Thursday, December 31, 2015

Be safe tonight

THERE ARE MANY ways to ring in the new year. After you've been on the ride for a while, a nice warm bed sounds like a pretty darn good way to celebrate New Year's Eve.

But the rock and roll truck moves on. The Cheeseburgers have a show at the Keokuk Yacht Club tonight, and our friends up there know how to have fun, so I'm looking forward to it.

I can remember playing some NYE shows at Turner Hall with The Funions. There was the interesting show at One Restaurant a few years back, another at the Elks Lodge in Quincy. Many years ago we had some slam bangers to ring in the new year. One of the best was 30 years ago behind the old Rosewood house in Grand Rapids, when we burned old Christmas trees and wooden pallets in a huge fire pit during a blizzard.

Whatever you do tonight, be safe. Find somebody to drive if you are out and about, or stay home and stay cozy.

A reminder that Second String Music will be closed Jan. 1, 2 and 3. We'll be back on Monday, Jan. 4, ready to roll in the new year.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lights down, year over

THERE'S A FINALITY when you take down Christmas stuff. The tree got put away and the window lights taken down. The ornaments and lights are in a box, in a back room, gone and forgotten until next December.

We helped make a lot of people happy at Christmas. Music is a great gift and always appreciated.

Of course it snowed last night, as the season winds down. It's been rainy and dreary, and a little snow never hurts. The sun is even coming out this morning.

Farewell, then, to 2015. We are glad Christmas was a good one, and look forward to a new year.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A few days off

SECOND STRING MUSIC will be closed Jan. 1, 2 and 3. That's right - we will be closed this Saturday so we can have a three-day weekend.

We were open Saturday, the day after Christmas, and it was really busy at Fifth and Maine. I noticed a lot of retail places decided to stay closed. All Sheryl and I know is that we had a ton of people come in and say they love Christmas, but two days off was driving them crazy and they just wanted to get out.

No complaints about owning a small retail business here. We work six days a week, seven during Christmas. It's the nature of the beast and it is what it is.

This is one of those strange Christmas seasons when Christmas day and New Year's day fall on Fridays. It means consecutive three-day weekends for most of us, but don't forget about the many people who still work.

Still, we have to take a break at some point. So we are shutting it down and deciding if we'll just drive somewhere, or just take a few days off and do nothing.

Have a great last week of 2015. We are back to regular business hours this week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Be safe and be happy, and we look forward to a great 2016.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Red Guitar

SHE WAS LOOKING for a guitar for her 12-year-old daughter. We had her budget in mind and in line. She had some choices.

She said, "This is going to sound really dumb, but she likes red and I think she would like that red guitar."
I want it in red!

Sound dumb? No. It's logical and makes perfect sense, and I'm glad she mentioned it.

Above all, the guitar has to feel and sound good. People try out guitars in Second String Music and it's an amazing moment when they sit down and and strum the one that fits. "Ahhh," they say. "This is IT."

So the woman decided on the red Dean acoustic. There was another customer in the store, and he said, "You can't go wrong with Dean. They make great guitars."

Christmas isn't about gifts and stuff. It's about slowing down and appreciating the moment.

When she left, the mother was beaming. She found the perfect gift for her daughter. I have a feeling I'll be seeing them again. It's a great feeling when you've helped somebody and it turns out just right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Back in town for Christmas

THE BEST PART about Christmas is seeing family back in town. Sheryl's niece, Kristie, is here from Texas. Emily comes in next week from Toronto and I can't wait to hear about her living in the big city.

Be safe out there if you are traveling, and take time to enjoy the season. Sheryl and I will appreciate having Christmas day off, that's for sure.

Speaking of being back in town, the legendary Quincy band Legacy reforms on Wednesday night for a show at Port's Place. Kevin Allen is here from Branson and will be rejoining old bandmates Josh Brueck, Shaun Baker and Tim Hart. A band is in many ways a family so I'm sure it will be a blast and a fun time.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas hours

THIS IS OUR fifth Christmas at Second String Music. For the first four years, and the last couple of weeks, Sheryl and I decided to stay open later to give shoppers more time. We extended our close time to 7 p.m. and experimented with later hours.

It hasn't really changed a thing. After 6 p.m., we have done very little business, except for one night when we had a customer drive past the store and happen to see the open sign. Experimenting with open/close times can be tricky but each year we try to get better.

There are destination spots and entertainment venues open late. The District worked hard as always to promote downtown businesses and encourage people to come out after work.

