Friday, May 31, 2013

Rain Walk

THE THING ABOUT Border Collies and a really dumb Lab is that they have to run. If they don't get regular exercise, they are miserable, and they make you miserable.

Bella is the dumb black Lab and when she steps on your foot, you howl, curse and look for things to throw. Then you look at her face and she says, "Hey, bonehead, we need to walk. NOW."

It's been rainy and miserable around here this week, so this morning I decided to take the girls and Tucker to our favorite walking destination. It was raining steadily and I wondered a bit before going, but the dogs don't mind the rain, as long as there isn't thunder or lightning. Then they hide in bathtubs or basements. Smart dogs!

Lucy, the Border/Aussie mix, sticks her head out the window and loves to feel the rain on her face. Tucker just loves to run. Bella is out of control at first and barrels everywhere, but then settles down to chase squirrels, dig up moles and splash through puddles.

It's still warm. The rain feels good on my head. The smell is glorious, damp grass and clothes-out-of-the-dryer fresh. I take Bella's lead and splash through the puddles, too.

Now we are home and the dogs are pooped and laying at my feet, and all is right with the world.

Hey. The rain stopped!

Only love can make it rain ....

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sucked into hockey

A WHILE BACK I went on a rant about the NHL and the loclout, and how I wasn't going to watch anymore.

I made good on the promise until the second round of the playoffs. Then I figured out how to watch the games online, and when the Red Wings upset Anaheim in the first round, I started paying more attention.

Last night I did something I haven't done all year - I watched an NHL game. Well, most of it. My lawn is growing an inch a day and I had to whack the weeds during the first period. Then I took a shower, grabbed a cold one and sat on my porch as night fell and I got sucked into the Wings-Blackhawks Game 7.

The good news is that I don't have to watch anymore games. Now I really couldn't care less who wins.

It was a great game to watch, full of twists and turns only a true hockey fan appreciates. There were more awful calls and great goaltending and vicious body checks, all the stuff of playoff lore.

Detroit shouldn't have gotten this far, but the Wings should have won the series. They eased off the gas in Game 5 when they were up 3-1 in the series, and they couldn't overcome some shaky calls in Game 6 and the Hawks goalie in the Game 7, where Detroit dominated for long stretches.

Such is life. The better team doesn't always win. Anaheim was better in the first round but went home. And Wings players shouldn't schedule any tee times with Blues players, since they've had a few weeks to work on their golf games.

Back to listening to baseball on the radio - if it ever stops storming around here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Love and Reverend Guitars

I AM FALLING in love. It's a beautiful thing. I'm wiping away a tear as I write this. Well, not really.

But a new guitar will do that to you.

Second String Music is now officially a Reverend Guitar dealer. I am the proud owner of a beautiful orange Flatroc, and it is one of the most amazing and responsive guitars I've ever owned.

Reverend Flatroc (left) and the Sensei 290.
I met the owner, Ken Haas, at the Dallas International Guitar show. We got to talking and it was obvious Ken understands the small and family-owned music store. Now we have the Flatroc and the Sensei 290 in the shop, but I made the mistake of playing the Flatroc and it's mine.

I've said this many times, but people who limit themselves when it comes to guitars and amps only cheat themselves. I understand about being a Les Paul or Fender guy, or a Taylor or Martin player, but if you refuse to try other stuff and only want to plug into your monster Marshall stack, well ... so be it.

I'm on the other end. I have a beautiful Highway Strat. I have a rare late 80's Gibson/Epiphone Les Paul. I have a rockin' Jon Kammerer guitar. I just played a Cheeseburger gig with a new 80-watt Roland Cube and I was stunned at how good and clean it sounded, though I still love my Orange Tiny Terror tube amp. I have a Blueridge acoustic and now I'm eyeing one of the new Takamine Pro Series acoustic guitars in the store. Shhh. Don't tell Sheryl.

In the end, it's about feel and the connection with the instrument. If you sit down and an instrument speaks to you, it sounds good and there is something just right about it, you'd be foolish to ignore it because of the name or the price.

Gotta go put this new Flatroc through some paces. Can't help falling in love ....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rain All The Time

WE SURVIVED GUS Macker weekend at Second String Music and had a lot of fun on the Dream Court. Of course Saturday it rained and delayed things about four hours, but we got back on track and Sunday's games went pretty well.

