Thursday, April 30, 2015

Concerts In The Plaza return

WE ARE EXCITED about bringing back the First Mid-Illinois Banker's Trust Concerts In The Plaza, starting in two weeks.

Playing in the plaza is a blast, as I found out last year.
(Photo/Bad Wolf Media)
The bank is the major sponsor and is letting us use the beautiful stage and green space on Maine Street, next to St. Boniface Church just west of Seventh. We've got a great lineup for four concerts, and food will be available. The concerts are every Thursday starting May 14, and each one is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Last year in the early summer we had great crowds and a lot of fun. The weather didn't cooperate so much in the fall, so we are not sure about doing it again later this year, but we'll see.

The concerts are being organized by The District and myself, and Frank Haxel is helping with production and PA setup/tear down. And, as always, the concerts are free.

Hope to see you in the plaza!

May 14 - Ted Holt
May 21 - Steve Rees
May 28 - Cori Lyssy
June 4 - Mike Shull

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gibson Les Pauls at the store

WE JUST RECEIVED two 2014 Gibson Les Paul Futura Min-ETune guitars at the store. They are pure Gibson, with cases, battery chargers and certificates of authenticity. We are selling them for $850 each, these are consignments that are unused but since we are not Gibson dealers we must sell them as if they were used.

The ETune feature is way cool. Simply turn on the battery-operated tuner, strum the strings, and the vintage tuning keys do all the work.

There's debate in the guitar world about self-tuning. Purists, of course, hate it. But I know more than a few players who could use it. We are fascinated by them!

Come see for yourself at Second String Music! We also have a Bose PA system, Line 6 pod HD and other amazing used acoustics in the store right now. Our new guitars are still coming in regularly and stock changes weekly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'll sign the complaint, officer

OUR OUTSIDE PEOPLE issue is worsening in downtown Quincy. The core group shows up early in the morning, sits at a picnic table all day and doesn't leave until dark. They are usually quiet and don't bother anybody, but as the day goes on other members of their group show up and add chaos and violence to the entire group.

Yesterday I walked the dog around the gazebo, and one of them started yelling and cursing. Then a younger guy showed up and the two had an extended back and forth verbal altercation.

I am not getting involved in any drama, but I shouldn't have to deal with a bunch of juvenile behavior and loud fighting. Four other people walking down the sidewalk also looked over and shook their heads.

I had enough. I called dispatch. They sent out two Street Crimes officers, who came over and talked to the person in question. They were getting ready to leave when I walked up and told them what I saw.
Core Group in Washington Park every day.

"Are you willing to sign the complaint and go to court?" they said.

Uh ... YES.

So. Outside Person got a disturbing the peace ticket. Now they aren't happy with me, which is fine. We continue to try to avoid the fighting, yelling and charging of each other. It is just such random and ridiculous behavior. We seem to just walk past them and wonder what can be done to get our beautiful and peaceful park back.

Sheryl had the pleasure of asking four of them to "please stop fighting in front of our store" the other day. They continued to fight and cuss at her for even trying to ask for peace. I can't imagine what a customer thinks when walking up to a store that has arguing people camped out in front. (BTW, their kick boxing skills haven't improved the past three years.)

The Quincy Park District and our downtown people are aware of the issue. Steps are being taken to address it. The Park District came down twice last week and kicked 13 unruly people out of the park.

I'm not sure what the long term solution is. You can't keep people out of the park, even if they squat all day. But we are getting really, really, really tired of the issue.

I love downtown Quincy, and Washington Park. We will do what's right so everybody can enjoy it. This is a safe and pleasant place to live, work and shop.

And we're going to keep it that way.

Monday, April 27, 2015

If I don't watch, the Wings will win

I AM TRYING to watch some of the NHL playoffs. A few years ago, I swore I'd never watch again after the season was delayed because of stupid players and dumber owners. I'm back, with less passion. But back.