It's not a big deal to us, staying until 7 p.m., because I often have lessons until that time and Sheryl is here anyway. And in the small business world, opening early and staying late are part of the deal, and we don't mind a bit. I can't tell you how many times we have somebody call us minutes before we close and ask if we can stay open a bit longer. No problem - we are here to help and serve!

Last week we came in early and had customers in the store between 9 and 9:30 a.m. So this week and this week only, we will open at 9 and close at 6, our regular closing time. We will close at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. If you need us to stay late, call the store and let us know. We don't mind - (217)223-8008.

Christmas is our biggest time of the year and we have met some great family's and sold lots of instruments. It will be good again this week, and we still have all kinds of great stuff for the musician, from beautiful Breedlove, Luna and Dean guitars to tuners, strings, drumsticks and picks.

We are closed Christmas day, of course, but will be back at it Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is a balancing act for us. Making sure we have our own time and still making sure our customers have time to shop. Come by and visit.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Spoiler alert - I'm in the new Star Wars movie

STOP READING THIS right now if you are wearing a Darth Vader mask, buying a Light Saber at WalMart or looking at the instructions for putting together the Millennium Falcon model.

I am in the new Star Wars movie. I have a small but pivotal role. I'm going to tell you about it, and upset you since you've sworn off social media to avoid spoilers.

I also had a role in the original New Hope movie. I play one of the creatures with four eyes in the cantina. It's right after Han Solo blasts the bounty hunter. See if  you can pick me out.

I swore to George Lucas I wouldn't tell anybody about my role in the new movie. But then he came into Second String Music the other day and complained about the price of guitar picks. "I can get them online a lot cheaper," he said. "The Blue Book price on this vintage pick is 22 cents, not 25 cents like you charge. You don't really sell these for that price?"

I waved my Light Saber and I cut off his arm and I said, "George, I'm not your father. Leave me. Here's a free store pick for your troubles."

Anyway, in the new movie, I play a traveling minstrel and I'm performing in a cantina full of strange creatures. My guitar breaks, so I approach Luke Skywalker and say, "I'm screwed."

He says, "Not even I can fix that rusted trust rod, even with The Force. Call Don Rust in Ursa. He's the finest luthier in the galaxy, and he outruns Imperial star cruisers all the time." And I leave the cantina with tears in my eyes.

Aren't you glad you've been warned before going to see the movie? Let me know if it's any good. I'll give you a guitar pick for your review.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Letters, not emails or FB messages

THE OTHER DAY I got a letter in the mail. A real, honest to goodness, full of handwritten words letter. It was from one of my guitar students, and I almost shed a tear because it was beautiful and heartfelt.

I can't remember the last time I got a personal letter. Sure, we got the Christmas form letters from family, and they are fine, but it's not the same.

I used to write a lot of letters. I was upstairs the other night puttering around and I found two big bags full of letters more than 30 years old. Many were from my mom and other family. Some night I'm going to go back up there and go on a time warp.

We fall prey to the modern way of communicating. I'm guilty of dashing off an email or Facebook message. The other day I actually asked for my daughter's address in Toronto and it occurred to me I have yet to write her a letter or send her something in the mail. I'm waiting for her to get home for Christmas, so I figured I'd wait.

For what?

Today I'll probably type the letter, because my handwriting is so awful and the recipient wouldn't be able to read it. And it's faster to type it on the computer, and print it, and sign it, and send it off. Do they still use those little sticky things on the envelopes? Wait a second .... stamps. Stamps! That's what we used to use.

A hand-written letter is a piece of you sent to somebody else. We've lost that in the modern world, and we are worse off for it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ghost of Santa in our building

OUR FRONT DOORS keep opening by themselves. It's the wind at Fifth and Maine, or so they say.

The other day at Quincy Audiology, at Eighth and Maine, their front doors kept opening by themselves, too. "The door is loose. We've already called to have it checked," said owner Kevin Ballard.

I was going to mention Dr. Ballard removed several pounds of wax from my ears, enabling me to hear properly for the first time in weeks, but that's kinda gross and I wouldn't want to get away from this story. Right.

This morning the wind is howling again and the doors at Second String Music keep flying open. In a previous post I surmised that it was the ghosts of the bankers who used to work in our building. At this time of the year, I think it's the ghosts of Santas past.

During our amazing District Loft Tours 12 nights ago, several people said they remembered coming into our building to see Santa during Christmas. Apparently he had a house in Washington Park, but when it got too cold, he'd come into the back and receive the throngs of kids. "The lines would go out the door," one woman said.

