Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Puppy time

WE HAVE THREE dogs and two cats. Five pets is enough. The animals are awesome and we love them, but they shed a lot and one of them, and I won't mention any names but his initials are TUCKER, pooped all over the house and store last week. The family renting the violin wasn't impressed while he squatted and walked during his, uh, Tuck a Dump. Oh well - the carpets needed a deep steam cleaning anyway.

Recently Angus' sister, Jess, had her second litter of puppies. Sheryl has been on a waiting list for Jess' puppies. Yesterday Sheryl learned we are going to add a puppy to our dog and cat collection.

This is how it works. "I'm not sure if getting another dog is a good idea," I say. "It's a lot of work taking care of them, there's a lot of dog fur to vacuum up every day and when they get sick it can get expensive and messy. And if we want to get away for a few days it can be tough to find somebody to watch them."

"We are getting a new puppy!" Sheryl says. "Isn't it great? He is sooooo adorable!"

It is great. She is happy. So we are all happy. She has one picked out and we don't have a name yet, but even Angus is excited to have his nephew come live with us. Tucker and Genie tend to run together on our morning runs, and now Angus will have a fellow Cowboy Corgi to run with. And our cat, CoCo, was raised by Jess with her first letter, so she is technically the new puppy's sister. I think.

It will be six weeks before the newest addition comes to live with us. I'm sure Sheryl's Facebook page will be filled with pics of the little guy as he grows and gets closer to heading to his new forever home.

It's a home with five pets, soon to be six. It's only fur, and poop can be picked up and floors steam cleaned. But this one is IT. Really.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Open til when?

SO HOW IS your morning going?

So far, I've gotten well-deserved grief for misplacing a salt shaker, a man wondered why we were open from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m., and another customer forgot his infant child after buying viola stuff.

The other day Sheryl asked me to find some lint rollers. They were in an upper kitchen cabinet. I found them. Then I noticed the salt shaker. I put it up there a long time ago when grilling and forgot all about it. I put it back in a lower cabinet, but forgot to tell her it had been found.

"You mean I've gone without salt in my food for a month and it was up there the whole time?" Sheryl said. "By the way, Why did you put it back in the cabinet upside-down?" This was followed by a rant about her thinking she was nuts but in the end she is not nuts. Instead, I'm nuts.

Nuts.

There was a message on our store phone from a customer who wanted to know if we rented out drums and bass amps. We don't, but there are other options. I never got that far when I called the guy back because the first thing he says is, "Your website says you are open until 6 a.m."

I looked it up. It says we are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. When I tried to explain that to him, he insisted it said 6 a.m. "It says you are open now," he said. Right. We were. Are. As usual.

Cute photo of puppies. Just because.
He rambled on for a few more minutes, and I finally ended the conversation by politely thanking him for the call. He called back a minute later and talked to Sheryl about the wrong hours on our website. That conservation was short and sweet and we were back to business, which has been very good in here lately.

Then we had a dad come in with his infant child in a car seat. He got some viola stuff while Sheryl tuned his older daughter's viola. He couldn't find his credit card and got a little bit panicked. Once found and item paid, he walked out to his car. He walked back in a few minutes later and looked white as a ghost. He had forgotten his child, in the car seat, sitting on the floor of our store...

"Oh. There's the baby," he said. "Also, can I take some of this cardboard on your sidewalk?"

Just another morning at Fifth and Maine. May your day be as interesting as ours, every day and all day, even until 6 a.m. Wait. It's 6 P.M. Ahhh, now we are better.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Angus is an uncle again

ANGUS HAS BEEN acting up lately. He's growly and restless and rolls on his back more than usual. It finally dawned on us that Angus is excited about being an uncle again, because his sister, Jess The Cowboy Corgi, had seven puppies early this morning. Could there be such a thing as a sympathetic pregnancy in dogs?

Angus is proud as punch and the puppies are cuter than, well, should be allowed. Sheryl keeps talking about adding another puppy to the mix but we have our hands full with two cats and three dogs. Still, Tucker and Genie are getting older .... and Sheryl says she wants the one with a flame on its forehead!

Jess lives just east of town on a farm where she and Angus were born. Her human reports that mom and the puppies are doing well. Cowboy Corgis are in demand and will find good homes. Sheryl will remain on the waiting list for a boy until we have room in the house.

Congrats, Jess! She's a great mom and relieved the whole pregnancy thing is done. I think this is her second litter.

Cowboy Corgis rock! Come see Angus at Fifth and Maine during the day and he'll tell you all about it.

Puppy pile, and Angus is thrilled!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

School band rentals - we are rocking!

SCHOOL BAND INSTRUMENT rental season is upon us, earlier than usual, and it's been a challenge to get ready this year.

