Monday, June 11, 2018

Keep the street open, please

WE ARE A little sensitive when it comes to street closures around Second String Music. We understand it happens during events, and we are fine with it. But when a construction company taking out air conditioners across Maine Street doesn't pay attention to the street closure permit, well ... we are still nice about it. Sort of.

Saturday I was gone working for Gus Macker in Cape Girardeau. It was awesome, thanks for asking. Anyway, Sheryl arrived at the store and found Maine Street between Fifth and Sixth blocked off because of the AC units being removed. She'd been alerted by email by the city about the closure, which was just for Maine Street between 5th & 6th.

However, the construction company also put barricades on Fifth Street, which wasn't in the permit. Sheryl went out and politely asked if they could move the barricades, as drivers of vehicles coming up to the intersection were getting upset and it was unnecessary to place them on Fifth.

The worker didn't appreciate her request. Sheryl was as polite as possible and actually found the whole thing quite amusing. It was really funny when a little white car driven by a little old lady simply ignored a poorly placed blockade and puttered through the crane area down Maine street, causing the flustered worker to run after it and his boss to curse him out from the lift nearby.

"I'm only doing my job," the worker said. "Well, your permit doesn't allow you to block Fifth Street," Sheryl said. She went back in and alerted the proper authorities, and they guy actually took the blockades away from the intersection at Fifth. Sheryl then went out and thanked him, but the guy wasn't happy and said to her, "You could have been nicer about it!" Apparently he hasn't seen Sheryl when she isn't being nice..... She told him to re-evaluate his definition of nice and walked back into the store.


Later, Officer Erin Dusch showed up, she and Sheryl agreed that people needed to actually look at their permits and to not illegally block streets. Fortunately the rest of the day went smoothly, even though they finished up an hour later than they were supposed to. Sheryl let it go. It's all peace love joy at Fifth and Maine, you know.

We will have several events in the month of June that will block 5th & Maine. Please keep in mind that the store owners on Maine need YOU to shop our stores even when the streets are blocked. Have patience with us, with the downtown events and help us stay in business by shopping your local small businesses.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A pro at getting lost

I AM A PROFESSIONAL when it comes to getting lost and taking the wrong road. It's an acquired skill, mostly from my mother. I'm not proud when it comes to getting lost, though I can usually figure it out. Usually.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Cape Girardeau, Mo., to work for Gus Macker. I'm stopping in St. Louis to pick up Marshall Newman, the event manager. I have his address. I have the directions.

And, I will get lost.

In the immortal words of the J. Geils Band, "It's okay I understand this ain't no never never land." My lack of directional skills drives Sheryl nuts, and understandably so. She can find places by following her nose. No GPS needed.

We are soon heading to Canada (assuming what's his name, the guy at the White House, hasn't done something else dumb to endanger border relations to the north) and I will put Sheryl in charge of the directions. We made it the last time we went there, three years ago, and I remain ever hopeful we'll arrive in one piece and without getting lost.

At least I'm a pro at something.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Where is our trip to the White House?

IN 2007, THE Herald-Whig sponsored slow-pitch softball team dominated the Division IV league. I don't think we lost a game all year, and we ended the season with a convincing win in our final game to clinch the championship. We celebrated with beer and champagne showers, and the trophy is still sitting on a filing cabinet in the Whig editorial department.

I think we were called the Herald-Whig Demons. Don O'Brien, then the sports editor, wrote a blog recapping each game. It's probably still out there on the dark web. It was required reading after each game. 

My memory is foggy in general, but I seem to recall us trying to arrange to visit the White House to commemorate the remarkable season. Unfortunately two of us didn't stand for the national anthem before a game ... wait. We never did play the national anthem before our games. What the ... no wonder we didn't get an official invitation!

So I called the White House the other day and asked if we could still get in - it's only been 11 years. The assistant to the district supervisor of the left half of the cubicle told me our request would be filed and considered, since there are no other teams visiting the White House right now.

He called me back this morning. "Sorry, you SOB," he said. "You have no respect for your country since you didn't stand for the national anthem. Plus we found out you are Canadian and used to write for the fake mainstream news. VERY SAD. We don't like journalists and we hate Canadians and our beer is better. So. Don't call back."

Rats. Time to come up with another way to celebrate our historic milestone of a season. We could congregate at a Blues In The District this summer, or gather at a local pub, or even go up to Moorman Park, the scene of many a Demons triumph.

Or we could visit the REAL White House. You know, the Hart House Manor in Calftown. It has white siding, barking dogs and a cat that thinks she's a dog, our kitchen is torn apart and the garden in the back is completely out of control. In other words, it's chaos in Calftown, sort of like it is at the other White House.

Wait a second ... Chaos In Calftown would be a GREAT name of a band. We will hire them to play at the Herald-Whig Demons championship celebration. It will be more fun, anyway. Besides, it's too hot in Washington this time of year.

And we'll party like it's 2007.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Kart races are back

THE KART RACES are back in Quincy, and we are excited for Terry Traeder and the crew. It used to be an annual event and was sorely missed around here, and South Park will be the place to be Sunday.

The official name is the Quincy Grand Prix of Karting. I remember the event in South Park when I was sports editor at The Whig more than 20 years ago. One Sunday I walked up there and spent the day with the late Gus Traeder writing about the races, and it was a blast.

The details are blurry now, but I do remember the end of one race. A karter was in the lead the whole way and came around the last corner in the clear. The karter right behind him had no chance to pass, so he simply rammed into his competitor. There was a huge crash into the hay bales, and one of the guys simply got out of his kart and pushed it across the finish line to take the checkered flag. I was somewhat horrified and amazed the two karters weren't seriously hurt, but everybody shrugged it off as "just racing" and continued on like nothing happened.

I moved to Quincy in September of 1996. I stayed at a downtown hotel but I couldn't get near it because there was a massive karting race in the downtown streets. I thought, "Geesh, this town really loves its sports and events and karting." I was right on all accounts.

South Park is the perfect place for the kart races. The road has been resurfaced and the park itself is in great shape. I wandered up there for Germanfest last Saturday, and since it was a nice night, it was packed. How cool is it to see thousands of people hanging out on a summer night enjoying one of our oldest and most classic parks?

If you are going Sunday, get there early to grab your spot on the hill. Bring some bug spray and an umbrella, it's supposed to be hot, and enjoy a Quincy tradition making a long-awaited return.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sidewalk time!

IT'S SUMMER. THIS means the sidewalk at the corner of Fifth and Maine gets a lot of action. This is the first Friday in forever I haven't had to work or had something happening, so I hereby declare this to be an official holiday, and we need to convene the Sidewalk Chalk Association this afternoon to celebrate.

Adam Yates, Frank Haxel and myself are the officers. Frank is Commissioner, I'm First Lead Assistant and Adam is Sgt. At Arms. Sheryl is Supreme Commander, and that's just in general, not just for the sidewalk. Thank goodness somebody around here is responsible and can stay steady when the Chalk starts flying.

It won't be this busy this afternoon ... or will it?
Sitting on the sidewalk is an exacting science and requires some training, so if you are around this afternoon we start about 4. You have to know how to not sit in the sun if it's too hot - this involves setting up a tent, which also involves saying "Frank, go get the tent." It will be warm this afternoon and if necessary, we can flee inside Second String Music and take advantage of the new air conditioning.

There are rules for Sidewalk Chalk. First of all, never go back inside to get a drink of water before checking to see if anybody else needs a drink of water. Secondly, waive to anybody who honks or crashes into buildings. Third, there are no other rules, other than to make sure we don't block the sidewalk and you can easily access the corner and the front door. We don't usually have to call the police because they are already here.