Aha! That's it! The doors are being opened to let more kids in to see Santa. Granted, the bank closed more than 50 years ago, but what's a little time to a bunch of hopeful spirits hoping to see the fat guy in red?

We need to get the door fixed - it's a nasty cold wind out there today - but I'll let the ghosts of Christmas pasts in
to Second String Music myself. Not that they'd need a door, or anything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Peace and prayers for the Haubrichs

WHAT DO YOU say or do when this happens?

Zak Haubrich of Quincy, 21, was killed in a car wreck yesterday near Peoria. The other driver veered out of her lane and hit him head on.
The Gentlemen (from left) - Justin, Jared, Zak, Aaron.

Zak was a 2012 Quincy Notre Dame High School graduate and a student at Bradley University in Peoria. He played bass in the awesome Quincy band Jared & The Gentleman. He was a good Second String Music customer and an immensely talented musician.

The Haubrichs have been through a lot this year. Peace and prayers to the friends and family.

I will leave it to Jared Holbrook to have the final words. He's the lead singer and guitar player from Jared & The Gentleman. He posted this on his Facebook page late last night:

"I don't pray to God to keep bad things from happening. I pray to God to ease the suffering of His people. May He grant eternal peace upon Zak's soul and comfort those who loved him."

Monday, December 14, 2015

I'll watch Star Wars ... later

LOOK. I LOVE the Star Wars movies. I remember going to see the original Star Wars back in the mid-70s, only to get there too late and be turned away from the full theater. The next week me and a buddy got the theater way early and were the first in line. It. Was. Awesome.

I look forward to the newest movie. Who wouldn't want to see Han Solo and Chewbacca battle the bad guy storm troopers? But it's just a movie. So I'll probably wait until it comes out on BLVD, Green-Ray, transporter beam or whatever technology is now out there.

Even in little old Quincy, the lines to get into the premier will probably be long. I had a guitar student who worked at the theater and she used to tell hilarious stories about the people who would come to see the comic book movies - yeah, he's dressed as Spiderman and he thinks he can spin a web from his hand. He's also 30 and lives with his mom. But I digress.

Stars Wars is everywhere. It's pervaded our culture. That's not a bad thing, since you could be rotting your brains playing video games or trolling YouTube. Wait. You ARE rotting your brains and trolling? Go see the new Star Wars instead. Then you can play the new Star Wars video games.

May The Force be with you. I might start getting into it, especially if it means you learn patience.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Your butts will get you a big fine

STARTING JAN. 1, you could get fined up to $1,500 if you throw your cigarette butt on the sidewalk or street.

I say, GOOD. I hate cigarette butts. It's especially bad across the street in front of the WCU Building or down the block in front of Irene's Cabaret, and in back down Jail Alley. I'm not quite sure why they don't have a butt can like we do in front of 505 Maine, and in front of Martini's at 515 another two doors down. Sheryl still picks up a ton of butts from our sidewalk each week.

We have a lot more pressing problems than people throwing cigarette butts, but I'd like to see the new law enforced. It's actually a bigger issue than people might think, click here for more info.

I wonder if we'll ever see the day when people stop smoking all together. I like a cheap cigar once in a while, and I will do my best to not leave the butt on the sidewalk or street. It could cost too much.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sweet coffee shop at Bittersweet Confections

FINALLY, A DOWNTOWN Quincy business that serves coffee after 2 p.m. - Bittersweet Confections in Jail Alley, right around the corner from Second String Music.

Michael and Nadine Mitchell own Bittersweet Confections and offer chocolates, cheeses, catering and a mobile chef service. Plus they do a tremendous job singing "Rainbow Connection" and could probably be convinced to sing it for you, under the right circumstances and without a bad guitar player, but that's another story.

The building is way cool - old-style brick walls and an inviting open area. It's the perfect place for coffee or an art reception, like the one Charlie Martin is having Saturday night. Plus the price of a 16-ounce coffee is half as much as a big chain brew, and the coffee is made with the Intellengentsia roasted beans.

Sheryl also appreciated the fact that Michael made her a latte with heavy whipping cream - delicious and carbohydrate free.

I remember about a decade ago when it was Mugshots and the legendary Greg Ellery was a barista. The old building oozes charm and history.

We get a lot of people wandering around downtown during the week asking for coffee shops in the afternoon, and now we know where to direct them. There are really good coffee places, but they all close early, and it's understandable when you've been open since 6 in the morning.