Sheryl, last Friday...
The other music store in town is closing and no longer has instruments to rent or school music books to buy. Sheryl doubled all our school band book and accessory orders this year and we've had an intense few days of sales and figuring out what everybody needs. I picked a bad weekend to bail and work for Gus Macker in Indianapolis, because Sheryl (and Steve Rees on Saturday morning) had her hands full with a ton of people coming in for instruments, supplies and books. She was alone all day Friday and that was a terrible idea. Somehow she makes do and it all turns out OK in the end.

Making things even more challenging is Boyd Music of Jacksonville closing. They issued a rather confusing letter to parents earlier this summer, and just to clarify, Second String Music is NOT closing. We've done our school band instruments through Boyd for a long time and enjoyed a good relationship with them. Now they have sold their instrument rental business to the Music Shoppe, based out of Normal, Ill. It's been a challenge during the transition but we finally got a huge shipment of instruments last week, put them in inventory, and we are ready for the first wave of rentals.

Sheryl told me yesterday afternoon to stick around in the store because it was going to get crazy. I went into the back for two minutes and came back out to five people standing there asking questions about instruments, books and guitars. I opened the store before 10 this morning during the nasty thunderstorm and people were coming in to buy books and get rental info before we officially opened.

We appreciate our loyal customers and we appreciate your patience and support. The biggest thing is parents coming in with confusion about how rentals works, and that's why we are here - we will walk you through it and make it as simple and painless as possible. It will be a challenging five weeks while parents get their childs instrument.

Bear with us, have patience, shop early, let us get your info if needed and get back to you with answers and most of all, help us enjoy this crazy time of year. We are here to help and make the process easy, hopefully.

We are ready for fall, and we are even getting ready for Christmas, believe it or not. Come see us at Fifth and Maine - we are thriving and rocking as usual!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Thank you alert coffee drinkers!

THIS MORNING WE were driving to the store and noticed a couple of police officers near Sixth and Maine. I went into the EFB coffee shop in our building, and the employee told us there was a guy with hospital pants, a hospital wristband and no shirt walking down the street and peering into the windows of parked cars.

Who knows what he was looking for. It's yet another reason to always lock your car, no matter where you park.

There was an EFB customer sitting outside who noticed the strange behavior. He wisely and quickly called the police, and they came down to take care of a person who obviously was having issues. He was in the back of the police vehicle when we drove past.

Thank you to the customer who saw something wasn't quite right and called. It's dangerous to assume what was going on, but the man who called did the right thing and may have saved a lot of trouble to the people who were parked on Maine Street and for the man in question.

The moral of the story? Always go to Electric Fountain Brewing for your coffee. (They have two locations now!) And don't hesitate to let authorities know if you see something suspicious, especially when drinking coffee! Yum, Coffee.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tree removal

THE CITY CAME by this morning and removed a tree in front of our house. It was between the sidewalk and the street, so it was the city's responsibility.

This morning
Not sure how old it was, but the tree was top heavy and crowding another tree just to the east. Branches were dying on the top of the tree and they couldn't fall to the ground because it was too thick and intersecting with the other tree. We thought about just having it trimmed, but in the end removing the tree means the other tree next to it has a much better chance of surviving and doing well.

We've planted five trees in our backyard in the 10 years we've lived in Calftown. Two of the them are pear trees and there were a lot of pears this year. But strangely enough, one day the tree had tons of pears, and the very next day most of the them were gone. We assume the squirrels came by in a gang and carted them all away.

When we bought the house in 2009, there was a nasty sweet gum tree that dropped those spiky balls. We had it removed in a year and replaced by another tree. Sheryl spent the next five years picking up the spiky balls that had been ground into the soil.

It's nice and shady back there now. I sat in the backyard last night as dusk settled in and thought about how nice it is to have a shady spot to sit and contemplate life.

This Afternoon!
We know how important trees are to the environment. It's always sad when a living thing goes away, no matter how sick or healthy it is. Perhaps the city can plant another tree further west so it doesn't get in the way of any other trees.

But the front of the house looks much better and all the other trees have room to breathe, so we are happy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Red guitars sell

ONE OF THE many challenges in small retail is selling items in demand. Second String Music has learned through research and trial and error what sells and what doesn't, but sometimes you just never know.

This morning we sold a beautiful dark cherry metallic Gretsch Electromatic to a young man looking to up his game. The list price is more than $600, but we match the internet price of $450 and our new Gretsch owner is thrilled.

This guitar sells like crazy at Fifth and Maine!
It's the third cherry metallic Electromatic we've sold in less than a week. There's no explanation, other than our customers were in the right place and the right time and we had them in stock. We still have a couple of gorgeous metallic gold and metallic green models on the wall and I doubt they last long.

