Thursday, September 20, 2018

Angus' new toy

MY GUITAR STUDENTS love Angus. He's more than the store dog - he's a destination, a plan, something to look forward to every week.

I am fond of Angus and of course he's a momma's boy, though sometimes I think he's a little bleep who half listens. But to my many students, and their parents, Angus is king and can do no wrong. They sit outside the lesson room on the couches and play and play and play with the dog, and have a great time.

We have people who bring stuff in for Angus. Who cares about the store owners? They merely keep the doors open so Angus has a place to hang. I have a ukulele student from Hannibal, a high school student, and it's not unusual for both her mom and dad to come with her for her lesson. Hmmm ... both parents, all the way from Hannibal? Really?

Well, if you could see her father fawning over Angus and taking Snapchat videos of him, you'd know why he really likes to be here.

Angus and his newest chasing toy.
Yesterday one of my newer students brought a large green ball for Angus. He loves this thing. He's chasing it around as we speak. It fits in his mouth and is kind of nerf-like, so we can throw it around the store for him to chase. It's amazing Angus has never crashed into a guitar or instrument while going after his ball. "If it hits one of your guitars, it might actually knock it back into tune," Angus woofs, rolling his Corgi/Cattle Dog eyes.

Now this ball is nice, and probably not cheap, and it certainly shows how much my student, her little brother and her mother all like Angus. But this ball tends to get icky quickly (Icky Quickly would be a great name for a band) and the Angus Slobber (another great band name) makes it kind of gross to pick up and throw.

Angus couldn't care less. "Throw the dang thing," he just woofed at me. "Your student thought highly enough of me to bring me an awesome new ball and it's your job to throw it. Don't screw it up or break a window. Now!"

There he goes. I've resumed typing, after washing my hands. Again.

So Angus is happy and is finally resting after playing for about 90 minutes. His little legs will only propel him so far and for so long, you know, though he keeps up on our long morning walks and seems to have boundless energy.

Play ball, Angus! Even if it is icky and gross. My students and parents love you, for sure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Birthdays and remembering

EMILY ESTHER HART turns 27 years young tomorrow. I remember the day she arrived like it was yesterday, of course.

But I'm having a hard time with the whole 27 years ago thing. Twenty-seven years? Really?

I sent my old boss at The Alpena News, Bill Speer, an email and told him about Emily's birthday, as she was born in Alpena, Michigan. He couldn't believe it, either. He's got two kids who are all grown up and responsible now, too. One of them I used to coach on a fifth-grade basketball team.

Where do the years go?

When I gathered with my brother and two sisters over Labor Day Weekend, one of the comments that came up was that we should always strive to make things better for our kids. For the most part, I think we've done that, or done our best to do it.

I'm going up to Macomb tomorrow morning and it will be great to see Emily again. She's rocking and rolling at Western Illinois and I'm a proud papa, for sure.

I'll just try to not think so much about how time passes so quickly.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Big boat in our little town

A HUGE RIVERBOAT is moored at Clat Adams Park in Quincy. It's called "America." It's on a two-week cruise from Wisconsin to New Orleans. Last Saturday the boat slipped past us in little old Quincy, headed for a stop in Hannibal. Of course! Hannibal! You can't deny Hannibal has Mark Twained its way as a destination stop, and God bless 'em for it.

America was close to Hannibal, but then the captain realized his boat was too tall and wouldn't make it under the railroad bridge. We had massive rains north of us recently, and the Mississippi River is up, unusual for this time of year. Reportedly the captain jammed on the brakes ... well, put her in reverse, anyway, and managed to avoid smashing into the bridge

The boat came back to Quincy, and the crew and all 180 passengers have been here since. I will give Quincy credit for showing hospitality - the tourism people have gone to great lengths to arrange transportation and tours, and a lot of America's passengers wandered around downtown Saturday afternoon. I talked to four or five groups (a couple even came into the store), and most of them just wanted to know the location of the dollar store.
Rodney gawks at the boat.

Still, our restaurants reportedly were jammed Saturday night. Plus Clat Adams park is the place to be right now in Q-Town - we went down there last night and there were a lot of people curious about the big boat, wanting to get a look for themselves. It was really nice to see people in the park and gawking at the big boat.

This comes right as the city is exploring riverfront development options. I've long said Quincy's forefathers completely missed the boat and did a poor job of planning when it came to our riverfront, but it's easy to point it out now. Wouldn't it be nice if the riverfront was a destination for us who live here, and attract tourists?

The challenge is that it will cost a lot of money. So where does it come from, and will Quincy be willing to foot its share of the bill?

I support it, but I'm wary of the expense, too. It's the world we live in these days.

I hope the folks on the America have enjoyed their unexpected stay in Quincy, and here's to hoping we someday get boats like this docking in the Q-Town on a regular basis.

Friday, September 14, 2018

School band season again

ONCE AGAIN, SECOND String Music is teaming with Boyd Music of Jacksonville to provide quality school band instruments at affordable prices.

