Friday, February 28, 2014

Hooptie Doo and stolen cars in the Hood

GREG ELLERY IS a legend. Not only is he starring in the upcoming "Guitar Drop" video we filmed at Second String Music last Saturday, he's also making a bid to play himself in a movie about the making of the movie "The Room." In case you don't know about "The Room," it's quite possibly the worst movie ever made and Greg appeared in quite a few scenes, mostly breaking up fights.

Anyway, Greg gave up the L.A. lights many years ago and now hangs out with my sister-in-law, Stephanie. They live about six blocks from us in Calftown, The Hood as we like to call it. Early this morning, Steph was awakened by the sound of a car trying to start. She and Greg went outside to find a drunk guy trying to steal Greg's car.

The car is an old battered Ford Escort nicknamed "Hooptie." As in, Hooptie Doo. I think. Anyway, Greg dragged Drunk Guy out of the car, Steph's son Brant called the police, and the fun ensued.

Drunk Guy walked away at first, but kept coming back to Greg to ask for a cigarette. When po po arrived, Drunk Guy took off, but he didn't get far. Presumably he is sleeping it off as we speak at Fifth and Vermont in the luxury suite known at the Adams County Jail.

I'm thinking of going to his initial court appearance. Then I would say out loud, in open court, "Hey Drunk Guy. Don't you know Greg would have paid you to take the car?"

The moral of the story, of course, is that smoking can ruin your health.

Only in The Hood can a guy who was in The Room catch a drunk guy try to steal his Hooptie.

You. Can't. Make. It. Up.

And I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dogs saved by a Blue

MY HAT IS off to St. Louis Blues player David Backes, who played for the U.S. men's hockey team in Sochi.

While he was there, he and his wife helped rescue two stray dogs. Click here for the link. He brought them back to St. Louis and they will be given good homes.

Sheryl and I have three rescue dogs and a rescue cat. They are the best pets. I salute Mr. Backes and I might even wish him and the Blues good luck, except if they are playing the Wings.

Hockey players do stuff like this all the time, and much of it falls below the radar. I'm glad this story got out.

Tucker, Fast Eddie, Lucy and Bella all agree, too!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The voice of God and the NFL draft

RECENTLY AN NFL prospect left the draft combine because he heard the voice of God. I am not making this up. Click here for the link.

One possible reason is the player doesn't want to be drafted because he wants to play for the Seattle Seahawks. Sure, why not? If you win the Super Bowl, you automatically get a good word with the Good Lord, so that makes sense.

The voice of God is one thing. NFL coaches and scouts are another. Can you say red flag and good luck in your civil career?

I'm a bit wary of people who claim they hear the voice of God. I'm not sure God actually speaks English, although I think it's an amendment to our Constitution that he does. I believe God speaks Everything.

In church last Sunday, we did a very interesting thing. Rev. Chuck Hetzler asked us to silently pray for one person in particular, and remember what we heard or saw while praying.

This person, who was in the room, then heard about our experiences. While some of the things that came out were general, others were direct and made perfect sense.

I believe that prayer is a very personal and powerful thing. And surely God can speak to us, just as a song or a painting or a sunset on Lake Michigan speaks to us.

And I thank God he did not tell me I was being drafted by the Lions.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Break a leg, Tucker

May I help you Ma'am?
I WENT UP to the fifth floor of our building yesterday afternoon to check on a broken window. Tucker, as he has many times, came with me. I took care of the window, then headed down. On the fourth floor landing I heard something, and then silence.

Tucker? Tucker? TUCK!


He flat out disappeared. I checked all the rooms on every floor. Sheryl came up to help, and we discovered a cable worker had been in the building. So we thought Tucker might have escaped.

I got in the car and started driving around downtown, then Sheryl called. Seems a guy who works in the building across the street saw Tucker on the roof of the adjoining building. Somehow he jumped out of an east window onto the roof - we think he may have seen a bird.

Sheryl crawled through the window, picked up the frightened dog, and noticed his front left leg was hanging funny and bloody. We took him to Dr. Drew Kaiser, and he got an x-ray then stayed overnight with a splint on his leg.

We are still waiting to hear if he'll need surgery, but he did break both small leg bones between what would be his wrist and elbow. He's in a splint and in pretty good spirits, and we are hoping he comes home today.

It's amazing. I put a post on Facebook about praying for dogs, and 100 people liked it, with another 60-plus leaving comments. That means a lot. It's just the three dogs and us in the house and they are basically our kids. We are grateful for all the support.

