Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Misleading Twitter stuff ....

TWITTER IS BOTH a horrible and fascinating thing. So much anger and venom, yet so much unintentional comedy.

Last night a local reporter tweeted the following: "Quincy City Council members vote 8-6 to open a nightclub at 124 North 5th Street." This caught me by surprise, but actually I like the idea, because aldermen need entertainment, too. I mean, why shouldn't the city have its own bar for late night hours? It's not like there are back alley deals made all the time anyway. Now they can make them in the comfort of their own establishment.

The one thing I can see being a sticking point is letting Green Party people into the bar, but hopefully the city is open-minded enough to be all inclusive.

Wait a second ... you mean the city actually voted to allow a permit for another person? Oh. Never mind.

Also, there was another tweet about a city aldermen resigning because of an Aeronautics Committee meeting issue. This was stunning news and it's disappointing because now the aldermen spot will have to be filled and there will be one less voice heard at council meetings.

Wait a second ... you mean the aldermen resigned as the committee chairman, not as an alderman? What? Of course I didn't read the whole story, why should I do that?

I shouldn't make fun of misleading tweets. I wrote some doozy headlines back in the day, and going through old Alpena News clips last week made me cringe when seeing some of them. GUH. It happens.

And it's a good way to make sure people read the story, not just the headline or Tweet.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Oshkosh, Rod Stewart and Monday mornings

IT'S A FIVE CUPS of coffee kinda Monday morning in the rainy Q-Town ....

- I worked my last Gus Macker tournament of the season over the weekend in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I love Oshkosh. If I had a million dollars I'd buy a summer place up there - the downtown is vibrant, the river and lake areas are gorgeous, and the locals were complaining about it being really hot on Saturday - 83 degrees and sunny, with no humidity. They have no idea how good they have it ....

Major fun inside this place Sunday with Gus.
- The Oshkosh organizers are awesome and everybody is super friendly. The tournament moved this year to the parking lot next to the brand new Menominee Nation Arena, where the Wisconsin Herd play. The Herd is the NBA D League affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks. We moved championship games inside to the arena and played on a replica floor of the old Mecca Arena, where the Bucks used to play. Geesh, what a fun time!

- I got home at midnight, and who rolls up behind me but my neighbor, Mike Sorenson. I figured he was shooting another Bad Wolf Media concert. So who was it this time? "Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart. They are both still amazing performers," he said. So that's our Calftown Hood - one guy comes home from shooting pictures of rock legends, the other from working for Gus in another far-flung location.

- Sheryl kept herself busy at the store and did a bunch of stuff around the house yesterday, like trimming the Rose of Sharon and cleaning carpets, and entertaining three dogs and a cat. A couple of weeks ago she slipped on our back porch steps and broke two small bones in her vertebrae (L5). There is little she can do except wear a brace and deal with the back pain, unfortunately. Her sleeping is greatly impaired by the pain.

- Believe it or not, the fall prep sports season is upon us, meaning I'm back to work for David Adam and the sports guys at The Whig soon. Already? And kids are back in school? Already? Really? I like Michigan's idea - it's actually a state law that you can't start until after Labor Day, because of the massive summer tourist season.

We are still having our August Sale. Bass players come in and get 10% off bass guitars, bass strings, and bass amplifiers. Really!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Changes downtown

LOTS OF ACTIVITY and changes going on down here ....

- Our friend Kris Kutcher is moving his hair salon business from next door (511 Maine) to the 700 block of Hampshire. Kris sold his building to a local businessman who has big plans for the space. We are really sad to see Kris go - he's been a great neighbor and friend. But it sounds like a good move and we wish him well.

- The old Phoenix Nightclub building a block east of us has new owners with big plans. Another hair place is going in the back of the building, and our tenants, Electric Fountain Brewing, are also leasing space. EFB is not, repeat, NOT, moving from its location in our building. They are expanding and putting in a roaster in the new spot and doing some other things. We love having EFB in our historic bank vault space and we wish them the best as they push upward and onward.

