Thursday, January 31, 2013

Another Border Collie

HERE'S A BIG fat hairy welcome to the newest Hart, Tucker.

He's a 7-year-old Border Collie, a handsome boy in desperate need of TLC. His owners couldn't take very good care of him and finally relinquished him up to a local rescue group.

We've been told he's a Border Collie but we think he may have some Australian Shepherd. He is a red merle color and very friendly.

Sheryl had been making noise about getting another Border Collie, going even so far as to contact a Rescue  Group with a beautiful BC, Biscuit that lives up in Wisconsin. I was not sure about the idea - dogs need a lot of love and Border Collies are high-energy, and we work a lot.

But as soon as we saw Tucker on Facebook (yup, social media strikes again), we were smitten. We met him last night at the Quincy Kennel Club and he didn't take long to warm up to us.

Lucy, the Queen of Calftown, couldn't care less and I actually think she likes having another similar dog around. They have had some hilarious peeing competitions already - and Lucy always has the last laugh, and last pee.

Bella the Destroyer, on the other hand, is dumber than a box of rocks and very protective, and we've had a few snippy incidents already. But when Sheryl took Lucy and Tucker to the vet this morning, Bella was very unhappy. She missed her buddies.

Maybe some of the Border smartness will rub off on Bella, though I doubt you can squeeze water from a rock.

So Sheryl brought Tucker to the store this morning after his Vet appointment.  He has a little ear infection, got his rabies shot and got a bath.  Eddie is a bit unsure.  We are in love and I kinda like having another boy in the house.

Come by for a visit!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Emily is a Musical genius!

A WEEK FROM Sunday, Emily has her senior oboe recital at Western Illinois University.

Wait a second ... wasn't this yesterday?
Wait a second. SENIOR oboe recital? The next thing you'll tell me is that yesterday it was 60 degrees and today it's snowing in Quincy.


Emily is a big senior and getting ready to graduate. She has grad school auditions lined up at some heavyweight programs. I'm still trying to figure out how to beat her in a game of one-on-one on the neighbor's basketball court, and not be embarrassed by being schooled by an 8 year old.

So I will sit there and watch and try not to cry. Good lord, where has the time gone?

Sometimes I cringe when hearing parents brag about their kids. Emily is very unassuming and matter of factly told us she has audition at Julliard in New York City. She's probably wishing I'd write about something else.

Well, too bad. She rocks. And she has the whole world in front of her.

Go Em Go!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rain rain rain


There, I feel better already.

- It's pouring rain outside, which means Second String Music has rain inside. Ahhhh, the joys of a 113 year old building.

- At least the rain is keeping all the WCU Building smokers from littering the street and sidewalk with butts. I went on a Facebook rant about this yesterday. Smoking is disgusting enough, but wanton disregard for property and other people who have to deal with the aftermath is even worse.

- How about something more positive, like this Friday's Dancing With The Local Stars. Read my Local Q blog about it here.

- More on this later, but we are looking for musical acts for the Mid-Summer Arts Faire. 

- Looks like Lucy and Bella will be getting some company. We are visiting with a Border Collie named Tucker Wednesday night. What are the chances of Sheryl melting on the spot? About the same as the rain coming into our back room.

- Off to a meeting and to do the Fifth Street crawl. Don't shrink out there.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Big Cheesey Weekend

MY GOAL ON Sunday is to stay awake during the Super Bowl. Too much fun the two nights before might make me sleep all day Sunday.

We have a big Cheeseburgers weekend lined up, starting Friday night at One Restaurant, Sixth and Hampshire in Quincy. One is a fun place to play, with a nice big stage, an awesome staff, good food and very cool owners who believe in promoting local music. We had a ball New Year's Eve but we have a lot of songs we didn't get to play and we've learned a few new tunes with the addition of bass player Don Van Dyke.

And - there is no cover!

Assuming we survive and wake up Saturday morning, we get ready to play Saturday night at the annual South Side Boat Club Mardi Gras party. We've done this several years in a row and it's not for the faint of heart - these people know how to have fun! If you want a table you need to get there early, and the cover is just $5.