The main reason for practice this afternoon is that Blues In The District is just a week away, and that's when the professionals take over the corner of Fifth and Maine. All are welcome, but if you are an amateur just be patient and you will soon learn the ways of The Force ... er, the Chalk.

Let summer commence!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Gardens Gone Wild

ANYBODY WANT TOMATOES? Well. You are going to get 'em if you want them or not.

Sheryl's garden has gone bonkers and she just got done with the first major weeding session. Much to her surprise, she's found "rogue" tomato, lettuce and melon plants pop up, left over from last year. She's pulled at least 40 volunteer tomato plants because they are crowding the new ones she planted last month.

Now that I think about it, Anybody Want Tomatoes would be a great band name. We could go on the Growing Season Tour and make an album called Planting the Seed.

Anyway, we suspect it's because the seed over-wintered in the plant debris. We thoroughly tilled the soil in April, and that helps the seeds germinate.
Zombies in the Garden??

"Next year, I'm not going to plant anything. And we'll still have a garden full of stuff," Sheryl says.

It's been hot the past few days but now we are supposed to get more rain, and it's been perfect growing weather so far, so we expect a lot of produce coming out the Calftown ground.

This could lead to getting fresh produce with purchase of a guitar. We won't throw anything away and we'll make sure it gets put to good use. The neighbors are anxiously awaiting goodies from this garden. The long winter helps them get over being sick of Sheryl's deliveries last year. It's still May and already the upstart mustard greens, asian lettuce and basil are ready to pick, but the other plants will probably take at least a month or so before they are ready.

We'll be ready. I think. Unless more stuff pops up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Roseanne Who?

APPARENTLY SOMEBODY NAMED Roseanne something or other was fired yesterday after she put out some racist tweets. Apparently she has a show on ABC. I don't watch network television, unless it's golf or hockey, so I've never seen it. Mostly I take  naps during said watching and miss everything except the important moments. Apparently it's a reboot of her old show, which I never watched either.

She is blaming it on Ambien. Hey, it's understandable. I didn't do laundry Sunday night after surviving Gus Macker because I drank a couple of beers and smoked a big old stogie and collapsed into a heap. I was still angry from dealing with a couple of idiots at the tournament, but I let it go.
This pig is probably not racist.

Wait. Actually, I did do laundry. But I didn't tweet about it or go on a social media rant about dumb people doing dumb things during an outdoor basketball tournament. I was worn out from the heat and the beer mellowed me out, and I thought about doing something on Facebook. Instead, I posted a photo of the cold beer and the stogie. A picture is worth a thousand words ....

I have been in front of a computer many times and wanted to pull the trigger on a comment or post, and I've learned to take a deep breath and just walk away. Don Crim, the former executive editor of The Herald-Whig, told me when I became a reporter to always think twice and to be very careful about being critical when writing about issues or people.

You. Can't. Win.

Sheryl tends to read comments and react on Twitter, and I'm fine with it. She does show great restraint in many of her comments though. I just walk away. It's kind of like the player at Macker on Sunday whose team got beat and was finished in the tournament. He wanted to have a "dialogue" but all he did was waste my time. Eventually he ended up getting a free ride and a two-night stay at the corner of Fifth and Vermont, but again, why bother rehashing it or explaining my side? It all worked out.

So, buh bye, Roseanne. I have nothing to say about you or your shows or your tweets, because I never saw or read them, and you simply don't matter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lasting impressions from Mr. Terry

EVERY COUPLE OF years, Mike Terry at John Wood Community College invites me to his composition class. We talk about the art of the interview, how to get information and prepare, and how important it is to get started right away. The students are required to interview a person who has influenced them.

Mike hands out a copy of a story I wrote for The Herald-Whig a long time ago about a bizarre love triangle and murder in Quincy. It was one of those You Can't Make It Up tales, and it took a lot of work to track down all the people involved and gather the information.

I saw Mike Sunday morning having coffee at EFB with his wife, Jan. He told me about a student in that class a few years back who found the story interesting. It led to the student pursing a degree in forensic science. Now the student is graduating from the FBI and is about to become a field agent.

"She got started in our class and with your story. You had a big effect on her," Mike said.

It's amazing, how many people I run into who say, "You were in Mr. Terry's class and I really liked that wild story you wrote." So I do remember the people who steered me in the right direction when I was a lost college student, especially since it's been 30 years since I graduated from Central Michigan University.

GUH. Thirty years?

Mike Terry is the man. He's in the Quincy High School Sports Hall of Fame after many years of coaching tennis for the Blue Devils. He's been at JWCC from the start and has guided thousands of young people through junior college and upward and onward. He's one of the coolest cats I've ever met. He freaking rocks and rolls.

He positively influences young people, and we are all better for it.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Hot times, summer in the city ...



JUST HAD A guitar student suggest we learn "Summer In The City" by The Lovin' Spoonful. Geesh. What a great song and totally appropriate. We've gone from snow in the middle of April to the Sahara Desert heat at the end of May. Second String Music is open today because I have a lot of guitar lessons on Mondays, and we salute the men and women of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifices.

As usual, I'm a walking zombie after our Gus Macker tournament in Washington Park. Despite the heat, things went well and I refuse to let the 1 percent of the idiots causing all the problems to wreck my general impression. Also, if a downtown store owner politely asks you to move from their doorway because they are open for business, they aren't trying to be pushy, they are just trying to operate a business. Sheryl can let you know more if you care to ask, but let's just say things didn't end well for people with poor attitudes.

The heat kept overall numbers down, which isn't always a bad thing. There have been years when just getting from one side of the park to the other was a huge challenge because of the mass of humanity, but not Saturday or Sunday. And it was hot, especially on the streets. My guess was that if it was 95 in the air, it was at least 10 degrees hotter on the courts - I must have lost at least 10 pounds officiating a game at Fifth and Hampshire late Sunday morning.

A huge thank you to the Quincy Exchange Club and the Quincy Notre Dame football team, with new coach Jack Cornell, who helped us set up, tear down and keep things clean during the weekend. Without them ... I don't even wanna think about it.

Another big thanks to Quincy Police officers Bill Calkins, J.D. Summers and Nathan Elbus. Without them, I'd be in a heap of trouble. I have more and more respect for our local law enforcement after putting out the fires this weekend, and we'll just leave it at that.

My favorite moment came Sunday afternoon on Red A, 8 year olds basically, when the sons of Quincy High School basketball coach Andy Douglas and WGEM Sports Director Ben Marth tangled in the championship game. The parents were amazing and vocal and supportive, our official Luka did a great job blowing the whistle, and Ben's team ended up winning a nail-biter. Both teams showed a lot of class and sportsmanship, crucially important at that young age, and I managed to snag the game ball and give to Ben, who is leaving WGEM next month after 15 years for another job in town. Thanks for making it fun and for the reminder of how great Gus Macker is, can be and should be.

Next up - more Macker adventures in a couple of weeks, this time in Cape Giradeau, Mo. Maybe I will have caught up on my sleep by then ....

Friday, May 25, 2018

Tiki Torches Work

SHERYL WENT OUT the other night and bought some Tiki torches and bug spray for our backyard. For some reason mosquitoes and other flying insects like her sweet blood, making working in the garden and being outside virtually impossible. So we have the torches and spray and hope it will make it somewhat tolerable.

We stuck four of the torches around our patio and fire pit. Guess what? They work! I was out there last night and flicked off a skeeter or two, but was pretty much left alone.

I just took a brief stroll outside of the store, where Gus Macker preparations are under way, and it's really buggy in Washington Park. That doesn't include the Outside People (they seemed quite thick this week too). If you are coming down here for the hoopfest, take my advice and bring some bug spray.

