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!