered, and I wonder how the families are doing. And I won't even think about the landlord.

- The old church on the east side up by York is very cool. Boarded up and cold and lonely, but cool.

- Did you know there is a downtown mall walkway from the alley behind The Maine Course? Other fire victims are honored on the plaque.

- Amazing how the wind is about 20 mph stronger at Fifth and Maine.

- It struck me as I was walking how I'd followed Hurricane Sandy without even touching the television set. As a reporter I was so surrounded by changes that it was hard to grasp sometimes, and yet there I was this morning, finding out everything on the very laptop I am typing with right now.

- I don't miss DirecTV or cable.

- I'm in such a good mood, I'm not even ticked off about the neighbor who let his dog out, and it ran into our backyard while Sheryl and were at Woodland with the girls, and it was pooping as we got home. Bella and Lucy weren't impressed. Neither are we with the owner. The dog? He was just doing what came naturally. Oh well.

- I always smile when people come in to the store and ask if we have Taylor or Martin guitars, then turn right around when we politely say no. That's okay. Careful though, cause if you play one of our gorgeous Blueridge guitars, you might be fooled. BTW, we do have an incredible 2008 Taylor 426CE LTD with a hard case in the store right now, so we'll see how long it lasts.

- If I have time, I might just walk home! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Woodland Cemetery Tours

NOVEMBER CALLS, WHICH means it's time once again for the annual Woodland Cemetery tours the day after Halloween. Thursday night starting at 5, tours will feature 18 markers and have actors depicting famous Quincy citizens from back in the day.

I'm leading tours at 5 and 6 pm. For more info, click here, but keep it quiet because Woodland is Quincy's best-kept secret and I like having the place to myself. So do Lucy and Bella.

See you Thursday night!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Give Up speech

FRIDAY NIGHT IN Quincy, I am making my acting debut. Well ... not really. I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV, after all.

Greg Ellery and friends have put together an event called "Evening of Wit and Wisdom." Basically it's just people reciting speeches from great moments in history.

I thought about it for at least two seconds and came up with what I think is a great speech. I've memorized my lines and I'm ready to roll. Friday night at 7:30 or so, I will hit the stage, overcome the fright, and inspire people to not give up.

You'll just have to be there to see it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Farewell, Lucky

WE PUT OUR famous store cat, Lucky, to sleep Sunday. She was sick and in a lot of pain. Much more is here at the Second String Music blog.

I miss Lucky. There is a hole in my heart, and I'm not even a big cat lover. She had personality and loved a good scritch. Yesterday I walked past the old Eighth and Washington store and swear I saw her in the window, tail happily swishing, eyes alight.

Pets are part of the family, and it's hard when they go. Lucky can never be replaced, and for now, Fast Eddie has the run of the store.

See you in that better place, Lucky.

Monday, October 22, 2012

No More TV

WE JUST PULLED the plug on our DirecTV package. We did it for two reasons, to save money and to resist the urge to get mindless.

I am the worst person in the world when it comes to crashing in front of the television. Worn out from a long day, I simply succumb and let the idiot box do all the work. There is a time and place for relaxing, but it's just not a good idea to be a blob every night.

I will miss my ESPN, and finding a good game on television during bowl season. We did hook up an antenna and we get the local stations in HD, so there will be stuff to watch. Pretty much the only day we get to be bums is Sunday, and there's usually NFL games and golf to help us nap.

This should also inspire me to write more. I realized last night I haven't had a guitar in the house for a long time, so it might be time to bring one home to bang around on instead of watching Red Dawn for the millionth time.

There's also our DVD player. We might have to buy "A Christmas Story" so Emily Hart doesn't panic Christmas day.

The TV shouldn't run our lives. It's more full of crap than good. It will take a little getting used to, but we'll be way better off for it.

Where are all our old DVDs, anyway?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Downtown Parking

LAST NIGHT SHERYL and I were talking to a longtime Quincy resident who has property downtown. He said the main issue with our Second String Music at Fifth and Maine is parking.

"There is no parking," he said.

Technically, that is true. But not true. There is plenty of parking within a square block of the store. People, however, don't like it when they have to park half a block or more away.

Sheryl and I usually park down half a block from the store and never use the spaces by the storefront. Those are for customers, NOT for people who work in the WCU Building across the street, but they do anyway. So be it.

Here's what I ask folks about about parking downtown. If you go to Walmart and you park 300 yards away, you don't care, because you are in front of the store. But if you can't get within 50 yards of our place, it's an issue, for some reason?

Downtown is a destination spot, and many people like to browse the shops, restaurants and bars. That's why there should never be a time limit on parking, and that's why QPD should not enforce parking limits. Let people come down here and stay down here.