Actually, I want the green one. I asked Sheryl about it the other day. She said, "You already own 49 percent of it, silly." The whole need vs. want argument doesn't always work, sadly. Or thankfully, since we are in business.

Also this morning we helped a young man who is physically challenged with his hands. We explained how pickups on guitars work, and how playing in open tunings can make it easier and fun to learn. The young man was happy somebody took a little time and answered his questions and treated him fairly and with respect. He'll be back and we'll set him up down the road.

It's the nature of small retail - you just never know who will walk in and pull the trigger. Two weeks ago a guy walked in and sat cross-legged on the floor strumming electric guitars. He played for about an hour, then got up and said, "I'm gonna go across the street and get a beer, and I'll be back to get something."

Sure enough, an hour later, he came back and ended up doing major business with us.

Second String Music isn't just a job - it's an adventure, and we're proud to be Quincy's music store!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thunderstorms at 5,000 feet

EVER FIGHT YOUR way through a thunderstorm at 6,000 feet? It's an adventure. Make sure you have an experienced pilot who isn't color blind if you are going to do it.

Saturday morning the Pepper Spray Express took off for great rural Vicksburg, Michigan, the home of Jon and Mariann Barnard. We had a great time hooting and hollering at their awesome lakefront home, and the boys (Adam Yates, Tim Smith and Frank Haxel) got a good idea of what inland lake living is all about.

We flew in Tim's Piper Cherokee. The flight to Michigan was uneventful and we landed at Three Rivers Airport with no issues. Coming home yesterday morning, however, proved to be interesting.

Zig zaging our way home ....
We left a hair early to beat weather coming into Quincy, but then discovered a massive front rolling through upper and central Illinois. Frank and I helped navigate by lightly dozing in the back while Tim and Adam scanned the radar and listened to Chicago air traffic control give us warnings about the stuff ahead.

"I won't go through orange or purple," Tim said. We assumed he meant really bad weather. We were good with it. He even made sure to know where some of the local airports were located in case it was too much to fly through.

We started heading south just after clearing Chicago and all we heard was Tim talking about "gaps" and "stair-stepping our way through" the storms. After getting permission to deviate from the original flight plan, Tim steered south until he saw a "small gap" near Decatur.

"It's gonna get a little bumpy, boys," he said.

This was our fourth trip with Tim and we've experienced "a little bumpy" before. Tim merely shrugged and sang along with the music on the radio like he didn't have a care in the world. I'm not sure what the other guys did but I closed my eyes and got ready for "the roller coaster," as Adam put it.

"Man. Can you feel that air pushing us up?" Tim said.

Yes, Tim. We can. Maybe it was my head hitting the roof of the plane three times in a row, or me looking for my stomach we'd left behind a few knots.

In the end it wasn't so bad. We had a few minutes of bumping around and then Tim said "Hey! We can see the ground!" and we assumed that was a good thing. It was.

Geesh. What a great time! We floated around the lake all day and played music all night. Some of us got to bed a little later than others. And we made it home in a quarter of the time it takes to drive. And didn't get stuck in traffic.

A little weather ain't gonna stop the Pepper Spray Express!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Art in crosswalks

IT WOULD BE way cool to have our crosswalks painted and jazz up our Fifth and Maine area. We could paint a keyboard from our store to Washington Park. With a bank and accounting firms on the other corners, we could put a money-themed crosswalk like dollar signs or bank vaults.

A friend suggested this idea and was very enthusiastic about it. She had a lot of good ideas and it's a forward-thinking project. She also said it would "bring downtown Quincy back to life" and it would "attract people to actually come downtown." Also, we could get the businesses to donate and the paint stores to give us free paint, and the artists could volunteer their time.

Downtown Quincy has a long way to go but it isn't dead, and a fancy crosswalk won't bring a gazillion tourists. But it would add a lot of flavor and help us stand out, for sure.

Why is it artists always have to "volunteer" their time? They have amazing skills and deserve to be compensated, even more so for a public piece. I would volunteer time to help it get done, and I'm all for community service, but why not make it worth the while for the artist actually doing the work? Yup, WORK. Like you and I do to get paid.

Then there's paint and the road. How long would it last? Fifth and Maine is busy, you know. How would we maintain it? Who is in charge of repainting it if it wears out? Is it legal to paint on the road? Would we have to get permit or waive some sort of zoning thing? All stuff to figure out.

Fourth and Maine would be a nightmare. For one thing, I think it's a state highway so who knows what kind of red tape you'd have to go through. And closing the intersection, even on a Sunday, would be next to impossible. Streets would have to close and all the work would have to be done on a Sunday to minimize the impact on our downtown businesses.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. I'm all for the idea, and I'll start pushing it to some of our movers and shakers in town. We need to do stuff like this because Quincy tends to stand still and resist change. Tempered with reality, it should be considered and maybe we can add some color and flavor to our downtown.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Simba finds a new home

SECOND STRING MUSIC is far more than a music store. We also help kittens find new homes.