Both gigs start at 8-ish. Bring your dancing shoes and let 'er rip on the weekend - we can all nap during the Super Bowl halftime show!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Newest Cheeseburger

IT'S A RITE of passage to take band pics whenever a new member joins. We had our third such session since I joined The Cheeseburgers nearly three years ago, this time to unleash new bass player Don Van Dyke to the world.

"I hate these pics," Burt said. "Until the next person quits, I guess they will do."

"I look older and older, the more pics we take," says Kirk. "Then again, I am the oldest one in the band, older than all you other bleepers."

"What? We took pics?" said Eric.

"Cheeseburgers give me gas. It's gonna be a long practice after this, boys," I said.

We made Don go get the cheeseburgers for the photo. We made the drummer's better half take the pics. And I was forced to drink Keystone to wash the taste out of my mouth. Desperate times require desperate measures.

Anyway, here he is, in all his Cheesey glory. Welcome Don Van Dyke, a good bass player who fits right in with us miscreants, which is just as important.

"Gosh," said Don, when he saw the pics. "I look like Brian Wilson."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trying Not To Cry In Class

AS ALWAYS, I had a great time hanging out with Mike Terry's classes today at John Wood Community College. I learn just as much as the students when talking about interviewing and how to go about the process. It was also great to see JWCC legends Dr. John Letts and Tracy Orne, who actually runs the place.

Anyway, during the second class I blabbed about who I was, then asked each student to tell me their name and where they were from. One gal near the front said, "Darion Stephens, Quincy." And I almost started crying on the spot.

My daughter, Emily, was a basketball player for Quincy High and played on two bad teams her junior and senior years. Her final game was in February 2009, at the regional tournament in Moline. Quincy had no chance, Emily knew it, and she knew it was the end of four up and down years playing basketball. And it was her last organized and official game of hoops.

From what I remember, the Blue Devils put up a pretty good fight, but Moline didn't even try that hard to win. Emily came off the court in the last seconds of the game, and a few teammates gave her some half-hearted hand-slaps.

But one girl at the end of the bench leaped up and ran to Emily, and gave her a big hug. That little girl was freshman Darion Stevens, and I won't ever forget that scene.

I recounted the story to the class, and Darion's face lit up when she realized I was the big goofy father of Emily. Good grief - that little freshman on the end of the bench is now a freshman in college!

Amazing, how a memory can invoke such strong emotion.

We carried on and I managed not to cry. The class members probably would have had to interview me if I'd bawled, but I sucked it up and continued to scare the students away from considering careers in journalism.

Thank you, Darion! Four years later, you still hold a special place in my memory.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Breaking My Heart

TELL ME THERE is a more helpless feeling than when you computer breaks.

We are so dependant on technology and we take for granted all the stuff normally at our fingerprints. One person I am not taking for granted, and I just bought her a french toast muffin from Krazy Cakes with bacon, is my wife. She puts up with all my dumb questions and inability to remember passwords. My new password for everything is "dumbbleep et al." I think. I can't remember.

I'm working on the Second String Music computer and it's hyper sensitive. So my screwups are because this keyboard pad takes a lot to get used laskdjfowier to, especially when you hit the wrong bu7023840238ablhf; tton by accident.

Sheryl says she is building me a new computer. Whether we retrieve my files and my half finished books from the old one remains to be seen. Don't get the little Dell Inspiron Duo notebooks. They are 57a;sdjfa crap.

Hey. How do I log back onto Facebook, anyway? Man, this is a pain in the 7723ghry,kduo .....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Faking It. Really?

I DIDN'T WATCH the presidential inauguration. Apparently something called Bouncy sang the national anthem and got lots of love.

Now, apparently, Bouncy is being accused of lip-synching.

No. Really? Gasp. Double gasp.

Supposedly, Bouncy didn't want to "risk" singing it live. I will grant that our national anthem is a tough song to sing and it has given many people fits.

The people in charge say this doesn't reflect on Bouncy's musical ability. Pffftt. Leave it alone - you shouldn't hit every softball lobbed your way out of the park.

Coming to a karaoke bar near you soon - Bouncy!

