Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ride Easy, John Wetton

IT'S WITH GREAT sadness I read about the passing of musician John Wetton, best known for fronting Asia and also a key member of bands like Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, UK and others.

I've written many times about Asia. It was the first band I saw in concert, in 1982, as a clueless and geeky teen. It was mind-blowing and inspired me to play guitar, not that I'll ever even be in the same stratosphere as Steve Howe.

I know every word to every Asia song from the first album. It was a huge part of my life as I got into music. So when a guy like John Wetton dies, it hits you. I never met him, but I feel like I knew him, through music.

We have that connection to artists in general, and it's a powerful thing.

Among other things, Wetton battled alcoholism and had open heart surgery. He recently posted on the Asia website that he would not be playing on the first leg of the Journey/Asia tour, which makes a stop in Moline in April. Sheryl would say that he'd have lived longer if he had eaten low carb, healthy fat, moderate protein but of course he probably didn't.

Peace to John and his family. I will never forget him or his music.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Doors turned into beds

WE HAVE A ton of old doors in our 120-year-old Second String Music building. Most were stored in the upper floors after years of remodeling. They are in great shape and probably original to the structure.

We have sold a couple. Not long ago a good friend picked one out for a new project - her husband was making a bed for their daughter's room and needed a headboard. This is what they came up with.

Beautiful, right?

We are not having a general sale on our old doors and we are not looking to ditch them. And they aren't free. But I'm glad at least a few have found new homes. Imagine if they could talk, and what we'd learn about Quincy history!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The great big world outside of Quincy

QUINCY IS A rocking chair community. Don't rock back and forth too slowly or too fast. Everything moves at a nice easy pace. And we really don't think much of the world around us, unless we go over the bridge to buy cheaper stogies in Missouri.

Once again, I had a great experience at John Wood Community College Thursday. Mike Terry asked me to speak at his English class and I talked about interviewing people, since the students have to talk to somebody and then write a story.

After talking to the students, I learned one of them is from New York City. He was very young on 9/11. But I'm sure he's got a story or two to tell. It's one of the most significant events in world history, and he was there.

Another young man hails from Joplin, Mo. It's hard to believe its been nearly five years since the tornado blasted through town. The young man said his family knew people who were killed. I'm sure just about everybody in Joplin knows somebody that was killed. You watch the news and you are horrified, but we weren't actually there. How would you like to talk to somebody who has first-hand knowledge about that horrible day?

Two of the students are interviewing grandparents. One of them lives in Quincy and landed in Normandy during D-Day. Again, this is one of the most important dates in history. Mike and I encouraged the young man to record his conversation and talk to his grandfather as much as possible about it - fewer and fewer of our WWII vets are left. The student isn't just interviewing his grandfather about the war - he's capturing it forever and possibly the last time.

Yet another student in the class is from Serbia. Do you  have any idea what has been going on there? Do you even know where it is located? Maybe you should get to know this region of the world. The student didn't get into too much detail, but he did mention a day in 1999 when NATO bombed the city where he lived.

There are fascinating stories everywhere, even in the rocking chair community of Quincy, Illinois.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Well bless my 80s heart

I ENJOY WORKING with new guitar students. I have many more experienced (older) students right now that are checking off bucket lists, want to play with grandkids or in church, or have time and want a challenge. And learning guitar is a challenge. I wish I could sprinkle magic fairy guitar dust over everything and make it easy, but it doesn't work that way.

That being said, I had amazing experiences with younger students this week that lifted me from January doldrums and made teaching a blast.

The first was with a 14-year-old girl. She is already a good player, and learned from an area teacher. She uses all the right techniques and she is versed in chord transition and fingerstyle playing. But .... she's never played scales and she wants to learn how to pick out melody lines from songs. Aha! My specialty!

Our first lesson was so much fun. Then, at the end, she told me about a song she wants to learn for her eighth-grade graduation. It's called "Goodbye." I thought maybe she was referring to the cringing Nickelback version. "Nope," she said. "It's by an 80s band. Maybe you have heard of them, I think they are called Night Ranger."

