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.