We have had a ton of rain this spring after several summers of severe drought. We are hearing lots of stories about flooded basements and water damage. Our backyard in Calftown is flooded, as is the alley. That means no mowing the lawn and being careful backing out with the car.

But it's nice and dry inside our house and inside the store, so we are grateful. Plus our sidewalks got cleaned.

You always gotta look on the bright side, even on gloomy rainy days.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day at Woodland

HAVE A SAFE and fun Memorial Day Weekend, Q-Town. I'll be goofing off at Fifth and Maine with Gus Macker and trying out new Takamine and Reverend Guitars inside Second String Music.

There's lots to do and see, especially if you are into the local music scene. Check out my Local Q blog for more.

On Monday, we are presenting a program at Woodland Cemetery. I'll be talking about Quincy founder John Wood, who also started Woodland in the late 1840s. Things start at 10:30 a.m. and it will be a fascinating lesson in history and observance.

I'll be sleeping the rest of the day Monday. Or, as Frank Haxel always says, "We'll sleep when we're dead."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memories of Gus

Hanging out in the Masonic Lodge parking lodge, circa 1999 ... from left, Emily Kipley, Emily Hart, Karlee Dreyer and Jaclyn Cawthon. 

IT'S GUS MACKER weekend in Quincy, one of my favorite times of the year, and there are lots of memories.

I worked for Gus for seven summers all over the Midwest and had a lot of interesting, strange, hilarious and downright hair-raising experiences. I'd do it all again and maybe I'll get back to traveling with the circus if the dust ever settles in the Q-town.

I have friends for life because of working for Gus. My buddy Jason is the foreman this weekend and is already in town building baskets. I met some amazing people, including the Energizer Bunny himself, Scott McNeal, aka Gus Macker. The guy woke up with steroid toothpaste at the crack of dawn and never stopped until his phone died at about midnight.

I will be calling games on the Dream Court, right outside the Second String Music doors at Fifth and Maine. Quincy was the first tournament to have a Dream Court, where kids are taken off their regular courts and we play on a special surface, with starting lineups and announcers.

Emily played in five or six Mackers with her buddies. The pic up top just makes me smile. As you can see by their team name, No Weak Treats, it didn't matter how they played or how many games they won or lost. They just wanted a treat after they were done.

And that's what I remember the most.

Still smiling ....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oklahoma tornado - pray, don't point

MUCH LOVE AND prayers to our friends in Oklahoma, recovering from a horrendous tornado earlier this week.

Of all the comments, the ones about not sending kids to schools without basements were the most uncaring and unfounded. We don't live in Oklahoma. We don't know what it's like. And we send our kids to plenty of buildings around here that don't have basements. The people in Oklahoma need help, not far-flung criticism with no basis.

"Well, they live in tornado alley, so they should know better," Clueless Jones says.

There but for the grace of God go you and I, Jones. Exactly 10 years ago a tornado tore apart Canton, Mo., and Lima, and I can't remember the number of times bad weather has smashed its way around here without killing anybody.

Fold your fingers in your hands and bow your head. Don't point fingers and glare.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Second String Music Video

EARLIER THIS MONTH we had an awesome Friday night jam session at Second String Music, and our friend Chris Kelley came by with a video camera and equipment to capture the event.

All I can say is that Mr. Kelley has a gift for telling stories, and he did a great job. We'll be using this video and a 30-second spot for promotions and getting the word out about the story. If you need promotional material, call Chris at Table 16 Productions, he is amazing.

Thank you to Chris, his wife Victoria and Mike Sorenson for making us look good - which ain't easy

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wear your helmet. Finally.

I BROKE DOWN this morning and went to Madison Davis Bicycle Shop and bought a bike helmet.

I ride around on my scooter and consider myself to be a safe operator. But it's the other guy I'm worried about, like the idiot who nearly crushed me in the Hy-Vee parking lot this morning. That one last look behind me has saved my life more than once.

Gas is now $4 a gallon and of course the downtown Houston skyscraper windows need to be cleaned and sheiks need more islands to own, so it won't go down soon. I spend $4 every two weeks if I use the scooter every day, so take that, Mr. Oil Man.

After the parking lot fracas this morning, I went to see Greg Davis and I spent $70 on a nice helmet. I bought a big clunky motorcycle helmet when I first got the scooter but hated it because it felt like a bowling ball on my head. This one is lighter and actually protects me better. I'm selling the old one cheap, if you are interested.

