Friday, April 3, 2020

Sharing The Rays - 10 years ago

HARD TO BELIEVE today is the 10-year anniversary of legendary Quincy band Fielder releasing its CD called "Sharing The Rays." Fielder hosted a CD release party at Turner Hall on April 3, 2010. I was there. There is YouTube video proof.

The Funions played and my very fuzzy recollection is that Alex Tappe filled in on bass, Jack Inghram was on sax and Jon Barnard played slide guitar, and there was a good chance Adam Yates was on keyboards. Chris Cornwell played guitar and his father, the late Pat Cornwell, was on drums. Pat, the owner of Vegas Music, passed away about eight months after this was recorded. The legendary Bill Withers just died and one of Pat's best songs was "Ain't No Sunshine." We miss Pat a lot.

Fielder was one of the few bands that played original songs and survived - they even played on Sixth Street last year, though public performances are few and far between these days. All of the members are married with kids and jobs now. They are responsible dudes. Shhhhh. Don't tell anybody else.

Below is the video we took with Logan from Fielder during the event. Nice dreads, Holmes! Many thanks to Josh Lawless, who sent me the link for this video. I had no idea. I look about 25 years younger, and since it was only 10 years ago, well .... Neber Mind.

Gosh. We really miss Turner Hall, where this was filmed. Glad we at least have something to remember are these memories by, and happy 10-year anniversary to Sharing The Rays.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Bike seat

THERE IS NO "new normal" right now. The store is closed, and I've stopped reading the news and  conspiracy theories on social media. Stay home, stay well and we'll get through it.

Here are a few good things happening now ...

1. Sheryl got the store inventory done yesterday as she prepares our taxes. I helped by staying out of the way and counting stuff as directed. It was a lot easier to do with the doors locked.

2. We are actually riding our bikes. It's been several years since Sheryl has been healthy enough to pedal without a lot of pain. She went to Madison & Davis yesterday and got a new seat for her bike - we could all use a little more cushioning as we get a older.

3. We are walking the dogs twice a day. We go in the morning and after dinner. There are too many people out and about in the afternoon, which is fine. Genie, Malcolm and Angus love it. Also, the two cats are getting out more - Josie patrols our backyard and CoCo sits on the porch staring at birds.

4. Our neighborhood is a little cleaner. Sheryl spent half an hour this morning picking up trash by the alley and along our west fence. Even our neighbors on the other side have put trash out and had it picked up. A small miracle, indeed.

5. Sheryl is "paying" me to write short stories. One down, another started.

6. I did my first Zoom guitar lesson yesterday. It was different and I struggled through it, but the student seemed happy and we'll keep going. I have another one with a younger student this afternoon. Generally speaking people don't seem to want to do the online lesson thing, and I won't do that many, but a few won't hurt.

7.  I dusted off my old Boss BR 1200 and I'm thinking about doing some demos and goofing around. I have a room upstairs set up and ready - now I just have to come up with stuff. Easier said than done, but it's possible.

That's it. If you are still working, be grateful and keep plugging away. If you are not working, keep the faith and stay strong. And look for the good things you can do to keep going.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Music is essential

I SPENT THE noon hour Tuesday listening to an oboe concert by my daughter, Emily Hart, professor of music at Western Illinois University. Relax, social distancing police. It was taped before the stay at home orders were issued.

For about half an hour, I sat on our porch in the sun, closed my eyes, and let her beautiful playing with pianist Po-Chuan Chuang take me away. Let's face it - these are stressful times, and the short break was welcome respite.

You could say it was essential, for my mental health and general sanity, anyway.

Second String Music is closed until May. We are not deemed an "essential service," so we can't keep the doors open. We are still doing limited business while maintaining social distancing protocol. But we are closed. My guitar lessons have ceased (I'm still exploring the online thing, more on that later this week). We have very little income, and we are still expected to pay for orders, mortgages and life itself.

We understand. As mentioned many times, we agree flattening the curve is the way to get through this. Sheryl is especially at risk as a Type 1 Diabetic. This isn't some hoax or media overhype. It's very real, and we'll do what we have to do. For the this month at least, we will be fine.

Sheryl is going through the frustrating and patience-testing process of applying for small business grants and loans. We aren't holding our breath. We always pay our bills on time, our taxes, and try to maintain a historic downtown Quincy building. I hate handouts. But it would go a long way to help keep going as a downtown anchor business.

Not that music is essential or anything. Not that you hear it every day and it's associated with everything you do. Every. Little. Thing. That show you are watching, that movie, that commercial, the intros and outros to that news show, and the newly popular live stream concert thing?

All music. All essential. All desperately needed in tough times.

Anyway, thank you Emily and Po for the beautiful music Tuesday. It essentially helped me get through the day.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Guide to local live streams

WITH THIS SOCIAL distancing thing pretty much stopping live music, Facebook and other social media platforms have stepped into the void. It's not the same as playing in front of actual people, but it's still a lot of fun and there are huge advantages.

For one, you can't mask or unmask talent. You can either play and sing, and people will like it, or not. I don't like watching myself on a video screen and I hate the sound of my own voice, but I've tried to watch the HartLyss live streams from the past two weeks. Geesh. That girl can sing! The guitar player needs to hide behind a pole or something.

So here's a guide to the local artists playing shows just for you. I am probably missing somebody, but it's not on purpose, so let me know if you are doing the live stream thing and I'll put you on this list.

JARED HOLBROOK: The front man for Jared & The Gentlemen, arguably Quincy's best live cover band, started this whole live stream thing a few weeks ago. At first when I saw it I thought he was going to do a pipe tobacco commercial, with the whole fireplace in the background thing, but Jared is simply an amazing singer and musician. Most of us realized we could do this because he did it. You never know what he is going to play and he doesn't stick to the traditional script. He. Is. Awesome.

GEORGE CATE: George, er, Rick, er, whatever name he's going by these days, is a powerhouse rock and roll guy. He's in a duo with his wife, Misty, called Secondhand Bliss. George is also getting a band called Maskera up and running. George lived the life with Predawn Hour and other bands - great songwriter and guitarist. He's also a paramedic for Adams County and one of the nicest and most genuine guys you will ever meet.

KAYLA OBERT: If anybody has improved faster and become a better singer and player in the last few years than Kayla, I dare you to prove it. She wears her love of Celine Dion and country music on her sleeve, but I forgive her for that. She is also coming out with an original collection of songs recorded at 505 Maine Recording Studio. Kayla is a gifted songwriter, singer and player - her arrangements are way cool. I got to play acoustic guitar on a few of her songs and I can 't wait for the songs to come out, hopefully soon.

JACKIE & LEVI: Jacqueline Kaufman came to me a few years ago and said she needed help with her guitar playing. She just needed experience and confidence. She also plays the uke and mandolin and has the voice of an angel. Jackie and Levi Tucker started playing together a year or so ago and they are the perfect match. Also, I miss Seven Days Fuller, her former band.

TIM SMITH: Also known as Big Country, Tim is as real as it gets. He has flourished despite hanging with a motley collection of guys called Pepper Spray. Tim is a country guy but he can play and sing just about anything, even original music with the 1/5 & Maine project. He also knows the first verse of every song ever written. A licensed pilot, Tim once flew three Pepper Spray members through a thunderstorm at 8,000 feet, and he also coined the phrase "This whole playing music and drinking beer is kinda fun!"