The other night I was watching the Red Wings play Tampa Bay. Detroit was ahead 2-0 late in the third period. I went back to reading my book. Suddenly it was 2-2 and the game was going to overtime. I cursed at my computer (live streaming is the way to go) and turned it off.

"Why aren't you watching the game?" Sheryl asked.

"Because if I do, the Wings will lose," I said.

Sheryl rolled her eyes for the millionth time. "You watching has no bearing on the outcome of the game," she said, pulling her eyes from the back of her head, with a lot of effort. "It won't matter if you don't watch."

She was right. The Wings lost in overtime. At least I didn't see it.

There is something about living and dying with a sports team. It's hard to explain. Wives just don't understand that yelling at the screen actually helps your team win. Apparently going back to your book instead of tuning in during overtime does not help. Her perfect logic can be bewildering.

Anyway, I'm going to watch the Wings play tonight. If they get behind or blow another lead, I will not give up. And if they lose and are forced to play a seventh game in Tampa Bay, I will hold my head high and have hope.

And it could be worse. I could be a Blues or Penguins fan.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Downtown Quincy media love

LAUREN KALIL OF KHQA did an excellent story about downtown Quincy business success stories. Lauren has rapidly become one of the better local TV reporters in the area and of course I'm biased, since she did a story about teaching music to older students and featured Second String Music.

It's nice to see a positive story. When a restaurant or department store closes, it's frustrating to read the stupid social media comments about how Quincy is dying and there's nothing to do in this town.

I covered crime and courts, and I'm probably most remembered for all the bizarre and horrific stories I had to write about. Yet I inked hundreds of columns and tons of feature stories that were positive and told great stories. Nobody seems to remember those.

Thanks again, Lauren. And it's true - downtown Quincy rocks!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New people, old stories

ONE OF OUR favorite parts of owning a music store is all the interesting people who walk into Second String Music. This morning, waiting at the front door as we arrived, was a traveling salesman from Indiana. He's calling on several of the large manufacturing companies in town. He's a guitar player and he loved our store, and he's especially interested in one of our Luna acoustic amps.

Peace and Harmony with the Internet
We got to talking and he told us a story about an acoustic guitar he recently bought online. Turns out it doesn't play very well and will require work to be brought back to life. "I won't make that mistake again," he said.

We hear that all the time and we highly recommend playing an acoustic guitar before you buy one. The internet changed the game for everybody in retail, but acoustic guitars are a totally unique instrument. Every single one sounds different. We have learned to adapt to the competition from the internet and just learn to deal with it. Still, it's good to hear that people appreciate a small business in a new town.

Our new friend promises to come back when passing through town, and I have a feeling we'll do some business. I told him to feel free to strum a few guitars and take a break from the real world.

That's all I do anymore, anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More learning and opening the mind

CORI LYSSY AND I are playing again Friday night at State Street Bar from 9 p.m. to midnight. We are working up a bunch of songs to debut. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd be doing
Kacey Musgraves, Fleetwood Mac and Janis Joplin tunes with a fabulous girl singer. Never.

It just shows you the older you get, the more you begin to appreciate different styles and genres. I had a young man at a guitar lesson last night say he wanted to learn a country song, and when I told him it would be no problem, he couldn't believe it.
Kinda looks like Cori, huh Kacey?

"Well, I know you don't like country," he said.

Not sure where that came from. Country music is fine, even if a lot of it today is devoid of soul and has all the creativity of baby formula. You learn the strum pattern and chord changes, and I need to try not to judge.

Except maybe for rap. And death metal. And this.  Click at your own risk. GUH.

You get my drift. Rock on, whatever floats your boat!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Store party on May 2

THE CITY OF Quincy is having a 175th birthday party on Saturday, May 2. Maine Street will be closed between Eighth and Fifth, with two huge stages at either end and bands playing from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Since we are all about celebrating Quincy and downtown, and we own a 118-year old building, we are keeping Second String Music open late and having a party of our own. We thought about even having live entertainment inside the store, but with a big stage just feet away, we'll just go with the flow and have a good time. The refrigerator will be open and our bathrooms will be clean.

