Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Single home versus duplex

OUR NEIGHBOR ACROSS the street sold his house and moved to the country. It's a beautiful old German home with new siding and a lot of character.

He sold the house to a local contractor with a decent reputation. But the contractor apparently wants to take a stately single-family home and turn it into a two-family duplex, and the flags immediately go up.

The two houses to our west are both divided. The one right next to us is OK (and I know one of the tenants will be reading this with great interest). The other is iffy. The rest of the block is single-family.

The landlord business is tough - we go through it on a commercial level at Fifth and Maine. Decent landlords are hard to find around here and decent home renters can be a challenge to find as well.

Twelve years ago I moved into the top of a house at 9th and Monroe that had three units. The landord, Bob Pribble, was excellent and I never had issues with the other tenants. So it can work out, if people actually give a crap.

Our house in our quiet old neighborhood
My fear is that this beautiful house across the street will go downhill if two renters get in there who don't care about the property. A family that buys the home and lives in it would be a lot more likely to put the time and effort needed to keep up an older home.

We have four houses within a stone's throw empty right now. Two of them are in foreclosure with no relief is site, and have become nasty eyesores.

Geesh. Why don't people care about where they live, or properties they own?

I offer no solutions. But you can bet I'm keeping a close eye on the house across the street, and ultimately the new tenants. We hope the new owner/landlord will care about our little neighborhood as much as we do.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Remembering the good Gus stuff

THE OLDER WE get, the longer it takes to recover from another fantastic Gus Macker weekend. I think I slept for 11 hours last night .... Geesh.

As event manager for the national staff, my job is to basically deal with 2 percent of the people who cause 99 percent of the problems. Sure, I had my hands full a few times. But that stuff doesn't bother me - people are idiots no matter where you go and you just deal with it and move on. By the way, Washington Park looked amazing Sunday night after the Quincy Notre Dame football team came through and cleaned it up, like they do every year.

I choose to remember the good times and the many people who had a blast. And I always have one memory stick out.

This year it happened on Sunday afternoon at about 2 p.m. The Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team won a state championship the night before, so they got the traditional firetruck ride through downtown. We stopped all our games on Maine Street and let the parade go through and gave them some major Macker and Quincy love.

Photo by Lisa Smith on facebook
Caption: Gus Macker champions....... again — with Anthony Fairlee, Donovan Prost and Jirehl Brock.
On the court near Fifth and Maine, Jirehl Brock and his team were playing in the championship game. Jirehl is going to be a junior at Quincy High School this fall. He is an amazing athlete - I had to politely tell him to quit dunking so he wouldn't bend the rim. And what a great kid, him and his three teammates. Their games drew big crowds and were a joy to watch.

So the QND girls rolled by his court, and sure enough, Jirehl and his teammates stood up and gave them a standing ovation, and everybody else around the court did, too.

My daughter was a QHS Blue Devil and I experienced the QND-QHS rivalry firsthand, and it is pretty intense. So I got goosebumps when seeing athletes from one school saluting another.

There's hope in this world after all, you know?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

See you in the park this Macker weekend

SO WE KNOW it's about Gus Macker time when Noah Williams rolls into town.

Noah is the national staff foreman. He puts all the baskets together, makes sure the courts are ready (the Exchange Club of Quincy tapes them the week before we start) and gets everything off the truck. Noah is one of the best and one of many hard-working Macker national staff members who make things work and keep things moving during a hectic weekend.

I am proud to be the Event Manager for the national staff for the second straight year. This means overseeing the brackets and registration areas and putting out fires - I love Gus, challenges and logistics included. The previous 18 Quincy Macker tournaments I volunteered as an official and Dream Court organizer. I am also working for four other Gus Mackers in three states this summer.

This is the 27th year for Quincy's Gus Macker, a tribute and testament to the Quincy Exchange Club. They are the reason we are still going strong here.

I am not blind to the challenges this tournament puts on our downtown area, and I am sympathetic to the plight of businesses. We are right in the thick of it.

But Sheryl and I love Gus Macker, and we choose to embrace it and make it the best weekend we can. I am proud of our tournament and proud to say I am from Quincy when I travel to other tournaments in the Midwest.