SETH WADE: A Hannibal guy, Seth focuses on original music and has some really interesting cover song versions. Really good guitar player with a unique voice.

ERIC MCKAY: As accomplished a guitar player as anybody around here, he fronts his own band and plays a lot of different and fun songs. It's true he looks like Grizzly Adams with that big old beard, but it makes him stand out.

LIZ BENTLEY: Nobody plays more or works harder than Liz. She is going to school in Tennessee now and frequently plays in the Nashville area. She's also writing more of her own songs and they are really good. A few years ago she booked three shows on a weekend and lost her voice, so Paul Wood and I helped her out and it was an absolute blast. Liz rocks!

AVENUE BEAT: Sam, Sami and Savana live in Nashville now. Yes, they once opened for HartLyss and had Pepper Spray as their band at their last ever Quincy show. Now they are getting massive national radio and digital streaming love for "Delight" and other amazing originals, and they are opening for Rascal Flatts this summer. It should be the other way around.

HARTLYSS: Let's face it - the best way to go about this whole playing music thing is to find a girl singer (Cori Powell) and stay the %$^#$#% out of her way (that's me). We've had a blast the past two Sunday nights and we are doing it again. My family especially has fallen for Cori and had no idea what a vocal powerhouse she is. She's been invited to a Hart Sibling Summit and to do a Michigan tour of the greater Not New Zeeland/Grand Rapids/Holland area. See you again Sunday night!

Make sure to check out venmo links for all the artists. We are doing what we love and supporting local musicians right now, even if it's from a distance to social distance.

NOTE: A couple of others to check out are Tim Hart, Mike Coultas and Kevin Kendall. I'm sure there are more.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Custom Dog Portraits by JVK

LAST WEEK WHEN Second String Music was still open, Jeff VanKanegan stopped by and noticed the guitars on the wall with pictures of our  dogs. Jeff is a graphic artist and a retired Quincy Notre Dame teacher. I played many a memorable Cheeseburger gig with him - he's a founding member and amazing bass player. He's still out there doing his art and playing music.

We started talking and we asked Jeff if he would consider doing a portrait of Sheryl's beloved border collie, Lucy, who passed away 6 years ago and was the love of her life. Jeff said sure. Sheryl sent him a couple of her favorite Lucy photos and Jeff went to work. Yesterday I picked it up and it's incredible.

This is so much more than just a painting or a portrait or a rendering - it's a piece of us, and it has enormous meaning.

Jeff does Custom Dog Portraits and his prices are reasonable. People say, "Why would you pay for a painting?" Well, why do you pay just as much a month for cable or your phone? Art is just as essential. It's expressed in many forms and you can't put a price on it.

These are tough times for a lot of people, but if you have the ability to support a local artist and you want a memory to last a lifetime and beyond, text him at (217) 779-4001. I guarantee you will love it. We have a perfect and heartfelt painting of Lucy to prove it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

No lesson blues

NORMALLY AT THIS time on a Tuesday morning, I'm in the midst of five lessons in a row. When I get done I walk around in a daze for a bit to recover. It's intense and fatiguing, and I love every second of it.

We are not doing lessons right now, obviously. The store is closed for at least three weeks, and we can't have people in the store and in a back room. It's not just the students, it's often the family members with them. Flattening the curve is flattening the curve - no lessons in the store for at least three weeks.

There are conflicting thoughts here. Do I just not do lessons, or do I look for alternative lesson delivery? Sheryl and I rely on lessons to pay our mortgage and bills. Guitar strings don't grow on trees and I have expenses related to music equipment - no paying gigs for a while hurts too, though the Venmo thing Sunday night with Cori was a bonus and much appreciated.

So I have no guitar lesson income for three weeks. We will be fine and the real key is when we get back to normal, whatever normal is or will be. For the time being, we just need to watch our pennies.

My daughter is a professor of music at Western Illinois, and she's resumed her teaching online. Emily sent me a message the other day encouraging me to try the video lessons thing, as have several other people. I appreciate the advice. But it's not as easy as it seems.

When we contacted people to say we were not having lessons, only a few hinted at the online thing. Many of my students are older, and not all of them are Internet savvy. Neither am I, though I'm sure Sheryl could get it set up with only a few eye rolls and answering a thousand of my dumb questions.

For the younger students, there is apparently a lot of "distance learning," which is code for online classrooms. It's a great idea and I applaud the parents who have the stamina and fortitude. There's a joke circulating where a mom is seen removing her "Student of the Month" sticker off her back car window after a week of attempting to home school via the computer - it can't be easy.

So maybe even more screen time isn't such a good idea.

Who knows? A few days into this quarantine thing and I'm already starting to go crazy. Sheryl survived yesterday by binge-watching a real life soap opera called Below Deck. I wrote a short story, practiced a few songs, failed at trying to start a fire with water-logged wood, and watched an equally horrendous Arnold movie called Last Stand. It was so bad, it was good.

But I didn't give any guitar lessons, and it's a strange and empty feeling. I miss my students. I miss the store. Give it another week, and I might be ready to consider the whole online teaching thing.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Live Stream and tons of fun

CORI AND I had a blast last night doing the first-ever HartLyss Facebook live stream. Thank-you Sheryl for operating the camera and passing on the various notes and requests. We had a huge response, much bigger than I thought. Sheryl also put together a Venmo account for us, and I was stunned at the generous donations. We had so much fun that we are going to do it again next Sunday night.

Playing live is partially how I make a living. The next three weeks, and very likely beyond that, will put a major crimp in the live music scene in general. It sucks. There's nothing we can do but suck it up, and get creative. Thanks to Aspen Gengenbacher for the idea of the live stream. She rocks! A lot of local artists are jumping on the Facebook live stream thing and I encourage everybody to support them as we flatten the curve by staying in.

It was a little strange at first, Sheryl learned how to live stream and Hartlyss learned how to look good for the camera. But then we started seeing all the comments from our friends and family and it got really fun. This was the first time my brother (Phoenix) and two sisters (Denver and Raleigh, N.C.) have seen HartLyss play, and we also had some of my crazy cousins in Michigan and Toronto watching and presumably hooting along with us. All of Cori's crazy friends showed us how much they love their friend and also wished her a happy birthday. It was a unique experience.

I think we did three or four songs we've never done before, which is typical HartLyss style. It makes me want to practice a little more and get better. But ... we do what we do, and we have a blast, and it all seems to work out.

Sheryl and I are at the store this morning to receive a couple of large shipments. It will be a long three weeks. But ... we'll get through it. Live, streaming, hooting, hollering!

Friday, March 20, 2020

No vacation. Bleep you, COVID 19

SHERYL AND I have long looked forward to a dream vacation in Belize. We were supposed to leave one week from today. It was going to be the first time we've ever gone on vacation to a new destination, one that didn't involve family. We love our family. But this was going to be really nice. We saved our pennies and planned how to keep the store open. We even got the awesome Brianne Campbell to watch the dogs.
Kelly Wilson just got back from Belize. We are jealous.

Last night we learned the State Department has warned to not travel outside of the country. Our flights will be canceled, and getting back was going to be a challenge regardless. So we've been forced to call it off.