What if we just got a massive Tiki torch and planted it in the middle of the park? Wish it was that easy.

It's going to be in the 90s and humid and there's a good chance of rain tomorrow. In other words, it's Memorial Day Weekend in the Q-Town, bugs and all. We are ready to rock and roll!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Move out and move on, deadbeat son

THIS STORY HAS been making national news, and it falls under the You Can't Make It Up category.

A 30-year-old man living with his parents is being evicted. The parents want him out. He doesn't want to leave. So they went to court, and what he told the judge and the media after the hearing defies belief. You can read more here.

We know more than a few people like this - we get a few in the store, to be honest. I guess it's just a hard thing to relate to - man, I couldn't wait to get out of the house when I was, uh .... 18? Sheryl was the same way, leaving for college the day AFTER she graduated from high school. I had to live at home my first year of college and I hated it.

Same goes for Emily. She went to Western Illinois for college and thoroughly enjoyed moving out, even though it was in a dorm. She's very independent and thrived when getting out of the house.

This guy in New York is so blatantly oblivious that it's almost as sad as it is ludicrous and laughable. He simply has no clue or moral compass for being responsible. I could go on about how this seems to be a national trend and starts from the top, but I'll be quiet and stick to the task at hand.

Then again, I know a woman who lives at home who is about my age. She is very close to her family, particularly her mother. She'd rather be around them and they like it when she's around. She is happy, they are happy, so it all works out.

Of course she has a very good job and is a really good person, two huge advantages over the deadbeat son from New York. You really have to wonder how he'd fare out on his own, but by now I think the parents are beyond caring and simply want to get on with their lives - the empty nest thing rocks, you know.

So here's to moving out and being independent, and to parents who lay down the law .... even if they have to go to court.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Macker Weekend sale

IT MIGHT BE a challenge to get to the store this weekend with Gus Macker in town, so we are having a Gus Macker Weekend sale to make it worth your while.

Starting today and ending Sunday afternoon, all Ibanez, Dean, Alvarez and half-size guitars are 15 percent off. 15%. That could save you a lot of dough if you are interested in an awesome new guitar.

We will be open our regular 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours on Saturday, and we'll also be open Sunday. "Our hours Sunday will depend when Sheryl gets up and when Sheryl wants to go home," Sheryl says.

The sale ends Sunday. We will also be open our regular hours (10-6) on Monday, Memorial Day, because I have a full day of lessons. Come out and enjoy some basketball Saturday and Sunday - we are here!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gnats are ga-ross

THE GNATS AND flying bugs are really thick this spring in Q-Town. We've had a lot of rain and warm weather lately, perfect conditions for gnashing of teeth when fighting off gnats.

It's pretty gnarly when you can't open your mouth when you go outside, lest you ingest a bunch of bugs. I had to smoke a huge gastogie Sunday just so the bugs would leave.

Ggo away!
Sheryl had been trying to get out and weed the ga-garden, but the bugs are too thick. They like her sweet blood and swarm around her when she tries to work outside. It's pretty gross, when she comes in covered in dead gnats and mosquito gabites.

You would think putting gnomes in the ga-garden would keep gnats away. But the gnats are still gnarly and there isn't gamuch you can gado about it.

This weekend is Ggus Macker and I hope the bugs won't be too gabad. Maybe we can get the city to gaspray the park so the bugs aren't so gathick.

And I will end this blog now before I spell too many ga-words with a hard G, even though they don't have a hard G. My spelling isn't ggreat anyway.

Ggo away, bugs!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Macker weekend and getting to the store

IT'S ONE OF our favorite weekends of the year, when the Gus Macker basketball tournament comes to downtown Quincy. I am not going to be fair and biased about this - I am employed by Gus Macker in the summers, and for this tournament I'm the event chairman. Basically I keep a lot of the behind the scenes stuff running and make sure the staff (mostly from Michigan) gets it done. They always work hard and they are a blast to be around. It's not that hard, but you have to move and juggle a bunch of stuff at once, and realize you can't make everybody happy.

There are businesses down here that don't like Gus Macker, and I can understand it. The streets around Washington Park, and Maine between Fifth and Sixth, are closed from Friday night to Sunday night. It makes access an issue, and not everybody who comes down here behaves. One good thing this year is that we are not putting any courts by Fifth and Jersey, so it's just around Washington Park and up to Sixth Street on Maine.

But, unlike other events that used to be here, Macker tries its best to clean up and to address troublesome issues. The Quincy Exchange Club runs the tournament from the local level and they do a fantastic job. The Quincy Notre Dame football team provides manpower and helps set up, tear down and clean up. A big welcome to new coach Jack Cornell, who will lead the charge this weekend.

We will be open Saturday and even Sunday for a while, but we know we probably won't do a lot of business. It does bring people down here and we've actually had a lot of people discover that we are at Fifth and Maine, which is a good thing. Memorial Day Weekend probably wouldn't be big saleswise anyway.

If you are looking for stuff this weekend, our advice is to either get here Friday, or if you do come down, just be prepared to deal with a lot of people and park a few blocks away.

Meanwhile, we are ready for Gus, and hopefully we have good weather and a good tournament.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Projects done, more projects await

IF LIFE IS about projects, we seem to take a step forward, only to realize there are a ton of steps still waiting.

In a short time, we've gotten our second-floor roof finished at the store. We have a new AC unit up there, too. Our friend Nick is in town from Colorado and will finish off some plumbing issues this week - he pronounced the hot water heater in our second-floor bathroom sink dead, so he's putting in a new one. So checklist items at the store are getting checked.

At home, Sheryl's garden is going crazy and I have to mow every two days. She also finished a three-year fence project, panel by panel, in our backyard. She even got our solar-powered garage door opener to work, mostly.

Of course she still needs to caulk our leaky upstairs shower, both the front and back porches are in desperate need of paint jobs, and Sheryl wants to yank out the tub in our downstairs bathroom and replace it with a walk-in shower.
We can't even remember why this roof needed done.

Our hardwood floors still need to be restored and re-finished, and there's the kitchen ceiling, which hasn't been fixed since we had it torn off three years ago to find the upstairs leaks. Wait, we also need to tile the bathrooms and the kitchen. It. Never. Ends. Sheryl has a long list of projects and she never quite seems to get ahead of them. Too bad I can't really help, except when she needs a tall person to hold or get something....

I worked my last night shift on the sports desk at The Whig for this sports season, so it will be nice to properly enjoy Friday Happy Hour(s) at the store for the next few months.

Then there's the whole matter of getting better at playing shifting pentatonic scales in different keys, but I'm working at that every day and slowly getting better.

It's just like getting stuff done, project by project. Like Sheryl says, slow and steady wins the race. I will happily watch as she slowly gets things done. Wait - Sheryl needs to fix my internet and clean the computer today. Busy busy busy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A shooting in the Hood

THERE WAS AN Quincy Police officer-involved shooting last night. The suspect is dead. The officer was hospitalized but not injured, and is now on administrative leave. There are tons of questions and theories and plenty of brave Web Warriors blasting our police department and demanding justice. Justice? For what?

I'm checking The Whig for the best and most accurate information. Let's wait for the facts to come out. Apparently there were witnesses so hopefully we get a clear idea about what happened. Regardless, one life is lost and another changed forever.

We are desensitized to gun violence in this country. We watch police TV shows and movies and virtually every episode there's a gun fight and somebody dies from being shot. We just shrug it off and count it as entertainment, or a bad guy getting his just dues.