- The Red Light Bar & Grill is opening in the Granite Bank building across the street. There's been a few businesses in there over the years (I really miss the old Washington Perk) and we are ever hopeful this one will be a success.

- Don't forget that tonight is the Summer on 6th event between Maine and Hampshire. The first two were a blast and Noah McNally is the musical entertainment tonight. Let's hope the rain holds off until later and we have another good one on 6th street!

- And lastly, we have some amazing new Roland keyboards in stock and have already sold a few. The Roland RP-102 can be programmed from an i-Pad and you can actually get a free i-Pad if you buy the keyboard from us. Sheryl is playing stuff on it from her spot behind the counter and it's very cool. Come down to Fifth and Maine to check it out!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cleaning means remembering some of it

I'VE BEEN CLEANING out boxes of stuff looking for my Canadian citizenship card. One of these days I will stumble on it. In the meantime, I have several large garbage bags for stuff I'm throwing away from years gone by.

For some reason I saved a lot of my Alpena News columns and stories. I saved virtually nothing from my days at The Whig, mainly because most of it was archived and most of it (crime and courts) I don't want to relive, anyway.

I found all kinds of documents and photos from the Alpena years, 1989-96. One picture shows me on a baseball field talking to a bunch of kids and coaches. I can't remember the event at all. I'm in a lot  of softball team photos ("Mike's Bar Champs" doesn't ring a bell). Here's Emily in my old office crawling under my desk - now I remember I used to walk her down to the office in the afternoons so she'd fall asleep.

There's a photo of me and Mickey Redmond, the legendary Detroit Red Wings player and announcer, at a charity softball game in Alpena. The Wings came up several times to play golf and softball. One year I was the Alpena Area All Stars manager. I remember some wild nights with Sergei Federov and others, but I don't remember the games at all. I talked to Mickey Redmond? It was pretty cool, even though I don't remember it.

We had three Gus Macker tournaments in Alpena (93, 94, 95). We had 750 teams each year. Geesh! These were the glory days of Gus expanding across the country. I was a member of the Macker Backers in Alpena and they were awesome tournaments. I think. I remember being chased down a street late one Sunday afternoon by a bunch of mad parents after a bitterly contested game I reffed, but that's about it.

I saved the columns but tossed most the game stories, features and previews. I remember a lot of games, but I've forgotten a bunch, too. Apparently my buddy and neighbor, Mike Wojda, coached his Hillman Tigers in a Class D football playoff game. It was in Indian River. There was a lot of snow. Hillman lost on a last-second Hail Mary pass. How can I not remember that? My name is on the story and it's pretty detailed, so I must have been there.

Sometimes you have to read something to jog the memory. Apparently I helped my neighbor, Max Lindsay, put up a basketball hoop for his son Eric and his buddies. I wrote a column about it, and it might be the best column ever. I laughed out loud five times when reading it - now I remember the adventure of putting it up, and Eric looking at it and saying, "Great. Let's play hockey guys!"

It's a trip down memory lane, what little I remember of it. My overall impression is the seven years in Alpena were awesome, and I still miss the little town in Northeast Michigan, if not the nine months of winter.

I have the newspaper clips to prove it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Wacky instruments in stock

EVERY NOW AND then Steve Rees gets busy and cleans out his vast selection of whacky, weird and amazing used instruments. He brought over a bunch of stuff Monday and we are filled with all kinds of cool things.

So, in no order, we have a several banjos, a banjo uke, banjola, Tater Bug mandolin, an Erhu, wooden alto recorders, a crystal flute, a Jackson 8-string electric, an Egyptian instrument called an Oud, cymbals and cymbal stands, gig bags, a crate acoustic amp, a marimba, a xylophone, a gorgeous Pizzacci acoustic with case, and a washboard bass.

Yup. A washboard bass. It's attached to a metal bucket and has a single string on a stick. You tune it by moving the stick back and forth. Its just very ... Steve. 😊

Sheryl has the items up on our Facebook page, but you really need to see some of these to appreciate them.