So ... if you need to find me this weekend, starting at about 2 p.m. Friday .... come on over to Washington Park. I'll be wandering around somewhere!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Believe in yourself

WE JUST SOLD a microphone with a USB connector to a young man who wants to record songs on his laptop. He said, "I don't mean to brag or nothing, but I don't suck."

I don't know the young man. I've never heard him sing, or rap, or whatever it is he does. But you know what? He's all fired up and he is chasing his passion and dreams. Good for him! Second String Music is proud to help and we hope he makes it to the big time.

Sheryl and I have learned you can't judge a book by its cover. We are about supporting our local musicians, no matter what kind of music they play. Who knows? Maybe this young man will go on and be a big star and rule the world.

If so, we are proud to say we helped him along the way.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tiny House Hungers equals huge GUH

TODAY'S BIG HUGE rant is about something tiny. As in, Tiny House Hunters. As in, Sheryl is addicted to HGTV and when she gets tired of 10-person political panels on CNN, she flips it over to HGTV to watch a bunch of home improvements shows.

There's Property Brothers, Beachfront Bargains, Flip or Flop Vegas, and many different versions of House Hunters. The best show was when a poor family in Calftown tried to teach the father to overcome his allergies to power tools and drywall. Wait. That was real and called "Homeowners In The Hood" and it had record ratings.

But .... IT'S SO TINY.
The most ludicrous show, and they are all a bit ludicrous, is called Tiny House Hunters. This features people downsizing and tired of paying huge rent and mortgage payments. So they move into a closet, or something slightly bigger. The first one I watched featured a woman bellowing "IT'S SO TINY" every time she walked into a room. Actually, there was only one room. Good grief, where is she going to put her shoes? Hello! It's TINY HOUSE HUNTERS! The only thing more obnoxious is a person who types in all caps.

Last night's Tiny House Hunters featured a married couple from West Virginia. They moved into the woods and built their own tiny house. The woman has a good job and the man is a full-time musician. That's code for "stay at home husband" or "broke music store owner." But I digress.

The couple used musical instruments to make fixtures and the guy built a stage on the back of the house for his band. They didn't have running water or electricity during construction, though I seem to remember power tools being used - plugged into a generator or a big gerbil running around a turbine wheel generator, I suspect.

It was mesmerizing and I almost burned dinner on the grill, it was so interesting. Then they decided to get all their water from a nearby stream. The guy even tested it to make sure it was clean. It was never explained how their tiny bathroom got tiny water dribbles out of the tiny faucets and shower heads, or where the tiny toilet flushing went, but hey, it's a half hour show and the band played at the housewarming party, which is way more important than water supply and where the electricity comes from. Sheryl said, "That was a $25,000 ad for the band. It was a business expense."

So there it is, our new Monday night cable TV show. Tiny is the new big and big is just a state of mind. If tiny is your style, so be it and good for you - Sheryl and I are happy with our big old German Calftown Hart Manor. We do not think we could live in a space the size of our tiny kitchen.

Hmmm. Now that could be a not Tiny show. Fixing up Hart Manor in Calftown with the irritating Twinsy dudes from Canada?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Back the (dancing) Blue!

VANCIL PERFORMING ARTS had its annual recital Saturday and Sunday at the Morrison Theater inside Quincy Junior High School. Congrats to Cindy, her teachers and all the students for another great year.

The start the recital, several members of our local law enforcement agencies were invited to participate in a dance number. The response was tremendous and it looked like our boys and girls in blue had a lot of fun. Particularly graceful was Quincy Police Sgt. Adam Yates of Pepper Spray and Prospect Road fame - if you've ever seen him boogie to "Ice Ice Baby," you know what I mean.

Cindy and Frank have made Back The Blue a priority and have done a lot of good stuff to raise money and morale. We have another huge event coming up July 8 at Washington Park in downtown Quincy, so stay tuned - it will be epic.

And you might just see a few more dancing officers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell and the death of grunge

I AM NOT a fan of the so-called "Grunge" music scene. It killed hair bands and melodic rock, some say. Bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nirvana came around at the right place at the right time and changed rock music. I never understood it, but by then I was trying to grow up. I had a real job and a family, and I just never identified with it.

