Thursday, April 27, 2017

Another busy summer

I expect to see at least this many people tomorrow in the Plaza!
WE START OUR Concerts In The Plaza series Friday. Geesh. It's almost May already?

Sheryl is a stickler for using the online calendar. I'm getting better, and after I learn to move the thingie to the green-colored slot and use the right password, I might get better and actually get organized, too.

So here's a list of stuff coming up this summer. It includes our Concerts In The Plaza, the Noon Blues Acoustic Shows in Washington Park, and our updated Cheeseburgers gig list. All shows subject to change, weather, impaired calendar operators and random acts of kindness. Go!

Concerts In The Plaza
First Mid-Illinois Bank, Seventh and Maine, Quincy
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday, April 25 - Jacqueline Kaufman
Friday, May 5 - Zeke Cernea
Friday, May 12 - Kayla Obert
Friday, May 19 - Tim Smith

Noon Blues
Washington Park, Fifth and Maine, Quincy
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday, June 9 - Bella Song
Friday, June 23 - Blake Gardner
Friday, July 14 - HartLyss
Friday, July 28 - Steve Rees
Friday, Aug. 11 - Akoustic Mayem
Friday, Aug. 25 - Tyler Marquess

The Cheeseburgers
Make America Cheese Again World Tour 2017
Saturday, May 13 - Buh Bye to The Dude Party - Private
Saturday, June 24 - Party Cove, Monroe City, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, July 4 - LaHarpe Community Fireworks Party, 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 6 - Quincy Park District Summer Concert Series, Washington Park, 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 15 - Private Party, State Room, Quincy
Saturday, July 29 - Clark County Fair, Kahoka, Mo., 9 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 13 - Flatland Summer Jam, Macomb Ill., 3 p.m.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How young should you start lessons?

A MOM JUST came into Second String Music with her 8 year old daughter and 5 year old son. The daughter plays the violin, and we talked about taking lessons, approaches to learning, and how to motivate young people to play music.

Both her kids were polite and seemed very bright. I showed the boy a smaller sized guitar and his eyes lit up. She had a lot of questions and really wants her kids to be involved in music. I looked up at the clock and realized we'd been chatting for 45 minutes, and it seemed like just a few.

I get asked a lot about what age to start your child with guitar lessons. It depends, but through trial and error, I've learned 8 is about the youngest I'll start. I have a little girl about that age right now and we are having a blast - she's picking it up quickly and writing songs about her little brother, 2, who is LOUD and ALWAYS running around. So. Much. Fun!

If your child is ready to learn, we are ready to rock!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Name at Sixth and Maine

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO Michele Wilkerson, owner of Grown N Gathered. The property has undergone an amazing transformation - the apartments upstairs are almost ready, Ryan Christian's Electric Fountain coffee space now has a working garage door, and workers just put down concrete in the outdoor courtyard behind 601 Maine.

Michele is looking for a name for the courtyard. "The Patio" is boring and already taken. I like "Chele 601" or "Chill 601" or "Anything Is Better Than Calling It Courtyard 601." She's open to suggestions. Also, try the Guatemala coffee. It will keep you up until Friday, which is exactly the idea.

It's nice to see a business thrive at Sixth and Maine, instead of sitting empty. It takes a person with guts and determination to make it work, and I encourage you to check all of our way cool downtown businesses. Go see Michele today and wish her a happy birthday, and make sure you check out the artichokes, peanut butter chocolate, Goose Island beer selection and all the Yoga stuff next door.

And help the owner come up with a new name. She might even let you draw on her sidewalk with chalk.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Art, sidewalk style

Follow that Yellow Brick Road into Second String Music!
WE HAD A blast Saturday using sidewalk chalk at Second String Music. I have asked for no rain for the next, oh, three years so the amazing art will be preserved. Well, at least for a few days. Sheryl is always thinking, of course, and snapped some great pics for posterity.

Katie Hogge, Cadi Lyssy, Stephanie Boyer and others sat in the sun and chalked up a storm. Cadi and Katie are really creative, and Steph even drew a picture of me, then colored in the Yellow Brick Road leading into the store.

We even had a young gal draw a tree after her mom bought a ukulele. Name another music store where you can purchase a quality instrument AND draw on the sidewalk when you are done!

The thing about chalk is that you don't have to be any good. I drew a peace sign that looked more like a rabbit with a bad hair day. Didn't matter. And who cares if my guitar looks like a hair dryer? Or if my cat looks like a fish? With Katie's help, we turned it into a catfish. See how this art stuff works out?