One of the guys who works at Madison Davis had a raccoon jump in front of him last week, and he cracked his helmet in four places upon impact. The ER doc told him he'd have fractured his skull had it not been for his helmet.

I like feeling the wind through my ever-thinning hair. But the wind won't save me when some bonehead runs a stop sign or turns too sharply or simply doesn't see me.

Plus my friend Laura Sievert, who is president of the Quincy Bicycle Club, is happy now that my ugly noggin is protected.

Heads up, helmet on!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Change Will Do You Good

I HAVE A friend who started a new job. It's a huge career change. When asked how it was going, she said, "Great. Except I have no idea what I'm doing."

To which Sheryl and I say, "Change will do you good."

At my daughter's WIU graduation ceremony last Saturday, one of the speakers challenged students to not get bogged down by one path or job. Except for her mistaken notion that the media encourages a one-job profession, her advice was right on the mark.

Can you chase the dream and be practical at the same time? No?

Oh well. Do it anyway.

You can run in place, or you can place where you run.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Brushing Off The Cheese

IT'S BEEN MORE than a month since The Cheeseburgers last played, so we are itching to get back out there and kick off the summer right.

We play at one of our favorite venues, One, on Friday night. The last time we were there was St. Patrick's weekend and it was out of control, just the way we like it.

The next morning we play at the Bridge The Gap To Health walk and race at Clat Adams Park. Sure, it will be a challenge to be awake at 9 in the morning, but with all the people down there and good weather, it's guaranteed to be a good time.

We are playing on the Quincy Park District stage and it's a gorgeous setting, right on the mighty Mississippi River. Clat Adams Park isn't utilized enough and we can't think of a better way. Even if you aren't participating in the run or walk, you can come down and hang out.

We are ready to rock, and let the summer begin!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


VERY NICE CEREMONY as always at City Hall this morning honoring fallen police officers by the Quincy Police Department.

Sgt. Adam Yates led the Color Guard as the flags were raised. Makes sense - he directs traffic at our Friday jam sessions!

Jeff Schuecking, our business neighbor next door, played Taps at the end of the ceremony. If there is a more high and lonesome sound, let us know.

Sheryl shot this video of Jeff playing. It's a fitting tribute to those who serve and have paid the price.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

No Internet? No problem. Not Really.

YESTERDAY JUST BEFORE 9 a.m., our Internet and phone provider went down. As in, ceased to exist, as in, my wife had an important teleconference meeting a few minutes later and was not happy. She is much more cool under pressure than I am so she got through it and it all worked out.

Phone service came back a few hours later, but we were unable to get online until evening. For the first time in forever, I couldn't put together a blog. Sheryl has a lot of work to do today to get caught back up.

Instead of the tired old "we are too reliant on technology rant," I'm going to blast my provider. I'm sure there was a good reason, like somebody cut a cord or a satellite broke or some fat guy brushed a corner in a server room and knocked out the network. This happened once at Sheryl's old job but we'll just be quiet now.

There are all these conditions and rights you surrender when you sign up. So what do we get when they don't hold up their end?

Well. I'm not holding my breath. And I'll think long and hard when it comes time to sign up again.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jamming with Josh

YOU NEVER KNOW who will stop at Second String Music when we are having a Happy Hour jam session.

We are cruising along when I see this guy come up and start playing a shaker. He's very cordial and way into what we are doing, which is sitting around with acoustic guitars and making noise. Then somebody says, "Hey. You are Josh from Steel Magnolia!"

Yup. That's right. A guy who has played the Grand Ole Opry, opened for Bob Seger and is making waves in country music is in our store, and all he wants to do is jam.

Steel Magnolia was in town last night at a club and Joshua Scott Jones was wandering around when he saw us playing. He kept trying to get up and leave and we kept making his sit down to play, until he finally gave us a lame excuse about getting ready for the gig, or something like that.

He couldn't have been a nicer or more humble person.

Here's a guy who has played in front of thousands of people, but after sitting in with us and playing everything from Bob Dylan to Tom Petty to Eric Clapton, he said, "This is what it's all about."

Thanks for hanging with us, Josh!

Friday, May 10, 2013

These sidewalks are for the birds

SECOND STRING MUSIC is inside the historic Dodd Building, constructed in 1897 at the corner of Fifth and Maine.  The upstairs floors are vacant and home to ghosts and pigeons. Ghosts I can deal with. Pigeons? I might have to hire Frank Haxel to take care of them, because they are messy.

