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.