Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Help for Mara

FOR THOSE OF you who think COVID is a hoax, that it will go away after the election, that we have rounded the corner and are containing this virus, that we should just live our lives and all get it since it's out there anyway, I have two suggestions.

The first is anatomically impossible and there are kids who read this blog so I won't say it out loud. The second is to go over to Blessing Hospital and see if you can hang out with the Clingingsmith family. 

Actually, you can't.

Mara Clingingsmith of Quincy is fighting for her life in ICU as we speak. She's been on a ventilator for more than two weeks and her husband can't be in the room with her - he has to look at her through a window. Her kids have to wait in the parking lot. Blessing is locked down because of COVID and rightfully so. Five members of Mara's family have COVID, including her daughter who was 33 weeks pregnant. She was airlifted to Springfield and had her baby by C-section. 

A Go Fund Me page has been set up for Mara and her family and has more of her story. Mara is head of the Better Business Bureau in Quincy and a lot of people know her. She was making masks when she was stricken and now it's our turn to help her and her family.

"So what? It only hits people with underlying conditions. You get a headache maybe. Quit interfering with my freedoms!" say the ignorant masses. "This is no big deal."

Sorry to burst your bubble, Web Warriors, but it's far more serious. It's killing people. Today the Adams County Health Department announced a staggering 84 new cases (this is a daily count) and there was another death and we are up to 22 that have died. Adams County has at 13.5 percent positivity rate. Our region is climbing above 8 percent and is in danger of having restrictions imposed again. One of the parochial schools closed because several teachers tested positive for COVID. 

I think people are tired of hearing about it and are letting their guards down. With Thanksgiving and Christmas looming, it looks like a long winter ahead.

Be a decent person and wear a mask. Be a better person and help out Mara and her family.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Different Season

THINGS ARE LOOKING very different as we head into the Christmas season 2020. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on small businesses like ours, and Second String Music normally does very well in the days leading to Dec. 25.

This year, we ask you to support your local businesses as much as possible. Instead of heading to St. Louis or Springfield to do your shopping, give your Quincy businesses a chance. You might be surprised at what you find in terms of price and service.

One of the main things to change with us is special orders. Things are just not as readily available as they used to be - we have very patient customers waiting for items as we speak.  Special order waits can be as long as six months right now. That is hard to deal with even in normal years. We are juggling having as much nice stuff in stock versus what we can afford to buy and put on the floor. 

There will be no store party this year, and that's leaving a huge hole in our hearts. Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving we've hosted a gathering at Fifth and Maine. But not this year. COVID will still be a major problem and a crowed party isn't possible.

There will be no tree lighting ceremony in Washington Park, but the lights are still going up and The District is looking for volunteers Nov. 7. Click here if you can help.

Don't let this pandemic get in the way of the spirit of Christmas. Support small and local businesses. Wear a mask in their stores so they can stay open. Be of good cheer and hope for better times to come soon. And take time to reflect and appreciate what we have, and what is to come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Farewell Tony Lewis

JUST WHEN YOU think 2020 can't get worse, you learn one of your early musical heroes has passed away.

Eddie Van Halen was a punch to the gut. The news this week of Tony Lewis passing away at age 62 won't have the same impact to most, but it's knocked me down and I'm having trouble getting back up.

Tony Lewis was the lead singer and bass player in The Outfield, an English band who released the epic Play Deep album in the mid 1980s. I may have listened to Play Deep every single day of my senior year at Central Michigan University, and that's not an understatement.

Most people know The Outfield for "Your Love" and "Everytime You Cry." But the entire album rocked and didn't have one bad song. Every now and then I'll get out the Outfield's greatest hits and remember, but this morning I'm actually cranking out Play Deep and going back in time.

Some of my more musically-inclined friends made fun of my love for the Outfield. It's OK. It's not even a guilty pleasure. I just like their songs and the guitar tones and Tony Lewis' voice. 

Good lord - "61 Seconds," "Mystery Man" and "Say It Isn't So" are pop rock masterpieces. It's literally been 30 plus years since I've listened to Play Deep front to back and it's still a beautiful thing.

John Spinks, the guitar player, died six years ago. Now Tony Lewis is gone, "unexpectedly" according to his website. And another part of my younger self is gone, too. 

At least I can still listen and go back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Two long weeks

 I HATE ELECTIONS. They turn sane people into morons. They turn people against each other. Blind ideology replaces common sense. It's two weeks until Election Day, 14 long days, and I can't wait for it to be over.

I made the mistake of accidentally watching one minute of a local TV station's newscast last night. It had a nationally syndicated report about reporter fraud. It was among the most one-sided and stomach-turning propaganda pieces I've ever seen. I quickly turned the TV off. I will never, repeat, NEVER, watch that station's newscast again, and I won't click on their website either, even though it's a source for local news. Pathetic. I have friends who work there and it's sad.