Saturday, the Tin Dusters are in town and Maine Street will be closed from Fourth to Eighth. That means there will be no parking at all by the store, and it's something we can live with. Park in the deck across from The Herald-Whig on Fifth Street. It's half a block from Maine and easy in, easy out.

Like everything else, it's about attitude. I don't mind walking a block, and I hope our store customers don't, either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Freddie Tieken and the Rockers ... in SSM

LEGENDARY SAX PLAYER Jack Inghram stopped by Second String Music the other day with a stack of Freddie Tieken and the Rockers CDs. For those of you who are too young or lived in caves, Freddie and his band were huge in Quincy and the surrounding area in the 1960s.

This is great feel-good and party music. The sax playing is incredible, Vernie Robbins belts out the lyrics and the rhythm section of Jim Vandament on drums and Forrest Moore on bass is top notch. You can't help but tap your toes and imagine the scene of a great Rockers gig at Sheridan Swim Club or the kartways in West Quincy.

Freddie will be back in town in early November, and there are rumors of a jam session after the Holiday Inn gathering. Reportedly they were really hard up for a guitar player and the co-owner of Second String Music might be filling in, as will a Cheesey drummer.

It will be great having Freddie back in town, and you should check it out if you get the chance. SSM also has CDs available in the store for just $10.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Next Book Project

GETTING READY TO start a new book project, and I'm finding out the book thing is a lot like the newspapers bidness. You work really hard on it and after it comes out you move right to the next project.

Sheryl has me reading a couple of Kindle books and they are interesting. My next book will likely be about a place in Quincy, but I'm getting more and more intrigued about doing a fictional piece that will appeal to a wider audience. There is an incredible Quincy murder story more than 30 years old that has never been told, and it could very easily be written with the "based on a true story" angle.

The main thing is to keep going, because self-motivation is often a struggle. So. Here we go, plunging headlong right into it.

Write or wrong, you can't go wrong ....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

All Caps and FB Posts

IF YOU WANT to see a Facebook post go viral, give somebody a hard time about using all caps to post a status update.

My mother, God bless her soul, was an English teacher, and I have used the language to make a living for half of my years on this earth. So yes, I do get a bit perturbed when people type in all caps for no good reason, or deliberately sabotage spelling to take shortcuts. Text much lately? Right. My point exactly.

A while back I made the mistake of poking fun at a gal on Facebook who uses all caps all the time. She claims it's because she can't see very well, and trying to tell her all caps is actually harder to read and all you have to do is hit the CTRL and + buttons to make the font bigger fell on her deaf keyboard. Then her friends and family came to her aid and pretty soon I was the Iron Sheik or some other bad guy. So I left the FB group, which is too bad because it's a local history page and very interesting. Oh well.

I guess the main reason I don't like all caps is because it makes the writer appear like he or she is shouting, and things are just generally too loud in this world as it is. Don't shout it out, just tell me about it. Please?

Tonight I got irritated at a Cardinals fan who wrote a stupid post in all caps. You know what? There are way more important things going on and bigger issues to get mad about. Like using too many exclamation points. Or the stupid commercial with the kid blowing on his tuba for a virtual audience. GUH.

And I'm having a great Sunday with Sheryl, recovering from Saturday night's Cheeseburger rock and roll truck and enjoying Woodland walks with Bella and Lucy. So I'm feeling better about it.

And there's no reason to shout it out in all caps.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mice, dogs and a hockey stick

A FEW NIGHTS ago Sheryl noticed mice droppings in our food pantry. This made Sheryl mad. This meant a mouse was going to die.

"Listen," said Sheryl to Lucy, the Queen of Calftown and our Border Collie of Doom. "We have a mouse in the house. It is eating your dog treats. GIT IT DANGIT. And that's an order."

Lucy, with her wise Aslan-like face and all-business demeanor, nodded her head as if to say, "Chill, human slackers who don't let me outside nearly enough and make me wear silly kerchiefs. I got this. Just keep my stupid sister out of the way."

Her stupid sister, of course, is Bella The Destroyer, a lab mutt who is dumber than a box of rocks. Bella is, however, quite good at catching moles during our walks in Woodland Cemetery. She has single-pawedly reduced the mole problem at Woodland over the years, and it's amazing to watch. Bella will somehow get the scent or sense the mole's movement from a great distance, and she'll run over, dig it up and very gracefully snap its neck, all in one fluid motion. There's no blood and the whole thing is quite surgical.