Long live the Oud and Tater Bug!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Tariffs hit us at Fifth and Maine.

THE INCREASE IN tariffs will be felt everywhere, including Second String Music. We received an ominous email from one of our major suppliers Friday, and it warns that prices are going up after the next round of tariffs later this month.

A lot of retailers are stocking up before the prices rise. We can't do that. We are careful about what we buy and we try to offer internet-friendly prices, as best we can. That being said, expect prices to rise, and significantly rise, as the year wears on.

What really worries us is that suppliers are saying items are out of stock. We have enough trouble getting quality guitars in the store, like our amazing Takamine acoustics. A fresh batch arrived today after many months of delays. The struggle will hit home sooner than you think.

If we can't order stock, we can't stay in business. But hey, we're tough, just like the American farmer. We can take it.

This whole business of "short-term pain, long-term gain" is utter bullshit. I don't believe a word that comes from the White House, and they couldn't care less anyway. I'll stop now.

We are battered by cheaper online sales, sales tax, property taxes, building costs and just trying to pay the mortgage. So what's a minor thing like tariffs going to do?

I'm all about buying American. But we as a country are all about WalMarting our way through life and getting the best deal possible, no matter where items are made. Unfortunately, most are made overseas.

We'll wait and see what happens with tariffs. But be prepared to pay more, and let's hope we can take it. Shop local, small business to ensure your own economy stays as strong as possible in the upcoming and unsure economy. We are bracing for a storm.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Ref shortages

THERE ARE HIGH school football teams in our area moving games from Friday night to Saturdays because there aren't enough officials. That's right - you can't play the game unless you have refs. The Whig broke it down in this excellent article, and it's a tough deal all the way around.

I've often thought about getting registered for hoops and football, even umpiring. My excuses are that I play in four bands, I work at The Whig in the sports department and I like quiet Friday and Saturday nights every now and then. Excuses, I know.

After working for Gus Macker in Burlington, Iowa, this past weekend, it again amazes me the amount of abuse officials take when trying to do their jobs. This was a first-year tournament and the local organizers did an excellent job, but we were shorthanded for court refs, and we scrambled. I ended up doing about a dozen games, and most of them were OK, but a few weren't.

It's not my fault your player elbowed the other player in the throat on the way to the basket, and I called an offensive foul, and you got all bent out of shape and told me I was terrible. I'd advise you to jump in the Mississippi River (it was about 30 yards away) but then you'd get even madder.

What I always say about events like Gus Macker is that 99 percent of the parents and fans get it. But it's that 1 percent causing all the problems. There were a couple of dads coaching 10-year-olds on one court getting way bent out of shape at their kids, and they tried yelling at me a few times, but it was windy and the PA system was really loud and I couldn't hear them, and when they realized I couldn't have cared less about their ranting, they gave up and yelled at their kids instead.

I wonder if this is why we have a lack of high school football officials. You are going to take abuse, no matter what you do or what teams are playing. Is it worth that $70 to get yelled at all night? Sheryl says this is exactly the reason we have a shortage of substitute teachers in the school district....

So the next time you are at a high school football game, and there's a call you don't like, and you start jumping up and down and hollering, stop for one second and think about it.

Nah. Keep yelling. Maybe we'll find enough officials someday to do all the games.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Holy Hairy Cat Chairs, Batman!

WE HAVE A room in the front of Second String Music used for storage - repairs, band instruments, assorted items. There is actually two rooms with a door we leave open.

Behind that door is a chair. It's a nice chair. We have had it ever since we opened the store more than seven years ago. But it's behind the door. So our cat, Fast Eddie, lays in it all the time. Before that, Luckycat Vegas lounged away the music store days in peace and quiet.

This chair, technically, is blue. But it looks white. That's because there's seven years of cat hair layered into the fabric. I have tried cleaning it and pulled out at least seven pillows-worth of cat hair. But I don't have the patience to clean it.