She is "performing" at halftime of the Super Bowl. I'd rather watch the Harbaugh brothers text each other or give their mom roses, or watch Ray Lewis preach.

Sorry, Bouncy. That big click you'll hear, if your backing track isn't playing too loud in your earpiece, is my TV turning off. That's OK. Millions will still watch your "live performance."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Helping Out In The Store

LAST WEEK, SHERYL had a great idea to set up an office in the back of Second String Music.

I was about to be dispatched on a mission to find a desk and other supplies when we realized there were some desks in the very back, and all it would take was a few strong backs to lug some stuff around.

Sound familiar, Frank Haxel? He is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fortunately he joined Tim Smith and The Mighty Adam (Cow Chaser) Yates at our Friday jam session, and we managed to get the desk and a filing cabinet moved to the right spot.

Now Sheryl can get some work done in back when I'm just getting in the way. This morning I even did some inventory and pricing, and I will only have to ask four or five more times how to do it.

And we didn't have to lug anything up the sidewalk in a blizzard. Winner winner, chicken dinner.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Fake Girfriends

OF COURSE MANTI Teo of Notre Dame had a fake girlfriend. Of course he used it to his advantage. He might claim he was part of a big hoax. Whatever.

I hate Notre Dame and root hard against them almost every time. Well, every time. The problem is that I really like their coach, Brian Kelly, who wisely spurned the NFL and will keep Notre Dame contenders for a long time.

The only good thing about this is that it embarasses smug Irish fans.

Apparently Teo was told his girlfriend died in September, so he made sure the media knew about it. Now it appears he was told it was a hoax, but he continued to perpetuate the hoax.

I'm not sure what to believe. Deadspin broke the story, which raises flags right there, and now there all kinds of things flying around.

Here's the bottom line - Teo owes Notre Dame an apology, even if he was hoaxed. He should be smarter than that. If you are the stud linebacker at one of the premier colleges in the country, and you surely are on your way to NFL riches, why would you even need a fake girlfriend?

Poor Notre Dame. Not.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Old Job

I'M BACK AT The Whig. Sort of. I'm writing a weekly blog for The Local Q website, click here for the first one. I will also be writing a weekly feature for the Weekender print edition.

It makes sense. They need somebody connected to the local music scene, and it's nice to get back to writing newspaper stuff again.

If you have suggestions or ideas, don't hesitate to pass them along.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I won't watch Oprah

TEN THINGS I will do instead of watching some stupid show hosted by an overwrought woman who thinks it matters.

1. Play fetch with the cat, Fast Eddie, and play catch the predator with the dog, Bella the Destroyer. She chases my hand when it is under a blanket, stoopid dog. Yes, they think they are a dog and a cat respectively. Now THAT is an Oprah episode.

2. Wonder how I'm getting a heavy desk and other stuff from the second floor to the first floor at Second String Music. Hello Frank Haxel. How are you?

3. Turn down Oprah's request to appear on her show because I'm going back to work for The Whig. Sort of. Press release coming tomorrow.

4. Play slip and slide at Woodland cemetery.

5. Pop in the DVD "The Who In Texas" yet again. It never gets old.

6. Try to figure out a date to unleash "Pepper Spray," the newest musical project to emerge from Fifth and Maine.

7. Do the dishes. HAHAHAHAHA. That was in all caps, by the way.  Sheryl is rolling around, clutching her sides laughing at the thought of me getting my hands soapy wet.

8. Write a thank you note to my father in law, Jerry Collins, who installed an antenna for us to watch the local stations. WGEM still doesn't come in quite right. I will be quiet now.

9. Take steroids so I can finish doing the dishes. Then go on Oprah and admit it.

10. Listen to Dire Straits more often. See? I'm in a better mood already.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Cheese

WE WELCOME NEW Cheeseburger bass player Don Van Dyke to the mix this weekend. Don has been working very hard to learn the songs and fit in with the band. He is a bit quiet but has a demented sense of humor, appreciates the fact we have a band roadie, drinks Coors Light and fits in very well.