The mouse entered the house through a hole in a basement wall and left quite a mess. Sheryl stuffed the hole and we waited for the inevitable carnage, knowing the mouse had to show its face at some point.

Last night while I was dozing on the couch (I know, you are stunned at the revelation), Sheryl heard a commotion in our bedroom. Lucy came out whining, a very unusual thing, and Bella was snapping at something. Sure enough, Bella had cornered the mouse, but it escaped and ran under the dresser. Sheryl screamed and ordered the dogs to "git it," and the mouse then scampered under the bed.

That brought out "Billy Baroo," my old Alpena hockey stick. Sheryl stood on the bed, the dogs assumed attack position, and I leaned down to look.

Sure enough, there was the frightened mouse, all three inches of it, cowering by Sheryl's shoes. A sweep of the hockey stick sent it scampering back to the dresser, then back under the bed again. By this point we were screaming, the dogs were howling and I'm stunned the neighbors didn't call the cops.

Finally, Mr. Mouse made the fatal mistake of coming out where Bella stood, and after one flick of Bella's jaw, it was all over. Lucy had to play with it a little bit too and Sheryl adroitly pointed out the tail was longer than the mouse, which Lucy demonstrated by dragging the mouse by its tail.

I got work gloves and took the mouse outside to its final resting place. Sheryl refused to take a picture. The dogs were quite pleased with themselves, and there is no more mouse in the house.

This morning, Mouse No. 2 found out the hard way that hiding under the vacuum cleaner will not keep you from the Queen of Calftown, who made quick work of the rodent. It makes me wonder how many more are in the house, which means our dogs need to be on extra alert.

If Mouse No. 1 and Mouse No 2 have a friend, it will be Dogs 3, Mice 0, with an assist from the Alpena hockey stick. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Turning To The Dark Side

IN MY PREVIOUS newsguy life, I dealt with a lot of PR people. Good ones were hard to find, to be honest. They'd send out garble and expect it to be printed word for word, if we could even discern what was in the release. I learned in a hurry who the good PR people were, like the awesome Tracy Orne at John Wood Community College and the Blessing Hospital folks back in the day.

Our good friend Laura Sievert does PR for Kirlins and is quite good at it. She is suggesting I'm turning to the Dark Side of The Force, now that I'm the one selling and promoting. Laura is a self-professed Dark Sith Lord of Doom, and she will train me well. And turning to the Dark Side has advantages - the star destroyers are luxurious and you can make inanimate objects fly around, along with performing Jedi mind tricks.

So now I'm on the Dark Side, promoting my book and trying to get a little media luv. I had a lot of fun with friends Greg Haubrich and Rich Cain on WGEM radio this morning, and it was just like old times - You Can't Make It Up!

So ... here's the press release for Rock N Roll Shorts. I have no idea if it's any good. I'll let the media figure that one out.


Former Quincy Herald-Whig staff writer and columnist Rodney Hart has published his first book, a collection of short stories called “Rock N Roll Shorts.”
The stories have music as the theme and are based on true events. They range from a musician fired from his band to a church praise band gone awry. The digital book was published through and is available online at and on iTunes. The paperback version of Rock N Roll Shorts has two additional stories and is available for $6 at Second String Music and at Great Debate Books inside the Maine Center at Sixth and Maine.
Hart is doing a book signing at Great Debate Books on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hart retired from The Herald-Whig in August 2012 after 16 years at the paper and 24 years in the newspaper business. He and his wife, Sheryl, own Second String Music at Fifth and Maine in Quincy. Hart plays guitar and sings in several area bands, including classic rock cover band The Cheeseburgers.
For more information, contact Hart at (217) 430-1454 or His website is

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Book Is Here!

OK. I ADMIT it. It's kinda cool to see my name on the cover of a book.

Rock N Roll Shorts arrived today and it's a great feeling. We have copies at Second String Music and down the block at Great Debate Books. I'll be doing a book signing Saturday, Oct. 27, at Great Debate from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The book has seven short stories, all music related, and sells for $5.99.

No way this would have happened without the support and guidance of my awesome wife, Sheryl. I'm looking at the front cover right now as LuckyCat Vegas sits and purrs on my lap and I'm thinking life is pretty darned good.

And I'm thinking of my late mother, an English teacher who dreamed of writing books. The Christmas before she died she wrote a short story for each of her grandchildren, and we published them in book form. She was beyond thrilled and now I know what she was feeling.

My grandfather, Henry Coray, also wrote several books. Son of Tears is still a respected and used story about St. Augustine. More here on Grandpa Coray's books. He led a very interesting life.