Thank you, Reggie Freel at Travel House in Quincy for working with us and taking care of the cancellation details. We have trip insurance, so we'll only be out a few hundred bucks. We are dejected, but in the grand and global scheme of things, well .... we will be OK. This isn't some sort of conspiracy or hoax. People are dying and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

That being said, we are still doing business at the store and I'm still taking precautions while doing lessons. We haven't had more than two or three people in here at once. Traffic-wise we've seen a slowdown but we've still sold lots of gear this week. We are worried about total shutdown of non-essential retail but will do that if necessary.

We will reschedule the vacation. In the meantime, Sheryl just bought a refrigerator we need. I might buy a guitar and turn it up to 11. Or drink a beer. Or learn some songs for our HartLyss livestream Sunday night.

Those warm and sandy beaches will have to wait, and we will hunker down with everybody else and get through this.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sunday Funday livestream

IT'S OFFICIAL. CORI and I (HartLyss) are doing a livestream show Sunday night, 7 p.m. Central time. Sheryl set up a Venmo if people want to leave a tip. Let's have some fun!

We'll take requests. We'll even try a few songs we don't know. What's the worst thing that could happen? We've never botched a song before. Ever. Except on days ending in Y.

You will have to be on Facebook and like our HartLyss page. We are doing it at Fifth and Maine, but unfortunately, we will not be able to have people over due to the 10-person rule. We are happy and healthy and plan to stay that way.

Second String Music is open and we are doing OK. We've had a few students decide to stop taking lessons, and we totally get it. Personally, I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but if I'm wrong, it's a good thing.

Wash your hands, be safe and keep rocking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Streaming Concerts

HARTLYSS IS THINKING about having a livestream show this weekend. Everything is shut down, and other local artists are doing it. Why not? Sheryl set something up called Venmo, which means people can send in tips if they are so inclined. It's a great idea so we'll see if we can put something together.

A livestream show done on Facebook doesn't come remotely close to an actual live show. You can't replace the energy and the vibe. But it's still a good idea since the world is ending and we still want to play.

We have shows scheduled April 11 at Bricks in Hannibal and April 25 at the Tap Room in Quincy. Who knows if they will actually take place? I have a feeling the COVID-19 pandemic will last a lot longer than the end of this month, but we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope we can get back to a semblance of normal.

If you think this a liberal hoax and you don't think we should be inconvenienced and all the shut downs are unnecessary, fine. I'm not going to argue with you, especially since you know you might be wrong. But don't be like the older woman who came into the store Monday, didn't step one foot past the door, and asked if we had CD players. She then went on a rant about how it was all dumb and we didn't have to do it and nobody believes anything the World Health Organization says, blah blah blah. I stopped talking to her but she wouldn't be quiet - "I've had to cancel all the church activities and only 3 percent of the population will get this so why should we all suffer."

Finally Sheryl said, "Well, if you die from the virus consider it God's will." Two seconds later, Miss Inconvenienced was out the door. God wins again. That Baptist upbringing comes in handy sometimes.

Then there was the guitar student who had two free lessons. He missed his lesson last week and called two days later, saying he had to go out of town. Then he showed up for his lesson yesterday and said he wanted to cancel because of the virus thing. Wait. You are telling us this in person? You don't want to get infected and are "scared" of what's happening, yet you showed up IN PERSON and risked getting infected from us anyway? Please call and cancel if you feel this way.

Sigh ....

I've had several students decide to take the next few weeks off, and we not only understand but support the decision. We will credit them for the lessons and hopefully get back on schedule when this is over. But the majority of my lessons are still coming in. We are taking precautions, like staying back 6 feet, washing hands before and after lessons, and keeping the lesson room clean. Yes, I am actually cleaning it.

So we will make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. I may take weeks or months but in the end we will survive. We are here and we are safe and healthy, and what won't kill us will make us stronger. Literally.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Open for bidness ... take it to 11!

SECOND STRING MUSIC is open for business as usual. We feel the pain of our local bar and restaurant owners, who have to shut down for a couple of weeks. Sheryl and I don't go out to eat that often, but we do a fair amount of takeout and we will try to support our local restaurant economy. We may even cook a meal or two at home.

That being said, we will encourage people to wash their hands before trying out our instruments. And ... get a free toilet paper roll with any guitar purchase! If you are not comfortable with coming into the store, simply call us (217 223-8008) and we'll deliver to the curb. You can also email us ( or contact us on Facebook Messenger ( We are also offering delivery in Quincy for a tiny fee of $2.

For our guitar students, we are open for lessons. We've several students decide to take the next two weeks off and we support that. We will credit for the lessons and we'll resume when they think it's okay to continue. Use your best judgment, if you are one of the classifications that are at risk of this virus we want you happy and healthy in the end.

We are taking precautions and as a low traffic business we hope to stay open for the duration. Rock out at home and lose yourself in the music, you may as well turn it up one louder. We want to keep you all rocking. It's a great time to find the movie Spinal Tap and see what fun the music industry can be.

We'll get through this tough time and be better for it. Stay strong and keep rocking!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

We're playing Saturday

THE CHEESEBURGERS HAVE a big show Saturday night at Red Light Bar & Restaurant in downtown Quincy. It's St. Patrick's weekend. We are guaranteed to have a crowd and a lot of fun. It's our first show of 2020 and features the return of legendary bass player Don Van Dyke to the Cheese. We are ready.

Meanwhile, the world seems to be shutting down because of the COVID-19 virus. Some think we are overreacting by canceling games and seasons. Read some of the unfiltered reports coming from outside the country, and from some of our own medical experts. It's true that the flu kills many people every year, but this particular strain is dangerous and puts people with immune system issues at severe risk. It is 10 times more deadly than the flu, so just be careful out there.

The other issue is that people are dumb. The best way to "flatten the curve" is to wash your hands and listen to your body. If you aren't feeling well, don't go out. Repeat ... DON'T GO OUT. It's pretty simple. Use common sense. If you self-quarantine because you are sick, we understand.

Then again, The Cheeseburgers once cured Adams County of scurvy by tossing out vitamin C pills to the crowd at an outdoor gig. We've been known to make normally chair-bound people get on their feet and start dancing uncontrollably. This might be because of our magic music powers, or beer. We'll let you decide.

If you want to have some fun Saturday and you are feeling good, come on out to Red Light and party with us. We will even give you free advice on how to feel better the next morning.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Got the Tak back

LAST WEEK I sent my beloved Takamine Pro Series acoustic guitar to Don Rust for some surgery and TLC. I play this guitar so much and so hard that the metal frets get deep indentations. Don files them down and it plays like butter again. He's the only luthier in the area and the only person I'd trust to work on my high-end guitar.

LOVE LOVE LOVE! Photo Courtesy Bad Wolf Media
This is the second time he's fixed the Takamine frets. It's the normal wear and tear of a guitar that is played hard and played often. Next time, probably within a year or so, I'll have to actually replace the first five or six frets, not a cheap proposition. But it will be worth every penny.

Many people cringe when the guitar they play gets a scratch or dent. We are all for taking care of your instrument, but a guitar is like a car - if you want to keep it pristine, keep it in the garage and don't drive it.