 Expression is what it's about, and it's all in the eye of the beholder. Just don't giggle or look perplexed when viewing my latest sidewalk chalk creations.

We encourage art in all forms. We still have plenty of chalk, and our sidewalk is always open, even if it isn't Friday afternoon.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Family war history

MY AUNT WILLA recently sent out a family email. She has my Opa Hart's World War II "Netherland Freedom Medal," and she wants to make sure it gets into proper hands.

Klaas Hart was a pastor and active in the Dutch Resistance. There are many family stories of his feats and activities during a horrible time. He was wanted by the Gestapo and escaped by the skin of his teeth several times.

One day in London, Ontario, when I was about 11 years old, he came for a visit from his home in Toronto and I asked him about the war. I don't remember much of the conversation, but later my parents said Opa Hart talked to me about it, which he rarely did.

Willa has decided to give the medal to her son, and it will be treasured and kept in the family for generations. There is some speculation about what the medal is worth, but really, it doesn't matter.

It's a priceless piece of family history, and it will stay in the family. And that's all that matters.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sidewalk chalk party

SHERYL RECENTLY BOUGHT a box of sidewalk chalk. We intend to use it at Fifth and Maine. I flunked graphic arts seven times in high school, though my lack of education never hurt me none.

Keep it clean at Fifth and Maine!
I can't draw to save my life. When we need something written on a sign or a sales tag, Sheryl does it, because my handwriting is terrible. Writing in cursive is a lost art, and I gave up on it a long time ago when I wrote down directions to a Macker tournament in Indiana and ended up in Wisconsin instead.

But it can't hurt to try.

Sidewalk Chalk, of course, is the name of a late and great Quincy band, one that never let the music get in the way of a good time. So it's only appropriate.

One of my guitar students got very excited when seeing the chalk. Her name is Katie Hogge and she rocks. I said, "We are thinking of doing some drawing on Saturday." She said, "I'll be here!" Then she said, "Wow, you have brown and black chalk. Those are missing from my box." Geesh. She must be a serious sidewalk chalker or something.

Maybe we should do it during our regular Friday Happy Hour(s) gathering. Now THAT could be interesting, as long as we keep it clean. We are not allowed to write down the actual name of the duo formed by Ted Holt and Pete Magliocco, because it could be considered lewd conduct and a Class 4 felony, allegedly.

Anyway, we'll do it on the next nice Saturday at Fifth and Maine, and make an event out of it. We use the sidewalk a lot when it gets nice out and there are events in the park, so why not decorate it and make it cool?

Just keep the band names clean and the drawings creative, and we'll be fine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What goes in at Sixth and Maine?

KIRLINS IS CLOSING its Hallmark store at Sixth and Maine. It's been there nearly 70 years. This is a blow to downtown Quincy, but as always, there are several things to consider.

For one, Kirlins will keep its corporate offices in the upper floor. Owners say they want another business in the space. It's very nice in there, but is there a business big enough to pay the rent for all that room and flourish downtown? This is a great opportunity to ask what is really needed down here, and to see if somebody has the intestinal fortitude to make it happen.

Hmmmm. Wonder if it's been done before, like, say, a block away.

This is a business decision. And it's too bad. I have no interest in going to the Kirlins in the Quincy Mall, which will remain open. I'm sure it has more traffic and makes more money. So be it. Enjoy fighting your way down Broadway to get those Christmas ornaments.

Sixth and Maine is an interesting intersection. On the northeast corner you have the new and flourishing Grown N Gathered, with refurbished apartments about to open on the second floor and Ryan Christian's coffee business ready to roll, too. On the northwest corner is the gorgeous Maine Center, which has great businesses but hasn't been able to fill the key Joseph A. Bank spot.

Then there's the dollar store on the southeast corner. I go there only to get my chocolate fix or if we need a light bulb or something in an emergency. The place is always busy and it fills a niche.

Sure, Kirlins closing the downtown store is sad, and part of the ebb and flow of life. A piece of Quincy dies when a longtime business shuts down. From the ashes, something will rise, and maybe we'll all be better off for it in the long run.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tucker the ... camel?

AS YOU KNOW, I like to take the dogs into the bank every now and then. Last week Tucker was with me and the bank employees went their usual nuts, giving him treats and praising him for how handsome he is. Tucker is a great dog and he totally sucks it all in like good Border Collies do.

