Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween treats

WE HOPE YOU have a safe and scary Halloween today. It’s already been fun here at 5th and Maine. The kids from Cheerful Home have been over and we’ve been handing out non-candy treats.

We did the same thing last Saturday for the District’s Teal Pumpkin event. We had hundreds of kids and parents come in and we even did a little business along the way. It’s a good way to get people to come into the store and we handed out a ton of vampire teeth, spider rings and emoji erasers.

I loved Halloween as a kid and still have fond memories of trekking the neighborhood on cold nights. And tonight is the third or fourth anniversary of the first time I played with those Avenue Beat brats, at open mic night at One. Good times, Monster Mash style!

Be safe out there and bundle up if you are going out. Stop by Second String Music today for a treat, too.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New Leafs hat!

LAST WEEK MY Detroit lions hat was stolen. After watching them lose in the usual awful way to an average Steelers team last night, maybe it’s a good thing.

I was more bummed about losing my winter hat, especially with Woodland Cemetery tours on Saturday. Did I run out and buy a new one? No. Of course not. That would have made sense. I was happy to wallow in my angst over needing a new winter hat. I'm Dutch, and that should explain it.

So to the rescue Saturday afternoon came Phil Darnell of Canton, Mo. He read my post about the hat thief and happened to be searching ebay for fishing lures at the time. He found and ordered a Toronto Maple Leafs hat. He delivered it Saturday afternoon and made me cry. Then I gave him a "Thank You bass lesson" and showed him how to play “Blue On Black” by Kenny Wayne Shepherd. And we both cried. Wait, no, I just cried.

Phil is a Second String Music legend, having helped up with a huge roof project, learned and taught his daughters about economics of a music store and found a way to buy guitars and bass for his church, himself and his daughter Jenna. His daughter Jenna, is a guitar student who once taught Paul Lester how to flip bacon with calloused guitar fingers. So many legends, so little time. It gets confusing.

Anyway, I was shocked and surprised to get such an awesome hat. It kept me warm Saturday night and even the ghosts in Woodland commented how good it looked. We will see how long it takes for the dog to eat it or for me to misplace it.

Go Leafs Go! My warm ears approve too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stealing my Lions hat

Somebody stole my prized Detroit Lions winter hat. Maybe I'm not the only one in Quincy who follows a perennial loser.

Yesterday Chris Kelley called for help with a Table 16 commercial. We shot several scenes in Washington Park. I was wearing a light jacket and I brought some other props, so I put a bundle of clothing and items down in a pile in the grass where we were shooting.

We moved down to the corner, maybe 25 yards away, so I left the pile and we shot more scenes. When I went back about 10 minutes later, my Lions hat and a really nice checked shirt were missing.

I saw a guy on a bike lurking around the area and I suspect he snatched up the hat and the shirt. What's strange is that my expensive prescription sunglasses and my really nice heavy winter coat were still there - maybe the person who took my stuff likes to be blinded by the sun and figured the shirt would keep him warm enough.

I would like the dirtball to know that the Lions hat is actually the third one I've owned in less than a year. Genie, our otherwise gentle English Shepherd, ate the first two. They are a delicacy to her. So you now have a hat that survived a hat-loving and Lions-hating canine while in hiding the past 6 months. Congrats.

A few hours before, I made a video with Paul Lester to promote our Friday night show at Revelry. That's me wearing the shirt. Just in case, you know, our dirtball is proudly wearing it around.

Sheryl, as usual, was the voice of reason. "At least you didn't take your phone and wallet with you," she said. "And maybe he needed the shirt and the hat. Next time take my Dolphins hat. No one would ever want that one."

True. Winter is coming, as Jon Snow likes to say. I wonder what I will do when I see the guy wearing the hat - I doubt anybody else in Quincy has one, and if they do, they need their heads examined for being a Lions fan, anyway. I'll probably just laugh at him and question his sanity.

What I really want is a Toronto Maple Leafs winter hat, since they'll be winning the Stanley Cup in the next year or two. So maybe this will all work out, as stuff usually does around here. And it's a good reminder to never leave stuff unattended in Washington Park.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fifth and Maine love, and old pictures

DERON JOHNSON OF Maine Street Magazine did a story for the October edition about our Fifth and Maine building. It's very well done and we appreciate the love for our little slice of Q-Town history. We have copies in the store or you can go online and read the entire edition, our story is on page 12.

We are careful about who goes up into our historic structure. When we first got into the building I used to take people up there all the time. But past the third floor it's not in very good condition and it's a liability at best, so for the most part we are happy to just tell people about our amazing space.

