Friday, December 28, 2018

I bought my grandkids a cheap guitar

"I BOUGHT MY grandkids a cheap guitar because I wasn't sure if they would like it." Sounds like a catch 22 to us.

Trust us, they are gonna hate that cheap guitar.

Trust us, they will never like playing it.

Trust us, you will kill all interest in playing and learning with that cheap guitar.

We hear the tale every year at Christmas. When your kids express interest in music, why is your first instinct to buy the cheapest possible instrument? Do you want to help them succeed or guarantee they fail?

It isn't expensive to buy a quality guitar from Second String Music. We have a 3/4 Fender acoustic  with a bag for $150. It's a low action, good-playing guitar. You kid will love to play it. All of our guitars come with four FREE guitar lessons at Vancil Performing Arts. They have teachers that are awesome at teaching smaller kids and helping to foster a love for music in your child.

You could spend a whopping $200 on a Alvarez guitar that comes with a bag, tuner and strap. Seriously, it's the easiest way to get almost everything you need to get an older child up and playing guitar.

There's an old saying in the business, any business, actually. You get what you pay for. We understand that you have a budget and you need to be careful with your money ... but if you want your child or grandchild to have the best possible chance at success ... aren't they worth it?

They are. Trust us. A proud grandma just came in and showed us a photo of the awesome Fender Squier guitar she bought for her grandchild. She is playing it and has the hugest smile on her face. Pure joy!

They'll succeed, if you give them the right tools.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Making Christmas right

HERE'S A STORY about messing up, redemption and make Christmas Day the best day ever.

A few weeks ago a mother came in and bought an awesome Fender Squier guitar pack. It was for her 15-year-old son. It comes in a big box with an electric guitar, amp, cord, strap and picks. It's everything you need to get started with a quality electric guitar.

It was a Thursday, I was in lessons and Sheryl was helping a bunch of people, and somehow the box didn't get double-checked. The mom got home, put the box in the closet and got it out on late Christmas Eve, only to discover the guitar wasn't in the box - everything else was there.

She sent us a Facebook message late Monday night. She was understandably distraught - it was the only big present she was getting for her son, and never underestimate how hard moms work and how much it means to get the perfect gift for their child.

We saw the message first thing yesterday morning and immediately contacted her. We arranged to come to her home in Hannibal with the missing guitar, and Santa decided we needed to do a little bit more. The young man has two younger siblings, so the mom had already arranged for a nice note from Santa to be sitting in a guitar stand explaining why the guitar was coming a little later - Santa can be busy on Christmas eve, you know!

So Sheryl and I went down there, and we brought the young man a really nice Fender gig bag, a tuner, a chords and scales book, picks and another Fender strap. And I gave him a free lesson. The young man got an acoustic guitar from us last year and he is already a pretty good player, and he's going to have a blast on his shiny new electric guitar.

Look. It shouldn't have happened in the first place and we aren't downplaying that. Sheryl apologized profusely and promised to make it as "better as possible." The guitar probably got taken out for us to display, because I remember checking them all when they arrived. But if this had happened with an online order, or purchased from a big box store out of town, we guarantee it wouldn't have ended the same way.

What a great young man and family! We had a blast visiting with them on Christmas morning. And, to top it off, we got to stop at the 18-Wheeler on the way home and have a late Christmas morning breakfast. So it all worked out and our Christmas was all the merrier.

We aren't perfect. But we try our best to make you, our Second String Music customers, our priority, and we strive to make it right.

Have a great rest of the Christmas season!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Today is a Christmas Mystery Day

WHERE DO THEY get the "12 days of Christmas?" Leave to my brothers from the Great White North to explain it.

Let's see ... Christmas, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year's, New Year's Eve, two Saturdays and Sundays ... that leaves three days, which I believe are the mystery days.

Fortunately I don't have many issues getting gifts. Sheryl is easy to shop for and there are some awesome downtown merchants with great ideas. We've hooked a ton of people up here at Fifth and Maine getting stuff for their favorite musicians.

Also, a very happy birthday to my father, Dirk Hart Sr., who lives in North Carolina. He's celebrating No. 80 today.

All I want for Christmas is a beer in a tree. Or a good stogie. Or just peace and goodwill toward man.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Strange Persons Day

WE GET A lot of characters coming into Second String Music. Yesterday was a good day for characters. It's a polite way of saying it was "Strange Persons Day" at Fifth and Maine.

We aren't complaining, and Christmas has rocked so far. We had guitars flying out of here in the afternoon and I'm sure we'll be busy the rest of the week. We are open until 6 on Christmas Eve, too.

Anyway, one of the more unique people was an older guy interested in a 12-string guitar. Out of the blue he started telling us about how we could solve the immigration "crisis" in our country.

"Every 18-year-old who comes into the country has to raise their right hand and gets immediately sworn into the service," he said. "Their wives can get jobs and learn skills and learn English. They serve two years, and they go overseas to Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan and our boys can come home and have a break. Then they can get out and they can buy a nice house and they are American citizens."

Also, if you desert you get shot because that is how they did it in WWI. There were a few other rules but we'll spare you the details. He promised to come back and buy a 12-string and a case ...

Another interesting person was an older woman who came in looking for "that thing that June Carter Cash played. It has strings and buttons and you moved your arm up and down like this to play it."

Sheryl and I weren't sure exactly what she was talking about. Later we figured it may have been an autoharp, but we still aren't sure. When we told her we didn't have anything like that in the store, she rolled her eyes and looked at us like we were from Pluto, wheeled around and left in a huff.

NOT representative of our
wonderful customers.
I think there were a few others. Also, this morning a young man came in and asked what time "the other music stores open." Are there other music stores in Quincy? "Oh, yes. I think there are at least three or four of them," he said.

Well. We wouldn't know. We are just trying to keep it together during the crazy Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Good luck in the band, dear nephew

THERE'S A LOT of things I want to tell my nephew, Riley, about playing in a band. Riley is a drummer. He's a sophomore at Arizona State University and plays in the Sun Devil Marching Band. He's pretty darn good.

Recently he hooked up with a band in the Phoenix area called No Lungs. They are self-described as "Indie Rock" and it's kinda cool. It's original songs and very fast and very aggressive rock, the stuff kids love today. I think. They've played a couple of shows in the Phoenix area and next month they "headline" a show at one of the local venues. They are very excited. They should be!

Riley posted a video on his Facebook page of a practice session, and it was awesome. They are all sitting around and tinkling with guitar riffs. Riley hits his drums a few times. Then the singer says "GO" and they crash into this riff-heavy and driving song. It's a glorious cacophony full of energy, and you can tell these are guys just dying to unleash their music to the world.

Go, Riley, go! Playing in a band is a dream come true and when it clicks, there is nothing better. But .... Uncle Rot Knee has a few things to point out. Just so you know.

I think Riley has a girlfriend. I'm sure she is very nice and I'm happy for Riley. Hopefully Riley doesn't show this to his girlfriend, but bands and girlfriends can be a dangerous and toxic mix, and inevitably somebody will go Yoko Ono on the band and things will implode. Perhaps his girlfriend is awesome and loves No Lungs and wants to be the merchandise director. Right. Good luck with all that, Riley.