We'll keep you posted. We miss our buddy, and we just want him to get better and run like the wind again.

Monday, February 24, 2014

No working guitars destoyed

WE HAD A smashing good time Saturday for Second String Music's third-year anniversary party. Greg Ellery and I competed in the finals of the Dropping Guitars From The Roof Of Second String Music, and the winner was .... well. If you weren't there, you'll have to see the Table 16 video coming out later this week.

We'll keep you posted.

Yes, we smashed real acoustic guitars. No, they did not work. Back in the fall we received a shipment of acoustic guitars we thought would be good beginner instruments. We quickly found out they were not playable - the necks were warped and the strings simply wouldn't press down on the fretboard. Instead of return them to the manufacturer we decided to have some fun with them.

We would never inflict these guitars on a new player. They. Did. Not. Work.

So Sheryl stripped all the usable parts, which are probably worth as much as the guitars. Now to smash them and use them for promotional purposes.

Last week, Second String Music did donate three, count 'em, THREE, real working guitars for auctions at local charitable events. And we are supporting a local service club's trivia night. AND we have our big Six String Heroes party coming up. So we know about giving back and supporting the people who support us.

In the end, we had some gravity-defying fun and nobody got hurt. Crash 'em up, cowboy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

No silver lining

JUST WATCHED THE medal ceremony after the women's hockey final between the United States and Canada. It took a miracle comeback by the Canadians to win in overtime. The U.S. hit the post on an empty net clear with just over a minute left, and they lost a 2-0 lead in the last three minutes.

First of all, I was glad NBC came to their senses and showed the game on their regular outlets. I hope Oprah or Judge Judy or How The World Cringes or whatever got pre-empted will be back. But not tomorrow, when the men play in the semifinals.

The U.S. women have nothing to be ashamed of. I only caught bits and pieces of the game but it seemed to me they deserved to win. Hockey, however, is not a game of 57 minutes. If you can't close it out, you don't take home the gold.

The U.S. players were understandably glum and teary when getting their silver medals. They might feel like throwing them into Lake Ontario or the Black Sea right now, but time will prove how great a team they were, and the future of women's hockey in this country is bright.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I wear my sunglasses at night - or in the bank

I JUST GOT prescription sunglasses. It's a beautiful thing, not squinting while walking the dogs in a normally blinding glare from the snow.

I used to think people who wore sunglasses inside were weird, or Rick Ocasek. Now I think they are either light-sensitive or lazy, like me. I'm not taking them off when I walk into the store or the bank, even if I look like a dork.

When you get older, you tend not to care about silly things like how you look, or if people think you are a weirdo because they can't see your eyes. So what if I can't see inside with my sunglasses? I'm cool. I'm hip. I'm blind and will likely walk into a wall and break my nice new sunglasses.

I like my sunglasses. The sun is out in Quincy after a long winter. You can hear the snow thawing. This afternoon when it hits the corner of Fifth and Maine, I'm going to go sit in the sun with my nice new sunglasses, drink coffee and close my eyes.

And I won't have to squint when I open them.

By the way, Corey Hart is awesome.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Politics, again

IT MUST BE political season. Sunday I drove past the Senior Center and there was a big Republican rally going on, signs everywhere, lots of flags and warmer temperatures at Seventh and York.

Finally, a candidate I can support!
This morning a big bus with "Bruce Rauner For Governor" on the side rolled down Maine Street. Actually, it's sucking up about 10 parking spaces across from the Washington Perk as we speak. Appropriate.

I am going to ask the driver if he needs gas. Then I'll direct him across the bridge into Missouri. It's 10 cents a gallon cheaper and you deprive the state of badly needed revenue for Chicago pot holes, etc.

Just so we are clear, I am equal opportunity bitter when it comes to politicians, and that means I generally don't care for Republicans or Democrats. Our two-party system might be the "best in the world," but I'm already sick of mudslinging and empty promises. And this is just primary season.

However, I will get out and vote. For the best candidates. Period.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Spirited crowd

THE CHEESEBURGERS PLAYED a tremendous show Saturday night at Spirit Knob Winery, located just north of Ursa, maybe a dozen miles north of Quincy. We weren't sure what to expect - we played a fun outdoor show there Labor Day Weekend, and it was packed.
Setting up at SK. Get back here NOW Frank!