Night Ranger? NIGHT BLEEPING RANGER? Well bless her hairball-loving, guitar-crunching and head-banging little heart. Turns out her mother is a huge 80s rock fan. So she's being raised right. Are we gonna have some fun in guitar lessons, or what?

It's the first time I've heard the song in 30 years, and it's a blast to play. We learned about putting the capo on the second fret to make it way easier. She's happy. Mom is happy. And I'm over the rock anthem moon.

Yesterday one of my teenage boys came in and floored me by playing "Blackbird." I showed him how to do the intro two weeks ago, and now he flies through it without effort. "My grandpa showed me how to do it," he said. "So we've been playing it together."

I almost cried.

This young man has come a million miles in a very short time. I am not afraid to admit he is a better guitar player than I am. We can still learn stuff - I floored him by demonstrating how drop D can make Nirvana songs waaaaaayyyy cooler - and I hope we keep rocking.

Sometimes you just have to sit back, take stock, and admit you are living the charmed life. I have a great wife, our own business, a band full of miscreants that just want to have fun (Cheeseburgers), a girl singer who careens from Metallica to Miranda in a heartbeat (HartLyss), and a jam band which never practices but somehow continues to pick up the odd gig (Pepper Spray). Once in a while I'll go out on my own or jam with my mandolin-playing buddy, Paul Lester, or that blues-infused slide guy of doom, Rock A Bye Johnny Barnard.

Pinch me. I'm in 80s rock and roll heaven, and it's 2017. I am blessed and grateful. And I'm gonna learn more Night Ranger songs. Rock on!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cheese all the time

THE CHEESEBURGERS ARE getting ready for the Make America Cheese Again Tour 2017. We'll be sponsored by Kraft or the state of Wisconsin. Get ready, cuz we got plans.

Stacy Taylor and I have been discussing ideas and we are getting together tonight for the first practice of the year. I cannot wait to unleash The Cheese! We have a private party gig Saturday night and we are lining up more stuff, including the March 25 Fabulous Fur Ball. We are also playing in a Quincy park this summer, among other fun gigs.

With this band, it's all about energy and the shtick, you know, The Show. When you come to see us we want you to dance and party like it's 1999. Or 2017. Whichever comes first. I need to warn you that we'll be holding tent revivals and laying hands on our fans all year long. It's. Gonna. Be. Epic.

I think there's a choir robe laying around here somewhere ....

Cheers and Cheese and see you at The Show!

Time to hit the basement and practice some CHEESE!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One goes events only

ONE RESTAURANT AND Bar has decided to go events-only. This is a blow to the local music scene because One was, and is, a great place to play. With the demise of Turner Hall last year, there are fewer and fewer local band venues, a reason the local band scene in general is slowing down.

The Cheeseburgers have done many shows at One. Some were amazing and some weren't. But it was never because of the venue. It's an old movie theater (I remember seeing "Independence Day" there in 1996 when I first moved to Quincy) and it has a lot of charm. It isn't the easiest place to load in for a band, but it has a really nice stage and the acoustics are decent.

Here's the announcement from One ...

ONE is now available for Special Events only; to include: Receptions, Rehearsal Dinners, Banquets, Class Reunions, Business Meetings, Movie Theater Rentals, Birthday & Anniversary Parties.......
As of today, ONE will no longer be open for regular restaurant service.
We will still be booking your favorite bands!
Please check our website for our calendar of events.
For bookings, please contact Tenille (217) 257-0422

One was among the few places left around here to book and pay bands. It's easier for venues to hire the solo acoustic acts. Cori Lyssy and I (HartLyss) have played a few shows at One and always love it, and let's face it - the owners don't have to pay HartLyss as much as a band. Yet an acoustic duo is not going to be the same as the full-blown band experience.

For the most part, One will no longer book and pay bands. It will be up to the event organizer. Sheryl and I encourage our local musicians to get paid for their services and we hope One is still used regularly for shows.

There will still be live music at One. REPEAT - there will still be live music at one. What One likely will do is hire a band to play for the door. I personally don't like to do this, because bands won't get paid unless people show up. It does take the pressure off the venue, which I understand. And just generally speaking, people in Quincy bitch and moan about paying cover charges, no matter if it's $1 or $10. They just do.