So we have put it on the sidewalk. It's free. We call this a "Calftown Garage Sale" and it's an effective way of finding the chair a new home. We did the same thing for some battered chairs and sofas at the old store.

You'll have to de-fur it. It's doable. It just takes time and patience. And it's a nice chair. Meow and you are welcome.

We'll see how long it lasts on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Monkees and history

LATELY I'VE BEEN digging The Monkees. It's an utterly fascinating story, four actors cast into a 1960s TV show, lip-syncing one great song after another. The band members didn't play much on the first monster records, but later morphed into creative musicians, and they are still out there, the ones that are left.

I'm using "Last Train To Clarksville" in lessons. Geesh, how come it took me all these years to realize this is a thing of genius? It rolls off the G octave in the riff and the inversions are maddening. It's no surprise the California-based Wrecking Crew played on much of the Monkees music.

The best part is when a younger person gets a charge from a song that is 52 years old. FIFTY TWO. Almost as old as me, and that's pretty bleeping old.

One of my young ukulele students learned it yesterday and said it was "pretty cool," and you can't get much better than that. She asked what the song was about, which led to a short conversation about when it was written, what the country was going through at the time, and the fact it was about a soldier about to embark to Vietnam. "And I don't know if I'm ever coming home ...." It's just a catchy pop song, but it's poignant and the student was fascinated.

Who knew a Monkees song could be used in guitar lessons and to teach history?

It's yet another powerful example of how great music is timeless.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sidewalk Sale Saturday

THE DISTRICT HAS been approved by the city to have sidewalk sales on Saturdays in August. We think this is a great idea, and I'm already thinking of things to put out there. We have a lot of stock right now and a special on bass guitars and amps (10 percent off this month), so we'll put some stuff out and see what happens.

I have a guitar or five I could sell. Which one, or ones? This Saturday. Fifth and Maine. Be there. I'll have them priced to sell. I have a couple of amps, pedals, and who knows what else I might be able to find. We'll rock starting at 10 a.m. as long as there's shade and the weather is decent.

The city does have ordinances about sidewalks. There are some businesses down here that blur the line, and I can see why the city has rules. On the one hand, it's cool when places like the Tap Room and our own Electric Fountain Brewing put tables out and dress it up - EFB has some nice planters and even a bike rack. But they had to get a special permit for those. It is all about keeping things clean and accessible.

The other night I drove past the new bar on Maine, Joker's Lounge. There were some chairs out and there was a spirited game of bags going on, and I thought it was a great way to advertise the bar.

Other businesses tend to put out .... well, stuff. It makes the sidewalk look a little junky, to be honest. There's a fine line between creating a street vibe and making it look messy and unorganized.

Anyway, come see us Saturday morning, assuming we survived another epic Blues In The District on Friday night. We'll be on the sidewalk for that, as well.

Monday, August 6, 2018

More new Fender stuff

WE GOT MORE new Fender guitars in Friday at Second String Music. It's always fun to open boxes and pull out amazing guitars. The newest members of our family, and I hope they find new homes soon, include a gorgeous blue Telecaster and an American Elite bass. Plus we have a killer deal on a new Tim Armstrong Hellcat acoustic you have to see and play to believe.

We also had a dad who ordered a Classic Series 50s Stratocaster for his son for his birthday. The kid had no idea what was going on when he came in to check guitars out. We suggested he play a couple of guitars for fun, and after he played the 50s Strat he started swooning. I was back in lessons when the father finally broke the news and told his son the guitar was his for his birthday, and Sheryl says it was quite the scene.

Earlier we had a woman come in and buy an acoustic guitar for her granddaughter. Again, it's not how expensive the guitar is, but it's the gift that counts, and the gift of music is a powerful thing indeed.

You can always be good to yourself, too! We can make it happen at Fifth and Maine, and as always, it's an honor and a lot of fun to help give the gift of music.

Sale this month - all bass electric, bass acoustic, bass strings and bass amplifiers are 10% off. That saves you the sales tax and 2% which makes them CHEAPER than the internet! Sale is good through August 31st and applies to in-stock items only.