Friday, June 29, 2018

Journalists, neighbors and friends

I FOUGHT THE urge to post anything on social media yesterday after learning of the senseless attack on the newsroom in Annapolis. Sometimes we grow immune to these things. Not now.

I never felt unsafe in a newsroom. Still don't, working nights during the sports season. In all my years covering crime and courts for the Whig, there were only two occasions when I felt threatened, and neither was in a newsroom.

But you wonder how safe you are, especially in this day and age. Journalists are being assailed and attacked like never before, and it angers me beyond repair.

So I was heartened when hearing the chief of police in Annapolis say the shooting yesterday really hit home, because it's the local paper and the police interact daily with the paper and the staff. Hmmm ... just like good old Quincy, Illinois. I always had a good relationship with the Quincy Police Department. We didn't always agree on things but we kept it professional and I eventually made friends with more than a few men and women over there. One them is one of my best friends today.

We are your neighbors, your friends, or just the guy you know around the corner.

Most importantly, the good people of the paper in Annapolis prevailed. "I can tell you this - we are going to put out the damn paper," said reporter Chase Cook. And they did.

To the POS who did this - you lose, you coward. I am trying with every fiber of my soul to not judge and to understand. But I can't. So I hope you rot. If I see your name in print, I will instantly forget it.

I won't forget the people at the newspaper. In Annapolis, they are neighbors and friends - real people, doing the best job they can do.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Angus the water dog

ANGUS THOROUGHLY ENJOYED our Canadian adventure. He's quite the water dog and enjoyed endless games of retrieving sticks and Frisbees from Lake Simcoe. We'd be gathered around the campfire at night and Angus would disappear. Then we'd hear splashing and look over and see him frolicking around in the water.

So. Where to go in Quincy when Angus needs his water fix?

On the first night of our trip, we stopped in Vicksburg, Michigan, to visit the Barnards. They live right by a lake, and Angus of course jumped in. The lake is clean but full of weeds and algae by the shore, and Sheryl removed a large leech from Angus' belly after his swim. So we are looking for cleaner options. This, of course, takes the Mississippi River out of the mix.

We could call up our friend Ferd Niemann and see if we can take Angus to his pond off of South 24th Street. We got some good skating in last winter and it would interesting to check it out in warmer weather. Of course Angus would be interested in the beautiful horses at the farm, too. Maybe too interested. Maybe that's not such a good idea.

Curtis Creek might be an option. We had a good rain the other day and it should be moving pretty well. There are a couple of good spots to take Angus and check it out. I think there is still a spring by the South Park duck pond - we used to take Lucy over there to hose her down when she got muddy.

Randy and Marci Phillips live near Coatsburg and have an awesome pond, but it doesn't really have a shallow end, and Sheryl points out that Angus likes to feel the bottom when swimming in and out.

It's supposed to be 100 in the shade again this weekend, so we may just take Angus down to South Park and find him a good spot to splash around in. I might just join him ....

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

March this Saturday

ALL ACROSS THE country Saturday, June 30, marches are being planned to demonstrate opposition to the policy of separating migrant families crossing the southwestern United States border. Quincy will have its own march Saturday at 10 a.m. in Washington Park. Join us at 5th & Maine.

It's being organized by Indivisible of Adams County. The march is designed to bring awareness of the policy, continued separation and how it impacts children. The focus is on a positive message of "Keeping Families Together."

Participants are urged to wear white to show unity.

You can agree or disagree with so many of the issues. I am all for strong borders and legal immigration. I'm not sure how that translates into destroying the family unit. We are compassionate people. Keeping children away from parents seems barbaric to me.

Here is a bit more information from the group ....

As part of the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal immigration, children have been separated from their families at the border while the parents are held for prosecution. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that nearly 2,000 children had been separated at the border over the period beginning April 19 and ending in May. An unknown number of children taken from their families in June. There is no current plan to reunite these children with their families. Even though the revised policy claims it will reunite families, it may still incarcerate the whole family. 

Our message is that Families Belong Together and children must be reunited immediately with their families.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

World War II and immigrants

IN CANADA EARLIER this month, we heard some amazing stories about my family in the Netherlands during World War II. My Opa Hart was in the Dutch resistance and helped hide Jews from the Nazis. He was wanted by the dreaded Gestapo and had to spend much of the war on the run and in hiding.

One day he came home for a short visit. The Germans were tipped off and arrived within minutes. So my Oma Hart hurriedly dressed her husband in a woman's shawl, put a baby in his arms and a pillow over his head, and told him to crawl into bed.

When the soldiers came past him, my Oma Hart said, "Oh, that's just a young mother staying with us." The soldiers moved on.

Oma and Opa Hart rarely talked about the war. I think my Opa Hart, a pastor, had to do some terrible things in the resistance movement. The movie Black Book chronicles resistance activities and what the Dutch had to do to survive. Small wonder, then, they kept those awful years to themselves.

Aunt Willa, Uncles Peter, Michael and Henk
My Opa Hart was part of a resistance group in his church. My Uncle Henk says that most of those people were shot or deported to concentration camps for hiding Jews. My Opa Hart and one other church member survived.

