Wednesday, July 1, 2020

July 20% off Sale

JOE MAYS OF Mays Real Estate has officially listed our historic Fifth and Maine building. Click here for all the details. We had our first showing yesterday and we are ever hopeful as the process starts.

Sheryl and I know this will take time, and we are patient people for the most part. Second String Music isn't going anywhere soon. Again, the best-case scenario would be for somebody to buy the business and building and keep the music store open, and I continue guitar lessons in the back. Sheryl is pragmatic about it and thinks that scenario is least likely.

We've been busy getting stuff organized and cleaned. Electric Fountain Brewing is officially out of the 503 Maine space today after one last deep cleaning. There's still a lot of debris and junk to throw away from the top floors, so we will haul stuff downstairs as Sheryl organizes.

In Second String Music it's business as usual and the last few days have been good. Our July special is 20% off all electric guitars & electric bass in stock, and we've seen a few beauties find new homes.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Quincy Cares

Indivisible of Adams County is hosting a second donation event called "Quincy Cares." The group will collect essential needs and donations for disadvantaged youth in Quincy. All items will be donated to My Brotha's My Sista's Keepers.

The event is Saturday, July 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at County Market, 48th and Broadway. The idea is to safely drive up to the location and drop off the items.

Cash and check donations are also greatly appreciated. All funds go directly to the organization and help families right here in your community. If you can't make the July 11 event, you can bring items and donations to Second String Music during our normal business hours.

This is a great idea and another example of how Quincy really does care, and we hope you can participate!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Changes at Fifth and Maine

ELECTRIC FOUNTAIN BREWING has decided to move out of our 503 Maine location. I think it's been a couple of years and it was always a beautiful thing to see people hanging out in there and smelling the coffee. Owner Ryan Christian did a lot of work to the space and made it a cozy hangout.

When EFB opened a much bigger space a block up Maine Street, we figured they would consolidate and have one location eventually. It makes sense. So it's sad to see them go but totally understandable.

We have some plans for that space and potentially big changes for the music store.

Sheryl and I have decided to put the building up for sale here at 5th and Maine. The goal is to eventually be able to close the music store and have the 503 Maine space for guitar lessons.

It isn't a concrete plan but we are putting action behind this and Joe Mays will list it today. It's very exciting - we can't wait to see how our building could be used by someone else. We are entrepreneurs at heart and might just do something completely different. Who knows?

Issac Smith continues to do well in his 505 Recording Studio on the second floor. We have space for rent on the second floor and in the basement vault. They are great spaces for the right person.

It's all part of the ebb and flow in The District, and it will be interesting to see what happens next. No matter what, we will be up for the challenge.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Best Father's Day Ever

SHERYL AND I had a great time Sunday with Emily and her girlfriend, Amy. They came down from Macomb with their recent addition, Stevie, a cattle dog mix rescue. Stevie had a blast playing with her new friends Malcolm, Angus and Genie. Angus took a little too much interest a couple of times but let's face it - he's just a dumb dog and it was all harmless fun.

Emily gave an oboe lesson at Second String Music and we went back to the Calftown hood to order takeout for lunch and sit in the shade. Sheryl gave a tour of the garden and the dogs followed them all around the yard.

For Father's Day, Emily got me a Forgottonia Brewery T Shirt and growler with some excellent Scotch ale. It didn't last long! Amy handed me a payday bar with pride. Then we headed back to the store and Amy tried out some guitars - she's a wonderful player and is discovering the joy of playing nicer electrics. I know somebody who could make her a pretty good deal ....

The point is we just hung out, and it was the best day ever. I am so proud of Emily, who is embarking on a huge adventure in a few months. She is taking a leave of absence as assistant professor of music at Western Illinois and moving to Rochester, New York, where she got her Master's from Eastman School of Music. She will get her doctorate at Eastman, a huge undertaking and major life decision.

A masters degree, a real job as a professor and starting the pursuit of a doctorate, all before age 30. Geesh. We may need another blood test to see if she is really mine.

Anyway, they managed to get out of the store just as the massive rains hit town and they made it back to Macomb without any issues.

Thank you Emily and Amy for making this old man feel special on Father's Day. Maybe it didn't seem like a big deal, but it was the best Father's Day ever and I am indeed fortunate to be Emily's dad.

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Sale

DISCOUNTING ITEMS IS one of the trickier things small retail encounters. Second String Music matches the internet price on all of our new Fender, Jackson and Gretsch electric guitars. We have decided to have a massive sale and now every one of our new in-stock electric guitars is 20% off, and that's a big chunk of change.

We are doing it because having a summer sale seems like a good idea in light of the COVID-19 shut down. We are grateful we were able to reopen and it would be nice to find new homes for our new electrics that showed up the first two weeks of the shutdown. We also want to pay the bills that don't seem to stop just because your business must close.

A young man came in last week to check out a Gretsch solid body guitar with a Bigsby tremolo. He returned Saturday and said he'd been in St. Louis looking at the same guitar in a big music store. Our price before the sale was cheaper, and he saved so much he was able to add a really nice hard-shell case for the guitar. He is happy and he'll tell everybody how well he was treated at Second String Music, and that kind of goodwill is priceless.

We have some amazing Fender guitars just begging for new homes. The Fender Alternate Reality Sixty-Six and Powercaster guitars have unique body shapes and are super playable. I actually want the white Powercaster, but the whole "Need Vs. Want" thing is a big deal right now and I'd rather it find a new home with one of our local guitar players. Plus you will pay way less than anywhere else.

Once word gets out we are hoping we find new homes for these beautiful instruments. We are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are still asking our customers to wear a mask inside the store and we much appreciate your patience and loyalty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Lessons and country music

WE'VE BEEN FORTUNATE that there's been no drop off in our guitar lessons at Second String Music. In fact I've picked up some new students and it never ceases to amaze me what music they like and why they want to play guitar.

One of my new students is a 13 year old boy. He has longer hair and his mom bought him a cheap guitar to get started on. He's done some plunking around on it already but we spent most of the first lesson on technique and how to make noises when pressing fingers into the strings and frets.