Wow. Published. In Print. A book with covers. GUH.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekend To Remember

WE HAD A fabulous weekend in the Q-Town. In addition to having a rare break in Cheeseburger bidness, it was Sammy Fund time and it's one of our favorite events of the year.

When Chuck and June Otte lost their young daughter a decade-plus ago, they decided to do something to remember her and to do something positive in her memory. The first weekend in October now means Saturday is the "Between Friends" craft sale, Sammy Fund walk/run at Madison Park, and the golf tournament Sunday at Westview.

Chuck and June don't like the attention and prefer to let others do the talking. They are two of the best people you will ever come to know. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help local children. They do it with smiles and lots of laughter.

They have a lot of help. It's a labor of love. Sheryl and I drove around the golf course Sunday, kibitzed with golfers and poured them beer. I smoked two really bad cigars, hit two tee shots and let the sun hit my face.  Sammy's cousin, Rachel Henke, hung out from the back of the cart and did the Queenly Beer Babe wave.

The night before, I donated a few bucks for the Frank Calkins charity poker tournament. I wasn't the last one out of my table and I accidentally won a hand, so I was happy. Frank was a probation officer and great all around guy who battled ALS with dignity and courage some five years ago, and he's sorely missed.  Family and Friends of Frank Calkins raise funds for local charities close to Frank's heart. Rumor has it he was a shark at the poker table.

It was a great weekend to remember them and give back.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Call Me QHS Soccer Team Maybe

PERSONALLY, I THINK Carly Rae Jepson is a bigger threat to national security than Big Oil or anybody who watches American Idol. Other than the fact her voice is like listening to cheese being grated and she has no talent, she's fine. Hey - just trying to be nice here.

Our awesome Pilates teacher at NuFit, Emily Lopez, loves the song called Call Me Maybe.  We stretch and work our core to this lovely tune on Thursday nights. Apparently the whole world loves it too, because it's a massive hit, and it's spawned a viral world of parody YouTube videos. Jepson's video is actually quite funny at the end if you can stomach the entire thing. Which I can't. But I forced myself.

Anyway, the QHS soccer team just released its own epic version of Call Me Maybe, and lo and behold, Second String Music guitar student Aubrey Disseler is right in the mix. Aubrey was one of my first students when we opened at 8th and Washington and he's busy now with soccer season, but hopefully we can get him to come back because he is also a burgeoning talent on the guitar.

Colin Shackleton plays a role that would make his Cheesy dad, Burt, jump on a table and play the sax.  QHS soccer may never be the same.

So. Enjoy. Make sure you watch all the way to the end, when coach Matt Longo makes his long-awaited and anticipated debut.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Collection Agent

MY WIFE NEVER ceases to amaze. In addition to putting up with me, she runs a small business, has published a book I wrote and deals with all the interesting people at Fifth and Maine. What's a bum like me doing with a great gal like this?

Anyway, this morning she added to her ever-growing resume when she retrieved a violin.

Last month was absolutely crazy at Second String Music. We knew school band instrument rentals would be big this year but it went viral and we did massive business, and two weeks after music has started in Quincy schools, parents are STILL coming in to rent instruments.

Sheryl was looking at our rentals from last year and noticed one Quincy gal had not paid her monthly fees on a violin. So she did some investigative work, and to make a long story short, found out where the gal lived.

This morning she went over there, politely asked for the violin, and the sleepy gal handed it to her, no problem.

Sheryl Hart, Collection Agent. HUGE.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Street Theater

I WAS COMING home last night when I noticed a crowd gathered on the corner, and up ahead, several unmarked police vehicles. A local law enforcement agency had pulled over a truck and arrested two individuals. They wouldn't say much about the arrests, but I recognized one of the people and it was pretty clear it was meth-related.

What amazed me was the people on the corner, and one person in particular, gawking and laughing and carrying on like they were at a football game. I guess curiosity gets the better of us, and once a reporter always a reporter, but this was a little ridiculous.

The one person standing there acting like it was a big game really ticked me off. This guy is the very reason we started the Calftown Neighborhood Watch last summer, after he was busted for meth with his brother and ex-wife. She's already pleaded guilty. His case has been delayed but appears to finally be going through the system. Of course he is out on bond, despite numerous prior convictions and legal issues, walking around like he doesn't have a care in the world.

Last summer, we as neighbors finally had enough. The Calftown Neighborhood watch was born out of this frustration. We have to use our eyes and ears and we need to let everybody know we are not tolerating illegal activity. If you cook meth we will let the people in our criminal justice system know and they will build their case.

And when this one guy goes down, I might just be in the front row in the courtroom, just like the old days. Only I won't be getting paid.

It will still be worth it.