Also, somebody will be late to practice. Usually it isn't the drummer. Also, somebody will forget the words to a song, or forget their pedal board, or plunk the wrong riff on the intro, or use the wrong cable to plug in the head to the cab and screw up the ohms, and it will start smoking. During the show.

The band will get a festival gig and be super excited. Then they will show up and realize that they are on the "Pepsi Rock Wagon" stage, which is a rickety hay wagon in a field a mile from the main stage. And there's no power. And the promoter couldn't give two shits about you.

Then you'll get a gig at the local dive bar and it will be glorious. People will go nuts and start talking about the band and you'll start getting really excited. You'll sing a song about the drummer's ex-girlfriend who stole all the band merchandise and people will go crazy. They will sing along. Singing along to your original song! Wow. It's a rush you can't create.

So you'll book another gig at the dive bar. And two people will show up. It's called "playing to chairs" and it's a bummer. You are a professional so you'll still kick rock and roll ass, even though you won't get paid and nobody cares. But now the song about the ex-girlfriend who stole all your stuff doesn't have the same zing.

Also, the "musical direction" changes, and before you know it you are playing Skynyrd covers and "Cheeseburger In Paradise." You won't feel bad because people love it. But you'll miss your days of playing your own stuff and suffering for your own art.

Also, you'll get stiffed at a gig, or you won't get paid, or your bass player will use a bad check to pay for band T-shirts, or some PA equipment goes missing and you find it months later at the singer's ex-girlfriend's house. Along with all the missing band T-shirts.

Hopefully I'm not bumming Riley out. I'm encouraging him and his rock and roll dreams. I love it when young musicians get together and everything is exciting and new and full of possibilities. It would not surprise me if No Lungs gets noticed and are all the buzz in sunny Phoenix.

Rock on, Riley. Call if you have questions or want advice. Stay true to your rock and roll dreams.

But never play on a rickety hay wagon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Easy Peazy at Fifth and Maine

SOMETIMES GIFT CERTIFICATES are the best Christmas presents, especially for fussy musicians. We are picky about picks, strung out about strings, and stuck on certain drum sticks. It's never a good idea to buy a guitar without seeing and playing it, though a beginner guitar is often a good choice for a child even if they haven't played it.

We sell a lot of Second String Music gift certificates at Christmas and we encourage them for people who aren't sure what to get. You can't go wrong. The person gets what he or she needs and everybody is happy.

At Christmas we get a lot of "This is a really dumb question" and "I have no idea what I'm doing." There are no dumb questions and we'll get you steered in the right direction. One of the best things we hear this time of year is, "Wow. That was easy!" It's what we do. Shopping for music stuff can be very intimidating.

Not only would Easy Peazy be a great band name, it's a slogan for us at Fifth and Maine. Merry Christmas! We'll make it fun for you to find that perfect gift for your particular musician or music lover.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Rock and Roll, Roxy Music

THE ROCK AND Roll Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2019. There are some great bands and single acts being inducted. I long ago gave up trying to figure out what "rock and roll" means and when somebody like Janet Jackson gets in, is it worth trying to explain it? No. So she's in. Good for her.

Roxy Music getting in is righteous. They were different but still funky and radio-friendly enough to catch casual listeners, but they still have a rabid following. Avalon is still one of the greatest records of all time, capturing early 1980s New Wave like nothing else. It goes from wrenching to funky to pop to weird to mind-blowing, all in 37 minutes and 31 seconds.

Sad that it's the last album Roxy Music ever made, though Bryan Ferry continued to make great music.

The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame got it right with Roxy Music, and one of these days I'll find my old import CD and crank it up again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Uncle Angus is very proud

ANGUS, OUR COWBOY Corgi, is about to become an uncle. Angus' sister, Jess, lives just east of town on the same farm where Angus was born. Jess is very, very pregnant. Very soon a litter of cute Cowboy Corgis will be born.

There has been some hinting from Sheryl about a new puppy coming to Hart Manor in Calftown. I am against this, because we already have three dogs and a cat (Josie) who thinks she is a dog. Four is enough.

I asked Angus about this, and both of his ears actually perked up (one is usually down, since he only half-listens most of the time. Geesh. What a boy dog.) Angus says he is unsure of this whole uncle thing and says he really doesn't care if he gets to meet his new nieces and nephews. But you can tell he's proud of being a new uncle and secretly he'd love to road-trip it to meet them.

When the puppies are born I'm sure there will be plenty of photo-sharing on Sheryl's Facebook page. Perhaps we will go meet the puppies, but I'm pretty confident we'll remain a three-dog and a cat family.

Still ... they will be pretty darn cute...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bette Davis lawyer eyes

EVERY MORNING WHILE the dogs and I stroll and get ready for the day, Sheryl watches Perry Mason on our local MeTV station. I will sum up every episode, so apologies for the spoilers, but somebody gets murdered, the wrong person is arrested and hires Perry Mason, he methodically takes apart the prosecutor's case, and the real murderer breaks down in court and confesses.

Never mind that this is usually during a pre-trial hearing, not even the preliminary hearing or during an actual trial. But why let real life get in the way of "so good it's bad" 1963 television?

This morning, lo and behold, Perry Mason had suffered some unfortunate malaise and was in the hospital. In his place stepped up the legendary Bette Davis, playing a widowed attorney defending a James Dean-like young man falsely accused of murder. Again, I hate to spoil it, and I only saw the very end, but Better Davis runs through all the suspects and then points out the real killer. In the courtroom. Right. The killer breaks down and confesses on the spot with a maniacal laugh, and the accused breathes a huge sigh of relief as the camera closes in on the smirking and triumphant Betty Davis.

"She's got Bette Davis eyes," I said, recalling the horrid 1980s song.

"I know, and they are .... piercing and disturbing," Sheryl said. "This is early women's rights!"

Actually, it's kind of cool. I'm sure Hollywood was a man's game back in the 1960s, and to have a woman portray a figure of authority and slick coolness was probably rare. Bette Davis pulled it off with a bad haircut and those eyes.

In the end, Perry Mason calls her from his hospital bed and says he is going to get better because the prosecutor can't take tangling with Bette Davis, and wants a fairer fight. Of course, Perry Mason went 255-0 during his days as a defense lawyer, but again, why let reality interfere with classic television?

Uh oh. Matlock just came on. Better turn the TV off and head to the store - not even Sheryl would leave Matlock on to torture the poor dogs while we are at work.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Is Marino the quarterback?

SHERYL ACTUALLY PAUSED her Dr. Who show last night when I told her to watch this clip of her Miami Dolphins beating New England on the last play of the game.

"Is Marino the quarterback?" she said. Sheryl was born in Florida. She couldn't care less about football, but she does like the Dolphins, especially if it means beating New England. Don't we all?

A guy named Ryan is the quarterback. He threw a pass, and one guy flipped it to another, and a receiver playing defense for New England fell down and couldn't tackle him, and Miami won in miraculous fashion.