Cori and I played in Hannibal Saturday and I didn't have Tak with me, and it felt really strange. I've never played an acoustic show, and I mean ever, without Tak. The backup Alvarez and Jon Kammerer guitars are fine. But they aren't Tak. And I really missed it.

Geesh. I'm talking about it like it's my brother or something. And actually, it is. Rarely do you find a musical instrument that becomes a part of you. It's hard to explain, but this guitar has a connection and it goes far beyond the sweet sound and playability.

So Tak is back and I'm happy, and hopefully it will be along for many more musical adventures. Also, Second String Music sells Takamines. Just so you know.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Got my (band) name changed back

CORI AND I had a blast as usual at Brick's in Hannibal last Saturday night. It was a great place to play, and we love the owner Lisa and our so-called Hannibal girls who often pop up at our gigs. It was only our second show this year and I felt really rusty at the beginning, but we warmed up after awhile and it was great fun.

Cori's last name used to be Lyssy. That's how we came up with the name for our little duo, HartLyss. But Cori has a new last name (her maiden name), Powell. We can't really call ourselves HartPow. Or can we?

"We can do whatever we want," Cori said Saturday. "I'm going to slowly change it to HartLess. Nobody will ever know."

I don't know about that. Also, we've added drummer Lincoln Smith to the mix when space permits. He's quiet, polite and keeps perfect time. In other words, he's the complete opposite of me and Cori. That's probably why it works so well.

What do we call ourselves now? My suggestion of "Tall Guy & The Blue Hair" fell on deaf ears. So did "Cheap And Easy," but only because we couldn't figure out who was cheap. Some of the other suggestions violate FCC regulations.

For now, we are HartLyss, morphing to HartLess. We are totally open to suggestions. Just keep 'em clean and appropriate. Or not!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Random Music

 WE'VE HAD A great month or so at Second String Music. Our beautiful Alvarez and Takamine acoustics are finding new homes, as are some of the Mexican and American Fenders. Sheryl and I appreciate our local musicians buying local.

We are starting to see the benefits of being the only music store left in Quincy, and in the surrounding area. We get a lot of traffic from Keokuk and Hannibal. People mention how nice it is to have a local music store, even if they have to drive 30 to 40 miles. Last Saturday we sold a guitar to a man who drove more than two hours to shop with us. Turns out he has a friend from Quincy who recommended us, so he and the family loaded up and made a day of it in town.

It's the random nature of small retail that makes it interesting. Spring is almost here, tax returns are coming in and guitars are calling you to buy them in Quincy.

We try to plan for where the customer wants us to go and Sheryl puts much effort into purchasing the right gear. It is as much a guessing game as anything else that drives the actual customer to buy. We wish it was a science but it is more like a series of interesting non-linear experiences. We just do what we can.

We had a young man come in yesterday with an Alvarez acoustic he purchased from us 10 months ago. There was an issue with string buzz on one fret. After we checked it out, he asked if he could trade it in for another new Alvarez, and we were happy to work with him. He walked out with the new Alvarez and was thrilled, and it's a great example of the benefits of shopping local. We will fix up his trade and it will go to another player that will enjoy it.

Small retail is an adventure. We appreciate all our customers coming along on the ride with us!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Spite Tree

THE MORE DON wanted the tree gone, the more Jim refused. It caused a lot of tension in the hood and the tree stood the test of time, but it's finally coming down.

When we moved into our Calftown house 11 years ago, our next-door neighbor was Don, and the man living next to him was Jim. Both men lived in their houses for decades. Jim's parents bought the house and he inherited it. The two men were friends but they often feuded and had the whole rivalry thing going. In their later years, they'd sit on Don's back porch sipping a beverage and laughing about all the stupid stuff they used to do.

One day Jim decided to plant a pine tree next to his garage, located off the alley behind his house. He carefully plotted out the exact spot for the tree, and it was right next to Don's property line. The tree grew and then started dropping needles and cones, clogging the gutters of Don's garage roof. It was a messy and frankly ugly tree, and Don hated it.

A pretty pine,
Not Jim's pine tree
Jim loved it. He used it to shelter his pet cemetery. He'd bury the family animals under the tree, take their tags and set them in stone, and mark their graves. This drove Don nuts and they often barked back and forth at each other about the ugly tree, the pet graves and whether it was actually on Don's property.

The years went by and the tree grew. Jim got cancer and passed away. Don, who lived in his house for 60 years, died several years ago. We think Don might be rolling over in his grave knowing who lives in his house now, but that's another story for another time.

Jim's house has changed hands several times. Right now there are several young men living in it and taking good care of it. This morning one of them was on a ladder chopping off branches of the pine tree, so Sheryl went over to talk with him. Turns out they are taking the tree down to make more parking space back there. Sheryl told him the story of the spite tree and they laughed.

By the time we get home tonight, the tree will probably be down, and another piece of Calftown neighborhood lore goes with it.

We really miss those guys.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Flying cats

AT THE CALFTOWN Hart White House, we have two flying cats. They literally defy gravity. CoCo and Josie are girls who are as different as can be, but they both like air more than ground.

CoCo came to us from the same farm as Angus and Malcolm, our Cowboy Corgis. She's a small whitish-gray tabby and Siamese mix. Even though she was raised on a farm, she doesn't like the outdoors and won't leave the porch. Open a window and she is as happy as can be.

Josie is our 3-year-old calico and she is fat. She likes to prowl around the backyard and kill small birds and chase squirrels. She dreams about killing a squirrel someday, the operative word is "dream." She doesn't care how fat she gets, she says she is PHAT. When she runs and her belly flops left and right, she looks up and says "God made me this way so BLEEP YOU. And fill up my food bowl instead of making fun of me."

Josie the Cat
CoCo and Josie are buds. They enjoy games of Flying Chase and Twitching Tails. We have a baby gate set up between the living and laundry rooms, and the cats tear around after each other and use the gate in the obstacle course.

The gate is maybe 3 feet tall. CoCo launches herself at full speed and easily clears it. Josie has to balance her hind legs on the gate for a fraction of a second, then clears it. "You try jumping over something more than three times your height. And with all these beautiful love handles," Josie purrs.

One cat sits on a table, the other on the floor. They start twitching their tails back and forth. They get their haunches up, and they leap at each other and start Flying Chase again.

CoCo trying to sit still
They like to play Flying Chase before bedtime. All we hear is hissing, objects flying and thudding noises from cats chasing each other around the house. It can last at least half an hour, though many nights it seems like more.

Both cats like coming on the bed in the middle of the night and messing with us in some way. Sheryl says Josie is trying to suffocate her or at least knock her off the bed. CoCo enjoys biting hands and generally waking us up to play.

CoCo did this to me the other night, so I grabbed her and threw her off the bed. I apologized to her in the morning. "No big deal," CoCo said. "I am a Flying Cat, you know."

Indeed. As long as they amuse themselves and don't jump on dogs, they can fly around the house all they want. They always land on their feet. Wouldn't it be nice if we always did that, too?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Beer Can Bowling champ

WE ARE PUTTING another amazing Second String Music store party into the books. What a great time! Amazing jam session with some new blood (thank you Joe Pashka on lap steel) and tons of hooting and hollering to celebrate nine years.