My father was born in December 1938 in Oostwold, Groningen. In 1941 the Harts moved to Velp, Gelderland, near Arnhem. This was the scene of a horrific battle known as Operation Market Garden and chronicled in another film and book called "A Bridge Too Far." My father remembers ashes falling from the sky for many days after the battle.

After Germany invaded, my father remembers tanks lining Roozendaase Straat, where they lived. My dad and his brothers were talking to the German soldiers, and they asked for a cigarette. They brought it to my Opa Hart. He asked, "Who rolled this?" When told it was German soldiers, he spat it out and scolded them for their efforts.

In early 1944 it became dangerous for the family to stay in Velp, so they walked for two days beside a horse-drawn wagon to the home of my father's uncle and aunt, Oom Jan and Tante Nel, in Emelo. They stayed in a monastery overnight. They lived in a big house with 25 people, including several Jewish children.

The winter of 1944 became known as "the hunger winter" because there was little food. The Harts stayed alive by eating duck food. Yes, duck food. The children were separated from the adults at dinner time so the children wouldn't see the older ones gag on the food.

On D-Day, my Uncle Henk and Uncle Bill were taunting the German soldiers with other kids. The Germans knew their days were numbered and were scared, so they started grabbing baby strollers and wagons to load up belongings and flee. One soldier became incensed at the taunting, and he fired his pistol at the children. My Uncle Henk remembers the bullets whizzing by as they turned and ran.

Uncle Anton and Bill
When they were liberated by Canadian soldiers, there was a massive celebration. Then several young women were rounded up, brought to the town square, and publicly shamed. Their heads were shaved and shit was poured on them - they had German soldiers as boyfriends, you see, and the residents took out several years of frustration on them.

Several years later, with the Netherlands still struggling and no jobs available, my Opa and Oma Hart immigrated to Canada with their seven children. Yes - IMMIGRATED. Those were hard years, not knowing the language and customs of another country. Yet the Harts thrived, and eventually most settled in the Toronto area. My father married an American girl and lived in Canada for 15 years as a pastor, then moved to the United States. He eventually became a U.S. citizen, so he technically immigrated to this country, as well. You may not realize I am an anchor baby with dual U.S./Canadian citizenship.

I am proud of my Dutch heritage. It is great to know we had a brave history. I am proud to be the son of an immigrant. It is a huge part of who I am, and nobody can deny it.

Nobody.

Monday, June 25, 2018

One gargantuan weekend

QFEST WAS .... HUGE. Massive. Gargantuan. Extremely big. If you catch the license plate on the rock and roll truck, let me know, cuz we got flattened over the weekend, and we loved every minute of it.

The weather cooperated, the artists were interesting and our music in the Washington Park gazebo went really well. Loved the Quincy Community Theater's "Mama Mia" flashmob. Loved the little Fifth and Maine sidewalk jam before the street concert. And, as for the street concert itself .... yeesh.

Jared and the Gentlemen opened. In all the years I've been in Quincy, I don't think I've heard or seen a better local band, period. They'd crank out the usual cover band staple and come back with a Rush or Zeppelin tune that just floored the big crowd on Maine Street. They. Were. Amazing.

Jared and the Gentlemen KILLED IT Saturday night! (Photo/Mike Sorensen)
Griffin and the Gargoyles were spot on, too. There are more than a few bands which could take notes from watching a well-oiled party band like Griffin. They played for three hours and didn't take a single break, and most of the time one song seamlessly meshed into another. By the time they started the crowd was packed halfway down Maine Street to sixth, and geesh, it was fun. Frank Haxel and I kept the left side of the stage safe and the trombone player appreciated the beverages - hey, it was humid and you gotta stay hydrated, right?

Griffin himself came into the store just before taking the stage and bought a beautiful Gretsch ukulele for his 12-year-old daughter. He didn't have to do that. Lord knows there are bigger music stores in St. Louis, he has his pick, and he could have waited until he got home, but he supported a small local business and his bandmates couldn't have been nicer.

What a weekend. I slept for 10 hours last night, slept like the dead, and I might just live to tell about it. Of course there are two more gigs this weekend and a whole summer of fun ahead. Let's not call QFest a warmup, let's just call it a massive kickstart.

We are off and running!

On my way to the gazebo Saturday ... which guitar to use? (Photo/Chris Kelley)



Friday, June 22, 2018

Ready for a wild weekend

IT'S HERE, THE annual Q-Fest in Washington Park, and we are really excited to be in the thick of things at Fifth and Maine.

Artists are already arriving and setting up tents. We are having our noon blues show under the QU tent just west of the gazebo, with the fabulous Bella Song performing, and James Armstrong takes over tonight for the Blues In The District. It's going to be a bit cooler and hopefully the rain stays away.

We love this event and it's good for us. That being said, Maine Street will be closed between Fourth and Sixth starting at noon today. We are not happy with the streets shutting down early - with Blues In The District tonight, you are really cutting off access to the park, businesses and a lot of the park, and it will be a bit of a cluster down here tonight, so please come early and be patient.