"That's a good thing," Sheryl said. Then she resumed watching Dr. Who.

And that, friends, is a classic Dolphins fan reaction.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Twitter and not communicating

I'M ABOUT TO give up on Twitter. Sheryl made me an account and I admit I scroll through it daily, though I never post. Twitter is a great thing to keep up on breaking news, but it's so virulent and full of unchecked lies and rants. If you make this the way to communicate with your people, well, you aren't very good at communicating.

Tuesday night I was working at the paper in sports, getting results from games and putting stories together. Basically the way it works now is that coaches email scoresheets to the paper, and we put together a short story. If the game is close or if a player goes off, we'll call the coach and try to get more information.

One of our young college kids got a result from a double overtime game and alertly called the coach to get more details. The coach said, "Everything I have to say about the game is on Twitter." And he hung up. So our guy called the losing coach, but of course he didn't answer or return the call. The coach's twitter account was private and we couldn't access it, of course.

Really? Your team just won a double overtime thriller and a local newspaper is calling you and you shrug it off? Hmmmm .... maybe there is more to this, but I suspect it's the way of the world these days - screw you, I'm just tweeting my results and you can take it from there.

This coach is just torpedoing his own program, keeping his team and players from getting recognized. I understand it's tough being a coach and the last thing you want to do sometimes is deal with the media, but the smart coaches realize it's part of the job and something you have to do.

I am not speaking about anybody in particular, but sports guys tend to have long memories. They remember who is good to work with, and who isn't. I spent 10 years in sports and working relationships were huge. If we had a program with a coach who didn't quite get it, do you think that played into coverage of games, all area teams and other things?

Yup. I was human and petty about it too, I guess.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Critters in the cemetery

WE ENCOUNTER PLENTY of critters on our morning Woodland Cemetery walks. We've seen tons of squirrels and moles, of course. The dogs have kept the mole population down this year and have probably killed at least 30 to 40 of them. Moles breed by breathing air so poor Eric and his staff are constantly dealing with mole trails through the grass. So they like the dogs.

This morning Genie caught a squirrel, which then played dead as it hung in her jaws. Since it wasn't fighting back, Genie simply dropped it, and the squirrel got up, looked Genie square in the eyes and said, "SORRY SUCKER." Then it flew up a nearby tree and laughed like a maniac at the ticked off dogs.

A couple of weeks ago in the far southwest part of the cemetery we saw from a distance what looked like a large cat. It was reddish in color, and it kind of hard to tell because it darted into the woods, but I thought it might be a red fox.

This morning, not 10 yards in front of me, the fox suddenly popped up. Tucker and Angus were off somewhere but Genie saw it right away and gave chase. It was no contest - the fox was a blur as it gathered momentum and flew down the hill. Genie chased it for maybe 100 yards, then gave up.

There are also deer, possums and raccoons hanging out in the cemetery. I saved a possum not long ago by the City Vault - it was so fat that it could barely waddle, and the dogs nipped at it a few times until I shooed them away, and off the poor frightened beast went into the safety of the wood.

There are also lots of hawks and bald eagles, especially when the river freezes up and then head over to the lock and dam to fish. You know there is something dead in the woods when you see the turkey vultures circling in the air and about to swoop down to pick at the carcass.

The dogs agree - it's a beautiful thing hanging out with all the creatures!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ukes are still cool

ONE OF THE best decisions we've ever made at Second String Music is getting into ukuleles. They are massively popular because they are affordable and easy to play. Yesterday was Uke Day at Fifth and Maine and typical of this time of year.

It started when a woman came in and bought three awesome Luna ukuleles for her grandsons for Christmas. We sold two more ukuleles, including our last Alvarez pack. No worries - we still have lots of affordable Penguin ukes and lots of Amahi,  Gretsch and Luna ukes.

They are easy to play because they are small, lightweight and have four strings. The chord shapes are relatively simple and it's not hard to strum. I had to learn about a year ago to play them because I have three uke students now and three or four others this past year.

If you have a child interested in music, a Penguin uke is perfect, starting at $45. These aren't the Wal-Mart toys, either. They are real instruments and sound great. We have them in concert, soprano and tenor sizes, and there's a uke for your budget and abilities.

It's all about Yuletide and Uketide greetings at Second String Music!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Taking the plunge to Fifth and Maine

THERE ARE A lot of things I don't know how to do when it comes to Fifth and Maine. I can sell you a guitar and teach you how to play Wipeout, but I can't do anything mechanical, electrical or even how to type up an invoice on Quickbooks.

This morning Sheryl went to physical therapy for her shoulder, and the PT asked her why I wasn't there. "We need to show him what you are doing so he can help you," she said. After Sheryl stopped laughing and throwing her shoulder out of whack, she said, "He can't even run the cash register. He's a musician."

Well, I can fake my way around a cash register, but the point is, I stick to what I know how to do. It might not be much, but it's all I got.

There is one thing, however, I have recently learned to do and it's very important when you own a building and rent space out to another business. Namely, you need to learn how to plunge a toilet.

Last Friday night the toilet in Electric Fountain Brewing got stopped up. Somebody flushed a diaper and it was clogged. Fortunately it didn't spill over the bowl, but man, it was nasty.

So I got the plunger out and started plunging away. When Sheryl saw me, she started laughing (sense a theme here?) and said, "Let me walk you through this. You gotta get an air bubble in the plunge chamber."

It's all about the angle.
Seems you have to plunge, remove the plunger out of the water, and let the air get back into the rubber end of the plunger. Also, you have to plunge at the correct angle and completely cover the opening at the bottom of the bowl. The plunger has to seal the hole for maximum plunge efficiency. Who knew?

Sure enough, after about two minutes of cussing and plunging correctly, in that order, the toilet miraculously drained and everything was fine. Now I know all about correct plunging angles and plunger air bubbles.

And I'm so much better prepared for the next time something gets stopped up around here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Pink Floyd kinda guy

YOU NEVER KNOW who will walk into Second String Music looking for an instrument. You never judge a book by the cover, right? Whoever said that probably worked in small business retail.

Saturday morning, Sheryl was off running errands so Steve Rees and I manned the store. In walked a guy who said he was just checking the store out. He sat down and started strumming some of our amazing Takamine acoustic guitars.

Next thing I know he comes up to the counter and says, "I'll take it." You would think after doing this for nearly eight years we'd be used to selling a beautiful guitar, but I still get a big charge out of it. He also got a case and some other stuff.

We are ringing him up at the counter when he looks at the wall behind me and says, "I'm working on his house." He pointed at Sheryl's picture of Roger Waters on the wall. In case you didn't know, Sheryl is a massive Roger Waters fan, both in Pink Floyd and his solo work.

Turns out this guy is an electrician from Florida and flew up to the area to play at a family member's party. Southwest Airlines lost his guitar. Ooops! Southwest's blunder is our gain. "We are doing the electrical work on Roger Waters' house in the Hamptons," he said. "He's ... particular. Mostly we just deal with his entourage. When you've sold a million albums, I guess you can have an entourage."