Noi and Tenille, the owners, are huge supporters of local music. I applaud them for their efforts and for giving us the opportunities to play in a beautiful venue. They were trying to sell the business and had a buyer, but it fell through last week - hence the events-only idea. Noi and Tenille have another full-time business and it simply became too time-consuming for them. We understand.

One is still going to do Open Mic Night, which gives less experienced musicians a chance to play on a stage. It will now take place on the first Thursday of every month, not a bad idea. I still remember the Avenue Beat girls and their first performances at Open Mic Night, and I will still take some of my guitar students so they get an idea of what it's like to publicly perform, yet without the pressure of a paid gig.

Thank you, Noi and Tenille, for supporting us. Best of luck with the events-only idea, and we will see you again.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Going to see the band

I HAD A rare Saturday night off, so I went to One Restaurant and checked out a fairly new area band called Funhouse Riot. They were excellent - great songs, tight chops, and a girl singer who can really belt it out. Once they play a few shows and get the stage presence thing down, Funhouse Riot could be a real force around here, and I encourage you to check them out the next time they play.

The band scene is cyclical. Right now we are on the downswing around here - there aren't as many places to play, and bar owners are leery about forking over $700 plus for a local band instead of giving the solo acoustic acts less money. There are no young upstart bands in the area playing regularly, sadly. I will have more on this topic soon.

So I'm glad a band like Funhouse Riot is making an effort.

I'm usually playing somewhere on the weekends or just generally collapsing after a busy week at the store, and now I'm doing some stuff for the Whig in sports. Sheryl was exhausted too Saturday, but I sucked it up and went out - you only get so many chances to see other bands.

When I first left sports in the late 1990s, I had trouble just watching games. I was always breaking it down and trying to figure out a way to write the story, instead of just enjoying the contest. I find myself doing the same thing when watching a local band - what are they doing, how are they doing it, what PA are they using, how do they transition from song to song, how do they interact with the crowd and each other, and on and on and on.

Geesh, Hoser. Chill! Enjoy the dang band and have a good time - that's what live music is all about.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Selling guitars instead of watching TV today

WE DON'T HAVE a television at the store. It's too much of a distraction and temptation. A few years ago we were given a large TV, but the reception at Fifth and Maine sucks, and we don't want to hook up cable here, since we don't have it at home. So it's sitting on one of the upper floors, waiting to be turned on again.

I believe we have choices in this wretched world. We should all respect each other and our choices, beliefs, value systems. If you want to watch the inauguration, go right ahead, doesn't bother me a bit. Let me know how it turns out.

I haven't watched an inauguration before and I'm not starting today. Sheryl is running errands and cleaning around the house, so it's me and Tucker at Second String Music, and we're rocking already. I just sold a very nice guitar to a pleasant man and made him very happy. Now I'm happy.

I think the sun might eventually come out after all.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How much for rock tickets?

IN THE SPRING of 1983, my buddy Scott VanEewen and I went to a concert at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan. To the best of my foggy and time-addled brain, Triumph and Foghat were on the bill. We paid $15 for general admission floor seats. Rik Emmett of Triumph was mind-blowingly good and I remember being deaf for days after the show. We got fairly close to the stage and the drum solo featured a massive light display that added blindness to our deafness. It  was bleeping PHENOMENAL.

Back then, $15 was a lot of dough for a Dutch kid. I thought we got our money's worth. I saw a great rock concert and it got me more fired up about playing guitar and getting into music.

What I wouldn't give to be excited like that again to see a rock show, like I was for The Who last year.

Let's fast-forward 34 years. I still would love to see a great rock show. Who wouldn't? But I'm discouraged after looking at venues and prices. Really? $100 to sit in the nosebleeds?

An 80s tribute band, Hairball, is playing at the Oakley-Lindsay Center in Quincy Feb. 18. Tickets are $20. To me, it would be worth it. But people around here don't want to pay $1 to see great local bands play. I have a gig that night so I can't go, but I hope Hairball attracts a sellout crowd.

I have a few bucket items on the rock show list. I'd like to see Tom Petty live. He's playing in St. Louis at the hockey arena in May. I looked up tickets and they are selling for about $100 way up top. I found a few for about $125 in the lower bowl, but they appear to be beside the stage and are probably obstructed.