The semi-annual Bedford Beer Can Bowling Tournament was hotly contested as usual. Emerging victorious this year was Scott Mast with 28 points, one more point than The Mighty Adam Yates.

I knocked down all of the pins on my first throw, but then I thought, "You'd better be a gracious host and let somebody else win." Right. So I'm going to claim I deliberately tanked my next two throws. Actually, they were just off, kinda like the guy who threw the ball.

I won't mention his name, but the drummer for HartLyss didn't knock down a single pin. However, he got three bonus points for holding a beverage while throwing. "Yeah, well, I thought it was golf and the low score wins," said Lincoln.

Much appreciation to Adam Yates and Tim Smith for doing a few 1/5 & Maine songs, and for Pete Magliocco and Ted Holt for the raucous crowd. I spent a good chunk of Sunday doing nothing but recover, even though I more or less behaved. I actually made it to church Sunday morning, and it bears repeating that Tom Dickerson finished fourth in the beer can bowling, after attending an elder's meeting for most of the day.

We've put away the trophy until November. Next February is our 10th store anniversary. Maybe we will hire The Who and Roger Waters to really tear it up... As long as Roger and Roger play beer can bowling.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Malcolm the cardboard chewer

WE MAKE A weekly trip to our local recycling center just to dispose of cardboard. It's all about saving trees one box at a time and we're glad to do it.

Malcolm, however, has other ideas about cardboard. Namely, Malcolm likes to chew it to pieces. Angus does too, but not as much as his nephew.

What? Me? In trouble? Nah .....
It's not unusual for me to come out of lessons and find Sheryl helping somebody and seeing Malcolm attacking a cardboard box on the floor. At least he's not eating a guitar or chewing on somebody's leg. It gets spread all over the place and it's a pain to pick up. But it keeps him occupied and out of trouble, even though he is trouble.

By the way, happy 6-month birthday to Malcolm! He's still a puppy, he still has sharp puppy teeth and he likes to eat squirrel poop on our cemetery walks. In other words, he's rocking and rolling and has become a member of the family.

Cheers, Malcolm! We'll give you a present, a cardboard box. Chew away!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Theory and head spinning

I STARTED DABBLING with the guitar around 40 years ago. It's only taken that long to figure out a C6 guitar chord. Hooray for me!

Most students are interested in technique, learning chords and strumming to songs. Guitar isn't hard to figure out if you have the time and the interest. If you have the passion, it's incredible how much stuff there is to learn. And as long as I teach, I will learn.

When I quit my real job 7 1/2 years ago, I had to buckle down and learn more about scales and fretboard navigation. But my guitar playing didn't really improve until I started studying theory, and that's a recent development.

In the past month I've had several older students ask why things work the way they do. Basically it starts with learning a major scale, then taking the root, third and fifth notes to play a major chord.

Easy peazy, right?

Well, not really. It gets really complicated. And this circle of fifths thing is enough to drive anybody mad. I'm crazy already so maybe it's no big deal.

If you are good at math you can figure out this guitar theory thing. I'm horrible at math. But I'm trying.

Last night a student and I figured out that a G4 and G suspended are the same thing. Suddenly we can rule the world. Then we went through the scale thing and I attempted to play a C6. It was strange using a pinky finger and altering the normal fingering. Nah. That can't be a C6.

We looked at the chord book. And there it was, a C6. Turns out my guess was right. Hooray for the teacher! Maybe he can get a little star next to his name and a ribbon for participating.

It's way cool when the light goes on and it makes sense.

Just how do you play an augmented 7th flat 9th? Hold on, Let me grab my chord book, and then twist my mind into a knot. After all, you never stop learning. Ever.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Nine years Saturday

NINE YEARS AGO we opened this little venture called Second String Music. Wait. Nine years? Really? Sometimes it seems like it's flown, and other times it feels like we've been here a long time.

We are celebrating with our usual anniversary party Saturday. Everything in the store will be 9 percent off, the jam session starts at noon, Beer Can Bowling is at 3 and the live debut of 1/5 & Maine (featuring Tim Smith and Jack Inghram) will be sometime around 5 ish. Rumor has it the boys from The Availables and the much better half of HartLyss will be here too.

I have few memories of our first year, other than it was a short walk from the house to the 8th and Washington location, and we were amazed when we had store gatherings that first year. Today when we drive past the old store it's a bit sad - it sat empty for many years, then was purchased by a seemingly ambitious construction worker. He tore out the main floor and started putting up studs for walls, but for some reason he gave up and there's been no activity in there for maybe a year.

Sad. It's a great building with a ton of history (not all of it good) and it would be nice to see brought back to life. Then again, we have enough of a challenge right here at Fifth and Maine. Ironically we have the plumbers here right now fixing some issues in the basement - cha ching, cha ching, cha ching.

I poked through some old store videos and a lot of the memories came flooding back. Geesh. Warren Riley and Orange Amps! The good old days ....

So come on down Saturday and we'll have a lot of fun celebrating nine years, and who knows how many more years!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sam's Club low sugar lounge

DID YOU KNOW Sam's Club in Quincy has a special area where you can recover from low blood sugar? Not really. But you go where you can when it hits.

Many times over the last 12 years we've gone to Sam's and Sheryl gets low blood sugar. We aren't really sure why. The bakery stuff is way in the back corner, though there are all kinds of anti-low carb diet stuff everywhere. Sheryl is a Type 1 diabetic, which means her body doesn't manufacture insulin, meaning she has to inject herself with insulin. There is no reason to believe her body is suddenly interested in making a huge amount of insulin. It can't.

Low blood sugar is anything below a normal level of 83. It makes Sheryl dizzy, weak and unable to think clearly. The last few times we've gone to Sam's she's been hit with it about four aisles past the door, and five minutes later she's cussing with a death grip on the cart and asking to be guided to a chair.
Emergency Glucose

Fortunately Sam's has a small furniture display area where she can sit down and recover. I usually do the rest of the shopping and meet here there, and we both can sit down while her glucose tabs do their thing and get her blood sugar levels back up. It is frustrating for her since she really does want to wander and shop in the store, not just the furnace filter aisle.

It's humorous when people you know come up and ask why you are sitting on the display furniture. It appears we are just lounging or maybe interested in a new chair or couch. We aren't. But we tell them our furniture has been eaten by dogs and cats, and you really can't tell what a good couch is like unless you give it a good 20-minute sit. All true!

So we survived the trip and made it back and Sheryl eventually felt better after too many glucose tabs and a soup lunch. We still can't figure out why walking into Sam's gives her low blood sugar, and until we do, Sheryl has come up with the perfect solution.

"We'll make a list and you'll have to go yourself," she said, "I will go buy bacon at HyVee."

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Finding dog toys

IN THE HART Calftown Manor, dogs and cats rule. We have Josie and Coco the cats, and we have Angus, Genie, and Malcolm the dogs. For some reason, we have five litter boxes - one upstairs, four downstairs. They all get used. I don't ask questions.

We have pet toys everywhere. In the morning, Angus insists on playing ball, which means Sheryl throws a small rubber spiky ball and it careens around the living and dining rooms, and Angus runs after it. Then Malcolm steals it. Then there's a bunch of barking and baying and singing. Ouch. Then the cycle of fun starts all over again.