The Washington Theater is also having live music that day. And it's Dogwood weekend. So Fifth and Maine will be hopping all weekend and we can't wait.

We know how to throw a party. It's going to epic. Come on down and enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Digging for outhouses, playing in mud

SHERYL DECIDED TO double the size of the garden since it was such a big hit last year. So yesterday we had her nephew, Evan, come over and help dig it out.

Now we can't move. But more on that in a minute.

We discovered what we believe is the old backyard outhouse hole. It was about six inches under the ground. It's a solid concrete "cap" that is about 2 foot in diameter, and it's not going anywhere, so we are planting around it. Our house was constructed in the 1880s so we assume it had an outhouse at one time. We have already figured out the old cistern is under our firepit. We love this old house.

The other really fun thing was watching Evan's son, Braiden, 6. Little boys are born to play in mud and dirt and Braiden got good and filthy rolling, digging and stomping in the clean stuff. His main job was to find worms in the big clumps of sod and make sure they got back into the garden. Braiden learned about the cycle of life, how worms help the garden and why worms are not yucky.

Sheryl cleaned him up and washed his clothes before he left. He got to wear a pair of her shorts tied around his waist while his clothes were in the wash and didn't really care how goofy they looked on him.

Then there's the dogs and tracking the clean dirt and mud into the house, but I'm going to let that go. I probably brought just as much in. Sheryl says we will clean it up later. Much, much later.

Last week we cleaned out the storage space by the basement stairs and I found a vibrating chair liner. This thing is pure gold - it has four separate controls from the butt to the neck, and it heats up. I woke up this morning and Sheryl was passed out on it and in heaven. Then I tried it and had trouble getting up from the chair, even after being attacked by a muddy Angus The Young.

We're gonna need the chair liner this week. Today we are sore, tomorrow we'll really be in trouble. It's the nature of getting older, I guess.

The garden is going to really rock this summer. Sheryl even managed to keep a few green pepper plants alive over the winter, and the garden will soon be filled with tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, melons ... all kinds of good stuff.

It will be worth a few days of hobbling!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Shhhh. Don't tell anybody you are quiting ....

APPARENTLY QUINCY PUBLIC Schools is losing its superintendent. I do not know the guy, but he's been here only two years, and apparently he wants to "retire." He is 62. Thanks for your service, sir. What's your name again?

Now the school board president is mad because word of the superintendent's plans leaked before any kind of proper notice was given. Geesh - this gal is just not a happy person.

It's PR 101, folks. Always know what the other hand is doing at all times. But when it blows up, don't have a hissy fit in another press release. You just make it worse.

Ed Husar of The Whig is an excellent writer and again he nailed this story. But when you have the material, the stories write themselves.

I've never had any problems with school board members. Every now and then I would fail to duck and the boss would send me to cover a monthly board meeting, and I wanted to keep my job so I would go. One night I sat in disbelief as one of the members blasted me for a story that had appeared that day about a finance committee meeting. He spent eight minutes jumping up and down and frothing at the mouth. I just smiled, because the story was accurate and he was grandstanding. Plus all the people in the room went home and actually read the story, which was buried in the back by the obits.

Again, PR 101. Never take on a guy who uses ink by the 50-gallon barrel. I let it go, but I haven't forgotten.

Quincy Public Schools does have a PR issue. Namely, they have nobody who knows how to do it. And it won't change, because the public outcry for hiring a qualified PR person would be loud. "We can't afford textbooks. Why should we pay for some schlock to put out press releases?"

I could point out that a local community college has an amazing PR person who almost single-handedly kept the school from teetering into a boiling cauldron of a mess a few years ago, but it's a long story and just take my word for it - she is worth her weight in gold.

Good luck finding a new superintendent, QPS. And keep the press release short and to the point when you do. If there is a press release.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Murder trials and mouth tattoos

THERE WAS A murder trial in Quincy this week and the dirtball who did it was convicted. There. I said it. And it feels good.