So there you have it. We sold a guitar to a guy who is working on Roger Waters' house. Sheryl just missed meeting him and was sorely disappointed. "Tell him to come back!" she said. "Two degrees of separation is probably as close as I'll ever come."

Maybe some day Roger Waters himself will come in and buy a Takamine acoustic. What are the chances? About as great as his electrician doing the same thing. Right!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Christmas hours are our hours

IT WAS AWESOME to see a bunch of people in Washington Park last night. The District is hosting special events Thursdays during the Christmas season, and it's a great way to draw people downtown. Last night was the Characters In The Park night and it was a huge success, just like last Saturday's tree lighting event.

Sheryl and I have debated staying open later at Second String Music. Our Monday through Friday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We are usually here between 9 and 9:30 in the morning, and because of lessons or later customers it's not unusual for us to be here past 7 at night. On Saturdays we are here 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but many times we've been here later than 4.

It's all part of small local retail. We have established hours but we are also here for our customers.

In past years we've stayed open late during Christmas and Sundays. I don't think we are going to do that this year. There are a number of businesses open later on Thursdays in December and I'm curious to see if they get many people in their stores.

Still, we are here and we are rocking already as Christmas draws near, and we are more than happy to be here early and stay late for our loyal customers.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fast Eddie's new home

Fast Eddie and Tucker soak up the sun.
FOR THE FIRST time in more than seven years, Second String Music is cat-less. This is a big deal, because many people come into the store just to see Fast Eddie.

A few weeks ago when Sheryl was getting shoulder surgery, a couple walked and the husband went to look at guitars. Fast Eddie ran up to the wife and rubbed against her, then sat on her lap and purred like a mad dog ... er, cat.

Eddie is very affectionate but this was unusual for him with a stranger. The wife was immediately taken with him. "I've never had a cat and I really want one, but he won't let us have one," she said, pointing to her husband.

"If you let him buy a guitar I'll let you have the cat," I said, half-jokingly.

"Deal," she said.

There was more to it than that. Turns out they have a 9-year-old daughter and they've been wanting a cat for a long time. The more we talked the more I realized Fast Eddie could be going to a really good home.

Fast Eddie was always well behaved when we have a dog in the store also. A few weeks ago I was in here by myself without Angus or Tucker and Eddie terrorized me the entire time. I finally had to lock him in the back room with his food to get any work done. When Steve Rees is in the store alone, Eddie especially went into obnoxious mode and got in the way all the time or screamed at him for treats. It is entertaining but irritating...

Look. We love the fast and fat Ed. But it was apparent he need a place with more love and attention.

So just like that, he was gone. We worried about him a bit. A week ago, his new owner texted me a photo of Eddie sprawled on a couch. "He is the king of the house. We all love him so much," she said.

Fast Eddie, a Second String Music legend, has found a new home. He's missed, but he's still fast, fat and happy, and we are happier, too!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Let it snow. Already?

WE GOT SMACKED again Sunday night. Of course it rained for five hours before the first flakes drifted in, meaning there's a heavy layer of ice under the several inches of snow. Who cares about your back when shoveling, and what's a few more pounds of ice and slush among friends?

Cori Lyssy and I played at a benefit Sunday afternoon at State Street Bar and had a blast, as usual. About 5:30 I looked out and the snow was coming down, and coming down hard. They let us finish a little early and by the time I headed home, it was almost impossible to see.

I live exactly 12 blocks away. It took me nearly 15 minutes to get home. I missed my street because I couldn't see and circled the block twice until I finally figured it out and slid the Jeep into the garage. I wouldn't qualify it as a blizzard, but it was nasty and authorities were right to tell people to stay off the roads. Of course, the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend is one of the nation's busiest for travel, and I feel sorry for anybody caught out there.

There's nothing like a few inches of snow to get Quincy in a massive panic mode. Right away people started bitching on social media about streets not being plowed and sidewalks not being shoveled. Geesh. It's a FEW INCHES OF SNOW. Take your time if you gotta go out and if you have a Ford Festiva, don't go out or get a ride with somebody who has 4-wheel drive, like we do.

And only in the Q-Town is video of a snowplow going up in flames the most viewed-video on a TV website.

I'm not much of a fan of winter anymore, but I took the dogs to Woodland this morning and it was beautiful. The wind whipped the snow into unusual shapes and cave-like mounds, and the dogs had a blast jumping through the white stuff. Gotta love the 25-year-old LaCrosse snow boots I still have - thank you, Alpena!

We didn't open the store yesterday until 1 p.m. I salted the sidewalks and I'll wait until the sun hits it for a few hours before scrapping off the rest of the slush. It's supposed to warm up the next few days, meaning it will still be a slushy mess out there, but I like snow before Christmas, and I hope we have a white Christmas.

Be careful out there. And let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Another year around the sun

TODAY MARKS THE start of my 55th year going around the sun. Old hat by now, but I like my birthday day. Normally Black Friday isn't all that big a deal at Second String Music, though we came in an hour early and we already have people shopping. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and should be a great time at Fifth and Maine.

Sheryl bought me a massage from the awesome Shannon Lewis at AdJustin Wellness Center and a coffee made by Grace Mihal at Electric Fountain Brewing. I have a couple of makeup guitar lessons and have to work at The Whig tonight, so Happy Hour will be low-key. Maybe we'll celebrate a little bit more tomorrow before, during and after the Christmas tree lighting event in Washington Park.

Anyway, thanks for all the Facebook birthday wishes. It's been another eventful year and I look forward to playing more music and rocking at Fifth and Maine. Peace Love Joy and be safe out there this holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Black Friday? No thanks

SECOND STRING MUSIC will be open for regular business Friday. We don't do Black Friday. Or Thanksgiving Thursday. Sorry, the $10 toasters will have to wait. We'll sleep instead.

I understand the whole shopping experience idea behind Black Friday, and it's genius for the big boxes to think that way. If you want to deal with the crush of humanity and traffic, go for it. But we are small and local and Christmas has already been rock and roll for us.

We do have November specials going on right now, including 15 percent off all cables and more deals on acoustic guitars.

Don't forget about Saturday in Washington Park, the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree. Adam Yates is bringing the Pepper Doubt Productions PA and we'll be getting merry a full month before Christmas Day. Any excuse to get merry, right?

Have fun, be safe, and remember we are always here at Fifth and Maine for your music needs!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Farewell, Tony Gilliland

ONE OF THE best things about Second String Music is the sense of loyalty and family we get from our customers. Our casa is your casa, we like to say. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with, on a daily basis.

So it was with great shock and sadness we learned Tony Gilliland of Hannibal passed away last month. His wife, Helen, came in this morning to break the news (sometime we live in a bubble around here) and Sheryl shed some tears with her and as we remembered Tony.

He used to come in every other month or so and he bought a guitar and a tuner from us, among other things. He'd pop by when Helen got her hair done next door, and he was usually too modest to play much. Sheryl liked him because he was funny and loved music.

