Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Happy Hour(s) keyboard displays

THIS IS WHAT happens when your friends show up on Friday afternoon for happy hour(s) and you have a big keyboard display awaiting construction. They help. And now it's up and lit.

"We may as well have something to do while we drink beer," The Mighty Adam Yates said.

"I ain't doing nothing. I'm getting a beer. Leave me alone," said Frank Haxel. "You'll need a Phillips screwdriver for that. But I'm not using it."

It's on the back table, Frank. No no, we won't make you help. Can you help Adam grab that thingy by the thingy?

Angus is angry nobody will play with him. 
A month ago we got some amazing Casio keyboards and they've been selling well. Sheryl also ordered a large Casio display which holds three keyboards. The Casio sign lights up and it saves a lot of space. But it came in about 12 boxes and didn't have instructions, other than "drink a lot when deciphering vague symbols disguised as instructions."

That didn't stop Frank, Sheryl and Adam. The perfect location was decided on and chaos ensued. Angus, Pete Magliocco and I were quite helpful by staying out of the way and offering advice, like "Righty tighty lefty loosey" and "Are you sure Tab A fits into Slot B?" Also, Angus sulked because nobody would play an endless game of ball.

The sign didn't light up and Frank was considerably disappointed. There was a cord dangling from the back but it didn't plug into anything. Turns out Casio forgot to send the power module with the rest of the display. It finally arrived yesterday, and now we have a sharp-looking keyboard area in the back by the stage.

The moral of the story is ... always have happy hour(s) on Friday. Always. How else are you going to get stuff done?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Angus turns 5

ANGUS SPENT HIS fifth birthday at Second String Music getting doggie massages and putting up with silly photo sessions. He curled up under the table in my lesson room and later passed out for a couple of hours while we strummed and hummed. Lately he's been going to the coffee shop next door and waiting patiently for the employees to give him treats. Brianne calls Angus her "work buddy" and gets some pretty good selfies with him.


Much of the time he sleeps at Sheryl's feet under the counter. He'll get up to greet the delivery guys and the many customers who demand to see him. He's had a little hip issues lately, common with Corgi and Cattle Dogs, and we had our vet take a look and prescribe a little pain medicine. He seems to be doing better. Of course, Angus is 35 in dog years so maybe this is all part of his mid-life crisis.

At home, Angus hangs out with the two cats and his adopted brother and sister. Genie and Tucker run like the wind on their daily excursions and Angus faithfully scoots his little legs as fast as they can go to keep up.

One of his ears still doesn't stick up, meaning he only half listens. He grumbles when asked to do something he doesn't want to do. He gets a little jealous when people hug, and he's very patient around children.

In other words, Angus is our irascible and loving Corgi Cattle Dog. We couldn't imagine life without him. Happy birthday, ya little bleep, and here's to many more!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Erupting in awe



THE BEST THING about teaching guitar is when a student gets it. The light literally goes off and the reactions are priceless.

I have an awesome student, Anna, who is 17 and a high school senior. She started on the guitar, switched to ukulele, and now is back on guitar. Her biggest challenge right now is prom - she got her nails done and she has to contort her fingers to press on the strings. "Another two weeks!" she said last night. "Look! I'm getting better."

Senior prom happens once in a lifetime. Anna can play the guitar for the rest of her life, I suppose.

Anyway, we were talking about alternate tunings and I let her strum my Fender Strat. "My brother has an electric guitar and I play it once in a while," Anna said. We plugged the Strat into the amp. "I never plug it in. Wow!" she said.

Soon all these amazing noises were coming out of the amp and she was over the moon. I used it as a teachable moment - "Practice your scales on the electric guitar because it's way cool," I said.

She was enthralled with the sounds. So I used it as another teachable moment. "In 1978, music sucked," I said. "Then along came this guy. He was from another planet. Nobody had ever heard these sounds coming from an electric guitar."

We listened to "Eruption" by Van Halen. Her jaw literally dropped and she stared in amazement at the iPod. "THAT is coming from a GUITAR?" she said.

With the caveat that Eddie Van Halen is from another planet and nobody plays like him, she vowed to go home and practice her tapping techniques. With her long nails, there are endless possibilities and noises to make.