Beware of dog toys in Calftown. And Fifth and Maine!
This morning Sheryl says, "You need to look for balls." This resulted in lifting couches and chairs and getting down on all fours and looking under beds, counters, and tables. And not being able to stand up. "I counted. There are 15 toys here," I said. "That's all?" Sheryl said.

We found four more toys in Malcolm's kennel, which serves as his bed. Josie the cat sleeps there more than Malcolm does. Perhaps that's why we found them in the kennel. Sneaky cat!

You know how it hurts when you step on a toy like a lego? It hurts just as much and twists your ankle when you step on a plastic bone. Especially when the end of the bone has been chewed and the shards of plastic dig into your foot.

There aren't quite as many toys at Second String Music, but you still have to be careful when you walk in the store. Angus and Malcolm tend to fight more over a toy apple in the coffee shop next door, for some reason. But when you reach for a guitar and discover a doggie ball under the guitar stand, well, it's par for the course.

Our 9-year store anniversary is coming up, which means Beer Can Bowling, which means Angus' rubber ball we use is safely tucked away on a ledge next to the trophy. Sorry dogs. Your toy has been appropriated for much more important activities.

We'd love you to show up at the party! Just don't step on any animal toys.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Artists getting paid

THERE WAS AN interesting Facebook post the other day from one of our local businesses. It has an area in the back with a wall. The owners think it's a good idea to put artwork on the wall. The business put out a call to local artists to submit mural ideas.

There was no mention of payment in the original post, until a person commented that artists should be paid for their work. There was an interesting and civil discussion about the issue and it's always good to review the idea of actually getting paid to do work.

I understand the business owner's side of it. We own a small business too and it isn't easy to come up with money for projects, unless it's required to keep the door open like a roof or HVAC. So often we tend to think of things like art and music as an extra.

They aren't. It takes a lot of time and resources to become good enough to play out or to put your name on a piece of art. Guitar strings and paint brushes don't grow on trees. Treating your art as a business venture is its own micro-economy. We never thought we could pay the mortgage by giving guitar lessons and selling music gear. But here we are 9 years later doing just that.

When the Avenue Beat girls were starting out, people around here really took advantage of them. One particular group invited them to play at a lunch and scoffed at the idea of paying. That's when I threw a fit and we had a little Come To Jesus meeting about not being afraid to charge for your services and having a manager confident enough to find quality gigs.

An idea for our outside wall, maybe.
We are huge proponents of our local musicians getting paid. Basically, you have to figure out the local economy and factor in the supply and demand. I know what I usually make for a show, either with the band or with HartLyss or any other variation.

A few years ago we hired a local artist to paint a mural on a wall in our back bank safe area. It was worth every penny. I don't remember what we paid but I am sure it was worthwhile.

The other day I hired a guy to play at Q-Fest this summer and told him what he'd make. He said, "Just donate it back." I told him he could do whatever he wanted to do with his earnings, but that was up to him and there was no negotiating the matter - he was getting paid, and paid well for his time and talents.

In the end, I believe the owners of the business looking for artwork learned a lot, and I really hope they can hire a local artist. We love that Quincy has such a thriving artist community and know how hard it is to make it in a small market. Keep on rockin'!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Hiring musical acts on the spot

ONCE AGAIN I missed the meetings and got put in charge of hiring acoustic acts for a bunch of downtown summer events. Q-Fest at the end of June was almost full Saturday afternoon, after I made a bunch of calls and sent out requests for availability.

It never ceases to amaze me when people don't return messages. You snooze, you lose. Anyway, we have another stellar lineup for the event at the end of June in Washington Park, a great mix of some younger unknown acts with people you know and love. We try to avoid hiring the same people every year and to give new faces an opportunity to play in front of people and through a professional sound system.

Saturday afternoon a young woman came into the store looking for a nicer acoustic guitar with a decent pickup. Turns out she's originally from Quincy and lives in Kansas City. She's planning to move back to Quincy in a few months.

I was curious if she could play and sing, so I asked if she had any videos or songs on social media. Instead, she grabbed a guitar and played and sang an original song. Geesh. The voice of an angel AND she writes her own songs?

I hired her on the spot for the last open spot in Q-Fest.

We are doing the Concerts in the Plaza and Noon Blues shows too, so hopefully, we find a few more new faces and have more great shows downtown.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Save big on big stuff

TODAY AND SATURDAY only, we are having a big sale at Second String Music. If you buy a guitar or bass that costs $500 or higher, you'll save an extra 5 percent this weekend.

It might not sound like that much, but it will add up if you are thinking about pulling the trigger on a nice guitar or bass. Our prices are already at or below internet prices. So you'll pay a lot less than you'd pay online, you'll get to try it out, and you can go home today with that beautiful new Fender, Jackson, Takamine, Gretsch or Alvarez guitar.

This has been sparked by the sale this week of three amazing new Alvarez acoustic guitars and Shop Local Saturday in downtown Quincy. The new Alvarez owners could not believe our prices are better than the online prices.

We have some interesting guitars in stock and we think that they need to be played and find new homes. The Jackson guitars are particularly interesting. They have a crackle finish and the Flayd Rose tremolos so you can dive-bomb to your heart's content. And they are already $100 cheaper than you'd find online.

We also have the new Fender Sixty-Six and Powercasters priced way below the internet. They come with a bag and are some of the more unique guitars Fender has created in the past few years.

Shop Local Saturday in downtown Quincy. Big discounts, way better than online prices at a store that supports YOUR town! Come downtown and give all the stores some love. February is the month to celebrate love and we love all our customers.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Meet and greet ... Roger Waters?

WE ARE PLANNING a store gathering for Saturday, Feb. 22. It's the nine-year anniversary of Second String Music, if you can believe it. We'll have the usual shenanigans, and we'll have special meet and greets with members of HartLyss, Prospect Road, The Cheeseburgers, Dutch Mazeltov, Pepper Spray, The Availables and many more.

VIP packages are available. Just bring a few beverages and stick them in the fridge. Security provided by James McKinney. Press will be represented by Rodney. Catering will be donuts in the morning and Susan's Chilli in the afternoon. Ask Sheryl if you want any candy for dessert.

We've actually had a few real meet and greets here. The biggest and probably the best was right after we moved into the Fifth and Maine location and the Green Almighty came from California and rocked the store. They featured Quincy native Ray Burke, and they gave an incredible acoustic performance. There were probably 100 people sardined into this place and it was a beautiful thing.

Sheryl has a fantasy meet and greet. She's going to call Rogers Waters' people and see if he can hang out with us. She won't make him perform *much* but if he does the entire albums "Wish You Were Here" or "The Pros And Cons of Hitchhiking" she might never come back to reality.

We can have inflatable pigs flying across the room and a giant rainbow shooting out of a prism over the counter. Roger can do whatever he wants, even hang out in the Green Room if he just wants a smaller meet and greet experience, or if he wants to give me a free guitar lesson (the rooms are right there).

She also has a fantasy involving edibles and getting to know Roger a little bit better, but this is a family blog and we'll just move along and keep it clean.

So come on over two weeks from Saturday to meet and greet local bands and hang. You might even get an autograph on a piece of cardboard "chewed by Malcolm" or hear a song from one of your favorite local performers.