I love finding old pictures of our building, especially the ones pre-1920 before the north addition was added. This photo from the Illinois Digital Archives is way cool ... check out the signs in the windows, and the guys hanging out and lounging against the building on the Maine Street side.

The there's this photo to the right, sent to me recently by a friend, taken from the ground level, and again before the building expanded.

I love how history is all around us. Last Saturday I took a tour through Woodland Cemetery and we had some great re-enactors and stories to tell. Near the end I couldn't resist showing my group Dr. Koch's boulder grave marker - he was married to the woman who constructed our building, Hattie Dodd. I don't think it ended well. Oh, the stories that could be told!

Again, thanks to Maine Street Magazine for the great story, and we are honored to keep a piece of Quincy history alive and well.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Free guitars! Well, sort of ....

WE HAVE TWO acoustic guitars we are giving away. Well .... sort of. They don't have any strings, or hardware but they'd make great wall hangings or art projects. And they are free, first come, first serve.

By the Front Door
One is an old classical guitar somebody gave to us. About once a week we get a person with a battered guitar wondering if it's worth saving, and we are pretty honest about it. If it belonged to grandpa and is no longer playable, keep it and put it on the wall. You can't put a price on a family instrument like that.

On Saturday a woman came in with a derelict Ventura 12-string. The bridge is caving in and the neck has more bumps and curves than an off-road motorcycle course. It was her lucky day - Sheryl happened to need a certain style of tuning peg, and there were 12 on that battered old Ventura, so she bought it for a few dollars and the parts have gone to good use.

So the two guitar bodies are free to good homes. You could use them for a painting project, or drop them from a roof, or smash them in the parking lot next to the store. Wait a second .... shouldn't we keep at least one of them?

Nah. They are yours, if you want them, but they won't be here very long, because free is free.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spirits and Scoundrels

DO YOU BELIEVE in ghosts? It doesn't matter. You can hang out with "Spirits and Scoundrels" this Saturday and next during the annual Woodland Cemetery ghost tours.

I'm hosting the 7 p.m. tours. They usually sell out, so I'd advise buying your tickets early. I got a sneak peak of the graves highlighted on this tour and there are some amazing stories. And, as usual, there are actors at several graves to tell the stories and give you a sense of the history of Quincy. 

I walk the cemetery every morning and I've never seen it in better shape. How the skeleton crew keeps up with all the work is beyond me, but they have done an incredible job.

The tours start at 5 and it will still be light. By 7 it won't be, so you might want to bring a flashlight and be ready for a spirit (or scoundrel) to appear. I actually think the tours done at night are a little more fun, and you can always come back and check it out on your own during the day.

See you Saturday night! I'm sure all the spirits and scoundrels will be glad to see you, too.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The best corner for conversation

Look at all the great conversation going on at Fifth and Maine!
OUR FRIEND JOE, a veteran musician and loyal Second String Music customer, just stopped by. We stood outside the front door and talked. He was playing for a band but he couldn't take the late nights, so he quit and now he's bummed.

"My idea of a good gig is playing in the afternoon in an ice cream parlor," he said, squinting hard into the low afternoon sun.

Joe was learning the pedal steel guitar. Now he isn't in a band and he is playing an instrument you don't hear much. It's too bad. It's an amazing instrument.

"I put all this time into it. It's like learning the Hittite language, and that's 4,000 years old and extinct," Joe said.

He asked if I still played. "Only in the afternoons, right?" he said. Well, no. Most of my gigs are at night. "Oh man," Joe said. "You ever get so tired you can't stay awake? Just eat jalapeno peppers."


"Yeah, jalapenos, really hot ones," he said. "Coffee, soda, splashing water on your face, it doesn't work. Eat a jalapeno. And don't wash it down until you cry. It shocks your whole body. Try it. It works."

I started laughing, and one of the Outside People walked by, and looked at me like I was crazy. The whole irony thing hit me between the eyes and I laughed even harder.

Joe started walking up the street, our conversation over. "Man, I remember when I was young," he said. He kept walking. I was still smiling. And that was our Fifth and Maine conversation.

YCMIU in our little slice of heaven!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Josh Houchins and the power of positive attitude

IF YOU TAKE anything away from the gut-wrenching sadness of losing Josh Houchins, take away this - he never complained, he always smiled, and his attitude never wavered.

You and I would be screwed if we were in a car wreck that killed our friend and left us in a wheelchair for the rest of our lives. Not Josh. To him, a wheelchair was a way to get around, not a reminder he lost the use of his legs.

Others knew him a lot better than I did. This tribute from Matt Schuckman of The Herald-Whig sums it up - he was everybody's friend, and you felt like you knew him.