Before you go all PETA on me, I'd be fine with capture and release, as long as they don't come back and poop on my sidewalk. Because they do. A lot. And it's gross.

So yesterday morning it's pouring rain, and Sheryl says, "Grab a broom. We're cleaning the sidewalks." Faster than you can say "soaking wet," we're on the sidewalk, Sheryl has a broom and has covered the area with dish soap, and we are pushing away bubbles and bird poop, not in that order.

Not so clean sidewalks this morning.
It took about 20 minutes. I had to unfortunately excuse myself to help a customer, dang the luck, but was fortunate enough to help finish after she noticed me watching her from the doorway. She got soaking wet and we had the cleanest sidewalks in downtown Quincy for a few minutes, and I have to admit it worked better than power washing.

"You've never really worked a day in your life, have you?" she said, when we were done and I was complaining about getting my hair wet.

That's Sheryl. Ingenious. Hard working. Always coming up with solutions. Da Bomb. I married way way way WAY all caps over my head.

They perch up there somewhere...
This morning we came to the store, and sadly, in 24 hours, the birds used the front sidewalk as target practice yet again. They probably were up there laughing themselves silly and talking to each other in little bird voices. "She's WHAT? With a broom? In the rain? Wow, I am so eating a lot of berries right now," they chirped.

We are supposed to get more rain this weekend. Somebody hide the dang brooms before I'm forced to do actual labor again.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I PUT TOGETHER a list of my favorite local musicians for my The Local Q blog, and I am kicking myself a day later for forgetting some names.

I attribute it to getting older and feebler. Just what did I have for breakfast this morning? There are a lot of great players out there and it's tough to include or remember everybody.

Hey. If you don't go out on the limb, you won't come up with cliches to defend yourself, or give 110 percent.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Guitar On The Brain

LATELY I'VE HAD guitar on the brain. Maybe it's the fallout from going to the Dallas Guitar Show, or maybe it's several students who want to learn some very cool songs.

Maybe it's hanging out with the kids at Union United Methodist Church.

Or maybe it's the fact I'm a very average player who wants to get better, and I own a music store, and I better be able to play, dang it.

I talk a lot to my students about feel and touch, but I'm too heavy-handed strumming chords. I gotta work on that.

I'm looking into getting a new guitar, one to play out with the Cheeseburgers, one nobody else around here has, one that will rock and roar and look cool and make me a better player, just by default.

That kind of guitar doesn't exist. But I can still dream.

I should be doing something constructive, like sanding the floors in the house, raking up the hay from mowing the lawn, learning how to use QuickBooks. Or writing my Local Q blog. Or getting Sheryl lunch.

Nah. I'm learning how to strum 7th blues chords, pick out lead scales, and how to play the Star Spangled Banner in G.

Maybe I'll get better at this guitar thing, yet.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Many Sides of Chip "Tookie" Gerdes

CHIP GERDES WAS many things - passionate, infuriating, energetic, opinionated and very, very funny. Quincy was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing yesterday morning of an apparent heart attack.

I knew Chip through his rambling blog posts, love of music and his rabble rousing with, the upstart online "newspaper" he started with a former Herald-Whig and WGEM guy. We didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things and Chip took great delight in trying to scoop me when The Whig and QNO butted heads.

His real name was Parker. He nicknamed himself "Tookie." He had many sides and you were never sure which one you'd encounter. changed the media landscape around here. Before it rolled around, I never worried about being scooped. But you never knew where QNO was digging or what they were up to next, and it forced traditional media to up their games and finally take online reporting seriously. QNO didn't seriously dig into covering crime and courts, making my life easier, but they sure made covering politics interesting.

The changes at The Whig my last few years there were staggering, and QNO was one of many reasons.

Chip loved music and the local music scene. He hired my old band, The Funions, to play at this wife's birthday party at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. We opened for Quincy band Fielder, a band Chip loved. He even showed up one night at one of our legendary practice sessions in the back of Vegas Music.

Chip didn't care who he ticked off, and he motored a mile a minute. Say what you want about him leaning to starboard and his Tea Parties - the guy lived and breathed politics. To say he was a "political consultant" is putting it mildly.

And he loved his family, especially his daughter. He talked about her all the time.