I saw U2 in St. Louis and Detroit from behind the stage and it was actually quite good. But I'm not sure I want to pay that much. Sorry, Tom. Breaks my heart. I would love to see you - keep rocking and it might happen.

U2 in on the Joshua Tree anniversary tour this summer. The closest they are coming is Chicago. That means Soldier Field and binoculars to see Bono wrap 50,000-plus fans around his pinky finger. Would it be worth it? Nope. Not to go that far and deal with the hassle of Chicago.

Journey and Asia are playing the Quad Cities in March. I'm tempted. Asia was the first band I saw live, 35 years ago. And who doesn't like Journey? Might be worth it. Floor seats are $105. What? ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE DOLLARS? Don't stop believing, Journey. I'm sure enough people will fill the arena.

Still want to see a show at Red Rocks in Colorado. You never know. I might find a few grand on the sidewalk and have enough for the plane tickets and concert tickets - they'd probably be about the same. At least I could stay with my sister in Denver.

I'm intrigued by the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, Chicago's west suburbs. They have some amazing shows lined up. Wait a second .... $40 to see Rik Emmett and his band? Hmmm ....

And, of course, the Old Rock House in St. Louis and the Blue Note in Columbia often have great shows, worth checking the calendar.

Maybe I will see that one great rock show this year. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lew's rock star pics - who are these guys?

LOIS PORTNOY DROPPED off some really cool black and white photos her husband took of rock stars playing in St. Louis. Lew Portnoy, who passed away last year and was a Second String Music legend, shot hundreds of concerts in St. Louis, many at the old Arena.

Steve Rees identified a few of them. One shows Neil Young with a steel guitar player we think might be Herb Pederson. We are fairly certain Jeff Beck is pictured with a bass player. Another shows a very young Norman Blake, a huge name in guitar circles. 

But two other photos have us stumped. One is of a bass player and singer who looks a lot like Alice Cooper. Did Alice Cooper actually play bass?

The other shows a cherub young man who looks, well, British or something. He is sitting with a guitar and sticking his tongue out. Sheryl thought it might be Davey Jones or Gene Wilder, and Steve thinks it might be Harry Nilsson. 

These photos were taken under horrendous lighting conditions. Lew had to use aperture and F-stops on his camera to capture images that weren't blurry or out of focus. Then he had to print them, and his bleeding techniques were incredible.

The photos are works of art, and we are humbled Lois thought of us when finding them. Anyone want to shoot us a guess at who these two gentlemen might be? We would love to know your guesses too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What's in a band name?

THE OLD ROCK House in St. Louis periodically has Facebook contests for best band names. Most of them are hilarious, some off-color, some bizarre. Personally, Dump Truck Santa is about the best band name I've ever heard, along with Bi-Polar Bears.

There's usually a story behind a name. My first band, The Funions, started at First Union Congregational Church. First and Union make Funion. We were kind of greasy and generally full of chemical preservatives, so the name fit.

Most of The Funions later started a band called Reasonable Doubt, which had two lawyers and a police officer. The Cheeseburgers were named because the band plays cheesy classic rock and songs people want to hear. Cori Lyssy and I are called HartLyss, thought up one night by Frank Haxel. I wanted to call us Cheap and Easy and have people figure out who was what, but I got voted down.

Then there is Pepper Spray, the Second String Music jam band. Pepper Spray was named after a certain law enforcement officer was asked the preferred method to subdue unruly suspects.. "Pepper spray. Less paperwork," he said. In an instant, a classic band name was born. And if Pepper Spray ends its long and storied run, I claim dibs to Less Paperwork.

Our good friends Ted Holt and Pete Magliocco have formed a duo. They have all kinds of suggested names, very few suitable for print. My favorite is Ball Smear, thought up when I threw Angus The Young's soggy tennis ball against a wall and it left a mark. That's the story I'm sticking with, for now.

This Saturday a new local band called Funhouse Riot plays at One Restaurant, and hopefully we will check them out. The name alone suggests a good time.

I've come up with a billion classic band names but I never write them down. I gotta start keeping track and submitting them, or form a new band and use a double entendre just to make people think.