Still, it's sad to hear about the passing of Chris Cornell, who had an incredible voice and did some really interesting music. I liked Temple of the Dog, and I remember trying to learn "Say Hello To Heaven" for a student a few years back. The one thing I can appreciate about musicians like Cornell is that they were different and didn't really care about formula.

Some say grunge died a long time ago. I don't know about that - there are still bands out there playing music and making a lot of people happy, and filling concert halls.

The video below is from a live concert. No autotune here, thank you. This is a guy who could sing and project himself through his voice. Even a Youtube video shows it.

Cornell inspired passion. I'm reading comments from some of our local musicians I respect and they are just devastated by his loss. It sounds like he had demons and was pretty much a poster child for the tortured rock and roll musician, and vices were common in his life.

So it's a sad day for music. Peace to you, Chris Cornell, and the the many who celebrate his music and life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

This guitar scale life ain't no illusion

I HAVE A guitar student who went to St. Louis last Friday and saw Joe Walsh and Tom Petty play in St. Louis. He said it was an amazing show, and I regret not getting to check it out.

Joe Walsh is from another planet. By that, I mean NOBODY plays guitar like him. I love his solo stuff because it's not that hard to figure out but it has all kinds of guitar and other parts hemming in and out.

So, this morning, the student and I sat down and learned "Life of Illusion." I remember playing it years ago and figuring out the opening riff. All these years later, I realize I learned it in the wrong key and had no idea what I was doing. Now I have a whole new approach to life and to playing the guitar - Life of Illusion uses a D major scale, and if you practice the scale, you can learn the riff in no time.

Then we listened to "Breakdown" by Tom Petty, and he learned the little solo part. It's the descending Pentatonic scale in A minor. That sounds music-speak and the explanation is a lot longer and harder than it takes to learn.

Wait a second ... am I turning into what I loathe - the music snob?

Nope. I'm just learning and teaching, in that order. And that's not an illusion.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A quarter means 15 - clock it

I WAS WALKING to the car Saturday afternoon when a teenager walking a dog stopped me and politely asked for the time.

"It's quarter after 2," I said.

"What?" she said. "Quarter? Does that mean 20 or 25?"

Can you tell the time?
This halted me in my tracks. How could you not know what quarter after 2 means? Then it dawned on me - I said "quarter," which in the teen's world means "25." The teen isn't dumb. And it might be fair to suggest the teen doesn't look at a clock when telling the time, but looks at a digital display, probably on a computer screen.

Man. The times they are a-changing, right? Wrong. They already done did change and I been left behind, is more like it.

I remember drive-ins, rotary dial phones, actually answering the door when hearing a knock, and looking up a number in a phone book. I remember being amazed by this new-fangled thing called the internet. I remember getting the afternoon paper the day after a big game and reading about it, or looking up the score from the night before.

I remember going around to talk to people face to face, instead of sending an email or Facebook message. Wait. I actually did go around and talk to people in person last week, and it's going to pay off. So there - go retro, and get results.

The point is, the young person in question isn't dumb - we just live in a much different world. I just hope she's on time, wherever she is going.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Original music with No Wake

THERE IS A very cool show Saturday night at Mark Twain Brewery featuring Hannibal's own No Wake. They have just released a new CD and are really excited about playing new and original songs. Capisce and Dark Below are also on the bill. It starts at 7 p.m. and there's no cover charge.

"An Act Of Defiance" is now available at Second String Music and iTunes, among other places. I salute Sean McHargue and his band for pursuing the dream of playing original music and fighting to the good fight to be true to their craft and not compromise.

When I started getting involved in the Quincy area music scene about 18 years ago, there were several awesome original bands and solo artists pursuing the original music goal. Wish I could say that now - while there are some great local acts still around, the band scene has pretty much died for originals, save for the odd Fielder show once in a while. Zeke Cernea is still out there - he sounded great at our Concerts In The Plaza last week, and there are players like Logan Kammerer, George Cate, Kayla Obert and more doing their own songs.

Love, love, love. Unfortunately, to play in the bars and venues around here, what few are left, people mostly want to hear songs they know. I play in a band (The Cheeseburgers) that plays all covers, and we are getting ready for a busy summer - we are a good-time party band, nothing more, playing all those Cheesey songs you know and love. We don't apologize for it.