This morning I was in the bank without dogs. Employee Bobbe White said, "I had the strangest dream about you. It was about Tucker, actually. He came into the bank, and behind him was a bigger Tucker, like the size of a cow. Then came a Tucker like a horse, and then a Tucker like a camel."

What does it all mean? We pondered it for a second. Tucker has rolled in death on two of our last three walks, and he got a thorough scrubbing this morning (as did Angus, who wouldn't give up rolling in something nasty for the world). Does that have something to do with it?

Are Bobbe's dream and Tucker's bath somehow linked? Why does Bobbe remember this dream in the first place? Is Tucker a symbol for something bigger, like how the Blackhawks are going to get swept in the first round of the playoffs? Is Tucker a larger-than-life figure? Is he really a camel in an oasis of banks?

So many questions. And yet another reason why going to State Street Bank at 8th and State is always a cathartic experience. For the dogs, I mean.

Bobbe says I am a "word guru," whatever that means. Yet words fail me in this case. I do not really know what the dream means, or why she dreamed it, or why Tucker is a camel.

Hopefully I have to make a deposit tomorrow and we'll learn more about what the dream means.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Falling asleep to hockey

I WAS EXCITED last night about the start of the NHL playoffs. There were five games on, and thanks to to our new Sling package, I could watch four of them. A few years ago I vowed to never watch hockey again after the player's strike, lockout, copout, greed-infested work stoppage, whatever you want to call it.

But if Trump can flip on NATO, surely I can watch the playoffs.

Another exciting night in Calftown!
Sheryl was happily sequestered on the couch and watching HGTV. All I heard from her was "Don't buy that house" and "Of course the bathroom is too small" and "Property Brothers drives me crazy." Or something like that. I escaped upstairs to the man cave, flipped on the third period of the Canadiens-Rangers game, and got ready for an exciting night of watching hockey.

I fell asleep. Right away. I woke up with a minute left in the game and the Rangers were scoring into an empty net. I hate the bleeping Rangers.

So I flipped it to the Blues game. They are playing in Minnesota. I made it through about five minutes and, well, you might find this hard to believe, but I fell asleep.

I woke up and it was in the second period. I went downstairs to check on Sheryl. She was, you guessed it again, asleep in bed. I thought, "Gosh, it must be midnight." I looked at the clock. It was 9:30.

I went back up stairs, tried staying awake for a few minutes, then gave up and went to bed. By 10 I was sawing logs, presumably.

The moral of the story is, when you get older, you go to bed and you get some sleep.

Also, you forget to take your baby Aspirin and old man Centrum pills in the morning, but that's another story.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pull the pins, and now we are REALLY open!

I WAS FEELING pretty good about myself this morning. I dropped Sheryl off at school (two more days of subbing, and then she's ready for a break). I took the dogs for a long walk. I drove alllllll the way across town and got the oil changed in the car. I went to the bank. I parked the car at Fifth and Maine about 9:30, and an older couple was standing in front of the door.

They were about to walk away when I came up and said hello and told them we were getting ready to open. "There's no sign with your hours," the woman said. Uh, yes there is, a large one in the south window, but the customer is always right so I stayed above the fray.

They were looking for an amp for their grandson. They poked around a while, and I turned on lights, booted stuff up and answered their questions. They were actually quite nice and I'm glad they stopped in, though they left with the dreaded "We might be back later."

So I'm puttering around in the back and trying to avoid an obnoxious Fast Eddie when the phone rings. "You guys going to be open at 10?" the man said. I looked at my watch. It was a few minutes after 10. I said, "Yes. We are open right now, actually." The man said, "Well, I'm standing outside your doors and they are still locked."


Turns out I forgot to pull the locking pins on the doors. The customer was very understanding and laughed. He bought some strings and we had a nice visit. Now we are really open for bidness at Fifth and Maine.

No matter how well you think you are doing, no matter how hard you try, there's always something. Right?

Not long ago Sheryl and I actually forgot to pull the pins when we left for the night, and we set the alarm. The next morning, an unfortunate soul entered before we got there, and the alarm went off. I can only imagine how high the person jumped and how terrified they were - the alarm is not just loud, it's massively supersonic loud.

Ah, the joys of doing the little things. It's a good reminder to slow down, take it easy and to take care of the important small details.

Thank you for your patience and for shopping local. It's very important, as this story from last night so aptly points out. And I vow to do better and unlock the doors when we open, and lock them when we close.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Recovering from .... tilling?

SHERYL SPENT MUCH of Sunday working on the garden and replacing fence posts. I mowed the lawn, tilled the garden, walked the dogs, took two large golf naps and puttered around the house.