But it snowed Saturday afternoon, and we thought maybe it would keep people away.

It didn't.

Spirit Knob is beautiful in any setting - a moonlit summer night, a warm Sunday afternoon, or even a frigid Saturday night in February. The main log cabin building is spacious enough, but put 100-plus people in there with the wine flowing, and it's like playing for 10,000 crazies.

We haven't played much this calendar year, so the band needed to let loose and it reminded us how much fun it is when the crowd wants to party and have a good time. It was worth feeling like a zombie Sunday after being run over by the rock and roll truck.

We also missed Frank Haxel, our roadie of doom, who had a prior commitment. It took us two hours to tear down, as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour. Get back here NOW Frank!

We are booking new shows all the time - we had several offers Saturday night for later in the year. Click here for the updated schedule. And yes ... we are working on new shirts for the Fairly Prominent 2014 Tour.

Up next is our big March 8 party for Six String Heroes at Turner Hall. Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday morning musings

HAPPY FEB. 14. Tomorrow, Sheryl and I celebrate our sixth-year anniversary of our first date. Thankfully that means we get to do fun stuff today like host a jam session at the store. The Cheeseburgers will be slogging through the snow Saturday and rocking Spirit Knob Winery, so put your boots on and come party with us.

- I'm watching the Olympics on my laptop this morning (before my free preview minutes ran out, our local cable company sucks, and I'm just going to be quiet now). Sweden is playing Switzerland in men's hockey. There are cheerleaders in the stands. Cheerleaders? And a British guy is calling the game. "Yes, the ice has been tidied up quite nicely during the recent stoppage." Right. Where's my fish and chips?

- I'd think about turning on the TV to watch the games. Wait. It's morning. That means we'd be stuck with NBC's terrific morning show. "Look. We are in Sochi. Aren't we great? Isn't it beautiful? What's the weather like, Al?" Heaven forbid they show anything live.

- I did have a blast playing open mic night at One last night. Two of my students, Bella and Sam, joined me for a couple of songs. Let the angels sing, and stay out of the way, old man .... And we unveiled our new kazoo band. Lisa Wigoda, Rae Rees and myself tore the house down with sterling renditions of "Baby Face," another song I can't remember, and "Hey Jude." People were crying by the end, maybe in hopes we'd be done soon. Sheryl says it was tears of laughter and joy. The kazoo is a powerful instrument! Just remember- hum, don't blow or suck.

- It was nice to see John and Kathy Hodge one last time before they move to Kansas. John just makes me laugh out loud. Oh, and he's the best guitar player, like, ever.

- The one night I decide to leave the car out, we get hit with snow. More panic in the Quincy streets. You know, when we get more than an inch of the white stuff.

- Well, I'm feeling better. It's Friday! I had another week of great guitar lessons, the store is humming along quite nicely, we are making progress on our second-floor renovations, and I don't miss the rear view mirror I broke backing my car out of the garage the other morning. Be careful out there, Q-Town.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ringo and Paul still rock on

GOT A CHANCE to see the Beatles 50th anniversary show last night, a rerun of Sunday's CBS show. Man, was it great to see some of the great experienced guys and younger rockers paying tribute to George, Paul, John and Ringo.

Loved Imagine Dragons and their version of "Revolution." Dave Grohl, Jeff Lynne and band smoked "Hey Bulldog." Joe Walsh and Gary Clark Jr. might want to think about putting a new band together, if their cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is any indication.

I have several guitar students really into the songs of Ed Sheeran, and now I know why after his rendition of "In My Life."

While most of the covers were classics and well-known Beatles songs, there were a few less popular versions. By far the best was Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart doing "Fool On The Hill" from Magical Mystery Tour.

And how is this for the backing band - Steve Lukather and Peter Frampton on guitar, Kenny Aronoff on drums and Don Was as the director.

Think about it - Paul and Ringo are in their, what, 70s? And they are still up there and getting people to go absolutely crazy with music and charisma, charm and wit.

Oh. Did I mention I love the Eurythmics?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Don't be a hot dog, or protecting yourself?

INTERESTING STORY IN today's Herald-Whig about the downtown business owner being convicted by a jury Tuesday for using a Taser on a supposedly rowdy customer.

Read the story here. Or buy a paper today. Don O'Brien, as usual, did a great job writing the story.

The basic gist is that the business owner (it's two blocks around the corner from our store) was in her hot dog restaurant, claimed customers were being unruly, and then it got ugly.