Still, I miss the days of my old band, The Funions, playing our own songs and being really excited to make and perform our own music.

If you are out and about in Hannibal, stop by the Brewery Saturday night. Support local music. Best of luck to the No Wake guys doing their own thing!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Make downtown beautiful

ALL THE STUFF about the Dogwood Carnival is draining. I'm spending way too much negative energy and it's screwing everything up. So I'm trying to come up with solutions, not just telling the carnival to pack up and go away.

There are other locations downtown to consider, like the Adams County Health Department. Or, how about right in front of the Kroc Center? Man, it's the perfect location, though I'm not sure people who use the Kroc to work out would like it, or the employees.

Clat Adams Park would be a great location, more than enough room. The trash will still be a huge issue - nobody wants all the stuff going into the river. Plus you have potential flooding issues down there that start about this time of year. It's just an idea, one worth pursuing. There are other riverfront locations to consider as well.

If we can move the carnival, I propose we have a Downtown Beautification Day. All the businesses in the downtown clean up there store fronts, almost daily, and would easily commit to more thorough cleanings once a year. Sheryl cleans the sidewalks in front of our store every week in the summer and gets all the nasty cigarette butts out of the cracks.

The District beautifies our planters and streets and makes sure the flags up and down Maine are in good condition. Let's make it part of Dogwood and really get people together to make things better for everybody. Hundreds of cities do this and it works - here's just one example. Put Second String Music down as a sponsor and I'll volunteer all day around Fifth and Maine.

We could plant, clean, paint and make everything around here just a little bit better and more appealing.

Let's channel all of this stuff into positive action and finding solutions.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Meetings, meetings and meetings

THERE ARE MEETINGS coming up I'd like to attend. Normally, I hate meetings. I don't like sitting there listening to people gab, especially when they just like the sound of their own voice. I had to cover and write about a lot of meetings when I was a reporter and I detested and dreaded going to them.

They are, unfortunately, necessary. I am in guitar lessons during the week most nights until at least 6:30 or 7, so it's hard to get out and go to some of them, but I'll make an effort this week.

Wednesday night, the Quincy Park District board meets at 6 p.m. at QPD headquarters on Bonansinga Drive. I'm told the Dogwood Carnival will be talked about, among other things.

On Thursday night at 6, there's a strategic planning meeting at the Quincy Public Library. Mayor Kyle Moore and other city officials will be talking about economic development and important issues in our community. It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and blame everybody for everything - I am guilty as anybody - so this is a chance to hear about very important things going on in our city.

And finally, at the May 15 City Council meeting, I'm hoping to talk to the mayor and to our alderman about some of our concerns with the Dogwood carnival, and offer some potential ideas and solutions.

As for the next meeting, I suggest we take the Congregational or Methodist approach, and schedule a meeting to talk about when the next meeting with take place, as long as there is another meeting about it. GUH. The end.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Teacher, teach thyself

WAY too much fun with these guys .... except during the Folsom solo!
I AM LIVING the dream being a guitar teacher. I have amazing students and we have a blast in lessons. I end up learning just as much as they do, sometimes even more. I consider myself an average guitar player but I love the teaching part, and often it's more about listening and technique than reading notes and figuring out theory.

I just got a very nice note from one of my former students, Brian Pahlman, who moved to Scotland with his wife, Pat, last year. He is now listening to songs and watching people play them, and he's figuring them out on his own. I call it the antenna - you listen, and it filters down from there.

Last Saturday, I played with my Pepper Spray buddies Adam Yates and Justin Sievert at State Street Bar & Grill. We had a blast - the place was packed and people were really into it. It was nice to see so many friends and good people hooting and hollering along with us. I thought we played pretty well too, and it's all about the energy from both the crowd and the band.

We played the Johnny Cash song Folsom Prison Blues, with Adam singing. All of the sudden he says, "Rodney, play the solo!" I am an average strummer and lousy lead guitar player, but the solo is pretty simple in this song, so I went to give it a go.

And .... I froze. Clunk. Geshing. Scbhalshed. That's what it sounded like. I got a hair frustrated and gave up. I apologized to Adam and he said, "Why are you sorry? It's just so ... Pepper Spray!" So I felt a little better about it.