We have seen a lot of the Quincy parochial school kids renting instruments. The public schools should be getting ready next week. It's really easy - you get a new or nearly new instrument, you pay for your first two months and get a month free, and you start making payments in three months. It depends on the instrument, of course - a sax is a lot more than a trumpet. We'll explain all the options and get you on your way for the start of band season.

It's a rent to own program. As long as you rent, you get maintenance included. Boyd is awesome to work with and we can do minor repairs in town.

It's important to get sized correctly for violin and viola, and we do that here in the store. Your money follows you - if you have to get a bigger-sized violin, what you have paid goes toward the students final instrument.

If your child is thriving right away, you can pay off the instrument after 90 days and save interest payments. Or if it isn't working out, simply bring the instrument back after 90 days and you won't have to pay for it anymore - it is as simple as that.

Come see us at Fifth and Maine! We've done really well teaming with Boyd and expect another great season.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Why does stuff break? Just because.



I AM REALLY hard on my music stuff. I go through strings like water through a strainer. My guitars get played and get nicked up - we call the scratches and gouges character marks. My amps get dinged, cases scraped, and I'm using another amp stand - maybe this one will last a while.

My latest purchase is yet another wireless unit. This time I'm getting the Nady MGT-16. It has a bug unit so it's completely wireless, without a body pack. I was using a Line 6 body pack wireless, but I opened it to replace the batteries before our last Cheeseburger gig and a spring went sproing and now it doesn't work. You can play the YouTube clip above to hear exactly what it sounded like.

Why did it go sproing? Because it can. And did.

The Nady uses a 45 degree angle for the input jack. It sticks out a bit. "You will just have to learn to be careful with it," Sheryl said, rolling her eyes for the 10th time this morning.

Plugging in is fine if it's a small venue, an acoustic gig, etc. But with the Burgers, we have four others guys in the band and going wireless means one less cord to trip over and pull out of an input jack. Even the solo shows are easier with a wireless unit.

We'll give it a workout this Saturday - HartLyss is playing from noon to 4 p.m. at State Street Bar, 17th and State, and The Cheeseburgers have a huge gig at the Keokuk South Side Boat Club Saturday night.

I ain't tripping on any wires, Holmes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Lier lier pants (or car) on fire


THERE ARE MANY ways to get even. Here's one of the more unique ways we've seen in a while - write out your feelings on the car of the one you used to love.

The vehicle to the right is parked at 10th and Jersey. Sheryl passed it on her way to the chiropractor this morning and took the photo. We have no idea who is involved or what the circumstances are, but it ain't good, as they like to say in the hood.

Spray painted on the car are terms of endearment like "abuser" and "lier." There's a bunch of other stuff, too, though it's hard to read. All four tires are flat. The hood and the trunk are both wide open, so you wonder if the car even runs.

On the one hand it's kind of creative, but on the other there's probably a bunch of misdemeanors waiting to happen, like damage to property.

It's been there for a while and has a police tow sticker on the windshield, so somebody's idea of letting the word know what they think will soon end.

Kinda gives new meaning to the term "wear your emotions on your sleeve ... or on your ex's car."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Here comes Florence, N.C. Harts prepare

HERE COMES HURRICANE Florence towards North and South Carolina. My father, sister and her family live in Raleigh, and they are getting ready for up to a foot of rain later this week.

It's kind of appropriate, Hurricane Florence, because my sister, Kathy, is a fitness fiend and her spin classes are often dubbed "Hurricane Kathy." She'll be ready, I'm sure. "As long as I have a place to keep my wine chilled, we will be fine," she says.

Sheryl graciously sent Kathy a message and said she and her family and pets are welcome to ride it out in Quincy if necessary. I think we are the closest immediate family, though it's still 1,000 miles and a 15-hour drive. Still, the Hart Calftown Manor is open and available for family members in need.

My lovely niece, Brooke, goes to North Carolina Wilmington and they've already evacuated and closed down the school for a week. So she gets a little break. She's welcome in the Q-Town too ... big Cheeseburger gig at the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk Saturday night, you know! Your mother has been up there, Brooke, and nearly tore it down a few years back during a Hart Sibling Summit.

Anyway, stay dry and safe and have a glass of wine when the rain starts falling.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Postponed gigs

SOMETIMES YOUR GIG gets canceled. There isn't much you can do about it. We really need to get a contract signed by the band and the venue before the show, but for the most part your word and a handshake is how we do business.

The Cheeseburgers were supposed to play Saturday, but the wet weather and other factors led to it being called off Friday afternoon. On the one hand, we were looking forward to a paid gig. On the other, I had a rare Saturday off and the weather was lousy. So it was fine.

The local band Vertigo was supposed to play Saturday night for a parish picnic, but it was too wet. It was rescheduled for the next day, and a couple of the band members couldn't make it, so Vertigo members Adam Yates and Tim Smith did their acoustic act together. I went by and there was a big crowd and the weather was perfect. So it all worked out.
Always get a signed contract?