I asked the young man what kind of music he likes and he said, "I listen to a lot of old country." Now, coming from a 13 year old that could mean a lot of things, but it turns out he loves Willie, Waylon and the more traditional country music.

I've said this many times before, but when I started giving lessons full time eight years ago I had strong opinions about music genres and I wouldn't be caught dead telling somebody I liked country music. Teaching has opened my mind to a lot of different musical forms, and you can't deny there is killer guitar playing in country, blues, rock, jazz and reggae.

And just what defines a genre, anyway? The best players are the ones who can make a guitar sing on a country song and then turn it around to blister away on a rock track. Have you ever heard of Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits?

I hope the young man really tries to learn the guitar and succeeds on his new musical adventure. And if it takes Merle and Hank Sr. and Patsy Kline to get there, well, I'm ready for the ride and ready to learn new things, too!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Lost items lead to ... garage sale?

SHERYL'S BLOOD SUGAR machine died the other day. She ordered a new one. She says there is a spare unit in the house somewhere. "Now I just have to remember where I put it," she said.

Famous last words. But I relate because I am always misplacing stuff, and, in order, I tend to lose my keys, wallet, watch, keys, shoes, mind, coffee cup, beer and keys. At least it happens all the time and enough to remember I am my mother's son.

This morning Sheryl went into the bedroom and there was a lot of crashing and scrapping noises as she searched for the elusive spare machine. She hasn't found it yet, but in the meantime she's located other valuable items like cords to charge phones, sunglasses, dog and cat collars, ancient wedding invitations and milk punch cards. Well, the last two items are things I'VE found in the last few minutes as I search for my keys. Again.

This prompted the suggestion to "have a garage sale" with all the trinkets, gadgets and generally useless items (to us). I could volunteer a lot of old cords and probably make a mint (haha, breath mint maybe) selling my vintage Gus Macker swag. There are stereo speakers, guitar cases and way too many ball caps laying around the upstairs rooms. So I could contribute.

"While you are looking for stuff you could go through all those boxes upstairs and throw away all those old newspaper clippings," Sheryl said. "And maybe you'd actually find your Canadian citizenship card."

Sheryl and her sister, Stephanie, had a garage sale at her old house before we moved into the Hart Manor in 2009. I vaguely remember moving stuff into her old garage and then purposefully staying out of the way as Sheryl and Steph expertly priced and sold all kinds of junk. Err, stuff. Err, valuable items to other people. Who knows? We may have accidentally sold my Canadian citizenship card.

So hang on to your hats, Q-town. The mother of all garage sales could be looming to a Calftown alley garage near you soon. Sheryl says maybe next year but I'll start making posters, as soon as I find my glasses.

Friday, June 12, 2020

We've got the No Blues blues

TONIGHT WAS SUPPOSED to be the first Blues In The District of the summer. Washington Park is quiet today and our sidewalk, normally the life of the party during happy hour(s), is empty.

We've got the No Blues Blues. Sounds like a song or album or even band name. It really sucks and sometimes it seems like a bad dream. Sadly it's very real and pouting about it doesn't do any good, but I really miss it.

There is a virtual Blues in the District planned for June 19th. Watch and enjoy a cold beverage at home.

It also means no noon Blues show. The Butcher Block grills won't be rolling and people won't be sitting in the sun or shade listening to music and enjoying a beautiful early summer day.

Fortunately Cori and I (HartLyss) have our first gig in three months. We are playing Saturday night at Tipsy Bricks in Hannibal on their wrap-around porch. No doubt we'll be a bit rusty but Lisa and the crazy Hannibal girls are so much fun, and we've never had a bad show at Bricks. The weather is perfect and it could be greatest night of our lives - or maybe just a really fun gig.

It's outside so we feel relatively safe. I will still take social distancing precautions and be careful. There are times when we take for granted how fortunate we really are to play live music, so we feel grateful and appreciative of our awesome HartLyss followers and venues like Bricks.

At least the Farmer's Market is back up and running in Washington Park. Hopefully our bars and restaurants in Quincy can resume normal operations before the end of the month.

So have yourselves a rock and roll weekend! No blues to soothe us, but better days are ahead.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Farewell Blu

MALCOLM'S FATHER, a handsome cattle dog Corgi named Blu, was killed in a hit-and-run incident yesterday. We met Blu a few times and we certainly see a lot of him in Malcolm. Blu and Jess (Angus' sister) had two litters and made beautiful babies. We feel lucky to have one of his offspring.

Jess (top) and Blu, Malcolm's parents.
Dogs in general are much smarter than humans and not tied down with stupid human vices, unless you count rolling in death and eating nasty substances on cemetery walks.

Malcolm is now more than nine months old, and he certainly has a lot of cattle dog in him, with the long legs and propensity to dig stuff up. Malcolm also has a ton of Corgi from his mother's side - a yelping bark and boundless energy. Then he'll crash hard and cuddle right up in your arms. Such a sweet disposition.

So it's a sad day for us and for everybody in the Rising E Ranch family. Sheryl and I consider the dogs and cats our kids, and it's never easy to say farewell. Blu lives on in our Malcolm and we are grateful he comes from such a diverse family.

Pray for Ms. Jess the Cowboy Corgi as she mourns the passing of her "husband." They had a short relationship but a fruitful one.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Well done, Q-Town

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE organizers and gatherers of the Black Lives Matter vigil and march in Washington Park Sunday. It took place to mourn the murder of George Floyd and protest the racial inequality that still exists, and it was a massive success. It was well organized with a powerful message, it was on the mark and it was a beautiful thing.

I'd estimate the crowd at around 400 or 500. There were impassioned speakers and songs, silence to remembers the many victims and the crowd was responsive on a very hot and humid day. There was anger in some of the speaker's voices, and appropriately so. If we want to talk about racism and a lack of justice, it's not going to be comfortable and you can't put it in a nice little space. Addressing it isn't supposed to be easy. Doing the right thing often isn't.