Barnaby will solve the murder!
Sheryl is watching an English show called Midsomer Murders. It's well done and the acting is top-notch (NOT). But in every episode, somebody gets shot, garroted, beheaded, poisoned, stabbed or pushed into a raging river. The woman who finds the body screams into her hands and entire town lies to the police. The good guy inspector solves the murder, and life goes on until it ends again in the next episode. *Interesting trivia: The main theme song is played on a Theremin.*

Truth is, in Quincy, Illinois, a police officer will likely get through his career without discharging his weapon.

So we don't realize just what a horrendous thing it is, to be involved in a shooting.

The other thing that strikes me is that this took place seven blocks from where we live in Calftown. It took place across the street from the house of our friend, John Potts (who works at The Whig). It took place one block from Quincy Notre Dame High School and half a block from the Quincy Fire Department's Engine 5 firehouse. I've walked, scooted and driven past 11th and Jackson a thousand times and never once worried about my safety.

This type of thing can happen anywhere, anytime. But it won't be cleared up or solved in the space of your hour TV show.

Monday, May 14, 2018

On The Rail rocks

SHERYL AND I went to On The Rail yesterday to catch the Matt Roberts Blues Band. On The Rail is located on Fourth about half a block south of Maine Street. The Pratts have done a great job with the restaurant, and they've opened up a patio on the north end for live music.

It's really cool back there. It's nothing fancy, but there's enough room for a full band and to scatter tables. The band sounded great and it was a bit warm, but each table has an umbrella so you can stay out of the sun.

We just had a couple of beers, but the food looked really good and the service was good, too. Traci and her staff were very friendly and were hustling the whole time.

HartLyss will be playing for a Sunday Funday on June 24, from 2 to 6 p.m. The Cheeseburgers are working on booking a show there, too.

Finding good places to play can be tough. We appreciate all the venues that support live music, and we hope you get out there to support it, too.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The legacy of Ben Bumbry

BEN BUMBRY WENT to a better place this week. He was 86. He was a Quincy icon and legend, and he'll be sorely missed.

When I moved to news at The Whig in 1999, I was told to get to know certain people. Ben was one of them. I did a story about him, maybe for a special section, focusing on his days playing basketball at Quincy College and Drake University. Ben went through a lot during those Jim Crow days and had a lot of experiences with discrimination and civil rights, but he was never bitter about it. He served on City Council and was the director of the Jackson-Lincoln Swimming Complex. He and his wife, Helen, were two of the best people you could ever meet.

Around here we tend to name a lot of things after Jackson and Lincoln, and rightly so - Lincoln might be the most famous human who ever lived, and his ties to this area are significant. But I really think we ought to name the swimming pool after Ben - he spent many hours over there and it wasn't an easy job.

He was also a musician and played drums in Ben Bumbry & The Messengers. They were fixtures on the Mark Twain Riverboat in Hannibal and played all the time. I watched some YouTube videos of his band and you could see the joy he had when playing.

Tonight the Cheeseburgers play at Revelry, and we will tip one or two to Ben. His band played in there many times. He had a huge impact on us all, and I am glad I got to know him a little bit. Peace to Ben's family - he will be remembered around here for a long time.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Cheese, practice practice practice

WE HAD A righteous Cheeseburger practice last night, and really it was more of a jam session than anything. We came up with about 10 songs we'd love to do. We'll all do our homework and listen to them and come back in a couple of weeks fired up to put them in the wheelhouse.

Band practice is a curious thing. If there are tensions in a band, they can be unbearable. If one member doesn't want to be there, it can really drag everybody down. If everybody is jamming and on the same page, they are a blast.

Cheesey practice in drummer's basement ... 
Gosh, the band practices we've been through .... I remember The Funions playing in the basement of the old Vegas Music on East Broadway. I think drummer Chris Cornwell was actually living down there for a while. We hashed out a lot of original songs down there. Before that, we used to go to Justin Busen's house on Vermont when he and David Stegeman were in the band, those were some righteous Monday nights.

Later we had Funions practice at the newer Vegas Music location near 20th and Broadway. It was an old funeral home and we had some great times back there. It even became a big social event with lots of people hanging out. Now it's just a grassy field.

The Cheeseburgers practice in drummer Kirk Gribbler's basement (always practice at the drummer's house if you can - he has the most crap to lug around). A while back we had a group of people interested in hiring us for their event. They wanted to come to practice to check us out, but I nixed the idea - that's not the best place to see a band.

Practice is full of stops and starts, trying out new things, getting a feel for songs. If you came down and heard us, you'd think we were terrible - it's a small practice PA, and we can hear, but it's not about tone, it's about learning and getting better.

Anyway, we have three or four songs new to the Cheeseburgers in the set list for Friday night's big show at Revelry in downtown Quincy. We will be on the Park Bench side so there's more room, and it will be a blast - our first time at a venue is always an adventure and a lot of fun. We've added some shows to our summer Make America Grate Again tour .... see you there and let's get Cheesey!

2018 Make America Great Again Tour
Friday, May 11, Reverly, Quincy, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 4, LaHarpe Community Fireworks party, LaHarpe Ill., 6 p.m.
Friday, July 6, Quincy Park District Summer Concert Series, Washington Park, Quincy, 6 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 24, Keokuk Street Party, Keokuk Iowa, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 - TBA soon!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Enough guitars? Never!

So little time, so many guitars to play! (Photo by Jim Lawrence)
SOMEBODY RECENTLY ASKED how many guitars I have. Truth is, I'm not sure. I'll know after I count them up.

It's not the guitars you have, it's the ones you might someday have, and the ones that got away. I foolishly sold the first electric guitar I ever bought, a Kramer, and I've kicked myself ever since. I let a really nice Cort jumbo acoustic and an LTD hollow body get away in an ill-advised trade for a hot tub. The hot tub lasted a year. C'est la vie.

I just sold my electric Jon Kammerer guitar. The young man who now owns it is a much better player and he makes it sing. I also sold my Breedlove acoustic to a young man, who, in a few short months, will become a better player than me. Such is life.

But, I still have ....

1. Lotus acoustic: The first guitar I ever bought, in 1984, from Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids. It was in pieces a few years ago until Sheryl and Don Rust fixed the cracked saddle and did other repairs. It sits in the man cave of my house in open D tuning, and I strum it once in a while. That's the guitar I really learned to play on, had through college, etc. It's not worth much. I'll never sell it.

2. Washburn acoustic: I bought this from a friend in the early 2000s. I think it was the guitar used on the Funions CDs we did at Copper Mine Studios. I gave it to Emily, who never played it, so I got it back. I restrung it last year and the neck was really bad, so it's sitting at home in a case. Sad ....

Mom's Strat .....
3. Fender Highway Strat: Purchased in 2005 right after my mom died. Has been the go-to electric guitar for many years, with many dings and scratches. Replaced the original Fender neck and middle pickups with Seymour Duncan 59s, much quieter and more potent. I try to bring it to Cheeseburger practice as much as possible so it still gets played.

4. Takamine P3: Again, dinged up and scratched and chipped from about four years of heavy use. Main acoustic performance axe. The Cool Tube pickup is incredible.

5. Alvarez AG 70 acoustic: Look, if we are going to carry Alvarez guitars, I might as well have one. Right? Works for an excuse. Great sounding guitar, decent pickup, used now in lessons.

6. Gretsch Broadcaster: Guh. That's about all there is to say about an incredible hollow body electric. Double GUH. Main Cheeseburger axe right now, along with ....

7. G&L Legacy Telecaster: Just picked this up from our Alvarez salesman. Did I need it? Of course not! Don't be fooled or told that Teles are just for country music - the front pickup is a rock and roll monster.