Keep shopping local and fulfilling our musical fantasies every year. Who knew we could really make a go of this music store thing?!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Small town living suits me just fine

CONGRATS TO THE great state of Kansas for winning the Super Bowl! At least that was what the guy in charge said in a tweet yesterday. I only watched the final quarter, and as it turned out, it was the only quarter that really mattered. Too bad I missed all the lip-syncing and practically naked entertainment at halftime.

I was coming back from an amazing weekend in Phoenix, hanging out with family, going to the Phoenix Open golf tournament and reveling in the Arizona sun. We barely handled the 70-degree sunshine, and it appears some of the warmer weather came back with me. It was rough.

The boys and their NHL teams in PHX.
I like Arizona, and I love my brother Steve and his wife Stephanie, and my two brothers-in-law. But after driving around and about the greater Phoenix area for three days, I'm not sure I could live in the big city.

Phoenix is the fourth-largest metropolitan city in the county, with more than 6 million residents. Most of them were at the Phoenix Open Friday with us, and most had too much to drink, but the weather and the golf and the whole vibe more than made up for it. So we drank more. NOT. Especially not at $13 for a beer.

Steve actually lives in Chandler, a suburb of only 250,000. It's quaint and clean and it only takes 20 minutes to get to Sky Harbor Airport, so it's not bad. I mean, it's not like us being forced to go all the way to Sam's Club on Sunday afternoon. Geesh. Thankfully Sheryl did that on Saturday night!

I guess you can get used to the traffic and the searing summer heat, and it balances with Utopia in February, when you can play golf with the sun on your back and gentle breeze in the air. But I like the slower pace of little old Quincy, Illinois, the quirky people here and the forward-thinking in many areas, and the potential of more.

As always, the visit was amazing. And it's good to be home.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Lots of lessons

THIS IS THE time of year when we have a lot of people interested in playing the guitar. We've had so much interest that we've hired another beginner guitar teacher and my lesson schedule is packed.

What usually happens is new students will take lessons for a month or two, then realize you have to practice too. Repetition is the only way to get better, and for a lot of people it's just too much.

Learning to play the guitar isn't hard. Having the patience and getting better slowly but surely is the hard part. Today's society puts a premium on instant success. Why travel the backroads and pay the price when you can go on a talent show, get judged by so-called experts and instantly rocket to fame? Well, probably not in Quincy but you know what I mean.

I've also picked up several students who used to play or are stuck at a certain level and can't seem to get better. Once they realize the importance of why things work the way they do, they get better in a hurry.

You are never too old to learn. Never. If you want to do it, you will. Pretty simple! We can make it way more fun to learn and you'll avoid bad habits. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and rock out to get better.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The roof is how much?

RECENTLY WE HAD a roofer come look at the elevator shaft roof on top of our historic Second String Music building. There's a piece of tin coming loose and the neighbors across the street in the WCU Building tell us it's flapping around and in danger of perhaps tearing loose. We've known about it for a while and we finally figured it was time to figure it out before a huge piece of metal goes flying around downtown Quincy.

We love our old building. The elevator itself, which hasn't worked for many years, turns 100 years old this August. We have spent a considerable amount of money just keeping it up and doing stuff on the first and second floors. Floors three, four and five are money pits and would cost a mint for us to fix up, though we can dare to dream.

Anyway, the roofer looked at it. The shaft is maybe 10 feet by 10 feet, and about 15 feet tall. We didn't think it would be too much to fix. We were wrong.

The estimate came in at about $3,500. Geesh. I think we will just have to find another way. We simply do not have that kind of money, especially after spending 10 times that much two years ago to completely reroof the north side, second-floor roof. We have other pressing issues, including windows that break out during 70 mph wind here at 5th and Maine. We maintain three heating and air conditioning units and a multitude of other small issues. Our tenants are our priority and we are grateful to have such good ones.

Then again, we knew the building had issues when we got in here. We'll deal with it, as we have the seven years we've been downtown.

Ah, the joy of owning an old building...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Closing early - maybe

WE ARE IN the midst of a January cold snap. The dogs slip and slide on their daily walk, nobody wants to go outside and the ice patch at Fifth and Maine won again this morning. Ouch. The older I get, the more I hate winter.

We had icy rain Friday night and temperatures started plunging Saturday morning. Sheryl is still recovering from pneumonia and took Friday and Saturday off. Yes, the store is still standing. Yes, it's a miracle. Nine years later we are still in business and it ain't because of me, folks.

This weekend, I salted the crap out of our Fifth and Maine sidewalks. Saturday morning I managed to scrape off a half-inch of ice without landing in traction, and it got colder with a nasty north wind by the hour.

The main roads and our sidewalk were clear, but many downtown sidewalks weren't. It looked like it was thawing and freezing again, a recipe for disaster, so originally we posted online we were only staying open until noon. Then a flood of people came in and it was noon, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to keep the doors open until 1.

Then more people came in and it turned into 2. Then more people came in and about 2:30 I said screw it, and to disregard any Facebook post I've ever made.

So we stayed open until 4 like we always do on a Saturday, and it was a good day.

Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to close early. The week before we closed at 2 p.m. on Saturday because it was snowing hard and the store was quiet. Then there was the infamous Jan. 2 day when Sheryl and I were both recovering from a nasty stomach virus, and for the first time in nearly nine years we were forced to miss work and not open the store. We just couldn't and people seemed to understand.

When the weather gets dicey (more snow and ice expected this weekend, BTW), it's a good idea to stay home. It's better to be safe and warm than tangle with slick roads and low visibility.

Be safe, Q-town. We are here for you even when we should close.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Steve Barteau loves to play

THE FIRST QUESTION new guitar students ask is, "When will I be good enough to play?" The answer is always "It's up to you."

I point to my student Steve Barteau as a shining example of somebody who took up guitar later in life and is now strumming and humming. Steve came to me a few years ago and said he was going on a mission trip to Honduras, and he had three months to learn a few chords so he could play a song on the trip.

And by gosh, Steve did it. Now he fronts a band called the Non Perishables, which started at one of the local food pantries. This morning Steve and his band were on the Mary Griffith show on WTAD, and I look forward to listening to the interview later.

Steve is excited about playing, to put it mildly. Actually, Steve is excited about everything, and he wears it on his sleeve. Our lessons are adventures and you never know what he is going to ask about or what he wants to get better at. "Why can't we start every song with a G chord? Wait. We do. Never mind," he says.
Take the Leap.

I have another student with a similar story. He came to me a few years ago because he heads the praise band at his church and his guitar player would only show up sporadically. A few months later he was strumming and playing in church, a remarkable accomplishment for an older student with no experience.

Maybe it's a student who is playing at the school talent show. Maybe it's a student who wants to play a love song for his wife at their anniversary party. Maybe it's a student who can play but has no earthly idea why things work the way they work (math and patterns, man).

It's true many students give up after a month or so. Learning a new instrument is hard. It takes patience, the right instrument and lots of practice. But it's doable. We see it all the time.