The event did not turn political. There was no need.

I was glad to see a strong Quincy Police Department presence. They joined the crowd instead of forming a line or standing off to the side. Chief Rob Copley gave a potent message about the failures of addressing racism, and how young people have to take up the cause to make things better. Then he went out to the corner of Fifth and Maine and personally directed traffic until the crowd was ready to march up Maine Street. Kudos to him and Chief Deputy Adam Yates and the other 10 officers.

It was also good to see our prominent leaders attend. Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb was there, as was Mayor Kyle Moore and Quincy boys basketball coach Andy Douglas. We look to them as examples and community members standing with us.

There were a few social distancing issues, but 95 percent of the crowd wore masks. You CAN have a rally and be safe. Sheryl and I stayed toward the back so she could attend, wear a mask, and still not be exposed in a large crowd.

I am white and have white privilege. I do not pretend to understand what black people have to go through. I cannot stand in their shoes. But I can stand with them. I can listen. I can encourage them to lead the discussion and empower change.

In the chaos of our present-day world, there was light and hope in Washington Park Sunday. I am proud to call Quincy home. We have so much work to do, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Sunday vigil in Washington Park

A GATHERING IS planned for Sunday in Washington Park at 4 p.m. It's being organized by the newly-formed Adams County Coalition For Racial Equality. Sheryl and I hope the gathering will promote unity and help address the great racial divide in this country. It will show support for George Floyd and will show how we won't tolerate hatred, ignorance and inequality in this country, this state, this county or this city.

The gathering will be peaceful. Call it whatever you want - protest, call for change, candle-light vigil (even at 4 in the afternoon), march, etc. It doesn't matter. We all have the right to gather and protest, and the event needs to focus on what we can do as a community.

Law enforcement has been notified of the gathering. I really hope we see some participation from Quincy Police, Adams County Sheriff and Illinois State Police officers and brass. There is no need for a line to be drawn and hate-driven anger spewed at them. The law enforcement officers I am friends with know we can do better and we need to address this and communicate, not tear gas innocent people and fire rubber bullets into peaceful protests.

It amazes me, all the paranoia going on around here. I won't tell people to relax, but I will say we need to be part of the solutions and part of the dialogue to make this a better place to live. For those that try to say "All Lives Matter"... If all lives mattered we would not have to protest to make sure Black Lives Matter.

Of course, I'm against the violence and looting that's taken place in larger cities. Sheryl and I are property and business owners. But the systematic oppression of people of color has long been a problem in our society and we need to be better. We. Need. To. Be. Better.

I pray the event goes well and voices will be heard, and we can all be better off for it.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Amazing weekend

WE HAD A fantastic weekend at Second String Music, our first days open for regular hours since mid-March. Sheryl and I are grateful for our customers and it was awesome to see familiar faces and do business again.

Open again at Fifth and Maine!
The support and compliance for our mask policy was overwhelming. We are asking people to wear masks when entering the store, and we are trying our best to adhere to social distancing. A few people came to the door and then and went back to their vehicles to retrieve masks - it's still something to get used to and it will take a while.

I hate wearing the masks all day, but it's safety first and we are VERY protective of Sheryl's health.

We had a few customers not come in after reading the sign on the door. We are not offended. Come prepared for any store to have a mask policy in Quincy. We can't afford to have this pandemic get set loose again and close the state down.

Several of our longtime customers said it was "all about respect" and "I know where you are coming from." They don't want to wear a mask. They do it because they know it's the right thing to do for several reasons. They get it.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Masks much appreciated

SOMETIMES IT'S THE little things that make a difference during tough times. Trish Santos of Quincy made and dropped off two masks for us yesterday, and they are awesome.

Second String Music opens for regular business hours Friday, after nearly 2 1/2 months. We've done some curbside business and had customers by appointment, but we are ready for the doors to open and get back to the "new normal."

One thing we are stressing is wearing masks when coming into our store. No doubt we'll have some people think they don't have to wear masks, even though we have them for sale for $1 right as you enter. No mask, no bidness. It's pretty simple. Our customers have complied during our limited by appointment hours, and we are ever hopeful it will work out.

The masks depict Snoopy and Minnie Mouse and they are perfect. We already have masks and Sheryl is getting even more made, but you can't have too many because we'll be wearing them all day and every day.

Thank you, Trish. We appreciate you thinking of us in the new normal. You can't mask our readiness to open and get back at it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Learning from cats

WE COULD LEARN many things from cats. We have two felines, CoCo and Josie. They pretty much run things around here and don't put up with any crap from the much bigger dogs, especially the youngest. Malcolm has learned the hard way from some well-placed nose swipes that cat claws are sharp and hurt.

All this alley patrolling tires poor Josie out!
Lately our cats have been getting into watching from windows. We've opened them up in the house, and Josie especially likes to sit in the window with her nose to the screen and observe. When the cats see a squirrel, bird or dog outside, their tails star twitching and they make funny cat noises.

Josie will wander around in the backyard. Every now and then she'll jump the fence and give the alley and neighbor's yards a good patrol, but she pretty much sticks close to the back porch. She has a safe space under the porch where she goes when hearing loud noises or dogs barking, and she's never run off.

Right now CoCo is upstairs with me and having a blast playing with the curtains, batting at a fly and jumping in and out of window sills. Such a silly cat, and so easily entertained!

It's a cat's world, and we are just happy to be in it.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Playing live again

CORI AND I did our final quarantine livestream show on Facebook Sunday. HartLyss had a blast for the past couple of months playing songs, hearing from all kinds of people and making stuff up. And watching Malcolm get his tummy rubbed. Thank you Sheryl for running the camera and keeping things from going completely off the rails, and thank you to everybody who tuned in and had great song suggestions.

It was good for us in that we were trying to play well, but it was far more relaxed than a regular show and we didn't get too worked up about botching chords or remembering words or remembering the song in general. Now we have a bunch of songs to play the next time we have a gig.