Rock on, Anna. I get way more than I give when a student like you discovers new and exciting music!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Saving The Chicken

THE REAL QUESTION is not "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

The real and burning question is, "How the heck did that chicken survive wandering around the Calftown jungle for two days?"

I took the dogs for a snowy run Sunday morning and when we got back, there was the chicken, calmly walking around the alley behind our garage. Sheryl and I walked up to the chicken, who was dining on something disgusting, and she calmly picked it up without a struggle.

It clucked a few times, and we brought down alley to Mary Dickerman's place. She and Tony have chickens. Mary said, "That's not our chicken. Donna next door asked us a few days ago too."

Sheryl thought about calling Animal Control the next morning. I said, "Why not put it on Facebook? Isn't there a lost and found thing for animals?"

She agreed. We put the chicken in the garage, got it some food (chickens eat anything, apparently, even our cat food and random seeds), took some pictures and put a post on my Facebook page. Within seconds we were getting responses and page shares. And, about 15 minutes later, the owner contacted us with an emphatic "My baby!"

Turns out the chicken lives one block south of us, on the other side of Jefferson. It escaped Friday and somehow avoided the many feral cats, roaming dogs and other creatures of our hood. It even survived a nasty little rain/snowstorm Sunday morning.

How did it cross Jefferson street without getting smushed?

The owner came over and there was a joyful reunion involving much clucking and hugging of a chicken. It's home safe and sound, and everything is back to normal in the Calftown hood.

Whatever normal means. Cluck cluck cluck!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Goal off the face



THE STANLEY CUP playoffs have started and it's a great time of year. I tried to explain how important it was that the playoffs had started to Sheryl and she looked blankly at me and said, "What??".

There were some amazing games last night and it was fun clicking between the Lightning collapsing, the Islanders OT win and the Blues gutting out a 2-1 win at Winnipeg.


Hockey players are the best. They don't care about getting hurt or throwing their bodies into the fray. Last night, Joe Pavelski of San Jose scored a goal off his face and lost several teeth in the process. He barely missed a shift.

I broke my schnoz three or four times playing sports. I have a vague memory of a soccer ball blasting me in the face but I think it rolled out of bounds and nobody cared about my bloody nose. As a goalie I took a few off the face mask, too.

Sometimes on Sunday mornings when I'm recovering from the rock and roll truck, I'll put on a soccer game from  England, and it never ceases to amaze when a player gets tripped how he's suffering from death and in severe agony. He rolls around and screams and cries, slowly gets up and limps around for a minute gritting his teeth, then starts running at full speed like nothing every happened.

Suck it up, buttercup. April means Stanley Cup playoffs, and these guys aren't going to let losing a few Chicklets stop them. All the more reason to love hockey and the next few months!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Sheryl finds her Camry

SHERYL USED TO have a '94 Toyota Camry. She gave it to her nephew a few years ago, and the darned thing is still running. It will have to be humanely destroyed and buried in the infield for it to die.

We've been a one-vehicle family for a long time. A month ago I finally bought a used Pontiac Grand Prix to zip around town. As you read last week, it was hit by another vehicle while parked on Maine Street, and eventually declared a total loss.

Angus likes the new ride too!
It wasn't a fun experience, but I will say the driver of the other vehicle was apologetic and it was an accident, nothing more. His insurance company was decent to deal with and we ended up with a good settlement. We are still waiting for the check because the title from the Pontiac still hasn't arrived from the good old state of Illinois, but hopefully it gets here soon.

Sheryl started searching for another car. We thought about getting another Jeep but it was too expensive for something decent.

Yesterday we were trying to find a solution to our problem and Sheryl suggested we switch it up and try finding a vehicle for her. She doesn't need to haul anything but the dogs. It might be easier to find something if our criteria were simpler. She called our friend Brad Mintle, who sold us the Jeep. He started working for Poage in Hannibal about a month ago and he came up with a couple of great options.

This morning we went down there and picked up our new (to us) Toyota Camry. I'll drive the Jeep since it fits all my gig stuff, and Sheryl is really happy with her new ride.

