Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NYE in a blizzard

WHEN I WAS young, my family would celebrate New Year's Eve by letting the kids stay up and by praying as the clock struck midnight. My, how things changed as I got older.

For two years in a row in the late 1980s, we had the best NYE parties behind the old Rosewood house in Grand Rapids. It was a big field, and we had a huge bonfire to ring in the new year.

During my college years I worked at Kingma's Market. We sold Christmas trees, and I distinctly remember me and a co-worker, Peter Kuiper, driving a big box truck and picking up trees from massive homes in East Grand Rapids after Christmas. One time we got a large tip and ended up spending it at the Last Chance Bar on Burton near Kalamazoo, less than a mile from the old Kingma's. But that's another story.
Bye Bye 2014!

There were usually a few trees left over in the Kingma's lot, and one year we grabbed a bunch of them, along with some old and rotting wooden pallets, loaded them in the truck and drove to the place behind Rosewood. There was about three feet of snow on the ground, so we simply smashed the truck through the snow and the field, dumped off the trees and waited for nightfall.

This was more than 25 years ago, so the memories are fuzzy now, and likely more fuzzy the next day. I just remember it snowing hard as we huddled around the fire. We threw a Christmas tree into the pit, and it made a huge woooosh noise and exploded into flames.

Of course it was dumb and probably dangerous, though there was a ton of snow on the ground and we had water in a bucket, which promptly froze. One year a fire truck came down Rosewood, but the firefighters simply laughed at us after they saw it was a bunch of college kids, and they turned right around in the blizzard and left.

I can still see, smell and taste that bonfire. I remember being in a hurry to grow up around that time, but now it's all about remembering how simple life was, and how much fun we had.

No bonfires in blizzards tonight. But I'm still smiling.

My immediate family is long gone from Grand Rapids. I have a dear cousin, Natalie, who lives about a mile from the house on Rosewood. Perhaps she can drive down the street, pause in front of the last house on the right, and laugh out loud.

I bet she'll still smell the smoke, too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's resolutions

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS are nice gestures. Do they work? I don't know.

This year, I'm going to cut down on my caffeine, spend less time online, eat better, keep Angus The Young from chewing my ankles and just generally be happier and more appreciative.

There. Dare to dream. Nobody says resolutions have to be realistic.

Happy New Year and please make it a safe one. There is a lot of stuff going on in Quincy Wednesday night - I'm playing for the dinner crowd at BoodaLu, and we just learned Pepper Spray is playing Saturday night at The Blind Pig. So musically, we are off to a rousing start.

I think 2015 will be a great year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Risk - a different game today

I REMEMBER LONG and drawn out games of Risk when I was a boy. Usually I played with my brothers and usually they beat me. It involved strategy and luck of the dice roll. But I do recall it was a fairly simple game.

Things change a bit in 30 years, eh?

Last night in Calftown at the Hart Manor, we busted out the current Risk game. Sheryl's nephews, Brant and Evan, joined me and legendary gamer Greg Ellery for a rousing battle around the dining room table.

Other than the fact it took a couple of hours for us to figure out all the new rules, it went pretty well. There are now "Objectives" and "Airfields" and winning the game is different - didn't you used to simply squash the other guy and take all his countries?

At least the dice part is still the same. But the game parts are a lot different (Angus says TASTEE!), the map is smaller, there are capitols and cities, and I squint a lot more and have trouble reading the names of all the countries now, too. Or territories, or whatever they are called.

Anyway, it was great fun. I think Brant won. I highly recommend a pint of Goose Island Ten Hills to make the game easier, as well.

Let's do it again! Maybe I can find some reading glasses to see what I'm doing, too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas list

AND A VERY Merry Christmas to ...

1. Our UPS and FedEx drivers. Not much fun this time of year. You get us our stuff, and we appreciate it, especially the big package of cheese and sausage that just showed up.

2. All the patient people. Our store has been crazy the past few days. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all our loyal Second String Music customers, new and old.

3. The store owner who just cranked "Big Bottoms" by Spinal Tap. Wait. That was my wife. Thank you, Sheryl.

4. Coach Andy Douglas and his Quincy Blue Devil basketball players, who delivered Christmas gifts and goodies to three deserving families this week.

5. My brothers in rock and roll, The Cheeseburgers. Stay tuned. 2015 could be verrrrryyyy interesting.

6. Matt Schuckman, Stephanie Oitker and Frank Cash from The Herald-Whig, who greeted an old and former sports guy last Saturday night and made him feel comfortable. Just like falling off a bike.