Somebody setting up said something about this being about art this weekend, not about blues. Well, this isn't true. Music is art, no matter what the form. And we have tons of talented performers in the gazebo this weekend, all local and all very talented. The street party tomorrow night is right in front of the store on Maine Street and will be off the hook fun.

Jared & The Gentlemen, a Quincy band, opens at 6 p.m. The headliner is from St. Louis and called Griffin and the Gargoyles. Once again there are some who suggest we should only have local talent for a big event like this. I could not disagree more - if we get a chance to see a killer band in the street downtown, it's a great thing, and we intend to enjoy ourselves to the hilt.

So, see you downtown for the party!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

806 S. 9th is awful

WITHIN HALF A block of the Hart White House in Calftown, five houses are empty. FIVE. One is for sale and the sale is pending. Two have been vacant for years with little hope of somebody moving in anytime soon. One is ... well, taken care of. The owner is on the lam from the law so his mom comes over to mow the grass and keep an eye on the place.

One small brick house on the northeast corner of 9th and Washington is about to fall down. It's owned by a person from out of town who couldn't care less about it. The city comes a few times a year to chop down the weeds. It's sad that people don't care.

And then there's 806 South 8th Street, Quincy, Illinois, 62305.
A picture, 100000000 words.

The woman in there rents the house. She attempted to mow her grass in May. There are two lawnmowers on her porch. There are usually trash bags, mattresses and debris all over the place, too. She mowed half the lawn in May. And now it's overgrown with weeds, strange-looking plants and corn. Yup, corn. The squirrels drop the kernels and they sprout up in the grass.

Part of me thinks she's just a little overwhelmed. The city came by and shut off her water not long ago, and the rental place reclaimed appliances and a big television. I'm not sure what kind of struggles she has but her landlord is giving her plenty of leeway, for some reason.

So I try to have some sympathy for her. Unfortunately, the sympathy disappears when we see all kinds of people coming and going from the house at all hours, and we think there are four or five other people living in the house from time to time. Last year there was a massive brawl in her yard, and not long ago we had to call the cops when she was arguing with a man in front of the house.

The owner of the house couldn't care less, and it's really disappointing. All he wants is the rent money, presumably. Is he even getting that? It's on the resident to take care of the house and the lawn. If they don't, well, so what? We are confused.

I know, I know - first world problems. But we all do our best to keep our properties up, and it does drive property values down when other neighbors and residents simply don't give a bleep. We live on a residential street with houses. We care about our neighborhood and neighbors.

Done venting. Don't feel better. And I hope the yard gets mowed soon, though by this point you'd have to take a machete to chop down the taller plants and weeds. Yes, the city has been notified.

Calftown proud, baby.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Back from Canada

WHAT A BLAST we had at the annual Hart family reunion near Orillia, Ontario. It was four days of driving and three days of fun in the sun, and worth every minute we spent in the car. We got to see Jon and Mariann Barnard in Kalamzoo to boot, along with Sheryl's Uncle Schuyler Davis, Aunt Connie and Cousin Bryan that live in Pontiac, Michigan.

Will gives good tummy rub.
We stayed at Geneva Park, a YMCA camp on Lake Simcoe, part of the Georgian Bay. Our Cabin was within feet of the lake and the beach. Except for not having bathrooms (they were a short walk away), the cabins are rustic and perfect. It's different for men, of course - third tree from the left, Hoser. They are updating the cabins and the new ones will have bathrooms, so when we come back in a few years it will be a little better. Sheryl adapted but does love a clean bathroom.

The best part about being there is the suspension of time. You do what you want, when you want. Heading to the Chippewa tribe-run humidor to get real Cuban stogies, duty free? Go for it. Jamming with cousins Klaas, Roland, Edward, Mark and Uncle Ron? Make it happen! Drink real Canadian craft beer for lunch? Done! Sheryl enjoyed the special roasted coffee created by Mark Hart, lots of fun and laughs with Natalie, Amy, Michelle and Ingrid - all Harts. It was incredible to hang with a bunch of family that actually like to hang out together.

My favorite part was when my Uncle Henk and Uncle Peter told stories about World War II in the Netherlands. My Opa Hart was active in the resistance and some of the third generation were held spellbound by the stories. That's going to be the subject of another blog, along with immigrants coming to Canada and later the United States.

Loving the crisp water!
Angus also had a blast - he's a water dog all the way and there were endless games of chasing sticks and Frisbee into the lake. At night he'd disappear and we'd hear splashing from the lake, and there he was, frolicking around and cooling off.

We had perfect weather, just perfect. Great company. Music all day and night. Geesh, it was a little slice of heaven. Even the border crossings were smooth, though we dealt with typical construction delays on the highways. Also, I-94 around Detroit is brutal, even worse than Chicago, and that's really saying something.

Our other dogs and cat were well cared for, and Steve Rees did his usual fine job manning the store. Now we are back and I'm recovering just in time for another great weekend, this time Q-Fest in Washington Park and on Maine Street in front of Second String Music. We are open Friday, Saturday AND Sunday (12 - 3 pm). Come by and hang out.

Thank you, Hart family, for an amazing time. We can't go every year, but already I look forward to the day we return!


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!