Look. I don't care if you are an R or a D. I am neither. I vote for the best candidate, regardless of party. I've already voted. If you want to know who I voted for, come talk to me. But only if you are a registered voter, and only if you want to discuss reasonably. Lies and propaganda aren't allowed.

People on both sides are so worried about what the other is doing. This party is stealing signs, this party is signing up dead people to vote, this party is violating election rules, blah blah blah blah. This party has a sign up on a church property, or has put a billboard up and is causing traffic crashes, or has a huge banner flying on Broadway.

Who cares? If a big sign is going to sway you one way or the other, you got much bigger problems.

Instead of obsessing about the other guy, focus on the issues. Contribute to your candidate's campaign. Encourage people to register to vote. And, of course, get out there and vote. Every vote does count no matter how often you are told it doesn't. REALLY.

And when this bleeping thing is over, it's over. We have always survived a 4 year presidential term and we will continue to survive presidential terms. We move on, work harder and pray for our country to be better. No ranting and raving allowed after November 4th, it won't end well if I have to hear it, promise, because I'm already tired of all the bullshit and I want it to be over.

Two weeks? Ugh. I want it done now.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ruxlows give firefighters love

MY 16 YEARS at The Herald-Whig are mostly a blur now. I walked past Fifth and Jersey last night and saw the lights on the third floor and thought, "Geesh. Did I really quit more than eight years ago?" You blink and it's just a fading memory.

Every now and then you hear or see something, maybe an anniversary of an event, and it triggers memories. Since I wrote about crime and courts, not all memories are pleasant. But most are, including this one prompted by this Facebook video from the Ruxlow family to the Quincy Fire Department Engine No. 5 staff.

Almost 10 years ago, little Kendalyn Ruxlow was run over by a vehicle on the family driveway. What happened next was due to quick response from Quincy fire, ambulance and police crews. She was whisked away by ambulance and some say it's a miracle she lived or didn't have more serious injuries.

When it first happened we had a very short story in the paper. But I was curious and I kept hearing more about it. I wondered, what do the parents think? What actually happened? I managed to track them down, and at first they didn't want to talk. 

For some reason, they finally relented and I met them at the old TGIF restaurant. I recall little about the interview or the story itself, and unfortunately you can't access the Whig archives and find my columns unless you subscribe.

They were very nervous at the time and I couldn't blame them. I assured them it would be fine. Turns out it was a very good column, solely because of the subject matter.

I've run into the Ruxlows a few times since and they have always been gracious and thankful for the column, and for getting through the entire experience. I actually said hello to Kendalyn a few months ago in the store, and it's hard to believe that was 10 years ago.

The Ruxlows presented a beautiful plaque for the Engine No. 5 firehouse. It expresses their gratitude to the fast response and quick thinking of the firefighters and first responders who were there moments after the call. 

As Kai Ruxlow, the father, says in the video, it was the worst of days but it turned out to be one of the best. We've all blinked and it is 10 years later. What a great gesture from the Ruxlows, and well-deserved for Engine No. 5.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Last Outdoor Show

CORI AND I (HartLyss) play our final outdoor show of the year this Saturday at Tipsy Bricks in Hannibal. We've done three shows there this summer and we always have a blast with our Hannibal crew. Lisa, the bar owner, is very good to us and we always look forward to crossing the river and hanging out by the levee. Bricks has a very nice wraparound porch so there's room to stretch and stay socially distant. The weather forecast keeps getting better and it may cool down a bit at night, but not enough to keep us from hooting and hollering.

Soon fall will roll into winter, and venues and bands are faced with some tough choices. We are seeing more Quincy places open up for live music, and I have tentatively booked a few shows starting next month for indoor venues. But the news this week concerning the spread of COVID-19 in our area isn't good - the positivity rate in Adams County is at 10 percent and Marion County (Hannibal, Palmyra) is at a staggering 15 percent right now, so no way are we playing indoors for the next few weeks.

I am not afraid of COVID-19. I just don't want to get it. So much is unknown about the virus and I'd rather not find out in person how it may or may not mess with me. Both Sheryl and I have said this a million times already but Sheryl has Type 1 Diabetes and has no wiggle room here - if she gets it she will get very sick and that means I'm in charge at the store, which means there is no store. If she has to stay home, there can't be guitar lessons. It's a domino effect that hurts all of us, and could kill her.

Second String Music requires masks and if I do go out (grocery store, etc.) I always wear a mask. I am doing in person guitar lessons but we are 6-8 feet apart and I will wear a mask during lessons if the students feels more comfortable. So we limit exposure as much as possible while still keeping the business open. We feel relatively safe. 