7. The gal who bought her husband Moody Blues and The Knack vinyl albums for Christmas. Can't say who she is - it would wreck the Christmas surprise. Hubby will be happy!

8. Cindy Vancil, who brought Christmas stockings stuffed with goodies for Fast Eddie and our three dogs. Angus chewed on his bone for hours yesterday and was one happy puppy.

9. Grannie Anne Mays, our surrogate mother in the Q-Town. She rocks!

11. You. By the way, I skipped 10 and went right to 11, because, you know, it's one louder. So have a one louder and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Super busy Christmas

YESTERDAY WAS THE single busiest day we've ever had at Second String Music. It never got crowded, but until the last hour, there were people in and out at a steady pace.

Sure, we sold a lot of stuff. We made a lot of people happy. Sheryl fixed up some vintage guitars - a couple came in with a Gibson Les Paul and Gibson SG belonging to their father. He hadn't played them in years. Sheryl restrung them and now they look and sound fabulous.

Maybe Santa will bring me an SG for Christmas. Some year.

We collapsed in a heap at home last night. But I summoned enough energy to pull the tree out of the basement, because Emily is coming home for Christmas and we have to put the tree up. Half the lights don't work, it's lopsided and some of the fake branches are missing. But it's a tree. And it's up.

This morning, the amazing Anne Mays came in and invited us to her house for Christmas. So all is well and right with the world.

Merry Christmas. Hope you get all your stuff done and the tree looks good. It's sunny and climbing to 50 today in the Q-town, and we are having a green Christmas.

I might just have to smoke a stogie on the sidewalk this afternoon to celebrate.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Slow down at Christmas

I JUST WITNESSED a guy at the bank across the street being a real Scrooge. I didn't quite catch the gist of his complaints. "I have 16 accounts here and I put millions of dollars through this place," he said. "And you are going to make me do what?" He calmed down enough to get a check cashed and then left muttering to himself. I made sure to tell the bank manager that her teller did a good job with a real jerk.

I have one account and a mortgage at my bank. Maybe that's why I'm happy when I go in there. How much money you have matters not.

There are two rules about banks. One, if you are not happy, don't take it out on the poor teller. Go see management or somebody in charge. Two, don't clog up the drive through by balancing your accounts and cashing in a savings bond while opening an IRA. You might want to get out of your car for those. Thank you.

It's Christmas. It can be a stressful time. Slooowwwww down. We see so many happy people here at Second String Music right now because they are getting cool stuff for family and friends. It's all about the giving, and it's all about the peaceful time of the season.

Merry Christmas and peace on earth, and all that good stuff. And chill, brother. Your blood pressure will go down and you'll be happier, too.

Friday, December 19, 2014

No gigs ... for a while

TONIGHT, THE MIGHTY Adam Yates and I play a private Christmas party. Then ... nothing.

As in, for the first time in probably a decade, I have no gigs lined up. None. Zip.

The Cheeseburgers are regrouping and looking for a keyboard player (we have some leads). Pepper Spray has something in March, I think. No solo shows out there, for now.

You know what? It's all good. It will be nice waking up Sunday morning and not dealing with the Rock and Roll Truck. For that matter, it will be nice hanging out on a Saturday night with Sheryl and chilling, or maybe catching a band around here.

Of course, the minute I post this, somebody will call. There are always places and chances to play.

For now, I will enjoy the break.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Weather story

I WOKE UP this morning to discover a blanket of fresh snow on the ground. Beautiful! It's more like Christmas now and a little bit of the white stuff never hurt nobody.

Unless you live in Quincy.

When I first moved here from Michigan, I laughed out loud at the reaction of Quincyans to snow. They panicked and there were crashes and weather alerts and front page stories and grocery stores ran out of milk.

"Uh, this is just another day in September in Alpena," I said.

When I was a reporter, I hated the first snow of the season. It meant you had to duck when you got into the newsroom because the boss always wanted a story, usually on the front page. You couldn't blame him, because that's all people were talking about.

Then I'd have to watch the TV news to see what they were doing - "Snow! We talk to real people about what this means to you!"

GUH. It's making me glad I jumped out of the plane without a parachute a few years ago.

So here is my weather story today. You are welcome.

Not A Reporter Anymore
Hello, Quincy. It snowed. It is still snowing. There isn't much on the ground. It will stop later today. The roads are slippery. Don't cry when you slide off the road. And go get milk and cause panic at the grocery store. The end.

Yup. I still got it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas video

WE HAD A blast at Martini's last night debuting the video for "Been So Long."