So go to the Old Rock House page and turn in your favorite band name, and win a million dollars. Wait. There are no cash prizes. No Cash Prizes. Sweet! Another great band name!

See how easy it is?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Why yes, we will play at the inauguration

I'VE BEEN READING on the Interwebs about all the "artists" playing at inauguration parties. It's certainly a star-packed lineup, featuring a lot of country singers who used to lead bands called Lone Star, One Star, Big Star, Four Pointed Star and Burned Out Star. The Washington elite paying big bucks to hear "Proud To Be An American" are certainly getting the bang for their buck.

Apparently a rapper from Florida is getting $1 million to play. A million bucks! It has to be true because I read it online. I hope his lip-sync machine is working and his stage crew has everything cued up and ready.

This float would look good on the streets of D.C. ....
I want to dispel rumors right now that Pepper Spray is playing in D.C. this weekend. They are absolutely false. Actually we were offered a gig on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial, but when Adam Yates said we needed to practice, the rest of us were revolted - Pepper Spray NEVER practices, not even for an incoming president.

I would have done the gig for half a million, if we were allowed to bring spouses and we were staying in a posh Virginia hotel. The organizers balked, even though we are known for being the best jam band ever started on Friday afternoons at a Quincy music store. Our people and their people couldn't agree on the logistics. So we'll stick to Friday happy hours and the occasional parade float or bowling alley benefit gig.

Lest you think it's about politics, it's not. We turned down an offer to play at the inauguration four years ago, mainly because we couldn't get away from our day jobs. Well, I don't really have a day job. The rest of the guys do. You can't just tell the boss you are going to be gone for three days to play a gig on the East Coast for the president, can you?

We are on standby for the next few days, in case somebody has an ideological panic attack or one of the country guys reunites with his band. But only if we get paid a million bucks. Each.

We might even suck it up and practice "Proud To Be An American." Not.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Play guitar during ice storms

WE ARE SUPPOSED to get half an inch of ice the next few days. Already stuff is getting called off tonight, including a game I was supposed to cover for The Whig. And our Happy Hour jam session has also been postponed, though we will stay open until our usual 6 p.m., and the fridge will be open, too.

People around here overreact to the weather in general. It's nothing to mess with and we need to be safe, I get that. But the world is not ending, people.

The media is especially prone to buying into weather-fear. Last night a local anchor urged people to "get their bread and milk" before the storm hits. Really? As if Hy-Vee and County Market need the extra plug.

Stay inside, avoid this and play guitar.
So this is going to apply to us at Second String Music, too. We are going to be open tomorrow, if we can get the car out of the garage. And if I were you, I'd be coming to Fifth and Maine right now because you don't want to run low on picks, strings and all your music gear. Shoot man, you might as well buy a nice Takamine acoustic from us because you are going to be inside for three days straight and you might go crazy if you don't have something nice to play.

For that matter, we have a couple of awesome PA systems that need new homes and would really be nice to have for your cooped-up weekend. You might as well buy a drum set too and bang around on it since you can't go out. Bread and milk? Who needs it? Plus we have refreshments at the store.

Get a beautiful new Roland Cube amp while surrounded by ice cubes. Our incredible Gretsch guitars and bass would make passing the time passable and keep you from shoveling or throwing down salt. Throw down some licks instead on a new Ibanez electric.

Ice Ice Baby. Make sure you are prepared. Man cannot live by bread alone - music makes the world go round, especially when the world stops because of bad weather.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Don't get rid of that guitar

ONE OF THE things we see time and time again at Second String Music is a customer bemoaning the fact they let a guitar go when they were younger.

"Man, I had a Les Paul when I was in my 20s, but I needed the cash so I sold it," a man told us recently. "I wish I hadn't done that. It would be worth a fortune today."

Here's some advice if you are a guitar player and you are thinking of getting rid of your instrument - DON'T. Not even if you are destitute and soon to be living on the street!

Never, I repeat, NEVER, sell your first guitar. I still have the first guitar I bought, a battered Lotus that is 34 years old. I learned to play on it. It has a lot of sentimental value. I would never sell it, ever. It was a broken mess a few years ago when Sheryl took it out to Don Rust and they put it back together.