Who knows? In another month things may be better and we may try to play an indoor show or two. But we won't take unnecessary risks and we urge everybody to be safe.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Small Business during a global pandemic

WE AREN'T SURE everyone know this but there is a global pandemic of COVID-19 circling the planet. It has contributed to the deaths of 211,000 people in the United States of America alone. The worldwide death toll is staggering. It is hard to comprehend that there are people that do not care about people dying from this virus. 

News flash - we care deeply that people are dying unnecessarily and we require that if you come into Second String Music, you wear a mask and socially distance. 

There are no exceptions. I'm sorry if that bothers you. Yes, Sheryl is a mean old bitch for requiring you to wear a mask before coming anywhere near her. Yes, Sheryl will ask you as politely as possible to stop in your tracks and make sure you have your mask on your face properly. She will even remind you to pop it up over your nose if it happens to slip down. We agree with you. It is annoying.

In our store you must wear a mask. You have other options for your musical needs and we are perfectly fine with that. Shop online if you refuse to wear a mask. Shop in the pawn shops over in Missouri if you refuse to wear a mask. We are done trying to make you understand how important this is to us.

Small business has always had its customer service challenges. Anyone that has worked retail can tell you some horror stories. In the year of COVID-19 those horror stories have taken a turn and become nightmares. Stop making us have to defend this decision and try to embrace this mask wearing phenomenon. I look a lot better in mine because it covers up most of my face. Sheryl like to say her nose looks great when she wears a mask.

Think for one moment how many people a small retail store are potentially exposed to in just one day. Then consider the owner has a condition that makes them more likely to die from this virus if they contract it. We are open, we are trying to be polite, and we support your town and musicians no matter how bad an attitude you may have about wearing a piece of cloth over your nose and mouth.

We believe in science. We care that none of our employees or customers contract the virus. If you can't care even a little about others, do not bring that to our store.

Mask up. Be safe. Have compassion and understanding for your fellow human beings. And let's hope we can all get through this to tell about it. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Eddie was an alien

 SHERYL ASKED IF the rest of this week and next would be "Van Halen Week" in guitar lessons.

Yes, and no. But, Yes.

First of all, there was only one Eddie Van Halen. When put into context, his playing on Van Halen  revolutionized rock and roll. There were tons of shredders after him, and plenty of copy cats, but there was only one Van Halen.

I can't do what Eddie Van Halen did on the guitar. I can't even come close. So I don't even try. I can show guitar students how to do tapping on the fretboard, and explain how Van Halen made the noises he did, but to replicate it would be silly.

Yesterday afternoon I had a couple of younger students simply listen to "Eruption." The noises coming out of that guitar still sound other-worldly 42 years later. The expressions on their faces were priceless. So yes, there will be listening and appreciation, but not much copying what he did.

RIP, Eddie. More than your blazing riffs and frenetic solos, I'll remember you for amazing songs and a love of the guitar. Rock lost a giant yesterday and nobody, nobody, will ever be like him. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Quincy violin maker

SHERYL GOT AN email this morning via the store from a person in South Africa. They have an old violin and written on a label inside the F hole is the name J.A. Carpenter, 1526 N 8th, Quincy, Illinois. A violin maker in Quincy?

Sheryl likes doing research, so she looked up Carpenter and Violin on the Quincy Public Library's historical archive newspaper site. Turns out there was indeed a James Carpenter who made violins in Quincy. It's quite the story.

J.A. Carpenter moved to Quincy in 1912. Sheryl found an article about him in 1913, he was accused of passing off a fake $10 bill to buy something. Apparently he sold a violin and got an altered $1 bill, and he vehemently protested his guilt despite the evidence. He was referred to as a "strolling musician" and was the brother of William Carpenter, who was a "well-known police character." He swore that he had received the fake bill from someone buying one of his violins and was just trying to get rid of it so he could recoup his money from the violin sale.

In 1960, the newspaper did a story about Carpenter. He lived at the Illinois Veterans Home and he still had a work shop at 1526 N. Eighth, near the veterans home (it appears to be a vacant lot now). In that small workshop Carpenter made violins, selling a few to children and then a limited number all over the country. 

The article implied he didn't make much money, and it took him three months to make one of his better violins. The paper describes them as exquisitely carved out of different kinds of  woods. Carpenter said his better violins sold for between $500 and $1000. 

"Some day the work of the frail, bespectacled Quincyan may be hailed as ranking with the great master violin makers of past centuries abroad," the paper stated.  

The person in South Africa was grateful for the information. How the violin traveled across the world is probably another great story. Sheryl was glad to help them find out more about their instrument, and now we know more about a musician from yesteryear in Quincy.