8. 1968 Gretsch Cutter electric hollow body: This was one of those rare finds where a guy walked in last year and said, "I have this old guitar. I know it's worth something. But I just need to get rid of it." The original owner etched her Social Security Number into the plate, and it turns out it belonged to the guy's mom. Sheryl and Steve Rees did their usual magic to get it playable. All original parts and still sounds like a million bucks, and it was made by the Fred Gretsch Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y.

9. Late 1980s Gibson Shadow: Another rare find. It keeps getting more and more valuable with time, since there were only a few thousand made in Korea. Then Paul Reed Smith sued Gibson and production halted. One of the rare guitars that has Gibson and Epiphone labels on the headstock. It rarely comes out.

10. Reverend Flatroc electric: We bought several Reverend guitars after I met the owners at the Dallas Guitar show a few years ago. Sold them all, but I kept this one. Amazing guitar. I need to either sell it to someone who will play it, or play it myself a little bit more. Ahhhh ... so many guitars, and so little time to play them all!

11. Jon Kammerer acoustic electric hollow body. A unique instrument (pictured at top), to be sure. Jon makes these up in Keokuk, Iowa, and they are works of art. I don't own this guitar but I'm playing it out a bit to keep Jon's name out there. I played it at the Washington Theater last Saturday and it sounded amazing coming out of Jacki Kaufman's Bose PA. It also sounds incredible hooked up to the Fender Princeton amp, believe it or not.

So there it is. I'm in double figures! Uh oh .... we just got some guitars in on consignment. Walk away, walk away!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ghosts and missing scissors

I DON'T BELIEVE in ghosts. But lately we've had disappearing scissors issues in Second String Music, and they've magically reappeared, and I think some old banker in this building might be messing with us.

Yesterday morning I said, "Sheryl, where are the scissors?" They usually hang above the workbench in the back of the store. I looked and looked and looked and couldn't find them. Sheryl said, "I don't know, and Steve (Rees) and I have wondered what happened to them, too." So she went over the dollar store and bought two new pairs.

She went to put them on the bench, and lo and behold, one of the missing scissors was hanging right there, on the hook, right in front of us. I swear it wasn't there a few hours earlier. Then Sheryl noticed the other missing pair of scissors was on a back hook behind some other long packages, but again, there is no way they were there earlier. WE SEARCHED THERE.

Theories? A ghost in the machine, like one of the bankers who used to work here. Could be Dr. Glower, who had an office on the third floor. Maybe one of Pamela Bedford's dance studio costume designers was borrowing them. Perhaps Mr. Houston, whose name is still on a fourth-floor office window, was clipping coupons or something - he was a pretty shrewd financial guy.

My guess is that Mr. Wilson, who started a law firm in the building in 1906, was using them to patch a curtain on his former fifth floor office. One of the Schmiedeskamp brothers might have needed scissors for something. The best guess is that Fischer Jewelers, who were on the second floor, snatched them for trimming sales tags off watches and gold rings. The list is endless and still probably not the answer.

Anyway, we now have four pairs of scissors, last I checked. Wait a second .... Sheryl says there are only three hanging back there now.

What?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Fantastic Dogwood weekend

SECOND STRING MUSIC had a huge day Saturday during the Dogwood Weekend. The parade was awesome, the Farmer's Market was back in the park, and though there weren't a lot of people at the Washington Theater concert, it was nice to hear music in there again and dream of what could be. I checked with many of our neighbors around our block and everybody reported lots of traffic and brisk sales.

Dogwood view from the QPD Humvee.
I rode on the back of the Quincy Police Department's Humvee during the parade, as part of Vancil Performing Arts and our Back The Blue groups. Well, somebody had to do it ... I kept candy buckets full and made sure Sgt. Adam Yates steered straight. There were tons of people on the sidewalks enjoying the parade and the weather was perfect.

Our first two Plaza shows have been big hits - they are weather driven, and if we have sunny skies, there will be a lot of people in the Seventh and Maine Venue. Let's hope it stays that way for Akoustic Mayhem this Friday and for Noah McNally the week after.

What a great start to the spring and summer season in downtown Quincy. Up next - Gus Macker on Memorial Day Weekend, and then we get ready for Blues In The District. As always, downtown is the place to be!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Top 10 albums

NOTE: I just added Avalon by Roxy Music to my top 11. GUH. How did I leave that out?

I WAS CHALLENGED the other day to list 10 albums that were influential and still in the playlist. The problem is that there is no longer a playlist. I rarely listen to albums or CDs or whatever the format is these days. With summer approaching, I might try to conjure up some music on my phone.

The other problem with doing this is that I'm showing my age. I graduated from college 30 years ago, and .... wait. WHAT? I graduated from college 30 years ago?

Guh.

So I will try avoid putting all the 70s and 80s music on this list. Of course, the 80s were the best 12 years of my life. By the way, these are in no particular order, except for No. 1.

Who's Next, The Who: Not even close. Can still sing every word to every song, feel every whacked out drum beat from Keith Moon, and go crazy trying to figure out Entwistle's bass lines on We Don't Get Fooled Again. And if there's a better road song than Mobile, well, it's never been made.

The Completion Backwards Principle, The Tubes: One of the most underrated and unappreciated American bands from the late 70s and early 80s. Bitter Web warriors who hide behind keyboards and have no idea what they are talking about should be forced to listen to Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman until they cheer up.

Secret World Live, Peter Gabriel: The film shows a manic genius at the height of his creative talents. Listening to it reveals an incredible band. Digging In The Dirt? Well, Don't Give Up.

Talk, Yes: Lots of Yes albums could make this list - I spent the summer of 1984 listening to The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Fragile. The more modern 90125 was one of the first cassette tapes I ever bought and devoured. But Talk gets the nod because Trevor Rabin is bleeping man and easily the Mozart and Bach of rock and roll .... every song surges on Talk.

John Hiatt, Walk On: Of course Cry Love is an anthem and should be played by every cover band that ever lived. But I defy you to listen to Dust Down A Country Road and not cry. If you don't, you aren't human.

Keb Mo, Just Like Me: Thank you, Mariann and Jon Barnard, for letting me borrow this CD one day. I don't think I gave it back. Who knew listening to the Delta Blues was so much fun?

Teaser & The Firecat, Cat Stevens: My mother, who passed away 13 years ago yesterday, loved Cat Stevens. She passed it on to me. This is when we used to put these round black things on a device known as a turntable. What were they called again? I'd put this on and pretend to be a leader of a band and bellow out every word from every song, if I knew nobody else was around.

The Outfield, Play Deep: Come on, man. It was the 80s. You had no choice. Those long walks from our old house on the far west side of Mount Pleasant to campus were made bearable by listening to this CD. Got a letter from a mystery man ....

October, U2: I put this on here because it's considered the weakest of the early U2 albums. Really? You didn't listen to Gloria and try to bellow along with Bono as loud as you could?

The Police, Regatta De Blanc. And it would be OK, on any other day ....

Honorable Mention: The Cars (any album, but Candy O especially); Dire Straits, Making Movies; Asia, Asia; Peter Schilling, Error In The System; The Church, Starfish; Wang Chung, Points On A Curve; Camel, I Can See Your House From Here; The Moody Blues, Long Distance Voyager, Bad Company, Desolation Angels, Don Henley, Building The Perfect Beast.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dogwood Weekend Specials

SECOND STRING MUSIC loves Dogwood Festival weekend. So we are celebrating by having a massive sale, and we hope you stop by Fifth and Maine to check it out.

Starting today, May 3rd, all of our amazing Gretsch and Jackson guitars are 15 percent off. We have a bunch in stock, including some of the Floyd Rose Jacksons that the shredders love.