Chris Kelley from Table 16 Productions is amazing. We couldn't be happier with the finished product and it was so much fun to make. A big thanks also to Ben Poland and Mike Sorensen for hanging out too.

It took two hours to film, all in our Second String Music building and at Fifth and Maine. It stars Greg Ellery and Adam Yates. And Angus the Young. Apparently there is a brief glimpse of Sheryl in the video too.

Every time I watch it I see Greg doing something goofy or making a face. When Sheryl saw it for the first time, she said, "You guys are a bunch of dorks." That's why it works!

I still have some CDs left for sale with "Been So Long" and eight other Christmas songs, for sale for just $5 at the store. Maybe next year we'll make a video for "Be Nice To Your Pets For Christmas." Maybe.

Thank you thank you thank you Chris and Victoria, Table 16, and everybody who helps them be creative geniuses!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Couches, car keys and change

SUNDAY NIGHT WHILE we were comatose on our respective couches, Sheryl reached under the cushion to find Angus' squeaky toy and found Jimmy Hoffa.

Well. Not really. She did, however, pull out a lot of other stuff after getting the urge to clean.

We don't get these urges often, thank goodness. In fact, on Sunday I wanted to clean my car and Sheryl talked me out of it. So we often get the urge to NOT clean, which I think is healthier, if maybe less sanitary.

Angus loves this Love Seat! (and his bone)
Anyway, Sheryl got the vacuum out for both couches and I gave up five minutes of sleeping through football. She found 88 cents in change, a 1997 spaghetti sauce coupon, lots of rubber bands, crayons, toy parts, a nice pen and a car key.

Yup. A car key. It was in a little Buick envelope. Sheryl got the couches eight years ago after her mother died and her father redecorated his house, and we believe the key came from a vehicle her mom drove. I don't believe in signs or coincidence, so there is no proof her late mother was saying, "Look. I don't need it anymore, so why bother cleaning to find it?"

Sheryl says her mother also hated to clean. So did mine, come to think of it.

By the way .... has anybody seen the TV remote?

Monday, December 15, 2014

More fires downtown

THERE WAS ANOTHER scary fire just a block from Second String Music Friday night. Fortunately our firefighters knocked it down before it took out the entire Elkton building. The owners are vowing to carry on and we wish them the best.

The Whig did a very good story about the owners of the building between the Elkton and the Newcomb, which burned a year ago September. I'd be a little nervous, too.

KHQA is doing a similar story and their new reporter just came in for an interview. He was very professional, and we look forward to watching it tonight. Sheryl bonded with him because they are both from Florida - bet he didn't know he should buy warm slippers/boots if he's working in Quincy!

The recent downtown fires don't temper our optimism about being here in the least. There are a lot of old buildings down here, including ours. All I know is that we are having a good Christmas season and the next 10 days will be busy at Fifth and Maine.

We love being downtown. We love owning a historic old building and we shoulder the responsibility.

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Years Eve shows, no shows

New Years 2011
IT LOOKS LIKE I have New Year's Eve off. This is the first time in ... well, a long time. Playing music on the biggest party night of the year is fun, don't get me wrong. And I will never turn down a chance to play, if things work out

But I'm looking forward to a quieter night. Maybe we'll just stay home. Maybe we'll go over to a friend's house and keep it low key. Maybe we'll just collapse in a heap after a busy Christmas season.

And maybe I'll wake up on New Year's Day and I won't feel like I've been run over by the rock and roll truck. Happy New Year's indeed!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Full Frame preview

SHERYL AND I were honored last night to be part of the cast and crew screening of Chris and Victoria Kelley's new movie, Full Frame. Click here for the trailer and more info about Table 16 Productions.

It was shot in Quincy this past year, much of it around Fifth and Maine. The main character's photo studio is in the WCU Building across the street, but the interior scenes were filmed on the third floor of our historic Second String Music building. Chris also shot scenes on our second floor.

And, I almost threw out the carpet body bag used in the movie. Long story. After you see the film, I will tell you about it.

Full Frame is a good movie. The actors, all local, did an excellent job and the script is very good. The movie held our attention (a hard thing to do!) and we were kept guessing until the very end about the outcome.

Table 16 has made several movies, and I've liked watching them. But this is easily the best. Full Frame is all about the story and characters, and relies less on blood and gore and shaky cameras and more on pushing the story.