Here's the first thing to say - do not take the law into your own hands. Certainly we have the right to protect ourselves. Had this gal called the police right away, the outcome may have been different.

Certainly the "shades of truth" theory is in play here. Whatever happened, alcohol was involved and it was 2 in the morning, and those are never good combinations. While nobody should get shocked, it's hard to have sympathy for the victim in this case.

If I were a late-night store owner, I'd be careful and take precautions because you are dealing with a lot of drunk customers - there are three or four bars/nightclubs open into the late hours within a block of the restaurant. But I'd also have to weigh taking money from drunk and stupid people vs. bad behavior. Is it worth it to stay open late?

The owner's two daughters were working in the restaurant. If my daughter is in my store, and there's trouble .... I'm not sure what would happen.

I did not attend the trial, don't know any of the people involved. But it's pretty obvious from reading the story that the restaurant owner's story didn't jive with the facts of the case - she claimed she didn't shock anybody, yet the victim had burn marks. She claimed she didn't go outside the restaurant, yet the police officer who responded said she was outside.

Jurors aren't dumb. They can see and hear and smell out dubious stories.

Now she's facing up to five years in prison. Assuming she has no priors, she'll have a shot at getting probation, if she says the right things during sentencing and in her pre-sentence report with the probation department.

People have the right to defend themselves. We've had few issues inside our store, though we aren't open late. One night we were in here jamming and a very intoxicated man walked in, stumbled around and started yelling incoherently. All it took was for Tim Smith (6-foot-5) and myself (6-7) to stand up and politely inform the man his time was up. Problem solved, no Taser needed.

I actually feel sorry for a dirtball who would try anything with Sheryl around - it would turn out very badly for that person. And I'd just be watching.

Then I'd get a hot dog. To go.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guitar For Dummies, for POLIS

I AM DOING a presentation for POLIS next month titled "Guitar For Dummies." I'm the dummy, with guitars.

I've been thinking a lot about how to present this to a great bunch of people, mostly over the age of 55. I want them to know how much fun it is to play and make music. I think we'll make the 90 minutes go by pretty fast. I've helped out Rock A. Bye Johnny Barnard at this class a few times and we've always had a blast.

I am an average guitar player and singer. I don't do the solo thing much. I have a lot of respect for the guys and gals around here who can do it, people like Liz Bentley, Steve Rees, Logan Kammerer, Zeke Cernea and more.

The key will be finding some songs the group will like, or at least listen to. I'm hiding in my back room a little more to learn new songs, or relearn songs. I want this group to know how much music means and how it effects everybody and everything around us.

Hopefully it will be fun and a great learning experience. Click on the above link for more info about POLIS. The presentation is Tuesday, March 11 at 2 p.m. at Quincy University's North Campus.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Watching The Olmypics

SUNDAY AFTERNOON BEFORE going couch-comatose, I watched the Olympics. Some figure skater was flailing around on the ice and then fell down. The announcers acted like his life was over. Then they said, "Well, he only barely qualified for the Slovenian team, so he wasn't a threat to win a medal."


I came back a while later after emerging from the couch coma. That is, I tried to come back. Every time I clicked to NBC, there were commercials. And commercials. And features about the commercials. And promos for their great coverage. No twirling skaters or Kamikaze snowboarders or laboring cross country skiers.

Click. Click. Double Click.

Then I tried again last night. Except I made the mistake of going online to read about the Olympics. I knew 12 hours ago the favored American didn't win, so there was no tension or drama watching the downhill. Bode? That's his real name, Bode? Fits for a skier, I guess.

I love watching Olympic hockey, but I'm not getting up at 3 a.m.

Not yet, anyway.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Judging the Cornerstone Dancing All Stars

Poor Julie!
TONIGHT IS THE annual Dancing With The Local Stars event at The Ambiance. It benefits Cornerstone, which offers mental health and counseling services. I danced in the first one and forgot half the routine on purpose so other teams could have a chance.

Then I was a judge two years ago, and missed last year because of a Cheeseburger gig. I'm back tonight as a judge for what they are billing as the All-Star edition. This has rapidly become THE event in Quincy to attend.

Kris Kutcher, who owns Kristopher's next to Second String Music, tried to bribe me with $3. Angie Asmann of Nu-Fit offered her free Pilates lessons. Casey Schnack-Shild smiled very sweetly and offered free defense counseling in case I blow the stop sign at Sixth and State again. Victoria Kelley promised me a role in her husband's upcoming movie or to let me score the soundtrack.