I loved it when Tony came into the store. He was 91 but looked a lot younger, and he could still play the heck out of a guitar. I learned that when he came in, we sort of had to make him play because he really didn't want to show off or get in the way. Far from it - Tony had a love for music, and he was still rocking until the end. Country music was a passion for Tony and you could tell by the way he picked the guitar.

One day he came in and was sitting there patiently, shooting the breeze, and I begged him to play. When he shrugged it off, I got my old Gretsch Cutter guitar out and his eyes practically bugged out of his head. He picked it up and I swear that old guitar came to life, the way he coaxed notes out of it with his fingerstyle method.

We are helping Helen sell a few of his music items, including a tuner and an amp. Please read his obit in the link above - Tony had a great ride and obviously loved life.

God bless ya, Tony. You will be missed and we are so much better off for knowing you and you gracing us with your presence.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Beer Can Bowling Controversy

AFTER THE SMOKE cleared and the debris was swept aside, Second String Music Happy Hour legend Pete Magliocco emerged victorious Saturday to win the coveted and now broken Bedford Beer Can Bowling Invitational.

But there was huge controversy, and we may have to call the International Beer Can Bowling Association of Nebo to clear it up.

I was one of the first to bowl Saturday, as the chaos of our annual Saturday Before Thanksgiving Party started to unfold. The rules are this - you get three throws at 10 cans. They are reset after every throw. One point per can. You get one bonus point for every throw if you hold a beverage, so your max score is 33.

Pete broked the trophy.
I believe I notched a 28. Then Pete walked in and we handed him Angus' plastic moon ball, the official ball of Beer Can Bowling. Pete tossed his first throw. Immediately, Beer Can Bowling Sgt. At Arms Adam Yates cried foul, er, foot foul. Pete's left foot crossed the line as he threw, and his score of six cans plus bonus beverage held was not valid.

I felt sorry for Pete and ruled he could replace his throw without penalty. What a dumb move. Pete proceeded to knock down seven pins on his replacement throw, one more than the previous throw. Then he bowled two beer can strikes and the store went nuts.

There were protests filed and legal action was threatened, but in the end his score of 30 was allowed to stand. As it turned out, another guy threw a 29 so I wouldn't have won anyway. Plus I was having too much fun jamming and was in full store party mode.

When Pete's name was announced, he immediately teared up and emotionally accepted the coveted trophy, made by Steve Rees' father. Then Pete broke the trophy. "I just came off!" he cried, pointing to the bowler dude on the ground. "I didn't do anything!"

No worries, Pete. We'll get Steve to fix it this afternoon, or bring it to his dad to fix.

Anyway, the store party was another raging success. To me, the best part is looking over at five or six people in the jam session playing music - none of them really know each other, but it doesn't matter. Music is the universal language.

Until the next store party, our eighth anniversary in February, Pete is the reigning and defending Beer Can Bowling champ. Even if his name has an asterisks next to it.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Don't give these bleepholes attention

APPARENTLY WESTBORO BAPTIST "Church" is sending protestors to Quincy Sunday morning. It's on their website, which is a seething cauldron of hate and uniformed ignorance.

All they want is attention. They thrive on it and expect us to react and engage.


I highly doubt they even show up here in the first place. If they do, let the authorities and the churches deal with it. Don't drive by, don't stop and picket, don't do anything to let them know we know they are here.

They hate it when they get ignored, and the irony is delicious. I really wish they'd come down to Fifth and Maine early Sunday morning - nobody else will be here and their chants will go unheard. If a tree falls in a forest .... it makes no sound.

The churches have responded with message of love, not hate. It's a much better way to approach it and I have a lot of respect for our spiritual leaders reacting that way. But I won't tolerate this so-called "church" and I'm calling these Westboro assholes out on it, and if that makes me a lesser man, so be it. I'm hashing it out with my Maker as we speak.

Some of our local pastors have organized a gathering Sunday at 2 p.m. It's a great idea. Show love, not anger. Preach and pray it forward, not backwards into ignorance.

The message of hate will not work here in Quincy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Frank defends the title

IT'S THE ANNUAL Second String Music Saturday Before Christmas Party - this Saturday. Already? Yes!

We'll start jamming around noon and go with the flow. At about 3 p.m., we are literally dusting off the Bedford Beer Can Bowling Invitational trophy and Frank Haxel will defend the title he cheated to win last year.

Frank built the contraption we use, which makes sense since he won. Basically we use one of Angus' balls and put 10 beer cans down, and you get three throws. Cans are worth one point each and are reset after each throw. If you are holding a beverage while you throw, you get one bonus point.

Making things more interesting this year is the carpet we put down in front of the stage. It is not exactly smooth and level. The lane is the same for everybody, unless you put spin on Angus' ball. We may have to take up the carpet for this event, it hides the stains from last year....

The winner gets his or her name put on a sticky note on the trophy, lovingly crafted by Steve Rees's father. We still don't believe he foraged around his neighborhood on recycle bin night to find the beer cans, though we do wonder where he found the purple 16 ounce Steel Reserve Alloy Series can.

We are also raffling off a gorgeous Ibanez TM330M guitar with a 10-watt Fender Frontman amp and a gig bag. We sell ticket JUST this Saturday so get in early to buy your tickets. We'll do the raffle about 6 p.m. and you don't need to be present to win.

At 5:45 we'll do our annual toast to Pat Cornwell, the late and great owner of Vegas Music who passed away about this time of year in 2010. He was our inspiration for opening the store and continues to inspire us every day.

We'll have beverages and snacks and plenty of room in the coolers or fridge if you want to bring your own. Matt Roberts Blues Band plays Saturday night at Red Light Saloon across the street and we might - repeat, might - bring the party over there after we are done.

See you Saturday and let's celebrate the start of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Gambler and the right band

I GOT A call last week from a Quincy woman. She's celebrating her 70th anniversary next summer and wanted to know about The Cheeseburgers. "I have some friends at the Elks and you come highly recommended," she said.

She's planning a party and wants live music. The party is from 4 to 7 p.m. at one of the nicer venues in town. She wanted to know what kind of music we play.

"Well, it's rock and roll," I said.

"Well that's great," she said. "We will have some people there in their 50s and 60s."

She asked if we played any country music. As a matter of fact, we do have a Johnny Cash medley, but that's about it. She suggested we might do more country. "We do love our Kenny Rogers," she said.

I had a brief flash of Cori Lyssy and I belting out "Islands In The Stream" while the rest of the band tried not to laugh. Saturday morning Pepper Spray played in a very cold Veteran's Day parade in Quincy, and I told Tim Smith the story. He started playing "The Gambler" and much to my horror, I actually followed along and played it. And knew it. GUH.

I'm going to call the woman back and tell her she might want to think about a different band. There are some country groups in Quincy who'd be perfect. So would Little Ronnie. We will do it, but I'm not sure it's the right fit, and there's nothing worse than going to a gig, setting up, then realizing you'll be playing to crickets and mild indifference.

Then again, it could be the greatest gig of our lives.

A few years back we were hired to play at a graduation party. One of the guys in the band said it was the Class of 89. Right up our alley! A week before the gig it became the Class of 79. Okay, fine, we'll still fit in. Then the night before it was the Class of 64.