Jeff VanKanegan called it quits after many years of playing in bands. Jeff was the rock in the Cheeseburgers and would often be the voice of reason. More than a few times he had to tell the hyper guitar player and singer to his left to settle down. I already miss Jeff, but I'm excited about Don being in the band.

The key to any group is to get along. We spend a lot of time together, mostly weekend nights. Harmony is just as important as hitting the opening high notes on "American Girl." Don understands that and soon we'll be abusing him like a regular member of the band.

Don simply needs to play with us, work out the kinks. We don't expect perfection, but we will get effort and Don will get better and better. I know it took me several months before I really hit a groove with this band.

It's also a good chance for us to update our material to new/old songs. We haven't had much practice in the past year because we've been playing every weekend, but we have to figure out a way to learn to some stuff and keep it fresh.

We have a wedding Saturday, a private party a week from Saturday, then we'll unleash Don at One Restaurant on Friday, Feb. 1. Make your plans to hang out and welcome the newest piece of Cheese!

Click here for the band schedule. 2013 is shaping up to be very Cheesey yet again!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Using Your Faith The Right Way

FOOTBALL IS A game of emotion. I've played and officiated sports and I understand how things get the best of us. I will never point fingers. I will always try to be fair.

But I think Ray Lewis carried it too far last Saturday, after his Baltimore Ravens upset heavily favored and host Denver in the NFL playoffs.

I don't know much about Ray Lewis, other than he's an incredible linebacker and his career is coming to an end. He got into trouble a few years back, and some say he was fortunate to not get charged with murder. I've heard his side of the story, and what others have written and said. I don't know, and really, don't care. It is what it is.

Lewis wears his faith on his sleeve, and he's never afraid to tell people how important God is in his life. That I appreciate.

Late in Saturday's game, they kept showing Lewis repeating the Bible verse from Isaiah 57:17:  "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper." He said it again during the overtime coin toss, and after the game when he was screaming and bellowing to a CBS reporter on the field.

Sorry, but the Denver Broncos weren't a weapon formed against you, Ray. It's a game, albeit a violent and gladiator-like spectacle where you get paid millions. Perhaps you just fit the circumstance to get you fired up or make you play better. Whatever works.

Newsflash, Ray. God could not care less if you won or lost. He's there either way. God did not say, "Sorry Peyton Manning, but I'm going to foolishly make you throw across your body in the second overtime so Baltimore can pick it off." God did not say, "Fling it Flacco, because I'm going to make the Broncos safety stay up instead of back in coverage, and I'm going to let the ball go over his head and have your guy catch it with a few seconds left to tie the game."

For all the knocks against Tim Tebow, he at least did not say God made him have a terrible season with the Jets.

I do not sit in judgement against anybody, even Ray Lewis. If he wants to rant and rave about how no weapon prospered against him, I guess that's OK. I'm just glad Peyton Manning showed incredible class by congratulating him mid-rant and a few hours after the game, after all the media left.

I'll take all the blessings I can get, and be grateful for them, and I won't ponder or wonder if the bad guy has a bad day, or root for God to not let them prosper.

By the way, here's the whole verse. You decide the context.

"No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, said the Lord."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Job Interviews

I'VE HAD A couple of job interviews in the past few months. Nothing huge, part-time stuff. The store is doing very well, Sheryl has it handled and I'm looking for something fun to do.

One process didn't go well. The interviewer was half an hour late, and left me hanging twice to find out what happened to the job. They will call again, but the conversation will be short.

The interview this morning was awesome. It's for a job completely different from my previous newspaper guy career. The questions were detailed and made me think. It was professional, to the point and I have no doubt I'll find out one way or the other how it turns out. All I asked for was a chance, and for that I'm grateful.

It's Friday, so I'm happy. And maybe next week I'll be employed, if all goes well.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Hate Shopping

I DID SOMETHING TODAY I haven't done in probably 15 to 17 years - I bought sneakers.

Running shoes, basketball shoes, walking shoes, they cost a million bucks shoes, whatever you want to call them. I paid a lot of money for them. But my feets are my feets.