We are not sure when that will be. Missouri is opening up, but we are not interested in playing indoors. We hope to get a show outside on the Tipsy Bricks deck soon in Hannibal - we love and miss our Hannibal peeps! Same with our Quincy venues.

Nothing beats playing live in front of people who get it. The more you hoot and holler with us, the more fun we all have. We've also missed our drummer, Lincoln, and it's about time he starts hitting stuff and keeping us in tempo.

Keep your fingers crossed and hopefully, we will see you soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Safety first can really rule

SECOND STRING MUSIC will be open for regular business hours starting Friday, May 29. Until then we are open by appointment only and we ask you call us at the store (223-8008) to make an appointment. We will be resuming guitar lessons as well.

There are going to be some rules. Most importantly, we are asking customers to please wear face
masks when entering.

Sheryl put together an awesome Facebook post yesterday, reposted here. As she is fond of saying, "Slow and steady wins the race."

Some "rules" for entering a small business once we re-open...

1. Wear a mask, cover a cough, and stay home if you feel sick. We will have hand sanitizer and disposable face masks by the door if you don't have your own.

2. Don't touch EVERYTHING and avoid using our bathroom if possible. Shop in small groups of one or two, no crowds please.

3. Pay with cash - we love and really need cash right now. Debit or Credit will be totally ok but remember an out of town corporation gets fees when you pay with a plastic payment of any kind.

4. Don't ask if we got a loan, received a grant or are "doing ok." We probably didn't and probably aren't. We are here, working and moving forward as best we can.

5. If it is in stock, it is priced well. Buy it. Forget about special orders for a while please. Sheryl has already had to be very flexible with this one since that is the nature of the beast.

6. Virtual hugs are still hugs. We need them. Write up a recommendation on google. We love your continued support.

Every small business will need us to support them when this is over. Stay away from online buying as long as you possibly can. Your local economy needs local buyers in order to survive. We can't afford to send our local dollars off to the internet/out of town right now.

So there you have it - some things to consider as we enter our new normal. We've missed our friends and loyal SSM customers. Hopefully we all have patience and understanding in a strange and different time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dolls in the stands

SOUTH KOREA HAS recently resumed sports. At a soccer game the other day, the home team placed mannequins in the stands, since people are not allowed to attend yet due to COVID-19.

Turns out the mannequins were sex dolls, or at least people think they were sex dolls. In the settled and mystic world of Korean culture, where it's a crime to even question the integrity of soccer, this has "blown up" and created all kinds of kinky commentary.

Proof? BBC News even covered it. When the world's only balanced and accurate news organization gives you love, well, it's a big deal.

Apparently, the idea was to make it look like people were in the stands. Geesh. If you wanted to put dolls who do nothing in the stands, why not make them look like politicians or Dolphin fans? They don't do anything either

Sports like NASCAR have started back up here. Leave it to the rubber-burners to be the first to get going and repeatedly turn left in front of empty stands. Soon baseball could begin and every game will be like a Florida Marlins home game, with nobody there and nobody to care.

Fans have been marginalized for years and it's no different now. Let's get started without them! Greedy owners, players and huge TV money mean everything now. Fans? As long as they pay $200 for a cheap seat, no problem.

So why not put sex dolls in the stands instead of real fans? This could lead to all sorts of interesting questions and analysis, but it's a family blog and we'll just let it be. Just so long as the sex dolls are cheering for the right team and keeping the cheers clean, well .... it will all blow over.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Please wear a mask

WE ARE ALL in favor of getting back to normal and reopening Second String Music to the general public. But there is no "normal" anymore and we believe things must be different to safely get back in business.

If you want to come into Second String Music, we ask you to please wear a mask. Many people think wearing masks are unnecessary. They think this whole COVID-19 thing is a big conspiracy, and they think wearing masks won't help and are "infringing" on their freedom. Over 80,000 people had died in the United States from this "hoax" in three months, and those are government numbers. Let's admit those dead people can't respond to your hoax anymore.

We love our custom face masks.
If you think this whole thing is a joke and we should reopen businesses and not worry about getting the virus, I won't change your mind. But it's not about you getting inconvenienced, it's about protecting us and our customers. Medical professionals have been wearing masks to keep from being infected by patients since the late 19th century. It is real and it works.

We believe wearing masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you think we are being brainwashed and the opinion of medical experts is to be disregarded, well, OK. You still can't come in without one. And whether you like it or not, many other businesses are doing this, too. Adapt or don't adapt, it's up to you. #MaskItOrCasket is Sheryl's new motto.

By the way, I do think we need to regionalize our approach to reopening, but to still do it safely and within guidelines. Our biggest concern is if we see a spike in virus cases this fall or winter locally - what do we do then, and who makes the call to shut down, and how do we respond?

We want nothing more than to rock and roll again at Fifth and Maine. But there is no normal anymore, and we have to all be smart, listen to science, and use common sense in a most uncertain time.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Open by appointment, farewell to P&V

SHERYL AND I are saddened to learn our favorite downtown store, Potter & Vaughn, is closing at the end of June. Owner Lisa Crocker is awesome and says she simply wants to retire. We don't like to hear this but this virus probably helped her decision along. We will miss her and the store but we respect her decision.

I love Potter & Vaughn because it sells interesting and irreverent stuff. Every year at Christmas I'd go over there and say, "Lisa, here is X amount of money. Hook me up." I hate shopping in general but I loved going into her store and laughing at all the goofy stuff in there. Sheryl never failed to love everything I bought her there and that is a bonus too.

We hope Potter & Vaughn isn't the only business closing, for whatever reasons, as we start back up from the COVID-19 restrictions.

Second String Music is open limited hours during the day by appointment only. We are not open for browsing or walk-ins. We ask you to message our facebook page or call the store at 217 223-8008 to schedule. We are asking customers to please wear masks, and we'll make sure we only have one or two customers in the store at a time to maintain social distancing.

We are generally at the store during the day for a few hours, and we live only a mile away so calling us and asking to meet at Fifth and Maine is not a big deal. We are glad to do it.