I sold the first electric guitar I bought, a gorgeous 1989 Kramer, and I'm still kicking myself. A few years ago I let a couple of guitars go for a hot tub, and the hot tub broke after a few years. The guitars, I assume, are still playable and are in a good home. I don't need another guitar. I miss 'em, though.

I'm not sure this one could be fixed... or sold.
How many times have we heard this - "Well, the action was really high and I couldn't play it, so I pawned it for 20 bucks."

Guh. GUH. Never, ever pawn or sell a guitar you think is unplayable. Bring it here first and have Sheryl or Steve Rees look at it. Sheryl has worked minor miracles to get guitars back into playing shape - she just restrung and fixed an old 12-string, and now it plays and sounds great.

I'm not against pawns shops. In fact you can find great deals in pawn shops, and we have a good relationship with the two best pawn shops in the area. We actually work together on some guitar projects.

But if you are unsure about your instrument, don't give up and get rid of it. Come see us first. You might be surprised what a few bucks and some TLC will do for your guitar.

And you can save yourself a lot of seller's remorse.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Glass everywhere

AHHH, THE JOYS of owning a historic building. Notice I use "historic" instead of "old." Unfortunately, they are the same thing.

We constantly battle broken windows on all five floors. I suspect it's because much of the glass is original to the building. Since it was constructed in 1896, that makes it 120 years old. We'd love to fix all the window sills and replace it with glass, but it's tough enough to pay the mortgage and property taxes, and keep the first and second floors in shape.

Yesterday it got warm and a wind came bellowing out of the northwest. We sit high on a bluff five blocks from the Mississippi River, and since the WCU building is across the street, it forms a wind tunnel of sorts.

Anybody got a broom?
As soon as it started blowing I knew were were in trouble. Sure enough, three windows on the far east end of the second floor broke, and glass scattered everywhere on the street and sidewalk. Then two big plates of glass from a fourth-floor window gave out and came crashing down on the street.

Steve Rees and I cleaned up what we could. Sheryl called the city to ask for a street sweeper to help out. This morning Sheryl and I got more glass swept up from the middle of the street and under cars parked along the street. We call it a "Good faith effort" and the glass is blowing in the wind, down to the river and out into Missouri today.

In all, five windows need the glass to be replaced. There goes another big chunk of change. Oh well .... it's all part of the historic, er, old, building thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Who won the game?

YOU CAN TAKE the guy outta sports, but you can't take sports outta the guy. That's pretty much my motto when it comes to escaping to the man cave and watching the game, or going back to work part-time in sports at The Whig.

I spent most of Sunday recovering from a raucous HartLyss gig in Mount Sterling. I thought about calling up some friends to see if there was any pickup pond hockey going on. I even considered venturing out on Quincy Bay or maybe down to South Park to see if the ice was thick enough. But my bad back and recovering from the rock and roll truck shut down my motivation.

Who won this last night?
So I stayed home and watched the NFL playoff games and was asleep by 9 p.m. I'm not old, I'm experienced. Right. Just keep telling yourself that, Hoser.

One thing I really miss is watching all the college bowl games. Almost every one was on ESPN, and we don't have cable or Dish anymore. Adams keeps promising the newfangled fiber lines will soon be installed, but I'm not holding my breath.

Last night the national championship game was played in Florida and I completely forgot about it until I went to bed. It wasn't on the radio. So I fell asleep wondering who won, hoping is wasn't Alabama. Then again, I didn't have to go through the agony of watching my Wolverines lose their bowl game last week, or whenever it was.

I didn't even know the final result until just before coming to the store. It was kind of neat looking up the highlights and seeing all the depressed Alabama fans.

So I missed a thrilling college football title game. But I got a lot of sleep and feel good this morning. Maybe being experienced and without cable isn't such a bad thing, after all.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Tweets and Meryl

APPARENTLY OUR PRESIDENT-ELECT doesn't like Meryl Streep. Apparently there was an awards show last night. Apparently she said something he didn't like, so he went off on her on his Twitter account.

I have no idea what Twitter is, and have no plans to find out. Sheryl reads the latest ranting and raving from the about-to-become president and then tries to tell me about them while controlling her disgust.