Also, when you purchase ANY guitar or amplifier we will throw in a high-quality Hosa braided 18-foot guitar cable, worth $20. We just got a few more of the new Katana 50-watt combo amps, and I'm thinking about getting one of the 100-watt versions. I know, I know, it's like I need another hole in my head .... sigh. Come to think of it, I don't own a Jackson guitar, either ....

The sale lasts until Saturday at 5 p.m. and applies to in-stock items only. There are a bunch of Quincy area musicians with their eyes on these guitars - now is the time to pull the trigger!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Check out Washington Theater

AS USUAL, DOWNTOWN Quincy will be a beehive of activity Saturday. We have the Dogwood Parade in the morning, the first Farmer's Market of the year, and a really cool event at the Washington Theater. 

The Washington Theater Dogwood Concert starts at 1 p.m. I'm amazed at the number of people in Quincy who don't know about the Washington Theater. Many were in it as kids years ago and they don't realize how rundown it got, and the efforts to restore it. From the front, the theater doesn't look like much, but it's massive inside because it slops down into the ground - you can get a better idea by looking at it from the back in the alley.

We have four acoustic acts playing Saturday, including myself. The thing I love about the old theater is the amazing acoustics and the way the sound bounces around in there. There's no charge to attend (but donations are appreciated) and it's a great place to just wander around in and check out.

Redevelopment started around 2003. About that time my old band, The Funions, was contacted to play a few benefit shows in there, and man, did we have a blast. I'm thrilled they continue to work on the theater, and someday it could the the showcase venue in Quincy.

But first things first - come join us this Saturday and check it out for yourself!

Washington Theater Dogwood Concert
Saturday, May 5
1 p.m. - Jacqueline Kaufman
2 p.m. - Kayla Obert
3 p.m. - Rodney Hart
4 p.m. - Esther Moore

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The roof is almost done

I WENT UPSTAIRS and into the second floor crawl space this morning, for one of the last times. The guys from Full Service Roofing are almost done and I'm getting a little emotional about not having to crawl up there anymore - NOT.

Toward the east end of the crawl space, a large beam was rotting from years of leaking. We put some temporary supports up there last year but we knew the whole thing would need to be replaced. The Full Service guys, especially the foreman, Jon, were awesome. They busted their butts and they did exactly what they said they were going to do, and the project is almost done.
Whoa!

I hauled out at least 12 buckets used to catch drips. Gone from the east end is the big wading pool and trash can - we'd dump all the water into the can and used a sump pump to drain it to a first-floor sink.

It's supposed to rain in the next few days. Instead of dreading it, we welcome it - our new grass, garden and strawberry plants at home need the rain, and I won't have to wonder about the store and water dripping into our back room.
.
The fifth floor roof just needs a little TLC, so we'll tackle that next.

Old buildings .... you gotta love them, and we do!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Ameren to the Rescue

THIS MORNING SHERYL was picking up trash around our yard, and around the fences on either side of our yard. She likes to wander the hood and pick up cellophane, paper, candy wrappers, odd bits of junk and sometimes an interesting relic from years gone by. We save the toy cars and tin military men. Her great nephew has some of the toy car collection.

Another neighbor around the corner is a total slob and couldn't care less about the house she rents. There is always trash and crap on her porch. It's no coincidence she had her water turned off last week, and on Friday a Rent A Center truck was at her house attempting to get back their property. Oh how we love living in the Hood.

Anyway, Sheryl was cleaning up and she detected an odor of gas. I remember her making the same claim a few weeks ago, but I've never had the noggin to sniff it. This time it was pretty strong, so she called Ameren, and they got right on it. Within a few minutes a crew arrived with a detector, and it ended up being the house right next to us with a big leak coming from the meter.

So the trash patrol paid off again. Just no new toys for our collection.

It's never boring in the Calftown Hood!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Plaza show today!

IT MUST BE getting close to summer ... our first Mid-Illinois Bank Concert in the Plaza show is today, come on down to 7th & Maine! And we are getting closer to Blues In The District. Remember, we have an acoustic show every Friday at noon that there's a blues show that night, both are in Washington Park and both are FREE to attend.

The lovely Jacqueline Kaufman kicks off our Plaza shows today. The plaza is located on Maine Street just west of Seventh. It's free and it's a beautiful setting, and the Butcher Block will be there to offer lunch.

Also, we are having a show in the historic Washington Theater a week from Saturday during Dogwood Festival Weekend. The Farmer's Market starts back up the same day, so downtown will be hopping as usual.

Here's the schedules. Let the live music and summer season begin!

WASHINGTON THEATER CONCERT
Saturday, May 5
1 p.m. - Jaqueline Kaufman
2. p.m. - Kayla Obert
3. p.m. - Rodney Hart
4 p.m. - Esther Moore

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Bob's BeBop Records

ONE OF THE legendary businesses down here years ago was Bob's BeBop Records, owned by Bob Navolio. Bob's daughter, Anne, took lessons here for a while and he gave me a T-shirt, and he's one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

Our buddy Jeff Dorsey did a Y101 interview with Bob recently, and some of his stories are fascinating. The store opened in 1972 at 713 Maine, then moved across the street to the southeast corner of Seventh and Maine (now the home of the Yum Factory). If you click on the link above, you'll see the famous painting on the west wall. Recently somebody peeled away a layer or two of brick covering, and I wonder if the sign is still there. It was open until 1984.

Vinyl has made a big comeback in recent years. We had a bunch of it in here at one time, but we sold it all and we now focus on the instrument part of the business. Somebody around here, if they have the time and guts, could open a record store and sell record player parts, because we do get people asking about them.

Here's the interview with Bob. There are tons of stories about his old business, and I found it fascinating.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

When it rains .... get a new roof, cuz it pours

This skylight is gone and the new surface will soon be in place.
OUR ROOFERS ARE hard at work on our Fifth and Maine second floor roof as we speak. They are removing the two large skylights and prepping for the removal of the roof material, since they are completely rebuilding it. Much love to Jeff Schuecking, our next door neighbor, who graciously allowed the roofers to use his parking lot for easier roof access. It's saving them a lot of time and hassle.

Man, I'm gonna really miss inching through a dark and dirty crawlspace to check on buckets when it rains. The last few times we've had rain and melting snow it's been really bad, and we're tired of it.

There's a support beam on the far east side that is rotting from water damage, and it's dangerous to go back there now, so it's past time.

The problem was that this building was empty and neglected for too many years. When we first got in here, we had no idea the leaking was so bad. On New Year's Eve 2012, The Cheeseburgers had a show at One, and it started to snow and rain. Man, the water just poured down into the back area - Frank Haxel and I had to keep running back and forth from the gig to the store just to empty the kiddie pools full of water. We finally figured out they had a sump pump in a garbage can in the crawlspace to catch the biggest leaks, and it's all still up there and still pumping when it rains.

We wrestled with what to do with the skylights. The project would have been cheaper if we'd kept them. But most of the panes of glass are 100 years old and cracking, and there is no purpose to having them up there - you can't see them. At one time they were part of the heating and cooling system for the building, but long ago drop ceilings were installed so you can't see them from the inside, either.

All they do is leak and rust. It's sad, but they gotta go.

Yesterday Sheryl turned on the water to the second-floor bathroom, and something went wrong with the sink. Suddenly there was water pouring down into the coffee shop immediately below. She got it stopped but it leaked for a few hours - I am grateful for the patience and support of EFB's owners and staff, and really it was no big deal - nobody got wet and now we know the sink needs work.

Ah, the joy of owning an old building ...

Anyway, the roofers are up there hammering away, and every now and then we hear a BOOM and a POP when something falls down. It's music to our ears, knowing we'll soon have a new roof.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Garage door opener - free!