We expect this will continue for the month of May but we'll be flexible and hopefully be open soon to the general public.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Bar building torn down

Tearing it down at Sixth and Jefferson.this morning.
BACK IN THE day, Quincy was full of little corner bars, grocery stores and a lot of churches. You can see the old bars and stores on many Calftown corners. Our original Second String Music location was in an old grocery store at 8th and Washington, and there's another old grocery store building (now an apartment residence) at 9th and Washington.

Some of these old bars are still hanging on. This morning we noticed the bar at 6th and Jefferson was being torn down - there was a fire just after everything closed due to COVID-19, and it took less than two months to figure out it was better to level it than renovate.

I never went in that bar. I think it was called Belcher's before it was burned (a dubious name, but maybe it fit). I know it was popular for a lot of the neighborhood folks who called it 6th & J. When I first started reporting crime and courts 20 years ago, there was a robbery at the bar and a high-profile trial, and the robber was convicted and sent away for a long time.

Now it's just a hole in the ground. I wonder if they are rebuilding or just getting out, and maybe something else will pop up on the corner.

Or maybe it will stand empty, mute testimony to the many corner bars that have come and gone in Quincy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Masks galore

I WENT TO the grocery store this morning to get essentials. Sheryl and I firmly believe coffee, eggs and cheese are crucial to life as we know it. I also bought beer while I was there, but only because I was already there. Right. Honest.

I used to go to our neighborhood HyVee on Harrison three or four times a week. Now it's once a week, to limit exposure. I have been wearing a mask the past few weeks. The store itself is asking customers to wear masks, and all the employees are wearing masks.

Maulers masks flatten curves and hide smells.
I will never get used to living during a pandemic, but the shock of seeing somebody wear a mask now has worn off. Remember the good old days when we could go to restaurants and outdoor events and not fear catching a virus? You have to admit, seeing somebody with a mask looked strange before all the stuff. You knew something was wrong with them and they had respiratory or other issues.

Now it's standard garb and no big deal.

This morning at HyVee, I did not see a single person without a mask. Not one. A week ago at least half the customers weren't wearing one. So we're making progress here, a little at a time.

I wore my Maulers mask and impressed everybody at the store. Well, not really. Nobody asked who the funny looking guy was below my nose, or if I carried extra pyro, or if I was at the Stink Weed gig in Swinegrass during the infamous Dutch Oven explosion. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you are way better off for it, believe me.

Anyway, we are wearing masks. Hopefully we are flattening curves. Hopefully we can think about opening our small business, sooner than later, but safely. You can't mask our optimism during a very dark time.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Event waiting game

WITH MUCH OF downtown Quincy shut down due to the stay-at-home order, we play the waiting game, especially for the big events this summer.

Already we've called off the Dogwood Parade this weekend. Gus Macker is not happening this year on Memorial Day Weekend. We've lost two Plaza shows (the popular acoustic acts in the First Mid Bank plaza near 7th and Maine) and we probably won't have the other two in May, unless the stay-at-home order is lifted and/or modified.

Now we wait for June. Blues In The District is the second and fourth Fridays of June, July and August. We also have noon shows that day in Washington Park. We simply don't know what is going to happen, though I can tell you the District folks are working on some pretty cool ideas.

Then comes Q-Fest on the last weekend in June. I have no idea what the plans are but no doubt the event is in trouble. Let's hope things get better in a hurry.

So give the organizers of these big summer events some time and respect difficult decisions that need to be made. It's my fervent hope we see you again at the big downtown Quincy events, when we can do it safely.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Custom Face Masks

SINCE WE HAVE to wear face masks in public starting Friday, Sheryl found a Quincy woman who custom makes them. We are now the proud owners of six masks courtesy Michelle Bickhaus and her mother, Carol Murfin, at Impossibly Cute Hats. Click on the link to learn more and get your own.

We used T shirts for the material - three Maulers, two Second Musics and one Gus Macker. They look amazing! You might as well style and profile if you have to go out in public.

The Maulers are the mock rock band out of suburban Coatsburg. Second String Music has sponsored the absolute no doubt about it final Maulers concert about five times. Later this year is the Really We Mean It And We Are Giving Everybody Free Concussions Maulers final concert. Ever. For sure. Promise. We will wear the masks if we need to or not.

Sheryl is really excited to wear the miracle whip mask because of the sexy image of Randy Phillips and other Maulers on it. We are having as much fun with this as you would expect, even though sexy image and Randy Phillips are two things that should never go in the same sentence. GUH.

It's been long suggested I wear a bag over my head to make sure I'm safe. Wait a second ... are they trying to tell me something?

Anyway, the masks are way cool, we are complying with orders and we look good. Styling, profiling and sticking up our covered noses at COVID-19. Rock on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Who takes care of the alley?

TO THE WEST of the Hart Manor in Calftown is a grass alley. We aren't sure who is supposed to take care of it. We've been told several different things in the 11 years we've lived here, including that Ameren CIPS, the electric company, owns the right of way so they can access the electric on a pole in the neighbor's yard.

Mowed and weeded. It looks a ton better.
The owner of the two homes on the corner rents them out and couldn't care less. The alley is full of weeds and trash. Sheryl goes through it on a weekly basis to clean out all the trash. She also spends a lot of time weeding on both sides of our fence. Technically its not our property, but it keeps the weeds away from our yard.

Every now and then I'll run the mower through the alley, but most of the time it's neglected and the grass and weeds grow long.

Somebody has to take care of it. But who exactly is somebody? Our good friend, the legendary Bob Mays, used to say, "I wish somebody would do something. Then I realized, I am somebody."

So, this year, I'm keeping a better eye on the alley. I've mowed it three or four times already and this morning I took the weed whacker to it and chopped down several hay bales of green growth. It took all of 20 minutes. It's not a huge deal. I have time during this COVID-19 stay at home order and I want to do something.

My challenge to you is to be somebody. You can bitch and moan and point the finger and everybody around you. Maybe now is a good time to take a good hard look around and realize three fingers are pointing back at you.