There will be a public screening soon for the film and I encourage everybody in Quincy to go see it, and to pick out the locations. Kudos to Chris, Victoria and everybody involved. Making movies is a ton of work and it takes guts, determination and stamina to see a project through to the end.

Also, Chris is doing the production work on our Christmas song video, and we'll have more info soon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fast Eddie poisons puppies

The barf was not this appetizing.
WE GOT A very nice gift a few weeks ago - a bowl with paper white bulbs and glass beads. Sheryl just had to keep the water filled over the beads and voilĂ ... They flower after a few weeks and are quite pretty, and the gesture was appreciated.

Fast Eddie, however, had other ideas.

We had the plant off to the side and out of the way, but the devious cat figured out a way to dislodge one of the bulbs. That, of course, drew the interest of Angus The Young (motto: I will eat anything anytime, yum yum, beeeeellllch). Angus tore the roots of the bulb to shreds, then Sheryl found the mess and removed the bulb from his jaws before he could eat it.

Then, the barfing started. I'm not going to get into too many details, but Angus has a long body which consists of a heart, lungs and a massive stomach and bowel system. He threw up about seven dogs worth of shtuff, and we got concerned.

Sheryl looked up "paper white bulbs pets" on Google and it turns out paper whites are poisonous to dogs. It took Angus several hours to get everything out of his system. We gave him water and he slept most of the afternoon, very unusual behavior for a normally hyper puppy.

Angus was back to his normal stuffed-bear-destroying self last night and he's fine today (other than the paper white gaseous odour). Eddie, however, is miffed.

"Crap," he said, smacking Angus in the head with a left paw jab. "I thought maybe he'd be out of commission for at least a couple of days. I mean, I didn't want to kill him or anything, but it would have been nice to not deal with him."

Sorry, Fast Eddie. Angus The Young is very much alive. And the paper whites have been taken to a safe place, so no more poisoned dogs.

And quit your devious plotting, Fast Eddie!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cheap stuffed animals for dogs

THERE IS A very cool Salvation Army thrift store just down the street from Second String Music. You can find buried treasure in the debris down there - I am proud owner of a Steve Yzerman Red Wings hat, bought for 50 cents.

Sheryl and I went this morning because we have a stuffed animal emergency. As in, our dogs have unstuffed all of the toys. Lucy, our late Border Collie, was a master at unstuffing stuffed animals, and she taught Tucker and Bella well. They, in turn, have used their knowledge and imparted to Angus, who will unstuff anything, toy or alive.

It was the cat.
Sheryl gathered up an armful of stuffed bears, all a dollar each. After she paid, she said, "You could help me by grabbing a bag of bears, you know." Right. Sorry. I was looking at the John Wayne DVD, the one with four of his best Western movies.

The moral of the story is, why go to a big box on Broadway and pay way too much when you can get them cheap downtown and bring them right to their demise?

Unstuffing is the stuff of legends for our dogs. Thank you, Salvation Army, for making it more affordable and fun.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Drums drums everywhere

LAST YEAR FOR Christmas Second String Music sold a lot of drum stuff. So we are stocked up. Sheryl says, "We have a lot of drums. Drums, drums, drums. And we will put them together for you."

D1 drum kit
We have the ddrum starter kits, in three sizes. The D1 is a beginner kit with cymbals. The D2R is a 4 piece rock kit and the D2 is the complete beginner kit with a stick bag and 6 sets of sticks. All of them come assembled and ready to play.
D2 Rock kit

We have bongos, djembe, congas, cajon, cowbells, sticks and more. Drum stuff everywhere at Fifth and Maine!

We even have a Yamaha electronic kit on consignment. They are great for churches or for moms and dads who don't want the racket of acoustic drums - headphones are a beautiful thing, especially on Christmas morning.

Drummers are interesting people. They are inventive, creative and take pride in rhythm, tempo and timing. It is never too early to start on drums, either. All the drums we sell come with 4 free lessons at Vancil Performing Arts Music Department, 8th & Ohio, where your drummer can really get a great head start in music.

Come see us at Fifth and Maine. It's already been an interesting morning, and our first Sunday of the Christmas season was good, too.

It's Christmas - let's make a joyful racket!

Friday, December 5, 2014

High school singers and Christmas music

THERE WAS AN event downtown last night ushering in the Christmas shopping season. A nativity scene was set up in Washington Park and though it was a cold and damp evening, there were quite a few people out and about. Win the Window and Shop Downtown are promoting our great stores downtown.

The Quincy High School Christmas Singers stopped in the store and did a few songs, and I almost cried. Young people singing Christmas songs with all their hearts is a beautiful thing, and Sheryl and I are grateful they blessed us with their gifts of voice.