SHERYL INSTALLED A new battery powered belt-drive garage door opener Sunday. I helped by staying out of the way and being tall when required to take the old one down and put the new one up. It has a battery and works with the solar panels on the garage roof, and so far, so good.

Since the garage didn't have electricity, Sheryl put in solar panels. She had to find a battery powered opener so that it would work with the solar batteries. So for the past few years we had to manually pull the door up and down, we rarely parked the vehicle in the garage. If the weather was bad, I'd pull it up, put the car in, pull it down, and be done. Really it's no big deal but we get used to the conveniences in life, and it will be nice to park in the garage with little effort - our backs are thanking us already.

The old one was put in three years ago and almost never used. It's sitting in the garage, and we'd like to find it a new home. On occasion we'll have what we call at "Calftown Garage Sale" and just stick it on the sidewalk with a free sign on it, but this is a little too big and we'd like it to actually get used, not taken and sold off or pawned.

Call us at the store (228-8008). It comes with all the stuff you need to put it in.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Cats and vets and car hair

TODAY WAS "TAKE the cats to get shots day." We loaded Josie into the Jeep, and she promptly hid under the back seat. Then we grabbed Fast Eddie from the store, and he meowed loudly all the way from Fifth and Maine to the Quincy Humane Society. Their immunization clinic is fast and cost effective.

Both cats were actually well behaved. Sheryl held Josie while I held Eddie. I had a lot more cat to hold onto, but both decided they'd just stare at the other dogs in the waiting room, and they both were very good when the vet gave them their shots.

Since Eddie never leaves the store, except to get shots, I think he was just soaking it all in and figured trying to make a break for it would only get him in more trouble.

On the way back I started sneezing, and I looked at my jacket. It was coated in cat hair. Coated In Cat Hair would make a great name for a band. Anyway, I shed the jacket and took some benadryl. Sheryl got Josie home, and now we are updated on shots and both cats are happy and healthy.

This comes on the heals of a rather productive Sunday. I played in church in the morning and jammed with the Matt Roberts Blues band at night. Sheryl got the garden planted, did laundry, cleaned the carpets and got the solar powered garage door opener installed. It works! I also got more rocks put down in the low spot by the garage and tilled part of the backyard, then put grass seed down. We'll see how much it grows, especially with dogs and Josie walking through it all the time.

So we are both sore today. Maybe we should get a shot to feel better. I think a new shoulder for Sheryl might be essential if we are going to do this every weekend.

We have done enough today just getting the cats their shots.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Great Venues in Quincy

ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, I saw one of the best bands to ever come through Quincy. Andy Frasco and the UN tore up One at Sixth and Hampshire, much to the delight of about 150 people. Andy's band is really tight and they understand it's about the music and the show, and they rocked for two hours. They are opening for the Foo Fighters this summer and head to Europe next week for a tour, so it was a big deal to get them to come to Quincy.

Andy was brought to Quincy by our friend Craig, a huge fan of the band. It was a party on a Wednesday night, and the event wasn't really designed to make money, they just wanted to have some fun and get Andy to Quincy. Now there's talk of bringing him back and if that happens, you don't want to miss it.

About a month ago I saw Eric Johnson at The Castle Theater in Bloomington. It isn't much bigger than One and there were maybe 500 people there, and it was incredible. I like the idea of One being an  events-only venue, but I really wish they would tear out the restaurant booths and open the floor up. They could put temporary seating in there for shows and perhaps make it economically viable to get bigger names in town, if promoted right.

Why can't we get some big rock and roll names to come through town, much like the old days when Rush, Ike & Tina Turner and other big names would play at Turner Hall? It would make sense since Quincy is surrounded by Kansas City, Chicago and St. Louis, even Indianapolis to the east. Bands are always looking for stopover gigs.
Photo Credit Bad Wolf Media, Mike Sorenson

There are places keeping the music alive, smaller venues like State Street Bar & Grill, Revelry and The Club Tavern. The Oakley-Lindsay Center isn't really a concert venue but they have had some good ones in there.

I love Morrison Theater inside Quincy Junior High School - Emily is playing with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Saturday night. It would be a great venue for rock shows, but let's face it, if you don't sell beer you won't draw much of a crowd. Don't hate me for saying it, because it's true.

Then there's my old pipe dream of building an outdoor amphitheater on the river, right at Gardner Expressway and Front Street, where the old cardboard box company once stood. Gosh, think of warm summer nights and a great band rocking down there - who cares about the one-road access, putting in sewer lines and flooding every spring? I've already got my secret spot staked out on the bluff to watch it from afar.

Still daring to dream, especially after seeing Andy Frasco at One.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The mall and the local impact

BERGNERS IN THE Quincy Mall is closing. I tried reading some of the social media comments but the world is full of moronic web warriors and it gets depressing. You can't engage them because you should never argue with somebody who thinks or knows they are wrong.

Many people shrug and say it's too bad, the mall is dying, Quincy is dying and there's nothing to do here. Where can I go now to buy my clothes and shoes? Where you always go - online. Hey, I can save a few bucks and it's a lot easier than battling that horrendous Broadway traffic and waiting two minutes at the traffic light, or having to park at least half a block away from a store downtown.

Meanwhile, the city is having a budget crisis and our water rates might be doubling, our police and fire departments are looking at cutbacks (including closing a fire station again) and places like our public library are looking at reducing services.

It's all cyclical, folks. If you don't spend your money here for things you can get just as easily and for about the same price as clicking a computer button, well, we are going to struggle. And it's sad that closing a nice department store has to bring the point home, and only then do people (maybe?) realize how shopping online can really hurt their local economy.

We are no better than anybody else, and I've been guilty as anybody of going online instead of shopping local. But lately we are trying to take a better look at our shopping habits.

I go to the local grocery store as much as possible. Last week we went to Carl's Shoes and got some great shoes with great service from Jamie and the crew out there. The Farmer's Market opens May 5 and we are looking forward to getting tasty grass-fed beef. If I need a shirt or suit, I am going next door to Schuecking's.

We've ordered dog food online in the past, but that has stopped and PetCo gets our business now. Besides, Angus likes visiting the local pet store where he usually convinces us to buy him a few new balls. We are suckers for sure.

This blog has been written many times. It will be written again. We all need to shop local and keep it local.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cats in the bag

SHERYL JUST TOOK the dogs to get their shots. They were actually pretty good for her and the vet, from what she says. Now they have new shiny tags and everybody is happy.

Next week we have to take the cats, and that's gonna be a whole new adventure. Sheryl has been looking for a cat carrier - I swear we had one at one point, but who knows where it went.

Fast Eddie is always crawling into guitar cases and gig bags. So, we've come up with a brilliant solution for him - a guitar gig bag! He'll crawl in, we'll zip it up and leave a little room for air, and off Fast Eddie goes.

Josie is another matter. For one thing, she has sharp and nasty claws and she won't like being put into any kind of container. You should have seen her go to work the other day when she caught a baby bird and played with it in the house. Fortunately the bird expired quickly. I think.

I'm sure we can find an old Gus Macker travel bag or purse laying around the house somewhere. We better wear gloves and have plenty of treats to bribe the cats, especially Josie.

And, as always, we remember it's their world, and we just live in it. Carry on, cats and dogs!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Just plug it back in

TECHNOLOGY IS WONDERFUL. Unless it goes south. Then you gotta roll with it and not let the whole thing go to hell.

I used my new Boss looping pedal this weekend with HartLyss and it worked out, for the most part. One song in particular went bad and it took a couple of tries to kill the bad recording and get back on track. It's all living and learning, and I learned a lot.