This morning, neither one of us could move.

To be fair, tilling the garden is a nasty job and I pulled muscles I don't remember having, though it probably was the same last year. I don't wonder why anymore. It's pretty simple - getting older sucks.

Tillers are evil. But the garden looks good!
Then again, everything is relative. When I worked in the Grand Canyon National Park about a gazillion years ago, I'd walk down to the Colorado River and back up to the South Rim on the same day. I could barely walk for the next week. We used to call it the "Kaibob Shuffle" after the trail that goes to the river. People would look at you funny and you'd say, "Kaibob Shuffle," and they'd nod symphatheticaly.

A few years later I was at Central Michigan University and a bunch of us gathered to play football. Tackle football. Without helmets. Just stupid college stuff, no doubt fueled by Falstaff and being young. I remember trying to catch a punt, and my roommate, Marty Horjus, came out of the nowhere and flattened me with a vicious tackle.

We all laughed and played on, but I do remember the next few days of doing the "Horjus Shuffle."

I knew I was in trouble a few years ago when I woke up after a Herald-Whig Demons softball game and could barely move. Then came the harsh reality of recovering from a weekend golf tournament. Now I'm sore after a raucous Cheeseburger or HartLyss show, which we call recovering from the Rock and Roll Truck.

I refuse to let it slow us down. After all, how much slower can you go? Me and my buddy Aspirin will get through it. A glorious New Belgium beverage never hurts, either.

Life is too short to get bent out of shape about being sore. Bent, of course, being the operative word.

Now. Help me reach up for that guitar on the wall, would ya?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Finding the grave, and a bonus dead mole

ONE OF THE many things I like about Woodland Cemetery Superintendent Eric Bruns is that he is very hands-on. I walk early in the morning and he is almost always on the grounds and doing something.

No more cemetery digging for you, pal.
This morning he was literally digging a grave, getting it ready for an afternoon funeral service. It's near the John Wood site and it belongs to a longtime Quincy family. Eric said he had trouble finding the stone, put in place two years ago, because it wasn't registered in the official books. A little help from the local monument companies and he was able to track it down, no easy feat considering there are 60-plus acres and more than 60,000 burial sites.

As we were talking the dogs were up ahead and barking. I pointed to them and said, "You are welcome." There, clutched in the jaws of a very excited Border Collie, was a nearly dead mole. They've been catching a lot of them lately.

There are many different ways to catch moles - bait, traps, etc. Emily's grandfather, the late and great Charles Hook, used to grab a bucket and sit on by the mole tracks with a pitchfork. He'd see the ground move and then strike. I'm not sure how many he nabbed over the years.

Angus and Genie usually dig up big holes and miss the mark (I always patch the holes back up). Tucker, the Border Collie, sneaks up on the moles because I think he can actually see the ground moving, or maybe he can hear them. One swoop of his paw in the soggy dirt and boom, the mole is exposed and a new play toy for the dogs.

Sorry, PETA, no headstone for the mole, and no feeling sorry for a disgusting creature which does a lot of damage.

BTW .... Woodland Cemetery looks fantastic. Eric and his small staff have worked very hard and it's beautiful right now.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

People make retail worth the ride

YESTERDAY WAS WACKY Wednesday at Second String Music. You can't make it up, the characters who wander in and out of here. And that's just Angus and Fast Eddie.

Sheryl is still subbing at Quincy Junior High School, so it's me and the pets in here until about 3 p.m., with Steve Rees working a couple of days a week too. I like all the different people who come in, as long as we don't talk too much about politics, why we don't have high end Fender or Gibson guitars (they won't work with us little guy music stores), and they don't point out the Detroit Red Wings are missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 25 years.

Fret not! It's getting fixed by Don Rust, thank goodness.
In the space of half an hour this morning, retired court reporter babe of doom June Otte stopped by for a visit, we got a long-awaited resonator guitar delivered, a man bought a banjo for his grandson's birthday, and legendary luthier Don Rust dropped in to search for a pickup. Now he has my prized Strat so he can fix the frets. (Note: Don just fixed my Takamine acoustic frets and it's never played better. He is incredible). And I think I've talked a woman out of buying a $30 used guitar online. "It says it's in great shape and it has three strings still on it!" she said. We talked. She is now much better educated and thinking about upping her game.

And I just talked to a Quincy man about getting his 1956 Strat appraised. He told me some great stories, like the time Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top offered him $2,000 for the guitar. "Glad I kept it," he said. I agree!