Josh was a fixture on the local sports scene, mostly as a morning radio guy at WGEM. But I remember him most because he started at The Whig maybe 12 years ago as a part-time sports writer.

One night I was in there and he was typing in bowling scores. Man, did I give him a boatload of bleep. Then I got conned into doing the PA for a Quincy University volleyball game, and Josh was there, and wow did I get a boatload of bleep. "Bowling writer!" I'd say. "Volleyball announcer!" he'd say. And we'd both laugh.

Another night I was leaving the office, and Josh was getting into his van. I watched the process with interest - it wasn't easy, took about five minutes, and it looked like a giant pain in the ass. Josh just went with the flow and dealt with it, and I'm sure to him it was all part of driving and getting around.

A few years back I made a bet with a guy at the Whig, and I lost, and I had to sing "Hang On Sloopy" on Josh's radio show. Some hosts would roll their eyes and nix the idea. He and Broc Hampsmire not only let us do it, they encouraged it and fed into the ridiculousness, and it was really funny.

Josh had a connection with a ton of people because of his sports radio work and his willingness to talk about his life and disabilities. One night at The Whig somebody suggested he should be a stand up comedian. "I would, if I could stand up!" he said.

Farewell, Bowling Writer. You made a difference in this wretched world. You will be one of those guys we always remember. That's what happens, when you lose a friend.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Closed Saturday

IT'S TIN DUSTER weekend in Quincy. This is when classic cars come downtown starting Friday night and stay until Saturday at 5 pm.

We think it's a great event and we welcome all the Tin Dusters. We have a number of events downtown and this is one of the biggest and best.

A few weeks ago a man named Pumpkin (You Can't Make It Up) came in, said he was one of the organizers, and asked if we needed anything or had any concerns. We appreciated him coming into the store and assured him we were fine and wished the event nothing but the best.

Sheryl and I have decided to not open the store Saturday. Fifth and Maine will be congested and it will be very difficult to park anywhere close. Our loyal customers tell us they just don't want to deal with the clogged streets. As much as we appreciate the Tin Dusters, and as much as some businesses down here benefit, we don't see the benefit of being in an empty store all day.

It will be nice to have two days off in a row where neither of us is sick. In past years we haven't done much business, and we never get to take a Saturday off, so it will be nice to get some stuff done and enjoy a day away.

Closing the doors, especially on what is normally our busiest day of the retail week, is not something we take lightly. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and we hope they understand, and we'll be ready to rock and roll Monday morning.

So enjoy a beautiful fall weekend. If classic cars are you thing, downtown Quincy is the place to be!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sick Day Blues

Rodney is home sick today. I have cancelled his early lessons and he plans on making it to his afternoon lessons after lots of dayquil and a hot shower this afternoon.... So I (Sheryl) get to recap our lazy weekend, which was fabulously full of doing nothing and playing with the dogs.

Yesterday Tucker surprised us all and caught/killed a squirrel in the back yard. Congratulations went all around for such a great team effort. All three dogs love to get into the action and contributed to the demise of the squirrel. Rodney got a photo of that on his phone but since he is home sick today, no photo. Poor Josie missed out on the action, she was in the neighbors yard stalking a different squirrel that needs killing.

Right after the KILL. Josie watched the whole thing.
Breathing watch, it was NOT breathing.
So this morning I am relaxing on the back porch drinking coffee and a commotion erupts by the fence. A squirrel thinks he can jump into the yard and tease all three dogs AND the cat. REALLY. No. It took about 3 seconds of chasing for Genie to pounce on the squirrel and throw it to the ground. Next comes Angus to grab it and shake the stuffin out of it. He threw it to the ground and then it flipped over... Nope, not good enough. Angus grabbed it again and shook it till it was truly DED. Dead this time. 

Of course, Tuckers job today was to dance around and bark. Then he took on the undertaker position of "watching the squirrel to make sure it was not breathing and really dead". He spent much time moving the body, touching the dead squirrel, and then rolling it over. I kept reassuring him that it was truly dead, good job boy!

Josie the cat got to watch this kill. She has been trying for weeks to figure out how to kill a squirrel. WEEKS. Today she witnessed what it would take for her to actually kill a squirrel and I think she took it very seriously.

So we are obviously quite proud of the dogs and cat for their efforts in ridding our streets of vermin and squirrels. Hopefully Josie the Huntress will let the dogs handle the big kills and keep our hood free of birds, locusts, crickets, spiders, and mice.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

I still hate press conferences

I HATED PRESS conferences as a reporter. You felt like you were being herded like sheep. It was a totally controlled and staged environment. I understood why they had to take place, and I dutifully arrived with my notebook, asked a few questions, got what I needed and got out as fast as I could.