You are somebody. Get it done. You'll feel better and it makes our world a little bit better. God knows we need all the "little bit better" we can get.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Garden goes in

NOTHING IS NORMAL. So normal stuff is .... nice. Maybe appreciated a little more.

The annual "Getting The Garden Ready" experience has started. Yesterday we took out dead plants, removed the fence, and I did a surface till. Sheryl has been patiently pulling out grass and weeds. I will do one more deep till later today or tomorrow. Sheryl is going to get the plants tonight. Seeds and plants go in the ground on Tuesday. Normal.

We are unable to walk after this experience. My arms are barking at me from just doing a few minutes of tilling. It's worse for Sheryl. It gets worse every year as we age. You would think we'd learn after all these years.

Nope. It's gotta be done, and we're going to do it. Bleep you, COVID-19. You can't stop us from getting the garden ready. Even our neighbor a few doors down offered encouragement - "Get those tomato plants in!" he said. Sheryl brings him and others on the block tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other fresh produce. I'm especially looking forward to the cucumbers and Sheryl promises some melons this year too.

Sheryl jokes she might get a stand at the Farmer's Market in Washington Park, if it opens this summer. Why not? It's not like the store is closed or waiting on stimulus checks or to see if our state grant will be approved. Wait. We are. May as well get the garden ready.

Here's to a good growing season.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Making masks

Perfect for facemasks.
YESTERDAY WE GOT the disheartening news Illinois' stay-at-home order has been extended until the end of May. Also, we have to wear masks if we go out in public starting May 1. I have the perfect face for a mask so it works. Sheryl found four old T-shirts and she is going to make masks - Gus Macker, Maulers and Second String Music emblems will be righteous!

We also had a Hart Family Zoom last night and it was much fun. My Aunt Willa celebrated her 29th birthday. Wait. It was her 70th birthday? Well, she looks 29 to me. It was surreal and fun.

We all sang happy birthday and it sounded a lot like The Cheeseburgers after the fourth set. Well intentioned, but a bit sloppy. As usual with a Hart gathering, virtual or in person, there were libations aplenty and lots of laughter. Emily Hart blessed us with a couple of oboe songs, including Happy Birthday. Much fun!

And ... the downstairs, save for the kitchen, is painted. Our sore arms and backs are grateful it is finished. Ahead is the dreaded tilling of the garden this weekend. Onward and upward and here's a big middle finger to COVID-19, and the hope of better days ahead.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

You think you got it bad?

THIS IS A story about perspective. We are living in uncertain and trying times. We don't know if our small businesses will survive, and we certainly know life will be different. The quarantine stuff can really get to you.

Yesterday I was supposed to give a Zoom lesson. The woman messaged me and said she broke a string. So I met her at the store, and from more than 6 feet away, we did a beginner guitar lesson. It's the first one I've done in person in more than a month, and it will be the last until the stay-at-home order is lifted.

When we were trying to figure out a time to meet, she said, "I'm in chemo until 1:30." Yup. She's fighting cancer and has been for a long time. I never hear her complain. Could you imagine having to go through all that in the midst of a pandemic?

My uncle in Toronto was also getting chemo but he's had to stop treatments because his hospital is not a safe place right now, and he's in rough shape. Think about that the next time you bitch about not getting a haircut.

Sometimes it's the small things you need to savor. This morning Malcolm grabbed this horrendous purple chew bone from Angus and ripped the end with the squeaker in it. Yes! No more annoying squeaks when they are chewing on that bone! See? Little things.

You can put numbers on how many people get sick and die from this virus. But the mental strain isn't calculable. Stay strong, peeps. And keep things in perspective. We'll get through this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Painting and procrastinating

WHILE THE WORLD falls apart, let's talk about the really important things in life - namely, painting the walls in your house.

Sheryl got the wild idea about painting last week. We've done three rooms and are waiting to start the final one. I think. It's the downstairs bedroom. We should start on it tomorrow. Maybe.

CoCo loves the new view from the living room!
We've done the three other main rooms downstairs and I must say they look really good, a massive improvement over the previous drab color. The taping of the trim and windows is actually the biggest pain in the ass, and it's really nice to rip the tape off when finished painting.

We also got rid of an old nasty leather recliner (it's free and sitting in our garage if you want it) and rearranged the living room, and it's so much bigger and brighter. Even the cats love it, especially the cats, who sit on a curio cabinet by the window and dream of making bird soup.

We were going to start on the bedroom today but Sheryl had a chiropractic appointment this morning. She's been doing neck exercises and her back guy says they've really helped. I did them the other night too - They actually work. Painting might be a pain in the butt but our necks are better. So we decided to take another rest day.

Fine by me. We have nothing but time. We think it will be at least mid-May before Second String Music is allowed to open.

By then we'll have our downstairs painted and there will be veiled suggestions about doing the stairwell, kitchen and working on the garden. Tilling is threatened this Sunday. I am praying for rain. 

Today I am glad that chiropractors are essential.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Shooting and gawking

THERE WAS A shooting in a large white house on the northwest corner of 10th and Washington last night a little before 10 p.m. Sheryl noticed a bunch of lights and I went out to take a look.

Many neighbors were also out. There were at least six police cars, an ambulance and a fire truck by the house. When I walked up an officer was leading a young man out of the residence in handcuffs and there was a lot of activity in the apartment entrance.

View from 10th. Entrance is just to left of small car.
Neighbors said they heard two gunshots. We saw a stretcher come out with the victim, who had serious injuries. Quincy Police say it appears the shooting was accidental and not random, and one person has been cited for reckless discharge of a firearm.

I don't blame people for gawking. I've been on the scene of more than a few shootings (including one on that exact same corner more than 15 years ago) and you learn to pick up the little things when determining what's going on. It looked like police had it figured out pretty quickly and there wasn't going to be much to see, so I went home. Most of the other neighbors were still out for the light show.