Bittersweet Confections is now open with added coffee Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Buy some chocolate and cheese while you are there too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Four murders in one year

NOW WE HAVE another alleged homicide in Quincy. That makes four in one year, not good in a small rocking chair town.

Yes, this is alarming and not good. Yes, it's quite interesting that all four incidents took place in one specific part of the city. I wouldn't feel safe if I lived in that area of town, either.

But each incident has its own set of facts and circumstances. And this is nothing new for Quincy.

I remember around 2004, when I covered crime and courts for The Whig. There were four or five homicides in Quincy and the surrounding area in a short amount of time, including several on the south end of town. One took place not half a block from where I now live. Another happened a block from my old apartment in Calftown.

There was all kinds of jumping up and down, blaming the police, blaming everybody for everything. Our city was going to hell and people were going to leave and not come back, and it served everybody who lives here right for "letting" it happen.

It can happen any where.
When Clyde Jackson was murdered on North 12th Street in July of 2008, the city simmered and it took a lot of effort by authorities and community leaders to keep things from coming unhinged. A lot of productive dialogue came out of those hot summer days and nights.

I hated doing stories about crime statistics, because numbers can be easily skewered and misinterpreted. But four murders in one year is four too many. We all need to address issues of violence and anger, culture and environment.

So I'm going to say now what I said back then. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Perspective tends to fly out the window when this stuff happens, and I understand that. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming everything around us, we need to look at ourselves and our community.

We all live here. We are all in this together.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Back the Blue

I COULD NEVER be a cop. They put up with too much crap from the great ungrateful and the grated unhinged. Ride along with a patrol officer and you'll see what they deal with every day. Yes, there are bad police officers out there, and you sure as heck hear about it, but in Quincy and this area our law enforcement officers are dedicated, hard-working and good people.

Cindy Vancil-Haxel, owner of Vancil Performing Arts, is showing her appreciation for local law enforcement officers by putting her time, money and effort into "Back The Blue." There is a press conference Friday morning at City Hall, and Cindy will start handing out "goodie bags" to officers and administrators at the Quincy Police Department.

Here's one thing about Cindy - if she puts her mind to it, it will get done. She organized a committee, went out to the community and raised the money, and she's determined to show QPD she is proud of their service, and appreciates what they do for us every day.

And, of course, the canine officers will get special treats. Cindy and her beloved dog, Eva, are very good at handing out presents to other animals - I defy you to find a music store anywhere that has not one but TWO Christmas stockings for the store cat. Fast Eddie, of course, loves it.

I'm helping Cindy with some PR for the press conference, so you'll be hearing more about it toward the end of the week. She'll be on WGEM's NewsTalk 105 Friday morning at about 8:10 with Greg Haubrich, and doing other media spots.

We Back The Blue. Thank you, Cindy, for helping us show our appreciation.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The benefits of shopping small and local

SHERYL AND I watched a show on PBS Sunday morning called Growing a Greener World about an independent garden center in Austin, Texas. The owner explained how the big box retail outlets are the main competition, how they have a financial advantage and how his business counters.

The video is HERE, start watching at 12:30 thru 14:30 to get the meat of the message. It can be impossible to compete against businesses that have such huge financial competitive advantages. We encourage everyone to shop their local independent small businesses.

Just like an independent music store, the independent garden center has knowledge specific to its customers. Their prices might not be quite as low, but his business thrives because of dedicated employees and the extra services his store provides. It's more than just a place to buy plant stuff - customers get information, advice and encouragement. The store offers free clinics, seminars and displays to explain how easy and fun it is to work with plants.

We draw a lot of the same conclusions. Our main competition is online, so we try our best to remain competitive in price, but offer more. Sheryl and I have specialized knowledge that you can't find easily on the internet. We work with our products intimately and can help you make your purchase decision. We also give free support for our products that you buy from us.

You can't try out a guitar online. To us, that's the bottom line. Plus you will be greeted when you walk in the door and you won't have to fight through massive store traffic or wait long to be checked out. You can ask real questions to a real human being. And you can feel good about supporting a local independent small business. In turn, we do the same thing - in the space of a week, I purchased a watch, shoes and a winter jacket from my favorite local stores. All are owned by people I know and trust.

It makes a big difference.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lights lights lights

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL Friday morning in the Q-Town, and life is good as we head downhill toward Christmas!

Thank You Mike Sorenson for
the great photo's!
- The lights in Washington Park are awesome. Thank you Bruce Guthrie of The District, Bret Austin and everybody who helped get the Avenue of Lights displays. It was great to see the park full of people last night and wandering around. Get down here and check them out.