Unfortunately when we showed up, it was the Class of 59. As in, 1959. I am not making it up. This was one of several times we were told to turn it down before we even played a note.

In the end, I'm honored the woman thought of us, but she'll likely go with another group, and everybody will be happy, even when the band launches into "The Gambler."

Friday, November 9, 2018

First snow and another busy weekend

I KNOW, I KNOW .... you are tired of looking at the first snow photos already.

But the view from the roof at Fifth and Maine always instills awe. Plus it isn't leaking! Always a good thing a few weeks after Frank (Wrong Place Wrong Time) Haxel helped coat it.

As usual lotsa stuff going on, including the Christkindl Market, Veteran's Day Parade and live music. Check out Sheryl's What To Do In Quincy Illinois Facebook page to stay up on what's happening.

Be safe out there and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The press, mob mentality and Jim Acosta

YOU KNOW WHERE I stand with the whole Jim Acosta-Your President thing. Duh.

Lest you think this is a left-right thing and opinion, you are wrong. I actually voted for several Republicans Tuesday and I am very conservative.

If you missed it, Jim Acosta is a reporter for CNN. He's been banned from coming onto White House grounds after a testy press conference yesterday. Acosta can be blunt and he goes after Your President all the time. Does he go over the line? I don't think so, but you can certainly disagree.

I was never banned from a courthouse or venue. But rarely a week went by when somebody didn't call me in my dozen years as a crime and courts reporter at The Whig, and let me have it. Sometimes it was deserved. Most of the time I was just doing my job.

I refused to be intimidated. And it only strengthened my resolve.

There was an attorney from a nearby Illinois town who used to have his wife call me and complain about the way I treated her husband. Geesh. She should have been in the courtroom when he ignored judicial protocol or tried to run over witnesses.

I had another attorney call me and tell me I couldn't write a story about his client. I'd just been at his sentencing (it was a You Can't Make It Up thing and worth covering). The attorney made all sorts of insinuations and used some witty sayings.

"Well," I finally said, "You shouldn't get angry with a guy who buys ink in a 50-gallon barrel." He didn't like the reply. I hung up.

There were attorneys who would simply give me a "no comment" every time I'd ask them about something. There were others who were cordial and professional, even if they weren't coming off in the best of light.

If Your President thinks he's taking care of the situation by banning a CNN reporter, he's mistaken. It won't fix anything and it only fans the flames of an already enraged populace. It's a colossal blunder.

I'm with Jim Acosta on this one. Of course!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

C-c-c-c-c cold parade Saturday

It was cold last year ... and will be even colder Saturday!
THIS SATURDAY IS the annual Veterans Day Parade along Maine Street. Some years it's 50 degrees and sunny. Others it's cold and snow is in the air.

This Saturday, it's gonna be cold. The Pepper Spray guys are scheduled to play on a flatbed, and I'm already wondering how we will manage. The forecast right now is for it to be in the mid-30s, but there is also a possibility we have some wind as an Arctic cold front blows in.

At some point, the whole bare hands pressing into steel strings onto a wooden fretboard thing in sub-freezing conditions has to be considered. So does playing keyboards. At least our drummer, Adam Duesterhaus, will stay warm smacking things, presumably with gloves on his hands.

The cold is one thing, but actually playing the guitar is another. We have ways to keep warm until we start playing, so we'll have to see how it goes.

I'm working on a deal with the weather guys, and asking for a favor from the man upstairs to see if we can make it slightly more balmy in the Q-Town Saturday.

The parade marches on  no matter the weather. You might see Pepper Sprayers bundled up and hear guitars hopelessly out of tune, but we'll do our best.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Vote vote vote vote!

THERE ARE A lot of reasons, all lame, to not vote. Too busy, don't want to wait in line, couldn't care less about the choices, we are all screwed anyway, etc.

I don't want to hear it. But I was once young too, a long time ago.

This morning, I voted. It took five minutes. Easy in, easy out at Salem Church on 9th and State. I made informed choices, swayed by our current climate, swayed by rationale, not the radical left or unflinching right.

I just talked to a young person this morning who isn't registered and wasn't planning on voting. I urged her to vote. "You are the one most affected by all this stuff going on, not me," I said.

I remember becoming eligible to vote, and for many years I was apathetic. I hated politics. I didn't think it mattered. I was so wrong, so stupid, so naive.

This morning there was one race in particular that I really struggled with, because the candidates were so unappealing. I did a lot of reading, and I ignored a lot of vile and inaccurate television commercials.

And I made my choice. I can live with it. I can't live with not voting. Nobody should.

If you are not registered, go to the Adams County Courthouse (West Entrance) today till 7 pm to register and VOTE right there. You will need your ID and a piece of mail to prove your address. Easy.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Bands shut down over noise complaints

ON THE RAIL is a fairly new bar in downtown Quincy. The owners have put together a really nice patio area for music, and recently put a tent over the patio so they could continue to have bands on the weekends.

Now the owners are frustrated, patrons are pissed and local bands miffed after a show Saturday night was called off after just a few songs. Quincy police responded after getting complaints about the volume, and shut the event and the bar down. The owners intend to address city council.

It's never good when this happens. I side with the bar owners and the bands. On The Rail has spent a lot of money to put together a quality live venue, and now the plug is getting pulled. As usual there is a lot to the story and both sides have issues.

It happened about a month ago there too, to a classic rock band, so I don't want to hear that the city is biased against bands who play certain styles of music. I've played in classic rock and cover bands for years and had shows shut down over noise complaints, and it's frustrating no matter what kind of music you play.

It reminds me of a legendary Funions gig at a bar on Hampshire. The late Pat Cornwell was playing drums, and a Quincy Police officer walked in and told us to turn it down or we'd have to stop playing. So Pat nodded and made a motion with his hands on the knobs to lower the volume. The officer was satisfied and walked out. In fact, Pat turned the volume UP and the cop never came back, and we kept rocking.

The Hotel Elkton apartments are right next to On The Rail. Apparently it's the residents who are complaining and there are issues between them and the restaurant. Also, the Lincoln-Douglas building is just down the street, so if it gets loud, you'll get complaints from Fourth and Maine, too.

What I don't like is that the police can come in and shut it down without warning. Should the bar owner and the bands be told it's too loud and see if they can work something out? The bar owner says police told him he had to close the bar, too. Is that right?

I think the city needs to work with both the bar and the apartment residents and try to figure out a way to keep both happy. On The Rail has been a good venue for local bands and it would be a shame to see it close.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Christmas is coming

HAPPY NOVEMBER, Q-TOWN! Believe it or not, it's less than two months until Christmas and we are seeing a lot of activity here at Second String Music. Christmas is obviously our busiest time of the year and it's still early, but we are anticipating another good one.

Yesterday we had a guitar player come in and buy our last Fender Strat from Mexico, the SSH model. He was thrilled it was the same price here as it is online, and he got to play it and put it through a good workout before pulling the trigger. Plus we handle any warranty issues and we'll do free neck adjustments and routine maintenance for him.