Hopefully the victim recovers. I'm not downplaying how serious this is, and our little stretch of Calftown has its issues. We've been here since 2009 and I'm not saying this a perfect neighborhood, but we still love living here, and someone getting stupid with a gun won't change that.

There was "live reporting" by one of our local TV stations this morning. The camera pointed west down Washington from 10th, and only briefly showed the house where the shooting took place. But it was live! Look! We are here! Whatever.

We'll just get back to fences being damaged, neighbors with tiny yippy dogs and Sheryl going on trash patrol every now and then. Oh, and the garden gets tilled this weekend after we finish painting downstairs. Also, the world remains on virus lockdown.

Who says it's boring in the hood?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Washboard jam

THERE IS NO normal right now and things are pretty messed up. At least it snowed overnight and it's turning into a nasty rain this afternoon. Yes! 70 and sunny by Saturday, so I'll sit outside and smoke a stogie to feel better about it.

On the other hand, we've painted two rooms in the house and they look so much better. And I did something last night I've never done before - give a washboard lesson on Zoom.

Our good friends KC and Craig Freeman recently moved to Kansas. KC messaged the other day and said since she has time, she wants to get more serious about her washboard. Serious? About a washboard? Hee Haw and yee haw. She asked if I could give her a lesson via Zoom.

I have never held a washboard. But people don't realize that guitar is a very percussive instrument. You use the right hand to strum and lay down a beat, and there are techniques to deaden strings and put punch into your strumming. I played drums by accident in a praise band a few years ago when nobody else was available. And what else was I going to do? Get ready to paint another room?

Well, skip that last part, but yes, let's do a washboard lesson!

I looked up some stuff and learned playing the washboard is all about technique, practice and learning different patterns at the same time with both hands. So away we went. We did some simple 4/4 timing drills, listened to a few songs, and I think KC learned a few things. She's promised to play her washboard 15 minutes a day until next week's lesson. Hey! We are doing it again! It was a huge challenge and a lot of fun, and I give KC credit for being a great student and willing to listen to a non-washboard player.

Hmmm. Non Washboard Player. Could be the name of a band or the next HartLyss Facebook Live show this Sunday at 7 p.m. Central, cheap plug cheap plug.

From tough times come fun times, and we keep plugging along, one washboard beat at a time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Painting. Ugh

UNTIL MONDAY, I had never actually painted a wall. In fact, the only other time I can recall painting at all was the garage door of 2351 Rosewood SE in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the summer of 1980. A friend of my father, Abe DeVries, came over and showed me how to do it. I vaguely recall it was a pain and I wasn't very good at it.

We are on Week 4 of home confinement, so Sheryl suggested we do something constructive with our time - the Corona Project! We decided to paint the inside of the house. It has had this drab taupe color on the walls since we moved in 11 years ago. For some reason, we had a ton of painting supplies and even a massive bucket of paint. So off to paint we went.

We began Monday in the laundry room/front room. First came the cleaning of the walls, then the taping. The taping was horrible. You would think it would be easy to just line up the tape along the edge and go straight. Except I'm straight-challenged, apparently. "Just remember, this is your practice room," Sheryl said repeatedly. Thank goodness.

Am I even close to doing this right?
We finished with taping. We started by painting in the hard to reach spots, places a roller wouldn't fit. Sheryl went to get more supplies and trim paint, leaving me alone. THAT was a huge mistake, and I ended up gunking the walls with too much paint and painting parts the roller would have done just fine.

Fortunately, it was still really wet when she came home and we fixed most of the issues, save for a few drip marks here and there. It took three coats of paint to get it looking even and not splotchy so hopefully I will do better in the rest of the rooms.

Then came the lesson in "Zen Painting," where you let the paint and the brush do the work. I was pushing too hard and smearing globs, rather than rolling on the paint. "You are going to give yourself a heart attack," Sheryl said. "Lightly. Lightly. Roll. Roll. Easy peazy."

After that it went a lot smoother. We let it dry overnight and Sheryl even cleaned the carpets and painted the front windows sill, which had been destroyed by dogs starting with Lucy and Bella a decade ago.

This morning we took the tape off and touched up a few spots. The walls are a creamy and light buttery color and they look really good, if we do say so ourselves. It isn't perfect, but for a non-painter and a wife who somehow hasn't been driven mad by her idiot husband, it will do.

The good part is that we have one room done. The challenging part is that there are two rooms at least to go, and that's not including the upstairs. Actually, I'm becoming a paint snob because I'm looking at the upstairs rooms and whoever painted them 11 years ago did not do a very good job. Geesh. You mean there are other people who can't tape walls and drip instead of brush too?

Next up is the living room and dining room. There is a big hole in the front wall from the dogs pushing the couch into it when the mail person goes by, so Sheryl has a plan to fix it before we start. It involves drywall and power tools, so maybe I'll help by staying out of the way.

But when the wall is fixed, I will attempt to tape and hopefully use my inner Paint Zen Master to do a better job.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Frank Haxel stories

I HAVE A lot of Frank Haxel stories. It has been a few days since his death and memories have helped get me through his sudden passing, though I don't think any of us will get over it.

Here are just a few of those many memories.

One Saturday afternoon 8 or 9 years ago, The Cheeseburgers had an issue with getting our trailer to a gig that night at Adams Trading Post. We had also just lost our roadie. Frank happened to walk into the store.

You need a roadie for WHAT?
I said, "Do you have a truck?"


"Good. What are you doing tonight?"

"Uh, nothing?"

"Congrats!" I said. "You are hired."

Thus began Frank's tenure as Cheeseburger roadie, which he continued until a few years ago. We had so many good times - Frank often drove our drunk you know whats home with Kirk Gribbler's gibberish and the sound of snoring as we all passed out. One day we took the dirt road shortcut to get to Keokuk, and Kirk warned Frank about a steep hill. Frank didn't listen. Let's just say we renamed that little stretch of road "Frank's Hill" to remember when he almost careened off the road. Then there was the time he made Tim Lawless get out to move a roadblock and then drove off without Tim getting back in the Suburban.