I hadn't seen him for a while. The last time was at some event, and he bought me a beer and was talking about a "revolution" somewhere. I just laughed, as always.

Farewell, Chip. Quincy is a poorer place with your passing, and peace and prayers to your family.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Gone too soon and random stuff

HOW DOES MONDAY morning turn into Monday afternoon before you blink? Well, when you get a massive LTD guitars shipment into Second String Music, time flies. A customer just said, "You have a great job, you get to sit around and play all day!" Well, something like that .....

- Sorry to hear about the deaths of several young Quincy residents. We'll have more later in the week. Life is precious.

- Got sucked into the NHL playoffs for the first time Sunday. I vowed not to watch after the lockout, but the playoffs are the playoffs and I like watching games on the laptop via NBC sports.

- We've been watching Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire. Perfect after a long day of watching Sheryl tear up living room carpet or sitting around and playing all day.

- No no no, Frank Haxel did not set off the store alarm Sunday. Move away, remain calm, everything is fine ....

- There are rumors of a Cheeseburgers practice this week. After an extended break, we hit the stage at One Restaurant a week from Friday, and play at the Bridge The Gap race the next morning.

- And finally ... the 6-2 senior graduates from Western Illinois University Saturday. Dang it. I just blinked again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

May weather. Ick.

THE MOST FRUSTRATING thing about the weather isn't, well, the weather.

It's the way Mother Nature toys with us.

Earlier this week is was picture perfect, sunny and 70, shorts and a T shirt. Today it's cold, rainy and there's snow coming. Or so claims the weather map.

What? Snow? In Quincy? In May?

Many years ago I played in a Gus Macker tournament in Gaylord, Michigan. It snowed. Nobody blinked an eye, because it was Northeast Michigan, even though it was the middle of June.

But in Quincy, in May, this is not acceptable. It's like driving all the way to Walmart or the mall. We'd really rather not deal with it.

If it snows today in Quincy, the new mayor might just replace the incumbent meteorologist, the headline on the front page of the paper will be HUGE and the Dogwood Parade Saturday will feature a lot of hats and gloves.

I don't think Mother Nature cares.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Backyard radio bliss

I DID SOMETHING last night I haven't done in years - listened to a baseball game while sitting in the backyard by the fire.

It was a beautiful night, too nice to be sitting inside. So I went to the Dollar General and bought a $5 piece of crap radio. It works. I'm happy.

I found the Cubs game, lit the fire, grabbed a beverage and sat under the stars.

It. Was. Bliss.

In my youth I was a radio freak, listening to Blue Jays, Expos, Maple Leafs and Canadiens games, even on the French stations. When we moved to Michigan I fell asleep listening to Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey doing Tigers contests.

Last night, the Cubs were playing the Padres. I don't particularly care about either team, but Pat Hughes, the Cubs radio announcer, is one of the best around. He's understated and doesn't scream, he fills in the dead spots with timely info and he has a very sly and dry sense of humor.

Color guy Keith Moreland isn't bad, either. He asked Hughes if he ever Tweets, and Hughes said, "In the shower." Crooner or Sinatra? "Now you are getting personal," Hughes said. "Sinatra."

There's a very steady pace to baseball and I prefer to let the words paint the picture. In a world of instant access and 24 hours of steady nonsense, it's nice to let your mind wander and soak it all in, and make the determination for yourself.

I also love the sound of the ball hitting the mitt and the crack of the bat meeting the ball, and the crowd roaring.

It's supposed to rain for the next three days, and the Cubs are playing this afternoon. Rats ... I suppose I could suffer through a Cardinals game.

Well. I wouldn't go that far.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Church Scholarship

EMILY WAS HOME a few weeks ago and went to her old church. We used to attend First Union Congregational at 12th and Maine, and sometimes I miss it, there were a lot of good people there.

Serious Oboe Players!
Emily has decided to attend Eastman in Rochester, N.Y., to pursue her post-graduate degree in music performance. She got a great offer from Eastman after auditions at Northwestern, Cleveland and Julliard.

It still isn't cheap, and First Union has a scholarship available. I am encouraging Emily to take advantage of the opportunity, because every dime helps.

It's comforting and gratifying to know the fine folks at 12th and Maine still remember Emily, who grew up in the church.

Also, she graduates from Western Illinois in 12 days. GUH. Let's do the time warp again ....