I worked for Gus Macker for many years and got free shoes every summer. When did shoes start costing three figures? Sometimes I really miss Gus.

I first place I went to was a big box on East Broadway. It was depressing. There was stuff strewn everywhere, and an automated intercom system kept asking for cashier help and "sales assistance in bedding." Of course there were no size 14 shoes, no extra big socks, no jeans in my size, nothing.


Off to the next spot. This required a visit to the Quincy Mall, a place I avoid at all costs. No shoes. No socks. No jeans. Nada nada nada. I almost went to the FYE and bought a Bryan Adams CD to cheer myself up.

Finally, I stopped at Carl's Shoes and talked to Jamie Blaesing, who is awesome and has helped me find shoes before. There were some really good ones, and I made him work to find the right size, and eventually I settled on a pair of black New Balance shoes.

The Dutchman in me flinched. But feet are feet. These shoes look good. My wife approved of the choice. And Jamie rocks.

It's like anything else, you get what you pay for, and you go back to the places that treat you right. Kinda like us here at Fifth and Maine.

Thank you Jamie. I appreciate your cheerful help and professional demeanor, and I'm sorry I made you throw away my nasty old battered shoes. I promise not to call the EPA to inspect your dumpster later today.

Soon it will time for my next favorite thing in the whole world .... shopping for socks online.

Or sticking needles in my eyes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Maintenance Guy

IT'S NICE TO have a great maintenance man. Second String Music is in a 116-year-old building and has some issues, though for the most part the main floor is in good shape.

The building owner lives out of town. Fortunately he hired Bill Weckbach to be his fixer-upper, and Bill has been there for us every time.

We have a back storage area with leaky roof issues. I called Bill, he came over, we looked at the area, and he formed a plan. Then he came back with a shovel, a sump pump, 2 more kiddie pools, a black tarp and some gray tape.  Then we put the plan into action.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention SSM legend rehab man Frank Haxel, who came with me New Year's Eve to dump out a wading pool full of water. I bribed him with "SoCo" brand cough medicine. It all worked out.

Yesterday Bill and I went crawling around on the second-floor roof. Always an adventure, finding burned up sump pumps and buckets full of water in walkways. The old skylights on the roof are way cool, too.  Today he comes back to fill in holes after pumping out 1000 gallons of water yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, I appreciate Bill's hard work, easy demeanor and the fact he actually cares. More than a few landlords and maintenance guys could take a lesson or two from him.

Thanks Bill!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday morning musings ....

TOOK MONDAY OFF to recover from a small bout with hackaflemdeath. Better now, thank you.

- Nice game, Notre Dumb. Nothing funnier than listening to ND fans complain about bad calls after their team gets absolutely drilled by a superior team. Still, a good season for the golden domers, and hopefully Coach Kelly stays and they build on success.

- Huge meth bust yesterday in Q-Town, click here. Observant neighbors played a big part in this one. Sometimes it doesn't happen overnight, but ultimately the bad guys get caught.

- Speaking of getting caught, the guy accused of murdering a Quincy man last week had a court hearing Monday and repeatedly said he didn't understand what was going on. Shocking! At least he was appointed a good lawyer.

- We are in the icky days of January, where repeated thawing and freezing makes a mess of sidewalks. The dogs flail away on our neighborhood walks and I've taken a header or two. At least the sidewalks around Second String Music are relatively clear.

- Getting back into the book-writing mode. Two projects in the works, one based on what happened in the old store, and another about something rather .... topical. Stay tuned.

- Had a young man in guitar lessons yesterday ask to learn Boston's "Peace of Mind." There is hope for the next generation, after all.

- Next up for SSM is our big two-year anniversary. Blowout preparations will start soon. Is the fridge full? Good!

- And finally, happy birthday to my wife's favorite man, well, besides Logan Kammerer .... Elvis!  Huge Birthday for the woman that will marry us anytime, KB Conte.  Enjoy the cake!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rough start to the new year

WE ARE ONLY a few days into 2013, and already in Quincy we've had a murder and a fatal fire which wasn't accidental. Good news this morning, as one bad guy has been caught.