You can't do much about the weather. We've had a few District shows canceled this year because of rain and cold, but we've dealt with it. A few years ago The Cheeseburgers were supposed to play at a local county fair. It poured for a week before the date, and the promoter finally called and canceled - it was just too wet. He did send us half our fee as a gesture of goodwill, and we played at the fair a few years later.

HartLyss had a gig canceled a few months ago. While we'd love to play at the local venue again, let's just say Cori and I have good memories and we'll be more careful when dealing with the venue in the future, if the opportunity arises. And not a week goes by that I don't hear about a performer or a band getting to a gig, only to find it's been double booked. They are SOL and there are a lot of hard feelings.

People always say, "Man, you play in a band, what fun!" They are right, it is fun, especially when the show is well-received and the band is clicking. But there's the endless hours of practice, the huge amounts of money invested in equipment, the physical effort of setting up and tearing down, and getting home at 2 a.m. after show.

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Watching football, that's all

I'M WATCHING FOOTBALL tonight. I have friends who think I'm a bad guy and unpatriotic.

Here's the thing - I don't like Colin Kaepernick and I think he picked the wrong place and time to protest social inequality. I get his point, and I can't begin to understand what he and other African Americans go through every day. It's about culture and environment, and our country has miles to go when it comes to racial issues. Sheryl disagrees with me and thinks he has every right to protest what and where he chooses. Exercising your rights will sometimes be controversial.

I've talked to veterans about this and some are upset because millions have died for our way of life and freedoms. They think he's disrespecting the flag and our military. I get it. But other veterans think those who died serving also were protecting our right to protest and our right to point out social injustices. Our constitution guarantees that right. You can't argue with it.

Go ahead and don't watch, and don't buy Nike stuff, and don't buy your formerly favorite team's jersey. It's your right.

But don't yell at me and call me names because I'm watching the NFL tonight. I like to watch football. That's all it is. And you sure as hell better not say I don't support veterans. Have you ever heard of Six String Heroes? Both Sheryl and I have supported this great group since inception more than seven years ago.

I'll fall asleep tonight by the third quarter anyway. Can't protest much about that, either.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Labor Day Weekend travel woes



IF I EVER get The Funions back together, I'm writing a bunch of songs and releasing a new album called "O'Hare Anguish." Actually, "O'Hare Anguish" might be the name of my new band.

I'm going to think long and hard about flying out of there again.

We have a new carrier from Quincy to O'Hare, so I gave it a shot and the trip to Phoenix last Friday was painless. They printed both boarding passes right at the Quincy gate and I had to check my bag for $25, but it arrived as promised, even with a tight connecting flight time in Chicago. Also, Quincy uses United and in Chicago it was American.

The way home wasn't good. American Airlines wouldn't print both boarding passes, so I had to leave my bag with my brother since I presumably wouldn't have time to get my bag in Chicago, then fight my way through security and back into the terminal.

A storm blew through Chicago mid-afternoon Monday, and it delayed flights and fouled everything up. None of us realized how bad it was until much later. The be fair, there is nothing you can do about weather and it's not the airport's fault, but we sat on the plane in Phoenix for almost three hours. Then when we finally landed in Chicago we taxied for 45 minutes because there wasn't an open gate. You could tell the chaos was getting to the captain too - I give him and the crew credit, because there were some ticked off passengers.

But what are you going to do?

When I landed in Chicago, I knew I'd miss my connecting flight, and then I found out my 8:30 p.m. flight to Quincy had been canceled anyway. The next flight out wasn't until 3:30 the next day. That's the danger of flying to and from Chicago - if you miss the last flight out, you are screwed. I wandered around in a daze, and finally got in line at the United counter to get my boarding pass for the next day. I thought about driving home, but the rental car places were closed and I was dead tired from three days of fun in the Phoenix sun.

So I waited for 90 minutes in line. There were only four harried United workers processing tickets and dealing with frustrated passengers. I finally got in, got my ticket, and they gave me a coupon for hotels at a discount. But when I called, the hotels using the coupon were full.

I managed to ask about 20 people how to catch the shuttle to the Quality Inn. It was $100, and not all that great. Didn't matter - I slept like the dead, then got up and spent another quality five hours in O'Hare yesterday. Airport People Bingo is fun, people!

Sheryl thankfully took care of cancelling and rescheduling all my lessons, and I must have walked 10 miles with too much time on my hands. I finally asked myself, "What would Aunt Scary (my awesome sister-in-law in Phoenix) do?" She'd get a massage and drink a beer or glass of wine, that's what she'd do.

So I did. It was glorious, horrendously expensive and worth every overpriced penny.

I finally got back and I even made it into the Whig last night, begging out of there about 11:15 with zombie-like symptoms. It's always nice to crash and burn in your own bed.

Chicago is great because the Quincy flight goes right there. But St. Louis is only two hours and change away. I can deal with the ride to and from Lambert.

Traveling is the great adventure, and I survived, and it's back to bidness as usual today.

I still feel great from the massage .....