Mom still loves ya, Meryl.
Meryl Streep? Really? You went after MERYL STREEP? Now you've done it, Buffoon. Now you've made my late mother roll over in her grave, and we had her ashes spread in various parts of the country, so that's saying something. Sheryl say the even Richard Nixon is rolling over in his grave. That is super bad.

My mother loved Meryl Streep. She watched every movie Meryl Streep made. She talked all the time about how she was a great actress and how her films rocked. Meryl Streep was my mother's hero.

You know what? You can go after President Obama, go after Democrats, go after people who won't pay for your wall, go after anybody who disagrees with you and your, uh, plans to make America great.

But now you've gone after my mother. Geesh. What a Twit...-ter.

Here are the screen shots that Sheryl took to document this insanity.

Friday, January 6, 2017

It's so cold that ....

THIS MORNING IT was zero degrees. Zero. As in, co co co co COLD. As in, so cold that even the dogs only wanted to walk one loop in the cemetery, especially Angus and his little Cowboy Corgi paws.

The downstairs bathroom water pipes at the house are frozen, even with heat tape and a space heater. People are putting their hands into the snow to warm them up, and I'm vacuuming every hour to suck up the salt and debris tracked into the store, before it thaws and makes an even bigger mess.

It's colder than ....

1. Kellyanne Conway.
2. The look of the Mexican treasury department CEO when informed THEY are paying for the wall.
3. Me, when forced to watch more than five minutes of Live With Kelly.
4. The one remaining beverage in the store fridge after successful Christmas happy hours.
5. Fast Eddie, after being locked in the back storage area yet again overnight.
6. My expression after hearing The Talking Head of the CBS morning show say she didn't know any of the lines from Caddyshack. How is this woman allowed to be in public at all?
7. The mail which just arrived and feels like an iceburg after it is OUT of the envelope.
8. The stare from Emily Hart when told she can't have a cat in her apartment.
9. Lake Michigan in September. Wait. Lake Michigan now. Really, Lake Michigan anytime.
10. The third, fourth and fifth floors of our historic Fifth and Maine building. Maybe some day they'll be warm and toasty on a cold winter's day. Maybe. NOT.

We should get one of these for Angus ....

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wow - a typewriter!

I WAS IN State Street Bank this morning talking to the legendary Bobbe White. She was making me a new card with my account numbers on it. She put it in this strange looking thing with a cartridge and roller. It had keys. I blanked out for a second, but after spotting "IBM" on the side, it dawned on me.

Holy crap ... A TYPEWRITER! I haven't seen a typewriter in years.

"The young hires look at it and they kind of freak out," Bobbe said. "But it's still actually easier to use for labels and cards than setting up the printer."

The IBM electric typewriter used at State Street Bank was state of the art for its time. It automatically goes back to the left margin after you finish a sentence. It's fancy schmancy dancy.

Fancy Schmancy!
My parents gave me a vintage manual typewriter when I was maybe 12 years old, and I remember using it to type high school and college papers. It was super cool because I could type red letters, though the ribbon would always get tangled up and I'd get red ink everywhere. A couple of the letters didn't work and I spent more time using whiteout to fix spelling errors than I did typing.

I even remember writing stories for the Central Michigan University student newspaper, CM Life, using a typewriter. About that time they were getting new computers, from what I vaguely remember. This was in the 1800s. Well, mid-1980s. Same thing.

When I was a senior at Central, I was editor of the Chippewa Yearbook. We were the bastard step-child of the college publishing department, and we didn't have the fancy student newspaper VDTs (video display terminals). We didn't even had a typewriter that worked. So I'd steal the CM Life secretary's typewriter at night when we were working on the yearbook stuff - we had to type out stories on carbon paper and mail them to the publisher.

One night I forgot to put the typewriter back on the secretary's desk. The next morning all hell broke loose and I nearly got fired from the yearbook staff. I think we were almost done and it was probably too late to fire me and get somebody else to finish it. But my name was mud in the Anspach Hall basement for a long, long time.

I remember complaining to the student publications adviser, the legendary Jim Wojcik, about not having computers for the yearbook. His reply was something like "Suck it up Buttercup" and "Like I told you when you were hired as editor, I don't want to hear about how the Chippewa Yearbook is bleeping things up." And that was that.