Two of our three dogs are official rescues and adoptions. We encourage adoption and visiting your local humane society to find your new pet. We are not in the business of pet adoption. But ....

A store customer recently posted on social media about having kittens. Sheryl, of course, thought they were the cutest things ever. Of course they are! But we have two perfect cats and no more room for a kitten.

We have another store customer who expressed interest in getting a little kitten. Well, we are a full-service music store and Sheryl loves to make people happy when possible. 

So she got them to meet for the first time at the store with the kitten, a boy named Simba. The new owners fell instantly in love with Simba and he seemed as ease in their arms. Our guess is that there are a lot of cat cuddles and massive exploring the new house going on right now!

Simba's former owner is happy, the new owners are happy, and it once again proves that the world is a better place with pets. Rock on, Simba! We are glad you have a great new home.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Dead on Monday

THIS IS A picture of CoCo, our 10 month old kitten, on our back porch this morning. She loves to collapse like this and always looks very relaxed. CoCo and I are kinda doing the same thing today - finding a comfortable spot and taking it all in, especially after an incredible weekend.

Our Cheeseburger show in Washington Park was off the hook. Combine a nice weather night with free music and your own beverages, and you are guaranteed success. I don't know how many people were in the park, and it doesn't compare to Blues In The District, but it was still pretty huge.

Saturday night we were up at Whispering Oaks Campground near Mendon. Those people up there are insane and know how to have fun. It was four hours of high energy chaos and you know it's a good gig when you play Wipeout and Tennessee Whiskey even though you don't really know the songs. Well, some of the guys knew some of the parts of the songs. So we pulled it off.

I took it easy yesterday. Slide guitar player Johnny B. was in town over the weekend and we ended up going to The Club last night to jam with the Matt Roberts Blues Band, and it was righteous as usual. Hair of the dog to cure the dog, right? Just water for me and my blown out voice, thank you. Lounge like a cat on Monday morning. It cures everything.

Onward. More on Johnny B and additional rock and roll mayhem later this week. Don't forget Friday night is another Blues In The District, and HartLyss plays at Revelry that night as well.

We'll sleep when we're dead!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Outdoor shows

FOR WHATEVER REASON, and maybe it's because we are living right, The Cheeseburgers are playing in perfect weather tonight for the Quincy Park District's concert series in Washington Park.

It's our third straight year by the gazebo, and we love it, one of our favorite gigs of the year. We set up in front of the gazebo, not on it, so we aren't so distanced from everybody. This obviously isn't as big at Blues In The District, but it is free and you can bring a cooler and rock out with us.

Our friends Soul Shaker were rained out earlier this summer, and two weeks ago poor Raised On Radio played when it was 100 degrees in the shade, and they did a good job in almost unbearable heat.

Any outdoor show is dictated by weather - if it's nice, people will show up. Tonight it will be in the 70s by the time we hit our stride, and the humidity is way down too. We are supposed to play from 7 to 8 p.m., but it will be more like 6:30ish to at least 9. If we are going to lug all that stuff out, we're gonna stay out and make it worth our while.
The Cheesy burgers

I love outdoor shows in good weather. You'll get more kids and families, and you can sit as close or as far away as you like. Drummer Kirk Gribler owns our sound system and he dials it in every time so it's not too loud, but you can clearly hear everything.

You also gotta love a gig where I literally walk across the street from work to go play.

Tomorrow night we do it all over again for a private party up near Mendon, and it promises to be glorious again when it comes to the weather.

Bring some bug spray, a chair and/or blanket, and enjoy the dog days of summer while getting Cheesey. See you in Washington Park tonight!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Flatten it

FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY! The awful sagging house on the northeast corner of Ninth and Washington is coming down. It's been the bane of the neighborhood for most of the 10 years we've lived in Calftown, and the empty lot will look a hundred times better than the sadly neglected brick structure now reduced to rubble.

This morning.
It was owned by some people in Coatsburg. They didn't care for it and the grass and weeds grew several feet high before the city would come by and cut it. So what if people used to try and get into it, or local dirtballs used it as a drop area for drug deals? Who cares? It's only a random house on a random street corner.

Thankfully our aldermen cared. It came down because of the city's Fix or Flatten program. Thank you, thank you, thank you to our alderpeople (Ben and Jack, and before that Terri) who knew it had to come down and patiently stayed on it.

If you want to develop an awesome corner spot in a decent neighborhood with people who (mostly) give two bleeps about their homes and property, look into it. Sheryl and I would buy it in a heartbeat if we had the money, but this little building at Fifth and Maine sucks up most of our resources and time, so we have to hope someone else can do something productive with this lot.

This afternoon!