Frank built our lesson rooms - during lessons!
Frank loved our store parties. He made the Beer Can Bowling frame and he won the first-ever tournament. He made a scaffold for the legendary Second String Music pinata blow out, and the video is at the bottom of this blog (Thank you Table 16 Productions). "Swing hard and drink up," he said, perfectly summarizing more than a few Fifth and Maine celebrations. Near the end you see Frank with the scaffold rope, which was typical - we'd all be partying and he'd make sure the loose ends were taken care of.

He liked his Coors Light, for sure. Our Friday happy hour sessions could either be a nice mellow way to end the workweek or turn into a full blown party.

Frank helped with our District music events. Maybe four years ago Super Magic Robots were playing for the street party at Fifth and Maine, and we were standing beside the stage. A drunk guy lurched past us and started accosting the lead singer. The bass player just looked at us and motioned to help, so Frank and I got up on stage, grabbed the guy by the arms and dragged him off. The band never stopped playing and security guards met us at the bottom of the stage stairs.
Our plane adventures wore us out!

We took some amazing plane trips with Adam Yates and Tim Smith. The first one was six years ago to my uncle's Lake Michigan beach near Holland, Mich. We slept on the beach and had a big tent set up, but Frank simply grabbed a lounge chair, wrapped himself in blankets and fell asleep under the stars. At about 3 a.m. he woke Tim up to point out the Space Station zipping across the sky - never mind we'd seen it about six hours earlier on the deck.

He was passionate about our Six String Heroes program. He was often in tears when the Blue Cross girls would reveal a massive check for them at a store gathering. We had a party at Turner Hall to raise money for Six String Heroes, and Frank told his friends and the band (Cheeseburgers) to put our drinks on his tab. I'll never forget the next afternoon, the fog still lifting, and Mark Mester handing Frank the bar tab. And Frank paid it without complaint.

The last time I saw him was a few weeks ago at our Cheeseburger show at Red Light in Quincy. Kirk and the guys mobbed him on our first break and they were laughing about all the crazy nights and stories.

I think this is the best story - we had our one-year anniversary party at the old location and a ton of people showed up, with a big old jam session and all kinds of fun. Frank had never really seen something like this, and I'll never forget standing outside the store and Frank saying, "That's the power of music."

I'm glad his last years were full of music, from Vancil Performing Arts to the many shows and concerts he worked, and the mayhem at Fifth and Maine.

Geesh, Frank. Save us a seat up there for Happy Hour, and someday we'll laugh our heads off all over again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Fence update

THIS IS QUITE trivial, given yesterday was a dark day and we learned our friend Frank Haxel passed away. I'll have more thoughts about Frank later in the week after the initial shock wears off. If it wears off.

The new gate.
Sheryl spent most of Monday fixing the gate and part of the back fence. There was a lot of unscrewing, hammers pounding and the sound of wood clattering to the ground. I helped with my usual staying out of the way, holding up planks of wood as she screwed them in, and by getting dinner after a very long day for Sheryl. She spent most of the night laying on the heating pad, and it will be even worse tomorrow.

"It's not like I haven't done this already," she said. True. She's pretty much rebuilt the entire fence after the big storm in 2015. I still remember my dad being here a long time ago and us struggling to get the taller west side fence up, and it wasn't fun.

Anyway, the new gate and repaired fence look really good and it actually shuts better. We also made the north end fence taller, to discourage any dirtball fence-jumping. Sheryl's advice is to not get your sweatpants caught in it.

We also got a great tip about the person who ran through the yard. A little digging and we came up with a name and address, and we'll let the police handle it from there. Really there isn't much to it - it's probably going to cost us less than $100 in material, but Sheryl did spend all dang day on it, so you can't really put a price on the time.

It would be worth it for the officer to show up, tell the dirtball he's on video, have the dirtball deny it, and have the officer say, "I noticed your hands are all scrapped up and you have bruises on your arms and legs. How did you get those - crashing over a fence?" Just knowing the dirtball knows we know might be as good as it gets.

We have a new gate, and future gate-crashing is strictly forbidden.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Jump higher next time

WE HAD A blast as usual last night with the HartLyss Facebook live stream. Cori and I love playing songs we don't know, or at least played together. One of them train-wrecked last night, but the point is to keep plugging away and keep it different and fresh. We are getting tons of views and we very much appreciate all the Venmo love, too.

When Sheryl and I got home about 9, we found our back gate smashed and off the hinges. We checked our Ring footage, and sure enough, some POS is seen running through our backyard about 6:30 p.m. and crashing into the fence. This photo is small and blurry, but he's stocky, black hair, has a tattoo sleeve on his right arm, a black shirt and blue sweatpants, and white and orange tennis shoes.

Too bad we weren't home and the dogs weren't in the backyard. Genie would have taken him by the hand to gently escort him across the yard, and Angus woulda scared the shit out of him with his piercing bark. Malcolm would have done Crazy 8s around the dude and trapped him in our garden.

The gate is pretty much ruined, completely off the hinges. We will figure out how much it will cost, but it's more about the stupidity of humans in general and frustration.

We talked about it for a while and then I called the Quincy Police to report the incident. Look - we have way more serious crimes and stuff going on right now, and I don't want to take up the valuable time of an officer during a very difficult time. But we figured it couldn't hurt, and who knows? The officer who took my report over the phone was very thorough (normally he'd come to the house, but not these days).

The fine officers of QPD won't necessarily say this out loud, so I'll say it for them - they spend 95 percent of their time dealing with the same 5 percent of the idiots out there. Don't argue with me about this or I'll make you fix my fence. Anyway, there's a small chance QPD might recognize the gate-crasher. We would like to, uh, have a polite chat with him. Ahem.

Fortunately, we've had few and far between issues in our Calftown hood. We still love living here. We won't let a gate crasher change our mind.

Six hours later and one trip to Lowe's, Sheryl has the back fence and back gate fully repaired. The gate now closes better than it ever did before, thank you gate crasher!

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.