I am not judging anybody. But when a jury convicts a man of beating somebody to death with a lead pipe, well ... opinions can be offered.

Let's just say the dirtball's tattoo was a little less .... pleasant.
Click here for Don O'Brien's excellent article about the verdict. Also read about how the defendant acted in front of the state's attorney prosecuting the case. I've always thought Rock A. Bye was sexy. I'll show him the tattoo under my lip to prove it, too.

Don was the only media guy to cover the trial. I do miss being in on the stuff you can't make up. Fortunately reading DOB's stories is the next best thing.

The reaction to the verdict from the family was powerful. Certainly this was a horrible event to endure and I'd probably want the person who murdered my wife or family member hung, too.

Then there was a family member of the guy who did it, who complained via Facebook about how much they'd suffered. Right. If you say so.

It took 12 people less than two hours of deliberation to make up their minds. In the world of crime and courts, that's a slam dunk. And we are all much safer for having this guy locked up for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gift of presence ... or cash

EMILY ESTHER HART gets her masters degree from Eastman School of Music next month. I really want to go. Sheryl says it can be arranged. I am thinking about it.

I'd like another crack at Rochester, N.Y. We had a great time there in February but it was cold and snowy so we didn't get to see much of the town.

There is no easy way to get to upper New York state. It's at least 15 hours by car, and the better part of a day even if you fly. I could easily fly out there and be home within 24 hours - we'll sleep when we're dead, as Frank Haxel likes to put it.

This next part is tricky and no doubt my Dutch upbringing plays a part in this - the cost. I do not want for anything, and Sheryl and I have simplified our lives greatly since I jumped out of the plane without a parachute and quit my job nearly three years ago. I probably have too many guitars, but that's a vice of work and I don't apologize for it.

We are careful and we don't spend money foolishly. Everything we make goes right back into the business to grow it. We recently began going to the grocery store once a week instead of every day and it's not only better for us, it's a lot cheaper, too.

I could pawn some stolen traffic cones for Eastman graduation ...
I don't have a lot of money. I'm good with it - cash causes problems much of the time. If you pay your bills and are happy, there's no need for a fat bank account.

So. I'm wondering. I could spend money I don't really have and fly out to Emily's graduation. Or I could send her the cash instead. She's a struggling college student about to embark into the real world, and she could use it. I haven't been able to help her much financially in the two years she's been in New York and that is a regret, but also reality.

You can't put a price on being there and a life experience. But you can't put a price on helping where the help is needed most.

I will talk to her about this and see what she thinks. Maybe I will go. Or maybe I will help her in other ways.

It's all good.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lincoln history right in front of us

TODAY MARKS THE 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination. Lincoln was well-known in Quincy, and one of his Quincy friends, Orville Browning, served as an honorary pallbearer at his funeral. Another Quincyan, Col. George Rutherford, guarded Lincoln's body and laid coins on the president's eyes after his death.

Ed Husar wrote an excellent article for The Whig about Quincy's reaction to Lincoln's death. The day after he died, more than 3,000 people gathered in Washington Park to mourn his passing.

Washington Park is right across the street from Second String Music. The spot where Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas in 1858 is marked with a monument. Pretty amazing, to stand where they stood all those years ago.

Tomorrow night in Quincy there is a reenactment of his funeral procession. It starts at The District office just down the block, and a horse-drawn hearse will go in front of our store and down to the museum at Fourth and Maine.

It's history right before us and a sad but beautiful way to remember one of the most famous men who ever lived.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can't Move Monday

TODAY IS "CAN'T Move Monday." As in, we did way too much Sunday.

It's our only day off, since we are in the store the other six days of the week. Sheryl started digging holes in the yard in the morning and it went downhill from there. She weeded the other side of the fence and went to Lowe's while I went on a long bike ride. Then it was about 2 p.m. and I couldn't move - the back doesn't lie when you overdo it.