There were different kinds of press conferences, of course. One was for an event, like a United Way goal announcement or breaking ground for a new building, or somebody running for office announcing he or she was going to to change the world.

If Quincy was a bigger market, I'd open my own PR firm and teach various organizations and businesses how to conduct press conferences, how to curry favor with the press, and how to react when the media approaches. It requires common sense, not a bunch of howling about fake news or #fakenews. You can't always steer the coverage, but you can build rapport and trust and it pays off in the long run.

The other kind of press conference is reactionary. An awful event took place, and the chief of police or fire chief didn't want to do a bunch of interviews. So the media was invited and the chief gave one statement, and we ran from there.

Two press conferences yesterday made me realize how much I don't miss them. One was in Carolina, when Panthers QB Cam Newton stuck his foot in his mouth and degraded a woman reporter. Grow the bleep up. Cam. I know it isn't easy being the face of the franchise and having to deal with all the questions all the time, but I have little sympathy for an immature brat of an athlete who doesn't get that women understand sports and can be reporters.

Last night Las Vegas law enforcement and FBI officials briefed the press on the latest developments in the Mandalay Bay domestic terrorist attack. Sheriff Joseph Lombardo was awesome, and you could tell the investigation, stress and lack of sleep are taking a toll. You can watch it here.

Toward the end, the sheriff and others grew tired of answering the same question and hearing the same questions asked in three different ways. I've been in these types of press conferences, and there are always two or three idiots who wreck it for us all with dumb questions. The sheriff knew who he was talking to and I guarantee he knows the bad reporters from the good. He was gracious and thanked them all at the end.

You have reporters covering a huge event and desperately trying for a scoop or anything new to boost ratings and readership. You have a sheriff who is at the breaking point and knows why he is there, and is trying his best, but I don't blame him for being short with some of the questions. He did a fantastic job.

We have a right to know. He has the right to conduct an investigation and say what he thinks needs to be said. The two sides collide all the time.

And there's nothing fake about either side.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Portugal The Man and band rentals

IT STARTED ABOUT 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Parents streamed into Second String Music to rent band instruments - cellos, violas, violins, trumpets, clarinets, more violins, flutes, more violins .... They were lined up three deep at the counter and we loved every minute of it.

It's not a really good day at the store unless a couple comes in wearing Portugal The Man shirts and tries out guitars. Yesterday was also about guitar picks. And ... we are big in Keokuk, apparently.

The only music store in Keokuk, Iowa, about 40 miles away, closed down not long ago. We had a woman come in looking for a guitar pack for her son's 13th birthday. Grandma was with her and she ended up buying a fabulous Luna ukulele. "We live in Keokuk. It's worth the drive to come here," she said.

That made us feel good. Throw in a doctor's appointment for Sheryl and my awesome as always guitar students, and we had ourselves a regular rock and roll day at Fifth and Maine.

Guess what? We are ready to do it again today, with another adventure awaiting about 70 miles away. Let's go!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

No Sunday off

WE DIDN'T GET a "Sunday" yesterday. In our world, where we are at the store six days a week, a "Sunday" is a day off and a chance to recover from yet another busy week. Sheryl naps, I watch football - there have been some great games this season and nothing is better than a football nap on a Sunday afternoon. We might putter around the yard, I might walk the dogs more than once, and there might be a stogie and beverage or two disappearing.

Our pile isn't quite this big ... but my back thinks it is.
But in the end, we are good at doing nothing and preparing for another week in the wild adventure we call retail.

Yesterday we didn't get a chance to do nothing. Our good friend Nick Hopper is moving to Colorado soon, so I went to his house yesterday and got stocked up in firewood - he has tons of it after several trees came down from storms the past couple of years. Why is it I'm so sore and can't move after simply tossing pieces of wood into a truck, then into the yard, then into a pile?

Because I'm old and a dumbass, but that's besides the point. Now we have enough firewood to last a long time, and I appreciate Nick being so generous.

Then we went to Emily's Quincy Symphony Orchestra, and it was .... geesh. Words fail me. My daughter was stunning and left the Morrison Theater crowd in awe, and she got a standing ovation for her efforts. So I'm bragging, and I'm proud, and I have to say I am incredibly lucky to have such a talented and amazing daughter.

I'm not dreaming - that's actually my daughter!
Then we had a reception for her at a beautiful house on Maine Street, and the whole thing was like a dream.

A pain pill and more football last night helped put me to sleep. Then we woke up to hear about the Las Vegas shooting. So we are dragging a bit this morning, and getting ready to make it through another week of guitar lessons and school band instrument rentals.

Well. There's always next Sunday to recover....

Sheryl would like two, please....