My first newspaper job was at a suburban weekly in Jenison, Michigan, and we used computers. Toward the end of my time at The Alpena News we were going to a newfangled contraption called a laptop. And today I can write my sports stories for The Whig on my own Dell laptop and email them to the office. Shoot - I remember using my phone a couple of times to send updates from trials I was covering.

Still, I miss the typewriter. The clackity clack clack of the metal letter keys hitting the roller was a soothing sound, and you learned to be accurate, since fixing mistakes was such a pain in the ass.

Type on, Bobbe White and State Street Bank. I'm glad somebody is still using a typewriter.

And I might just have some spare whiteout around somewhere, in case you need a typing do-over.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Back at QHS Gym

EMILY PLAYED FOUR years of varsity basketball for the Quincy Blue Devils. It was a challenging experience for her and it helped toughen her up and deal with adversity. I spent a lot of long winter nights watching her play at QHS Gym, and have good and not-so-good memories from 33rd and Maine.

Eight years? Really?
Whig Sports Editor David Adam asked if I would cover the QHS vs. West Hancock game Tuesday night, and I jumped at the chance. So I went to QHS Gym for the first time in eight years. Eight years! I can't believe it's been that long.Quincy ended up winning and I think I saw the Blue Devils make more 3-pointers last night than in Emily's junior and senior years. Click here for the story.

Emily was a post player. She would have loved playing with this year's quick and aggressive guards. In her junior and senior years, her team had trouble simply dribbing out of the press and getting the ball past halfcourt. I think she would have thrived in current QHS coach Brad Bergman's system.

I saw a lot of familiar faces and it was great to be back at the gym. Thank you, coach Bergman and this year's Blue Devil team, for taking me back in time and helping me stay in the moment. I felt rusty and it wasn't the best of stories, but it was a positive experience and I hope to see more QHS games again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How long do the lights stay up?

THIS IS A blue time of year, with January settling in and the deep cold still to come. We had a great Christmas season at the store and time for little else, and we hope 2017 is a good one.

We didn't put up a tree at the house this year because we have a new kitten who thinks fake fir and decorations are toys. I actually tried putting up the tree in my man cave, but Josie got into it and tore the bottom apart, so the tree is ingloriously laying in pieces in another room.

Christmas + lights = cat toys.
I did string lights around the store windows and we put a tree up with lots of cool guitar ornaments. It was quite lovely when we turned off the lights to head home for the night. Last Saturday, the final day of the year, Steve Rees and I took everything down and packed it away for another year. This time the tree is in the first-floor storage area instead of on the third floor, where it talked to ghosts and collected spiders. One of them crawled on my arm when I put it up and the ghosts were not happy when hearing they wouldn't have the tree to talk to this year.

I like the Christmas lights. Washington Park is beautiful and The District even put lights up around the top of our historic Fifth and Maine building. But Christmas is over. How long until the lights come down?

Christmas technically lasts until the Epiphany, which is Friday. So leave 'em up for another few days, get over the sadness of a season's end, and get ready for Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine's Day and all the other events coming up.

Just make sure your Christmas stuff doesn't collect spiders until you put them up again.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Waking up to 2017

FOR THE FIRST time in years, I didn't have a gig on New Year's Eve. Sheryl and I thought about going out to a party and a few bars. But at 9 p.m. I looked at her and said, "You don't mind if we stay at home, do you?"

"Sounds good to me," she said.

She challenged me to stay up until the ball dropped. I made it to 11 p.m. and watched the ball in Times Square bring in the new year, Eastern Standard time. The music was awful and one of the bimbos trying to scream kinda botched it up, not that I was really paying attention.

Then I went to bed. At midnight I awoke to the sounds of fireworks and Tucker frantically bouncing around the house, and I thought, "What kinds of idiots shoot off fireworks at midnight?" Then I thought, "You live in the Hood, Holmes. It's all good."

So that was my New Year's Eve. You know what? It was fine, and I didn't wake up run over by the rock and roll truck.

I'm either getting smarter or older, or both. Nah .... just older.