We planted rosebushes, another pear tree (the third one, Angus likes to eat pear trees), cleaned up the firepit area, organized a massive pile of stuff in the stairwell leading to the basement, vaccumed and watched the Masters. Well ... I watched the Masters. Sheryl continued to putter.

After supper, I got out our two tents and set them up in the backyard. Sheryl took a couple of pain pills. Her back doesn't lie, either.

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. I'm very good at doing nothing and that's what normally gets done. But I have to admit it feels good to get a bunch of stuff accomplished.

Next Sunday Sheryl is threatening to dig out the garden and make it twice as big.

I might go camping. It's less work.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Better Man for learning Pearl Jam songs

PEARL JAM IS one of those bands that you either really love or you really don't. I've never quite got the whole grunge and power plaid shirt thing, and it killed my beloved 80s hairband music. So be it.

I do like Eddie Vedder. One night I was driving with my daughter and she put in his ukulele CD. Yup, Eddie Vedder did an album of uke songs, and it's about the coolest thing ever. His "Into The Wild" soundtrack is also very well done.

The mark of a good band is how it plays live. I've never been to a Pearl Jam concert but people rave about them and their fans are passionate. I love the video below from a 2010 concert - 20,000 people singing your song for you is an amazing thing.

Cori Lyssy and I are playing at One Restaurant tonight. She insisted we learn "Better Man" and we'll give it a wing tonight. I actually used it in lessons this week - I love the different shaped D chord and the progression - it's cool and looks hard to do, but it isn't.

The more I do this the more I discover good music is good music, no matter the genre or your particular tastes.

I'm a better man for it!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Meetings solve nothing

WE ARE STILL in shock about the murder of an innocent 12 year old boy in Quincy last month. By all accounts he was in the wrong place at the wrong time - walking to his mother's car when he was shot in the head. The boy's father says there was an incident at a local bar and the shooting was in retaliation, and the boy was mistaken for somebody else.

So a neighbor decided to have a meeting to solve Quincy's problems. One of the television stations did a story about it - Quincy has horrible problems, we need to fix them, we are tired of the violence on our streets, etc. The story had dramatic phrases like "redevelopment" and "what can be done to turn the city around."


Like any community, Quincy has issues. They have been around for a long time and they aren't going away. I am not dismissing the murder of a 12 year old boy - I pray for the family, and I'm praying the dirtball who did it is arrested. Somebody knows something about the murder, and it will take a break and loose lips to make an arrest.

But we can't start jumping around and pointing fingers. This isn't a race issue and it isn't a class issue - it's a Quincy issue. The meeting wasn't a bad idea and any dialogue to address our issues is good. I prefer to keep things positive and look at the brighter side, but you can't ignore our issues, either.

I didn't go to the neighborhood meeting and I try not to read any of the media reports about it. But I was told one person said the solution was simple - we just need to love each other more.

If it takes a murder to figure that out, we are all in trouble.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sorry to see Scott Stone go

WE WILL HAVE a new jail, new city councilmen and Wavering Pool will likely die a slow death. Election results often surprise and I'm stunned at how the jail issue passed by such a huge margin.

We need a new jail, so let's get started. The projected price tag is $25 million and that seems like a lot, but let's make sure the Adams County Board gets the ball rolling and does it efficiently.

And no, this won't be a resort. This is about safety for the staff and workers. The argument that people will want to stay there because it's "so nice" is ludicrous.

Where will it be built? Will it stay under budget? How much squabbling will take place on the board? Lots of questions out there - let's just get it done.

Bye Bud! But don't buy Bud. It gives me a headache.
I was very sorry to see Scott Stone not get reelected to the school board. On his Facebook page Scott took the high road and congratulated the winners - he's a class act.

I voted for Mike Troup and I'm glad he won. He's a good man with a track record of public service and experience with financial issues. The board will need his insight.

Who didn't get reelected is more of the story. All I'm gonna say is "Yes" and best of luck to the new board - now you need to roll up the sleeves and get to work.