I am immune to such temptation. I will judge squarely on the merits of movement, enthusiasm and style. Buying me a lemonade wouldn't hurt, however.

Judging with me is Mayor Kyle Moore, who nearly won the first event with partner Lindsey Hess, and Susan Pierson of Media Development. I think we all agree that we are less about perfect movement and more about enthusiasm, imagination and having fun.

The crowd also has a large vote in the competition. It's more about raising money for a great cause and having fun than anything else, but I do have a piece of advice for the dancers.

Don't bring your weak stuff. And don't forget your routine. That only works for people who judge instead of dance.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cold weather, toques and dogs

LOOK. I KNOW it's cold, okay? Right now it's minus five degrees out there. The wind chill is minus 23. How do we know? I read it online. So it must be true.

There are two ways to deal with the cold, according to scientific government studies. And by scientific government studies I mean extensive interviews with my dogs. Most of the time in the morning they are really antsy and want to go for their walk. This morning they are wrapped up in balls and rolling their eyeballs at me.

Lucy will help you park.
The first way is to avoid it. The second way is to bundle up and deal with it. Wear a toque, Hoser. Look it up if you don't know what it is. And keep your head down when walking into the wind.

The store has been quiet
the past two days. People simply don't want to come out, although most of our lessons have continued. Last night our band Pepper Spray played at One Restaurant, and at least a few people had enough of cabin fever and ventured out. I mean, who wouldn't want to hear us butcher "You Really Got Me" and have a great meal? It was great fun. And it wasn't too cold to have a Goose Island before eating. Or two. Thank you, Frank Haxel, for again driving me home.

You know how cold it is? I'm considering reading one of the TV weather stories. Wait. Sorry. I've been outside too long.

All I know is that it's warm inside Second String Music, and especially warm in the lesson rooms. I long for the morning I can sit outside at Fifth and Maine with my coffee and watch the world go by, but for now, I'll make sure the coffee is really hot and drink it inside.

Gotta go take the dogs for a walk. I hope they have their toques.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hey. We can use the garage!

WHEN SHERYL AND I moved into our Calftown abode in May 2009, we took one look at the garage by the alley and said, "Ugh."

It's sort of leaning to one side. At that time it had a wood burning stove, moldy rugs and carpet covering the cracked floor, and decades of wood shavings from a previous owner. It's not very big and we didn't think a car would fit into it. At the back is an old dog house, attached much later after the garage was built.

We got rid of the stove. I tore up the rugs and ticked off legions of cockroaches and other life forms. I swept it out and put our lawnmower and scooter in it. We even put a new door with an opener on it.

Seeing another storm rolling in, I decided to clean it out yesterday with the hopes I could squeeze the car into it.

First, the hapless Frank Haxel was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as usual. He mentioned throwing stuff away into his Vancil Performing Arts bin. In our garage was a bunch of carpet from Sheryl's infamous "let's see what the wood floors look like" endeavor last year.

"Hey Frank," I said. "Can we borrow your truck?"

Notice how I said "we," not "I."

So Frank came over, we dumped the carpet in his truck, then smushed it into his bin. Last night I moved the scooter and lawnmower and other stuff into the back by the old dog house. And, voilĂ , the car fit in the garage.

I got excited. Bring it on, snow! My car is safe, protected. No more scraping in the mornings. What a great deal!

Of course, it didn't start snowing heavily this morning until we got the car out of the garage and went to work.

As I walked the dogs down the alley before we left, Mary Dickerman poked her head out the window.

"Hey, can you clean out my garage so I can park in it, too?" she asked, hopefully.

Uh, sure thing, Mary. Just as soon as Frank empties out that bin.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A REAL weather story

THE LOCAL MEDIA is again going nuts, putting up front page stories about the weather and breathlessly telling everybody how bad Tuesday's storm will be. So I've written my own weather story.

Blizzards are yummy.
Not A Weather Reporter

A Quincy man has decided not to clean up his dog's doo doo in his backyard because of a large storm blasting its way west from the Rockies.

"No comment," dog owner Rodney Hart said. "Plus I'd be quoting myself in my own story and only TV guys do that."

When asked why this story was so short, Hart was succinct. "I need a blizzard, not dog doo," he said. "And I'm sorry I used a big word like 'succinct.'"
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