Awful things. We don't know a whole lot publicly just yet. Of course they knew each other. Do you think they were exchanging recipes?

The murder took place less than half a mile from the store, and the fire was maybe the same distance. The fire victim is the brother of a gal I know, and my heart breaks for her and her family.

After covering crime and courts for 12 years, I realized this stuff is cyclical. About 10 years ago we had a spate of homicides, four or five in just a few months, and people were running around lamenting how Quincy was such a horrible place to live, and how could this stuff happen here, blah blah blah.

Yet nobody says anything when it's quiet, or when things are going well. People remember all the awful things I had to track, but I also wrote thousands of positive and uplifting columns and stories.

QHS band Playing in Washington Park on Veterans Day, 2012
Don't bury your head in the sand and say things like, "How could this happen in our nice little town?" Our nice little town has issues, like every other place in our country. We have some awesome people in law enforcement and in the judicial system, as flawed as it is, who are busting their butts right now.

Let's wait to pass judgement until we find out what, why and how these things happen. And though it hits home, it's still our town, our place to live, and we can only strive to make it better.

Even when the news is bad.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Post Christmas Blues

I TOOK THE Christmas tree down New Year's Day.

"You did?" my wife said. This, despite the fact she was on the couch reading the entire time I struggled and cursed more than the dad in "A Christmas Story."

Ahhh, the post-Christmas blues ....

- Happiness is taking your dogs for a walk in the snow. Happiness is not seeing your dumb dog named Bella with a piece of frozen pizza hanging from her mouth during the walk.

- Second String Music store traffic has returned to normal and steady after a hectic Christmas season. Lots of cool stuff in here still ....

- Gotta wonder about the guy down the street who has been "closing" his business for the past two months, and keeps posting he has more stuff to sell.

- Bill O'Reilly is a blowhard who likes listening to the sound of his own voice. But his book, "Killing Kennedy," is quite good.

- I like hitting "unsubscribe" on Facebook.

- Guess there's little chance we'll be skating on real ice this winter after all.

- I'm officiating some Little Devils games Saturday. Ouch. My shins are already barking at me. However, we have resumed Pilates at NuFit so I may survive.

- Also resumed guitar lessons at Second String Music. My newest student is the hilarious and engaging Jamison Reis, son of Emily's best teacher ever, Jill Schinderling Reis. Jamison is the same age Emily was when Emily had Jill as a teacher at Berrian. Wow. Did we blink too hard and somehow miss 13 years?

- Continue to be amazed at our other SSM guitar teacher, Jim Bier. I am living proof you are never too old to learn how to really play guitar.

- And .... we'll really kick off 2013 right with another store jam this Friday night. One of these times we'll get organized and actually take the Second Stringers out for a show!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Different look at my daugher

MY DAUGHTER, EMILY, is many things. She is a straight A student at WIU, a brilliant musician, seriously funny, lazy like her dad, stubborn and intent, and she makes us proud.

She also knows how to have fun. Like her dad. GUH.

Whatta silly girl ....
New Year's Eve, and the The Cheeseburgers are playing at One Restaurant. We love playing at a party when people are ready to have a good time, and a party it was. We were getting ready to start our second set when up comes Emily with a bunch of her friends. And yes, they were ready to party.

At first I was a bit mortified. Where is the little girl I used to cart around to piano and oboe lessons, coach in basketball, play sock football with on the front lawn, and watch Michigan blow another bowl game?

Oh. There she is. Dancing and laughing her head off with her buddies.

Emily turned 21 more than three months ago. Let's get a few other things straight - while they were having fun, nobody was falling over, and they had a young man with the group who was the designated driver. And while we were up there playing, they were having a blast. Later Emily borrowed our big red cowboy hat and wore it around the bar the rest of the night

When I think back to my college days, it's apparent I have no right to preach. I did tell her to be careful on NYE and the nights before when she was out with friends, and I've always talked to her about being responsible. And she always listens.

So. I let it go. It's still a bit strange to watch, but she's out there with her buddies, having a great time, a young person with goals and dreams and the whole world in front of her. All good.

I guess I don't have to tell her to grow up. Phew!