We will have happy hour in the store Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. to celebrate the election results. Celebrate that the election is over, anyway.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Collar that doggie Wings fan!

A YEAR AGO today, we put our beloved dog Lucy to sleep. I can still see her running down squirrels and cows and herding her adopted brother and sister. I miss her a lot. She would have hated Angus but dealt with her mother's insanity.

Life goes on. Angus, our ferocious little Corgi-Cattle Dog mix has become best buddies with Tucker the Border Collie and Fast Eddie. He is a little bleep and full of mischief, and he demands rather than asks to play. Relentlessly.

What Collar?
He finally outgrew his tiny puppy collar, so Sheryl found Lucy's old Detroit Red Wings collar and tearfully put it on him this morning. I gotta admit it looks pretty good, and Angus is a winner who has never missed the playoffs either, so it's fitting. The NHL playoffs start next week and I'm sure we'll be watching.

So it's a day to remember our Lucy Lou, and a day to continue looking forward.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Voting no to the no guys

THERE'S AN ELECTION tomorrow. Because it's an off-year and because it's April, the turnout will be very small. And that's a shame.

If you live in Quincy and you are picking an alderman, do your homework and make an educated vote. Same with the school board. I am not telling you how to vote, but use some common sense.

I am voting NO for Mr. No, and probably
for the people who put their name on his sign. I'm not voting for somebody who already served. That narrows it down, so I'll read up on the remaining candidates and put my best foot and vote forward.

The jail issue is really tough. We need a new jail in Adams County. I don't like the sales tax option.

There are a few other races to be decided as well. This is your town, your school board, your park board, your community college.

But you can't own it if you don't vote.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Crabby, cleansing and getting scoped

SHERYL IS CALLING me Mr. Crabby Pants today. She is right. She is always right, dang it. She brought me popsicles to work to keep me fed. I can't eat the red ones.

New lid for Rodney's throne.
You'd be crabby too, if you couldn't eat real food all day. You'd be crabby if you had to drink a mysterious substance that sounds and tastes like it came from nuclear waste. You'd be crabby if you are about to spend all night, well ... catching up on your reading. From your throne. Get my drift?

Men don't like talking about their health. I hate going to the doctor. I go once a year, and that's enough. I do not take my good health for granted.

But I have a serious family history of prostate cancer. I turned 50 last year. My doctor said, "You don't have a choice. We have to check you out."

So. I'm getting checked out. Tomorrow morning. The official word is the dreaded "colonoscopy." They say I'll be sedated and happy, and will hardly feel a thing. They say I will sleep all day tomorrow and eat like a king when I wake up.

I know it has to be done. I know it could literally save my life. I am crabby and tired and not looking forward to the rest of day, except for some really good guitar lessons and students.

You know what? It is what it is. Suck it up, Hoser. It's called taking care of yourself. Too many haven't and are gone. I don't want that to happen.

Being crabby for a day is worth it. I apologize in advance. Would somebody please get me a popsicle NOW?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ukes, liver transplants and bucket lists

LAST WEEK WE sold a beautiful Luna ukulele to former Quincy Mayor Chuck Scholz. To say he's a bit motivated to learn is an understatement.

Chuck had liver cancer and things were not good. He was on a list for a transplant. He hasn't talked much about it, but I'm pretty sure there were lots of stops and starts, highs and lows. Finally, last month, he got a new liver.

Chuck bought the uke because he wants to play a few songs for his grandkids. He's been given his life back and he wants to make the most of it. Because of the anti-rejection meds he's keeping a low profile, but after I heard his story I agreed to give him a lesson, even though I'm not much of a uke player.

So we hung out yesterday and he learned to plink out a few notes and get going. It's more proof age and experience matters little - it's how bad you want to learn and play. Chuck found out it's not that hard and it's actually fun.

He was mayor when I moved to Quincy 19 years ago and I'll always think of him as the mayor, one of the good guys around here. I'm glad he has a second shot and we wish him nothing but the best in health and the pursuit of musical knowledge.

Keep strumming, mayor!