I like helping people and working with them. It was no different at The Whig. We come in different shapes and sizes, have different values and beliefs, walk straight or turn left. Doesn't matter. The older I get the more I realize how short a time we have on this earth, and we might as well use it wisely.

Even if the Wings aren't in the playoffs.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tiger roared 20 years ago

REMEMBER WHEN TIGER won his first Masters? I do. I was there. And I still pinch myself.

It was 20 years ago. I was the sports editor of The Herald-Whig. Quincy native D.A. Weibring was playing in the Masters. So I got to go, for the entire week, with WGEM's Steve Looten.

It was incredible.

We drove and it took us two days. We got there on a rainy Sunday night and walked the course. Grounds crew members were shooing snakes off the 13th green. Seve Ballesteros was teeing off No. 10 and working with his swing coach. Everything was green, a deep green, hard to describe unless you've been there. It's one of those places where you don't dare stub your toe for fear you kick up a piece of dirt.

Among the many things TV doesn't show is how hilly and steep the terrain is, and I was worn out after walking the course. And that was just the first day.

Augusta was a madhouse. My buddy Scott VanEewen was living in Atlanta and he came down for a few days, and tried to get in. But tickets being scalped outside the Augusta National gates were skyrocketing because of Tiger, so he had no chance.

We were eating at a crowded restaurant one night and the waitress said she was from Florida, hired for the week to help. She couldn't take the bedlam and quit right after she served us. So we ate for free, from what I remember.

Greg Norman was all the buzz since he'd collapsed the year before and Nick Faldo was the winner. Tiger Woods was being talked about as the next big thing. He started slowly, but picked up steam and by the end of the third round, everybody knew he was going to win.

I was in the interview room Saturday afternoon and the guy next to me asked Colin Montgomery, who'd just played with Tiger and was bewildered and in awe, if Tiger was going to win. "Have you been on holiday?" Monty said.

D.A. missed the cut so I was free to roam around Saturday and Sunday. It was actually a lot easier to follow the tournament from the press room, but by early Sunday afternoon the outcome was a foregone conclusion. So I walked the course and set up by the 10th green, watching all the groups go by.

When Tiger was on 17, I decided to fight the massive throng and get by the 18th green to watch history. You still see the clip on TV - he made his last putt and thrust his fist into the air. Then he hugged his father when he walked off the green. I still smile when seeing it.

Tiger Woods is one of the most dominant athletes we've ever seen. His story may still yet be played out. It's sad he isn't able to play because of his back. But it does give the other guys a chance.

He also makes me remember 20 years ago. I will take a huge golf nap Sunday and hopefully catch most of the back 9, and smile again when thinking about it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Voting, and catching the window-smasher

TWO QUICK THINGS to point out on a non-rainy Tuesday. What? It's NOT raining? Must be living right ....

1. An arrest was made Monday in connection with the window smashing at Thrive, Fourth and Hampshire. We detailed the incident last week. I won't say much since it's early, but I would like to thank officer E.S. Cowick of the Quincy Police Department, and local property and business owners Mike Pigg and Terry Austin. This is a good example of the public coming together and helping law enforcement solve a crime. You hit one of us, you hit us all, and you'll get caught. The end.

2. Get out and vote today. There is an important mayoral race to decide and a few other public service seats to fill. If you don't like the way things are going around here, you can make a difference at the polls, and you can educate yourself about the issues. Best of luck to all the candidates, and once again we are all really glad the election is almost over.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ask us, it can't hurt!

RAINY MONDAYS SEEM to be guitar and bass string days. I've had phone calls all morning and customers come in already buying strings. The guitar player is a beginner and tried to do it himself, But it didn't work out. He seemed sheepish when asking us to restring his instrument.

I assured him to not feel bad. When I go to get the oil changed in my car, do I sit there and feel miserable while they work on it? Bleep no! And when Sheryl is putting down weed and feed and replacing the fence in the backyard, or cleaning out the kitty litter box, I do the one thing I do best - stay out of the way.

There is no such thing as a dumb question at Fifth and Maine, unless it's me asking Sheryl if she wants Thyme Square for lunch. Sheryl and Steve Rees are very good at general maintenance and fixing things up. This morning, the young man was frustrated because he was getting string buzz. Turns out his floating bridge was too close to the body - a simple adjustment, and his guitar sounded great with new strings and better string action.

Don't hesitate to ask. We are here to help and we like helping. It's what we do.

Give us a call (217 223-8008) or stop by. It costs nothing to ask!