- Rockin' Jake and the boys put on another great show at the Club Tavern last night. The guys are crashed in our back room at Second String Music and head to southern Missouri later today. Life on the road ain't easy so we hope a little hospitality goes a long way.

- The District's Loft Tours are tonight, and we are proud of Missy Myers at M2 Photography for showing off her second floor space in our building tonight. Our 1920 Hollister-Whitney bird cage elevator will also be decorated for the season and we can't wait to show people what a little love and hard work will do to restore historic spaces.

Come down and enjoy all the great events in downtown Quincy!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

When your car goes click click click

THERE MAY NOT be a more disheartening feeling than getting behind the wheel, turning the key, and hearing nothing but a faint click.

Turn it again. Click. Again. Click ... click ... click.

It always helps to yell at your car when it fails to start. "BLEEP," I said. "I mean, we've only been at work all day and I just want to go home and have something to eat and pass out. These are big plans for a Wednesday night, car. Turn over dangit!"

Click. Click. Click.

We got a ride home from the infamous Greg Ellery. Then I called Frank Haxel. Of course! He's never in the right place at the right time. He picked me up and we went downtown and he put on the jumper cables, and the lights came on, but the engine didn't turn over. It just went .... well, you know.

This happened last night. It's the first time in a long time. After a while you just get used to your car actually working, even though you've paid thousands of dollars for it, and that's just the insurance and license fees.
2007 was a good year.

This vehicle has been good to us, nary a problem in the five years we've had it. So this morning we called a tow company, and we took it to RJs Imports at 10th and State. The Towing Solutions driver was extremely professional and we appreciated the prompt response. Sheryl and I are all about supporting our local small businesses, and Randy Shade at RJs has a good reputation, so it was a no-brainer.

He laughed when I came in this morning, sensing my obvious frustration. Randy is about the most laid-back dude you'll ever meet. "You musta been talking bad about it," he said. "No problem, man. We'll get it figured out."

Anybody who has a Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix dog to greet you by the front desk, along with a recent Humane Society rescue mutt, is No. 1 in our book. They just made me feel better. Is that silly or what? I'm glad Second String Music and Schuecking's aren't the only places to offer canine therapy. I certainly needed it this morning.

Hopefully it's not a big deal. We've borrowed Sheryl's nephew's car for the time being. And really, we can get around without a car for a little while. It's even supposed to be 50 and sunny the next couple of days.

And the only click sound I ever want to hear again is either my seat belt or my computer mouse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Epic Animal drum-off

IF YOU DON'T like The Muppets, you are not a happy person. The newest version airs Tuesday nights and you have to watch carefully to catch all the humor - a true mark of comedic genius. Sheryl accidentally watched the first one and we have enjoyed this new take on an old favorite.

What they really do well is the non-verbal stuff. Watch the clip above of the epic drum-off between Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Animal. When Grohl says something about school being in session, catch the priceless look Animal gives him.

I used to get teased about looking like Beaker from The Muppets. I hated it back then, but now I consider it an honor. My favorite character is the guy with the glasses and no eyeballs. And who doesn't love Kermit The Frog?

About a month ago they showed the band in a van, and when Janis said something about getting paid, Animal said, "What do you mean, we get paid?" I about fell off the couch and I almost cried instead of laugh - truth is comedy, and comedy is life.

Rock on, Muppets.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Washington Park stage

ONE OF THE things I'd love to see in our beautiful Washington Park is a new performance stage. Right now we use the gazebo for concerts, gatherings, etc. It's functional for things like Blues In The District, MidSummer Arts Faire and other events. But a stage would put performers a little closer to the people attending and would make setting up and tearing down easier.

A decent stage would put performers a little closer to the crowd
It could be portable. It could be fitted around the gazebo entrance and still keep the gazebo as the backdrop. Since it would have to be heavy-duty, I'm sure it wouldn't be cheap. The District, the city and the Quincy Park District could surely come up with some ideas for a stage.

There's a very cool lighting ceremony taking place Thursday at 6 p.m. in the park. I'm glad the Avenue of Lights displays will be used this Christmas in Washington Park after the annual Moorman and Upper Moorman park event was called off this year. Wouldn't it be really nice if we had a stage to show off some of the displays, or perhaps have a Christmas concert of some kind in the park? Weather permitting, of course.

I know there are a lot of things on a lot of plates, and this isn't a do-or-die issue. It's just an idea. I'm all about maintaining and improving our facilities, within reason.