So guess who is working on transitioning from strum patterns to picking out a lead lick this week? Yup. And I'm making my students do it too, and they are really getting into it, so we are both winning. So. Much Fun.

Playing music requires practice and patience. I play a lot, but I don't always have a lot of patience, so I work on it all the time.

Who knows? Maybe I'll nail the solo next time when we play Folsom.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Prices and happy happy happy

HERE ARE FOUR stories about prices, being upset about prices, being reasonable about prices, and working together. It's all about love and harmony at Second String Music, or at least we strive to make it that way.

A young man came in last week looking for an item. He got upset about the price. I understand - we try to match internet prices on most items, but there are some things we just can't match. The young man mumbled under his breath and I believe cursed at me as he left the store.

We always have happiness on sale at SSM!
He came back a minute later. "Well, I have to have it," he said. He gave me the money, and I was prepared to give him his nickel in change. "Keep the change!" he said. So our Elevator Restoration Fund is five cents richer, and the young man is that much angrier.

Not long after another young man came in looking for a specific item. Actually, the same item, only pricier. He didn't bat an eye and was thrilled we had it in stock. He was happy. We love happy musicians.

On Monday night we sold our beautiful Gretsch hollow body bass guitar to a very nice man. He had been in before, done his homework, knew what he wanted. He was a joy to work with and he got a great deal on an incredible instrument. We want to work with all our local musicians, and attitude is huge when we do.

Then came the man who walked in last week and asked to see our recorders. They are $5. He said, "Do you have any Yamaha recorders?" Unfortunately, we don't. "Well, I only play Yamaha recorders," he said.

We showed him what we had. He liked the price. He bought the recorder. He's happy, we are happy, everybody is happy, and Fifth and Maine is all about being happy.

We do our best on prices. We love working with our customers. And we appreciate donations to our Elevator Restoration Fund. Rock on, Q Town! It's all about being happy, all the time.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Please move the Dogwood Carnival

THERE ARE A handful of events in Quincy which shut down the streets and impact Second String Music at Fifth and Maine. We are fine with it. We are proud to be on the square and it's all part of being downtown.

However, this weekend's event really drives us crazy and I'd like to see it moved. The Dogwood Festival is a Quincy tradition and we love most of it, like the parade and other events. But the carnival down here kills us every year, and we might even close our doors Saturday and write it off.

Yup. The Heart Flip shuts the street down ....
There is a huge difference between Dogwood and the other events. Gus Macker pretty much shuts us down every Memorial Day weekend, but we love Gus and the Quincy Exchange Club. The new QFest is the first weekend of June and we'll see what closing the streets does to us, but the event itself tends to draw a more arts and music-loving crowd, so we will stay open. The last couple of years we even opened on Sunday and didn't do much business, and it was fine.

Tin Dusters is a bad weekend for us. You'd think these folks would be interested in our store and what we sell, but the past couple of Tin Duster weekends have not been good. There's another long backstory to it and it's not worth rehashing, but let's just say we aren't huge fans. But it's a good event for Quincy and does bring a lot of money here, and other businesses do well.

There are other parades and events which shut down the street. So be it. They are about Quincy and so are we.

Here's the huge difference between all these events and the Dogwood carnival, and it's local, local, local. The Dogwood carnival is, to the best of my knowledge, the only event that comes from out of town and doesn't have any lasting economic impact here. If I am wrong, I apologize.

Nobody knows anything about the group that comes in there for the carnival. The Chamber of Commerce organizes the Dogwood parade and does PR, but they are very quick to distance themselves from the carnival itself. Nobody at City Hall seems to know who this group is, either. I finally did get a local contact and left her a message yesterday. She called this morning and left a message, said she was going to be too busy today to talk, and referred me to somebody else on the committee.

We are not the only business not happy with Fifth and Maine being shut down. To be fair, there are others in favor of the carnival and that do well. And I want to stress we love Dogwood and everything about it, and we applaud the Chamber for all the hard work it does.

Would it torpedo the carnival if we moved it?  I don't think so. There are plenty of places to put it within a six-block area downtown, and keep Maine Street open.

I'm out of town this weekend. It's up to Sheryl if she wants to keep the store open Saturday, or do what she did last fall during Tin Dusters, and take most of Saturday off.

And, as always, we are proud to be at Fifth and Maine.