Brad, Lonnie and the people at Poage were awesome and we are finally ready to put our vehicle woes behind us. Don't knock on that piece of wood, please.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Delays and a familiar face

PEOPLE OFTEN ASK if I miss my old job at The Whig. The short answer is no. I do miss some of the people and every now and then I'll see something which takes me back, but that's about it.

Then you read about a murder trial being postponed because the defendant hires, at the last-second, and actually after the last second, a lawyer who used to live in Quincy and was arrested for killing his wife and had two trials and eventually found not guilty.

That's right. A guy accused of murder hires a lawyer who was accused of murder but was found not guilty. You may have seen his story on Dateline and other shows.

You. Can't. Make. It. Up.

It's amazing in a small city like Quincy how you have personal connections. I knew the lawyer, Curtis Lovelace, because he was an Assistant State's Attorney and was always very good to me as a reporter. His son took guitar lessons at Second String Music. And I played at Curtis' wedding.

I knew the victim in this case, Carlous Wires, because Emily played basketball with his two daughters and his son worked on our building.

And, of course, the defense attorney now out of job, Drew Schnack, is somewhat of a legend around the courthouse and the city. He's a shark and he's fierce and he always tells you what he thinks.

Read the story and click on the Facebook interview with Drew in his office after Monday's hearing. It's classic. Some of the stuff he's talking about you kind of have to be around Fifth and Vermont to understand what he's really getting at. But his comment about Curtis being "a pimple on my butt" and the inner workings of lawyer-client relationships are right on the money.

I spent many an hour in that very office talking about cases with Drew and he was always good to me. He understands the role of the press. We did have disagreements, but only once did it get out of hand and I shrugged it off because, well, that's Drew.

I will say this. If I ever got into serious trouble around here, God forbid, Drew would be at the top of my list to hire.

Again ... You can't make it up. Ever.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Outdoor Music

THE FIRST OF many downtown outdoor music events starts in the less than three weeks. It's finally starting to feel like spring and we are going to be rocking and rolling down here.

Concerts In The Plaza is sponsored by The District, First Mid-Illinois Bank, Second String Music and Vancil Performing Arts. It starts April 26 with Cheeks McGee and there are three more Friday afternoon shows until we move things over to Washington Park. Click here for the list of performers and more info.

We started this event a few years ago as a late brainstorm idea to get more people to come down here, and it's really taken off. If the weather is decent, you'll have 100 or more people down there and the Butcher Block does a great job of providing lunch.

The Plaza is a hidden gem downtown. It's tucked away in the 700 block on the north side of Maine Street just before you get to the church at Seventh and Maine. It has a massive stage and plenty of green space to stretch out and enjoy the music. We appreciate John Johannes and the great people at First Mid-Illinois Bank for letting us use the space.

We are working on the Acoustic Corner shows. Blues In The District is the second and fourth Fridays in June, July and August, and we'll have a solo or acoustic acts play at Fifth and Maine in Washington Park at noon that day. We've also got a stellar lineup set for Q-Fest at the end of June.

I think I'm gonna grab and some coffee and sit in the sun before another day of lessons at Second String Music. We are ready for another great summer!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Ooh La La



CORI LYSSY SOMETIMES surprises me with her song requests. Often it's grunge 90s or obscure 2000s or just plain weird songs I've never heard.

"We are not doing that song," I say.

"Yes we are," she says.

No. We. Are. NOT.

Yes. We. ARE.

NO. What key is it in?

Aside for having to explain to her that several Weezer songs are actually classic 80s songs, and the chorus in "Africa" is sung five times at the end, it usually works. Of course last week at a gig she had to explain how my iPad worked and how to find songs I thought I saved but had disappeared but were actually right in front of my face. Guh.

Her latest suggestion is"Ooh La La" by The Faces, Rod Stewart's classic 70s band. Geesh. What a great song! And only two chords. I've been using it in lessons and trying to play the little melody part while strumming, which I'm lousy at.

Careful. It's an earworm. It's popular right now because it was in a commercial where the girl gets dropped off at college and she misses her dad and she tells some robot device to play her dad's favorite song. Up pops Ooh La La. Get it?

We are at a couple of parties the next few weekends and then play at Revelry in Quincy on Friday, April 19, starting at 9 p.m. We are also back at Red Light in Quincy on Saturday, May 11, from 2 to 5 p.m. for a special Mother's Day deal.