Our store has amazing acoustics. "Of course it does. It's a music store," Sheryl says. Right.

This Christmas, take some time and listen to the season. Joy To The World, indeed!

Click Here to see the video on You Tube.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Space for rent

OUR FRIENDS AT Vancil Performing Arts have moved Dancer's Dream from our 503 Maine space. Vancil bought a building at Eighth and Ohio, and while we are sad to see them go, we understand and the move makes sense.

So we have incredible space renovated a year ago, wrapped around the historic bank vault of our building. It's about 900 square feet and has endless possibilities.

I'd love to turn it into a cigar store. We have a guy who dreams of running a vinyl record outlet. Sheryl was thinking about a pre-paid cell phone outlet.

You have any ideas? The rent is reasonable and we are wide open for takers and ideas right now.

Call Sheryl during the day at (217) 223-8008 for more info.

Our second floor is humming along and we have a renter in the corner offices. There's still another awesome big room available for dirt cheap rent.

Ahhhh ... the joys of owning a big downtown building. It's an adventure!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hart Christmas CD 2014

IN THE SPIRIT of Christmas originality and creativity, I am blatantly copying my friends Logan Kammerer, Cheeks McGee and Steve Buckman by making a Christmas CD.

The nine-song CD has four originals, two instrumentals and three classic Christmas songs. These are not traditional takes on Christmas music, which I think is a good thing.

Sheryl, of course, has done all the work. She's made the sleeves and artwork and burned the CDs. They are selling for $5 each, and all proceeds go to the Second String Music Elevator Restoration Fund. They are available at Second String Music or you can track me down on Facebook.

I recorded the songs the past few weeks on the Boss digital home system. They turned out all right - I could spend a year trying to get them perfect. Christmas is about the spirit, so it all worked out.

The first song is called "Been So Long" and is about coming home for Christmas. I remember playing it at First Union Congregational Church with Emily Peters and her friend. Gosh, was it 13 years ago or so?

"Christmas In The Q-Town" was performed by The Funions a few years back at an Elks gig. "Be Nice To Your Pets At Christmas" was just made up and features Angus The Young howling and the sounds of doggie paws scrabbling across our kitchen floor. Sheryl recorded them on my iPhone. Isn't technology scary?

"Christmas Dream" is about my mom and how we miss people at Christmas, and how slowing down is a good thing during a very hectic time.

We are making a video for "Been So Long" with Chris and Victoria Kelley, since our buddy Cheeks had so much fun last year. We'll post it when finished.

Merry Christmas and take some time to listen to music, you big sillies!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Simple Christmas Party

I HAD A blast playing the State Street Bank party last night at the Quincy Country Club. Thank you Bobbe White for letting me hang out and doing a little holiday strumming from the balcony.

I've been to a few of these things, and I've learned the simpler they are, the better. State Street Bank does it right - social hour at 6, dinner at 7, very short program honoring milestone employees at about 8:30. You are done and home by 9 if you want, or you can hang out and have another beverage on the company.

I went to a Christmas party at QCC a long time ago, and it was not much fun. They made new employees sing, there were some really long and boring speeches (no wonder that guy stays in his office all the time) and I got the sense people were uncomfortable.

So the moral of this little story is ... keep it simple. Actually, that's the moral of any story.

I was just background noise for a festive party, but some people were actually listening and I was surprised to hear some folks were guessing at the songs. So was I. But that's another story.

Have fun this Christmas season and be safe if you are doing the holiday party thing. The Mighty Adam Yates and I are playing at another one in a few weeks and we are looking forward to it.

You might even guess some of the songs.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The dentist himself

I WENT TO the dentist this morning and all is good. I brush my teeth at least twice a day and try to floss when possible. I had horrible teeth as a child but few problems since I figured out a little prevention goes a long way.

My dentist is Dr. Tim Morgan, and he's awesome. Let's face it - nobody likes to go to the dentist. But Tim and his staff are thorough, professional and make it as painless as possible.

This morning Tim himself cleaned my teeth. "A little short-staffed this morning," he said. You have to love it when the boss himself gets on the assembly line.

I have a chipped tooth and I've been putting off getting a cap. No lectures or high and mighty prose necessary - just a reminder to get it done. Appointment made and it's all good.

Getting your teeth cleaned is like washing the car - you just feel better when it's done.

Thank you Dr. Morgan and staff for the excellent care and service, and I highly recommend him if you are looking for a dentist.