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!

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.

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.