Man ... I wish I knew then what I know now - playing music is fun! Especially when you save the words and know how to use your iPad.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

No D or R, just a good candidate

CONGRATULATIONS TO BEN Uzelac, our new 7th Ward Alderman in Quincy. Ben is young, energetic and brings fresh blood to the City Council table, as do several other newcomers who won elections Tuesday.

I would also like to thank Terry Heinecke, the incumbent. She worked her butt off for us in the 7th Ward and we could always call her with our issues. If Ben takes anything away from his predecessor, it's to always return phone calls, texts and emails. Always. We expect Ben to make informed decisions and be there for us in Calftown and downtown Quincy.

At the local level, it doesn't matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat. It matters if you are a good candidate and can get the word out about your campaign. Ben, who ran as a Democrat, actually had the backing of some prominent Republicans in his ward, and I think it helped swing the race his way.

When I talked to Ben, his party affiliation never came up. His stance on the many challenges and issues facing us in Quincy did. And that's the way it should be.

I hate politics and the political climate we live in. I didn't publicly endorse either candidate in the 7th Ward because it's your choice and decision. We have huge elections coming up in the next two years and I'm begging you to make informed choices, not robot-like straight party votes. It will make us a better country, promise.

Go get 'em, Ben. Do what's best for the city and your ward.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Crashed car

A FEW WEEKS ago Frank Haxel helped me find a cheap car. It was a 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix with a gazillion miles on it and a rebuilt engine, but it had been immaculately cared for and was perfect for bombing around town to gigs and doing errands and taking dogs for walks.

Cheap, of course, is relative, but for the money it was awesome and fortunately I was able to pay cash. The first thing that happened was that I set off the car alarm (the previous owner had no idea how it worked because HE never set it off), then I had to get a new tire, but it's been running perfectly. I named her Red and I was happy.

Buh Bye, Red. I hardly knew yee.
Yesterday about 12:45 Red was parked in front of Electric Fountain Brewing and 505 Maine. I had run errands in the morning and parked it there with the intent of moving it, and I was actually thinking about doing just that. I was in the coffee shop talking to somebody when I looked out the window, heard a tire screech, and much to my horror saw an SUV smash head-first into my parked car.

I couldn't believe it. I think I jumped up and down and cussed, somehow I ended up outside and when I saw the crumpled left front side I fell to the ground.

The driver of the SUV was actually coming from the west. He crossed over the center line before crashing into my car. He was out of the vehicle and appeared shaky but OK. Apparently he may have "dozed off" before the crash. Later on I realized who he was and he's a really good guy, and there's no way he did something like this on purpose.

I do remember walking away after Sheryl came out (with a guitar in her hand she was working on) and started talking to the driver. "You are really tall and that makes you look overly dramatic" she said. Right. All I know is that I finally found a decent car and in an instant it all changed. So I walked away, composed myself in the back room, apologized to the people in the coffee shop for my language, and talked to the Quincy Police officer who was doing the paperwork.

The car was hit so hard that it smacked into the car behind it, which had major damage to the hood and a scratched bumper. That guy wasn't acting like a doofus and losing his mind like me, but he wasn't happy, either.

The SUV driver apologized profusely. I told him I was upset because I just got the car, but I wasn't mad at him. It happens. You deal with it.

Now it's sitting at a local body shop. I am waiting for the estimate, but I'm sure it's totaled. "Well, it's not looking good," was all the body shop guy could tell me yesterday. In addition to all the body damage it was leaking something and the wheel would barely turn, and the front passenger door almost didn't open.

We will see. If it is, then I have to deal with insurance companies and pray I get what I paid for it. All I know is that there's no way I'm finding such a great car for the price, but we'll worry about that later.

Aspen in the coffee shop made me a coffee with a little CBD oil in it and Sheryl gave me a 1/4 pill of some kind, so I got through the rest of the afternoon's lessons. Actually, guitar lessons helped. Therapy, baby.

Could have been worse. I could have been in it. And you never know... maybe I'll find something just as good or better to bomb around town in. But I won't be parking it in front of 505 Maine.