I use a wireless setup for my guitar. I long ago tired of cables getting yanked out and doing damage. One night I was playing and another person stepped on the cable for my acoustic guitar, and pulled the input jack right out of the guitar. That's when I vowed to only plug in when I had to, and to get something decent to go wireless.

So Sunday I'm playing at State Street Bar & Grill and my wireless pack slipped off the guitar strap and the cable pulled right out. We were rocking at the time and it suddenly went silent.

You have two choices, at that point. You can panic and fumble around and maybe restart the song. Or you just keep strumming and hope the wireless pack will magically hook back up to the guitar.

In this case, Cori Lyssy adroitly came right over, picked it up and plugged it back in. There wasn't a huge crowd in the bar but the people watching seemed to get it and gave her a big ovation. We just kept going. What are you going to do? It's rock and roll, and it's live.

Just keep going. I know, it's only rock and roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Smashed truck mirrors

CORI LYSSY AND I had a great rock and roll weekend, with HartLyss gigs Saturday night at The Place and Sunday afternoon at State Street Bar & Grill. Generally speaking HartLyss gigs are a lot less physically demanding than a Cheeseburger show, but I'm really sore today and it will be a challenge to get through a bunch of lessons this afternoon. I ain't complaining ... I'm living the dream!

Anyway, I got to State Street at 2 p.m. Sunday and was unloading gear from the Jeep when I noticed a big box truck coming down State Street from 18th. It was swerving back and forth and it passed me, then swerved again and nearly hit another vehicle on the north side of the street. Actually, it did hit the vehicle, clipping the rearview mirror off the driver's side. The mirror exploded and went all over the street, and the truck never stopped.

I did not get a clear look at the driver, but the truck was clearly marked and belongs to a local business. I'll just leave it at that.

I knocked on some doors but nobody seemed to know who the truck belonged to, so I left a note in the door. Sure enough, a woman came in (I actually know her because she works just down the street) and said it was her boyfriend's truck, and he was calling the police to make a report. Turns out I knew the boyfriend too. Small world when it comes to seeing stuff while setting up for a show!

The officer came in and took the report and hopefully they'll get to the bottom of it, especially if it involves insurance money. Perhaps the driver of the truck didn't even realize he'd smashed the mirror, though it made a loud noise and I'm sure left a mark on the truck.

Look. If it had been my truck and somebody saw it get hit, I'd only hope they would do the same. Still, it's nice to play good citizen and then rock and roll the day away.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Violin lost, violin found

WHEN YOU RENT a school band instrument from us via Boyd Music included is a maintenance fee, which protects against loss, theft or damage. Boyd will clean and do regular maintenance on the instrument any time you are making payments. This is particularly important for boys who play trumpets - ah, the stories we could tell about bent keys and horns!

The other day a parent messaged us in a panic - his son left his violin at a bus stop on the city's north side. The kid felt awful and the parent didn't know what to do.

Lost ... and found!
When the violin didn't turn up the next day, the parent came to the store and we advised him to make a report with the Quincy Police Department. Then Boyd would gladly replace the violin for no charge. The parent was somewhat sheepish but glad we had his back, and his son could continue playing the violin.

This morning the parent reported that his son's classmate found the violin, but was sick from school yesterday and didn't bother to tell anybody until this morning. Relief!

I'm sure it was a good learning experience for both the boy and his dad. We've all done it - in my case, it was leaving behind eye glasses and television remotes on the coffee table. We'd come home at the end of the day and Bella The Destroyer, and later Genie, would be sitting there with innocent looks on their faces, and the remains of said items scattered all over the floor.

The other thing I've done many times is leave various guitar stands and instrument chords after playing shows. One night The Funions played a gig at the old Blue Onion with several other bands, and I left an expensive five-way guitar stand behind. Never did find it, even after checking with the other bands.

The moral of the story is that we have your back if something happens to your instrument, and we're always happy to help out in times of crisis.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ready for the sidewalk

WE ARE MORE than ready for sidewalk weather. You know, when you can sit outside at Fifth and Maine, soak up the rays, hear good music, and watch all the interesting people walking and driving by.

Our Second String Music sidewalk gets used a lot right at the corner. We now have a SSM Sidewalk Hall of Fame. Charter members are me, Frank Haxel, Adam Yates, Sheryl and Angus. The first Blues in The District is about two months away, and the sidewalk is ready to host more Friday night gatherings.

It's sidewalk time!
Electric Fountain Brewing at 503 Maine is getting into the act, too. It's going to be 70-plus degrees this afternoon, so the crew is assembling a table and will get it to the sidewalk shortly. EFB has a permit from the city to put tables and chairs out there, and today is the perfect day to break them in.

Believe it or not, we are a little more than two weeks away from our first First Mid-Illinois Bank Plaza show. It's Friday, April 27, from noon to 1:15 p.m. at the plaza near Seventh and Maine, and Jacqueline Kaufman is the first performer. Beau Becraft (May 4), Akoustic Mayhem (May 11) and Noah McNally (May 18) are also featured, with lunch provided by the Butcher Block. The concerts are sponsored by the bank, The District, Second String Music and Vancil Performing Arts.

So let's get sidewalking in proper fashion and downtown, and may it be a great sitting season!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mucho bass cabinets

FOR SOME REASON bass cabinets for sale are popular right now. We have three in Second String Music, two Ampegs and a Hartke. Sheryl says she is noticing more bass and guitar cabs for sale in the online groups. The cabinet houses the speakers (usually four to eight) and you need an amp head to run the speakers.

Three bass cabs in this photo alone, from small to large.

Bass cabinets are awesome if you want to shake the ground and really feel the rumble. The issue is that if you play around here, you rarely need a big old bass cabinet. They are nightmares to move and store, unless you have room in the basement and don't have to cart it around.

The older I get the simpler my rig gets for guitar. I was torn between getting a new Princeton Reverb amp and a Fender Deluxe. The Deluxe had more juice, but the Princeton sounds amazing if not quite as loud. Do we really need more volume on stage? Not if the amp is off the ground and aimed up at you. So I've finally decided on the Princeton. I think.

The bass cabinets are right at the front of the store, for two reasons: 1. Easy to see when you first walk in, and 2. Don't have to move it very far when you buy it.

Come on by and check 'em out!

Monday, April 9, 2018

House next door for sale

THE HOUSE NEXT to us in our awesome Calftown neighborhood goes up for sale this month. The asking price is fair and it's beautiful, lived in for nearly 60 years by our neighbor, Don. He passed away in October and his kids have been steadily cleaning it out. The garage is huge and still has his LTD sitting there waiting for a new owner.
Jim V and Don's houses. Nice and big family homes.

The house next to Don's may be up for sale soon, too, from what we've heard. Sheryl and I have been in it and it's also very nice. An new owner has been in it for about four years but before that Jim Viehmeyer owned it for decades and it was immaculate, even the basement... The wiring lined up in perfect rows. He worked hard to make sure his basement was clean and dry.

We really hope the homes stay single-family dwellings and not rental properties. No offense, but we've had our fill of negligent landlords and slobs as tenants. There is a house on 9th Street that is awful and the city has had to step in to get it cleaned up, and that's just the junky porch and yard full of trash and furniture. There is also another one at 9th and Washington that has been vacant for 7 years and the city has to mow it a couple of times a year. It would make a cute house if the owners would sell it. Who knows why they just let it sit and decay.

Our house. It is the ugly one on the block.
All the big houses in the block are lived in by the owners. We hope to see a couple of new families join our little block. It is a great place to run and play, just ask our dogs!

Call us for details and we can let you know more about the houses going up for sale. Here's to hoping we get good neighbors and keep it real in the Calftown hood!