These Strats are back ordered and we won't get anymore before Christmas, sadly. They are also going to jump in price due to tarriffs, so we are glad our last one found a good home.

We had a young man come in with his mother who got new strings and tried out some electric guitars. He really likes the Jackson Dinky models we have in stock, great guitars for the money. He bought a nice acoustic from us last year and his mom is thrilled he is playing and getting more and more into the guitar.

Its appears mom has found her perfect Christmas gift for her son. We've encouraged her to not wait long and use our layaway program to make sure we have what he wants.

We have lots of great stuff right now, but Christmas will be here before you know it. Come see us at Fifth and Maine and we'll get you hooked up!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tale of two customers and advice

HERE'S A TALE of two customers from yesterday's Adventures In Small Retail. It's not just a job, it's an adventure!

A woman came in asking about trumpet prices. Sheryl explained how we rent and sell trumpets with Boyd Music. The woman wasn't happy and said she found one for a lot less. When Sheryl politely cautioned her about buying a cheap instrument, the woman got angry, cussed Sheryl out and stormed out the door. We don't know what she wanted to hear, but she did hear the truth.

Then we had two young men come in. They are forming an acoustic act and the one guy had decent guitar with a hump in the neck. Sheryl had him pick which tuning he was planned to use most and then straightened the neck for that tuning. I told him about using alternative tunings and ideas for approaching the acoustic guitar - it's a much different beast than the electric guitar. The young man was polite and asked good questions and was appreciative.

Then he said one of his tuning pegs was bent and wondered how much a new one would cost. Sheryl told him the peg still worked fine and there was no need to replace it - you couldn't tell it was bent unless you looked really hard. He heard the advice and mostly believed it.

Who needs google when you have us?
You should see my Takamine acoustic, the one I play out. It's got all kinds of "character," the code word for dings and dents. Even Willie Nelson would be impressed.

Our advice is free. It's not always what people want to hear and we understand that, but we'll be glad to share our knowledge and expertise. We are not all-knowing and there are lots of different opinions about guitars and instruments. The bigger picture is really about how we run this tiny business. We want customers to have great experiences with music, not struggle. We want you to learn, and not from making big mistakes.

There's a reason we are closing in on eight years in business, and we are more than happy to share what we've learned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Vote, it's just that simple.

WE ARE ONE week away from a crucial mid-term election. Historically voter turnout tends to be low during mid-terms.

Not this year.

While we definitely have our views and Sheryl isn't afraid to voice them, we do have one major message to you right now - VOTE!

Sheryl preaches this to many people who come into the store. She particularly focused on her immediate family, and she has recruited 10 people to register to vote and get out to vote this year. She does not tell them who to vote for or what party, just that we need everyone to vote.

We keep hearing about how more and more young people are registering and plan to vote, and how important it is to keep our voting process accessible and viable. I'm wondering if this is just because of our current political environment.

Then I saw this video the other day with Cass Elliott and John Denver. It was recorded in August of 1972, a volatile time in our nation's history. Just watch the first minute or so to see what Cass was up to in the year leading up to this performance.

She understood it 46 years ago, and we have it figured out right now.

Vote. It's. Just. That. Simple.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hopping Saturday night

SATURDAY WAS GLORIOUS in downtown Quincy. The District had its annual Trick Or Treat day and there were hundreds of kiddos with parents down here. Second String Music was again part of the "Teal Pumpkin" program, and we handed out spider rings, colorful erasers and glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth.

Did it mean more business for us? No. But the great thing about Saturday's event was that it brought people down here. Over and over again we heard "I didn't know you were here!" The more things we can do to bring people down here, the better for our downtown.
New bar at 5th & Maine

Next door at Electric Fountain Brewing it was crazy all day. The Red Light Bar & Grill down the street was packed for lunch, and the Farmer's Market was rocking too. Granted, having a beautiful fall day really helped.

I came back Saturday night about 7:45 to get stuff for a HartLyss gig at State Street Bar. I couldn't believe how many people were down here - there wasn't a parking spot to be had on Maine between Fourth and Sixth, and there was all kinds of foot traffic. That's one thing we need to improve down here, the after-hours activities, and it was beautiful to see.

I could hear a band rocking about a block and a half away at On The Rail. There was somebody else loading in for a show at Revelry across the square. As usual, O'Griffs was jumping on Hampshire.

In other words, it was alive down here.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Stolen uke found and returned

I HAVE A student who was taking ukulele lessons. The uke is all the rage right now and we have a ton of them in stock. They are easier to play because they only have four strings and the general idea is to strum. Last year I had to learn how to play because so many people were inquiring about lessons, and right now I have four uke students.

The student  bought a really nice Gretsch uke from us and was really enjoying it when it was stolen about a month ago. He was parked near 24th and Hampshire and forgot to lock the car, and the dirtball or dirtballs took his uke and other items from the vehicle.

Stolen ukulele found ... and returned!
Last Saturday, a woman was attending the Quincy Preserves home tours and was near 18th and Hampshire when she noticed trash sticking out of bushes. She pulled the trash away, and lo and behold, stuck down in the bushes was a Gretsch cloth ukulele bag, with the uke inside. Her daughter posted a message on Facebook and within 15 minutes, the instrument was claimed and eventually returned to the owner.

This tells us several things. One, there are good people in the world, and it's always a good idea to pick up trash if you see it. Two, the dirtball who stole the uke really is clueless - it's not a cheap instrument and obviously the thief had no idea what it was worth. It probably would have been pawned for $30 and then vanished forever.

We will never know who stole the instrument, but thankfully it's back in the hands of the owner. He and I have something in common - a few years ago I forgot to lock my car at my house and my gig bag was stolen, with several hundred dollars worth of stuff in it. I found various cables and items strewn about the alley later, but never recovered the bag, which was probably thrown in a dumpster somewhere.

It's safe to say we are both careful to lock our vehicles, and we are both still strumming ukuleles.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Canton beef ... yum!

AS WE WERE leaving Second String Music last night, Sheryl says, "We are going to Canton to get grass-fed beef." Canton is 20-plus miles up the river on the Missouri side, a nice little trip, so we drove up to check out U.S. Wellness Meats.

There are a lot of benefits to grass-fed meat, and Sheryl is always looking for food suitable for her keto diet. Turns out there is a lot more in the store, including cheese and eggs. I even bought beef sticks and they were tasty.

Take the first Canton exit and go west (north) about a city block. U.S. Wellness Meats is located in the front of a massive building. We missed it at first because I thought it was a factory or warehouse - the store is in the front part. It's very clean and well-organized, and the young woman working the counter was friendly and informative.
Blurry but impressive Harvest Moon

Sheryl bought some bacon, sausage, eggs, butter and cheese. She says the grass-fed meats are "super healthy" and we look forward to our Sunday morning ritual of bacon and eggs. I have a feeling the bacon won't last until Sunday, and we'll see how it stacks up against grocery store bacon.