I have a lot of students right now with bucket list dreams. Will they succeed? It's up to them. But we'll have fun and we'll make learning a lot easier at Fifth and Maine.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Rules for places with lines

IF THERE IS anything more horrible than waiting in line, please let me know. I avoid lines. I make my enemies wait in lines. I want people joining the "ALL EXTREMISTS SHOULD BE KILLED CLUB" to wait in line for eternity, just to serve them right.

I've had the joy and privilege of waiting in line at the Harrison HyVee pharmacy four times in the last week. Three times it wasn't so bad. The pharmacy employees are awesome and understanding and work very hard to help very sick people. The longest wait was about five minutes.

Sheryl started feeling poorly last Friday and went to Urgent Care Saturday. She was misdiagnosed. The doctor prescribed her antibiotics but told her to wait two weeks to take them because it was probably allergies or asthma. Sigh .... A few days earlier I had a much better experience with the same doctor.

Anyway, she had violent coughing all weekend and likely bruised a rib or lung muscle. She was in so much pain that she called her regular physician Monday. They got her in right away for a chest X-ray and called in a cough syrup prescription. And now she's been diagnosed with pneumonia. So they had to prescribe a stronger antibiotic.

It's meant several trips to the pharmacy, including last night about 6:15. There were eight people in line in front of me. There were two harried clerks trying to help two people, who were being stupid. One person insisted she had pills waiting, but she didn't have a prescription. The other had a prescription refilled but insisted the pharmacist did it wrong and didn't give her enough pills. Both customers were shown the prescription (or lack of) by the clerk, her boss, and then the pharmacist himself. It didn't matter. She threw a fit and demanded more pills.

Meanwhile, 10 people joined the line behind me.

So here are some common-sense rules for people who are going to the pharmacy.

1. Give the pharmacist time to fill your prescription. Hy-Vee doesn't take that long, normally. But this is flu season and they are swamped. Don't rush from the doctor to the pharmacy and get pissed when you are told it may take 20 minutes or so to fill the prescription.

2. Have your info ready, or at least remember your address and your wife's birthday. This includes your ID and your insurance card. Don't dig through your wallet or purse looking for your stupid gas card. Be ready when you get to the counter. BE READY.

3. If it's a new medication, the pharmacist is required to come up and give you instructions on how to take it. He is basically just reading right from the label. It's pretty simple. Listen to him, nod your head, and take your stuff and go. If you have a question, don't repeat it five times in a different way. DO NOT have him repeat it five times. DO NOT say, "What if this gives me gas?" (I'm not making it up). DO NOT say, "But these pills are so big!" DO NOT say, "Wow, that line behind me is really long now."

4. Have your insurance stuff figured out before you go. When the clerk says your medications isn't covered, don't unload on the clerk. Oh, while you were unloading, five more people joined the line.

5. If this is making you mad, just use the drive-through. Yes! Seven cars waiting behind you while you are being stupid! Even better!

6. Don't get sick. Sheryl tried to get taken care of on Saturday which would have worked if her doctor hadn't been too overworked to see she was really sick. So stop getting sick people!

7. Be glad pharmacy employees have patience and are busting their butts during the nasty cold and flu and suffering from death season. Ugh.

8. Don't get sick. Ever. Again.

Here's to hoping you are feeling better and don't have to wait in line. Because you, like me, are sick of waiting in lines. It's sickening.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The shot and relief

GENERALLY SPEAKING, I do not want to go to the doctor. Ever. For anything. But sometimes you gotta swallow your pride and your fear and just do it.

I started feeling crappy Monday morning and by Monday night, a nasty cold bug settled in and started wreaking havoc. You know the symptoms - sore throat, stuffy nose, chills and fatigue. By Tuesday it was really awful and I'm not sure how I made it through a whole day of lessons.

Wednesday morning Sheryl looked at me and said, "You need to see the doctor about this. You have two more full days of lessons and shows this weekend. Go. Now!"

In other words, get off your ass and quit being so stubborn and see if they can help. Why is this such a hard concept?

Well, I rarely get sick, and I have this silly notion that I can beat back any kind of illness with the help of vitamins and probiotics. Wrong, wrong, WRONG. (This time.)

I went to Quincy Medical Group's Urgent Care. I waited 20 minutes. They took me to a back room. The nurse took some vital signs. The doctor came in and looked at my throat and recoiled in horror saying, "Wow. That's an angry mess!" That's code for "you have an infection inside your face and you better do something about it."

He said I could start on antibiotics and start feeling better in a day or so. Or I could get a shot and take antibiotics to start feeling better right away. Hmmmm ..... why did I even think about it for more than a second?

I got the shot. I got my antibiotics. I went home and fell asleep for an hour. I woke up, and .... Geesh. I felt so much better. Amazing!

I have a ways to go. But I'm on the road to recovery and I'm amazed what modern medicine can do. Why are men in general so stupid and stubborn about getting help?

The bug is going around the Q-Town right now. Don't try to fight it on your own if you don't have to. Listen to your body, and get help. Men, please listen to your wives.

You'll feel so much better and you'll wonder why you waited.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Bucket lists

EVERYBODY MAKES NEW Year's resolutions. How many of them actually get fulfilled is another story.

This year, I vow to ...

- Drink less coffee. I'm off to a roaring start with only my third cup this morning.

- Read more, rot brain less. It's tempting to collapse on the couch after a long day of guitar lessons. This year I vow to bury my nose in books. Sheryl got me the excellent Master and Commander series and I'm finishing another book about guitars. Reading stimulates your brain and forces you to concentrate without concentrating if that makes sense.

- Learn more about guitar theory. I understand the basic ideas. I need to be a better teacher about stuff like Circle of Fifths and how to navigate.

- Just play. I rarely sit down and just goof around on the guitar anymore. Even if it's just for a few minutes, a little strumming and humming is good for the soul!

- Sing with the dogs and bay at the moon and actually enjoy it, deep down.

- Judge less. Smile more. Sleep better.

- Travel. Sheryl and I are already addressing this!

- Not worry so much. Things happen, and that's all they ever do.

- See more of you at Fifth and Maine! We are off and running in 2020, so let's make it a good one.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Unexpected day off

SHERYL AND I are feeling much better after an awful bout with the flu. We spent New Year's Day with some friends and when we got home early in the evening, she started feeling bad. I was fine and went to bed, but we both woke up around midnight and it was the start of a very long night.

Sheryl did some research and it appears we both got smacked with the Norovirus. We even have an idea where we may have been exposed to it. It was pretty obvious we weren't in any shape to be in the store, and the virus is highly contagious. So I went into the store yesterday morning to make sure we got a delivery and we posted notices on our Facebook page and put a sign on the door.

That's the thing about small retail - there are no such things as sick days unless you shut the place down. We simply can't take sick days, at least both of us together. In fact, this was the first time in our nearly nine years we've been unable to make it to the store. And thank goodness it was after the Christmas season.

We both slept most of the day, ate almost nothing and had a good night's sleep. Today we are much better but kinda weak. You still feel the whole "run over by a truck" thing a day later, but it's nothing we can't deal with.

I never get sick. I can't recall ever going to bed and waking up a few hours later running to the bathroom - well, there have been a few times, but my own poor choices led to my own demise. Hopefully, this is it for a while.

Anyway, we are back open for another rock and roll weekend, and I'm ready after a long break for guitar lessons to start back up. Happy new year and here's to a healthy 2020!