On the way back we saw a massive harvest moon coming up over the Quincy skyline (yes, Quincy has a skyline, if you approach from West Quincy). I even managed to stop in my favorite West Quincy cigar shop. Who knew you could have such a great shopping experience in the middle of nowhere? Yet another reason why I love living in the Q-Town.

So here's to impulsive shopping trips, healthy food, cheap stogies and big old moons.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Christmas in Washington Park

CHRISTMAS USED TO be a huge deal at Fifth and Maine. Every year Santa would arrive and set up shop in Washington Park, and the crowds were huge. I've seen some photos recently on the Facebook page "You know you grew up in Quincy IF ..." and the throngs are impressive.

Check out this photo from 1948, courtesy Brian Winking and the You know you grew up Facebook page. Santa arrived at Fifth and Maine in a helicopter, and in 1948 that was a big deal. Shoot. It would be a big deal now. Look at the crowd! Perhaps Santa was more popular back then, but really, we need Santa more than ever in our day and age, so here's to hoping he still draws a crowd.

We've had a lot of people say Santa used to hang out in our building if it was too cold in the park. I'm not sure if this was before or after Mercantile left our space.

Last year The District decided to have a light the park event, and it was really good. Hundreds packed into the area around the gazebo and the park lit up right at 6 p.m., and it was quite festive. We are doing it again this year on Nov. 24, Thanksgiving weekend, and The District is raising money to put the lights back in the park again.

We are all for it at Second String Music. Light up the park! It makes coming downtown more enjoyable and a destination spot, not just a place to shop.

I know, I know, quit talking about Christmas. It's still two months away. After all, we still have to do Halloween and the Trick R Treat event Saturday at Second String Music.

Wait a second ... Christmas is ONLY two months away? We'll be ready at Fifth and Maine!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fender prices going up

JUST A FRIENDLY reminder that Christmas is around the corner ... and so are price increases.

We just got information from Fender about how tariffs are increasing prices after Christmas. Trade wars mean you, the consumer, will pay more. A lot more.

Fender tells us to expect prices increases of between 15 and 25 percent for guitars, cables, amps, bags, cases and all kinds of accessories. Fortunately we have a good stock of Fender Mustang amps and some guitars and cases right now. Price increases will hit after Jan. 1, so we are good for Christmas.

I'm not going to get into why we are slapping tariffs on goods, and I buy American as much as possible. But Fender isn't the only company telling us about tariffs and prices going up. It's going to hit small businesses like ours really hard. And your trips to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are going to be more painful, too.

So, if you are thinking about that new Fender guitar, amp or cables ... don't wait.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sunday family lunch adventures

WE HAD A great birthday celebration with Sheryl's father on Sunday at Tony's Too. I like her dad and have always gotten along with him so I was all about going out for a good meal and the company.

Sheryl's sister, Susan, drove in from Farmer City (near Champaign) and her other sister Stephanie came, as did her two sons. Add a girlfriend, spouses, friends and a grandkid, and we had 11 people crammed into a big booth. I suggested we get another table but was shot down "because then we can't visit." I suppose that's the point.

I always get a charge out of Sheryl tormenting her father, who is very conservative and leans hard right. "Just vote D dad and everyone at this table for that matter," was the first thing out of Sheryl's mouth.

We gave him the new Bob Woodward book "Fear" (a fascinating read), and his eyebrows went up when he saw it.

"Trump says I shouldn't read it because it's full of lies," her father said. The irony hung like a foggy morning mist but I stifled a laugh and kept quiet, though I felt like crawling under the table, because I knew what was coming next.

"Well, then don't read it. You DO respect Bob Woodward, right?" Sheryl said.

"Well, I do like to see both sides," her dad said, staring the other way. His wife Gloria just watched on, wide-eyed at the exchange.

Cards and gifts were give to him from all around the table and lots of laughs were enjoyed as we visited The server did an excellent job dealing with people arriving late and taking the orders, and the food was decent. Then it came time to pay the bill. "Can you give us individual tickets?" Susan asked the server.

I jumped in and said it wasn't necessary - it's enough work just getting 11 orders right and making sure everybody is happy. I asked her to bring one bill. "Well, I don't have cash so I'll have to write a check," Susan said. "Write it to me, no problem," Sheryl said with a wave. "Rodney and I were paying for Dad and Gloria anyway. I brought a ton of cash."
While we wait for a new one, photo is from earlier this year.

It's the world we live in today, I guess. You don't bring cash so you don't spend it. Susan wrote a check and Sheryl figured out the bill and gathered cash from the others, and it all worked out.

It was nap time so we all got ready to leave. The lobby has a fireplace that requires the family to do a photo shoot so Sheryl gamely stayed awake long enough for the pictures, and to give hugs to all her nephews and the great nephew. She probably enjoyed that part the most even though she grumbled about it being nap time a lot.

We were both exhausted when we got home and I napped through the thrilling conclusion to the Bears-Patriots game. But we both made it through another family gathering and everybody seemed to be happy, so we called it a successful afternoon.

Can't wait to do it again. I think. Right.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Tribute to Chickenman

WE WERE SADDENED to hear about the passing of Dave Comer, AKA the Chickenman. Dave was a legendary part of the Quincy Gems baseball family and battled cancer for many years.
Our friend and Second String Music Hall of Famer Ted Holt came in a few days ago with a Fender acoustic guitar. It belonged to Dave, who is related to Ted's wife, Libby. It was given to Ted, who thought it be better to donate it to Six String Heroes.

It's more than just a thoughtful gesture. A veteran is going to get the guitar free of charge and get six free lessons, and who knows ... it might just lead to playing and experiencing the therapeutic power of music.

Peace to Dave and his family, and thank you to Ted for his thoughtful donation. We all strive to make this world a better place, and the guitar will go to a good home.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thank you, Superintendent!

QUINCY PUBLIC SCHOOLS Superintendent Roy Webb came to Second String Music yesterday, and we had a great talk. Sheryl called him earlier in the day because we wanted him to get accurate information about our business. We are local, we are proud to support Quincy Public Schools and all of our area schools, and we care about our community.

Some think otherwise. They are wrong.

We are not endorsed by any local school system. We offer affordable band instruments, sales and services. You have choices, whether it's at the retail level or online. We compete and we strive to be the best we can be. Pretty basic.

My daughter was a Blue Devil and is now a professor of music at Western Illinois, and her experience with the Quincy music program was awesome. It helped mold her into what she is today.

Roy didn't have to come down during his busy day and talk to us in person, but he did and he listened. Sheryl and I are beyond impressed and grateful.

The superintendent of schools is a difficult job. I had sympathy for Roy's predecessors, the ones who had to deal with interesting school board members and thorny issues. I have great respect for anybody who serves on a school board, a thankless but crucial job. Remember all the controversy a few years back? A effective school board is one that stays out of the headlines and gets the job done, and that's been happening during a time of new school buildings and never-ending funding challenges.

Roy also had a tremendous letter to the editor the other day about the Fab 5 visit. It's good to see somebody taking responsibility and setting standards for being all-inclusive.

By the way ... my Monday post has now exceeded 24,000 page views. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Thank you, Mr. Webb, for your service and dedication to your job as superintendent.