Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Old letters and the impact of writing

CONRAD MESSMER SENT me a message last week. His father, Jacob, had just passed away and Conrad wanted me to know how much a Herald-Whig article I wrote a long time ago meant to his dad, and to him.

The story was about Conrad's massive Star Wars collection. I vaguely remember going to their house and walking into his room and being blown away by all the stuff. It was about 18 years ago. Conrad included an image of the article, and it was pretty obvious this story wrote itself.

I ran into them a few times after the story was published, and I even sold a guitar to Conrad a few years ago. They always reminded me of the story and how cool it was to get some love for the collection. And all these years later, Conrad wanted me to know about the positive impact of a story in a small-town newspaper. And that means a lot.

Last week Sheryl did some cleaning in the back room of Second String Music and found a box of stuff from my days at the Whig. Most of it was thank you cards for stories I did, and to be honest, I don't remember a lot of them. But I must have not screwed them up because they were from happy people. 

It represents a very small percentage of letters compared to stories. To be honest, if I wrote a story or column and nobody said anything, I considered it a success. My last 12 years at the paper I wrote about crime and courts, and I made a lot of people mad, and I learned to ignore it. I got a lot of hate mail but I threw it away most of the time, and quickly forgot about it.

In the box I found some letters from the Missouri Department of Corrections about covering two lethal injections. There was a letter from James Scott from the Missouri DOC agreeing to an in-person interview. From the Adams County Jail was a letter from a man who killed another man in a fight and claimed it was self-defense. He's still in prison today, for other things. I finally tore the letter up and and tossed it in the trash.

I kept the more personable letters and items from stories I remembered. I was an OK writer who tried his best and had his share of mistakes (thank God for editors like Don Crim, who saved my bacon countless times). But it's nice to know the job I did had a positive impact for many people. 

And that's what I choose to remember the most from my days at The Whig.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Look for Light

 STOP. TAKE A deep breath. It's Christmas, and it's chaos, and it can be overwhelming.

December can be dark. Remember, many people are saddened by memories and missing people the most during the most joyous of times. They need Light. We can be Light!

Rest in peace, Gregory Klaas Hart, who passed away 19 years ago today. I prefer to remember you with Light. The last time I saw my mom was about 16 years ago this time of year. She was full of Light and it always came through, even in the darkest of times. There are others who have recently lost loved ones and Christmas only makes it harder.

Last night I sold a beautiful Takamine acoustic guitar to a 14 year old girl who came in with her parents. They took a long time and looked at a lot of guitars. The parents went outside to talk and came back. She was playing the Takamine and falling in love. I said, "I think you are the proud new owner of a Takamine!"

The look on the girl's face was priceless. So was the joy from her parents. Obviously this was a big deal, because the parents were spending good money and encouraging the girl to play and chase musical dreams. 

There was Light coming from their eyes. I turned away so they couldn't seen my eyes watering. 

You don't have to buy expensive Christmas gifts to give Light, either. The gift should really be in the giving, no matter the price.

We need all the Light we can get.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

New Alvarez acoustics are here!

I HAVE A confession to make - I almost kissed our delivery driver this morning.

The truck showed up right as we opened. "Boy, am I glad to see you," I said to the driver.

"I hear that a lot," he said.

Like many businesses, we are feeling the effects of the supply chain issues. Sheryl has worked miracles keeping us stocked and staying patient as we careen toward Christmas. Today, our Alvarez acoustics arrived, and they are spectacular.

The RD 26 comes with a padded gig bag, strap, picks and tuner. It sounds amazing and makes a perfect first guitar for Christmas. The RS 26, which is a little smaller, comes with a gig bag and has a bright tone you have to hear to believe.

These are the guitars that sell very well at Christmas, and we are grateful to have them and get people hooked up for the holidays. We'd love hear you play one or play one for you. Steve Harrington is here this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon to show them off and let you hear them for yourself. 

We are optimistic about a few other deliveries and we'll keep you posted on our store Facebook page. 

Merry Christmas and keep rocking, just like us at Second String Music!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Calftown Cafe is HUGE!

I FINALLY GOT over to the new Calftown Cafe this morning on Eighth Street next to the State Theatre. It is awesome and you really need to check it out.

Calftown Cafe is owned by Caitlin Murray and Brian Stitt. It's one of several buildings at Eighth and State they recently bought and are redeveloping. For years Eighth and State was an OK part of town with State Street Bank, the State Room and LaGondola. But Caitlin and Brian have big plans to make the area a bigger and better part of Calftown, and we couldn't be more excited for them.

Our friend Bill Burns is the manager and the staff is excellent. I had a large coffee and the egg and cheese sandwich was delicious. It's five blocks from where we live and I can see us walking over there for breakfast or lunch or to just hang out, because the atmosphere is inviting and encourages lingering over a cup of coffee.

We need to encourage our small businesses with big ideas and support them. Brian says Caitlin does all the work and runs things, and I said, "We got a lot in common, Brian."

Please check it out when you get a chance. Best of luck to Brian, Caitlin and the staff, and I'll be back for more coffee and sandwiches. Yum!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Playing with the Boss GT-1

 GUITAR PLAYERS ARE creatures of habit, at the same time as being tinkerers. Who doesn't like fooling around with the latest gadgets and pedals? It's easy to get lost in that kind of stuff, depending on what you do and how much you play.

I keep it pretty simple when playing out. For the bands, it's a Boss Katana or Fender Blues Junior amp, and the pedals (mostly Boss) are tuner, delay, overdrive and chorus. I do plug my acoustic into the chorus and sometimes a compression pedal for HartLess shows. 

The other day I went down the YouTube rabbit hole and found this video about the Boss GT-1000. The amazing Nita Strauss, who plays with Alice Cooper among others, doesn't have any amps or a massive pedal rig. She simply plugs her guitar into the GT-1000 and it goes directly into the PA. I was struck while watching how simple she keeps it for her live gigs, though the GT-1000 has all kinds of great Boss tones and things to play with. You have to have good inner ear monitors for this kind of system, but it eliminates the lengthy setup and potential blowups of amps and pedals. She got amazing tone out of it and I'm tempted to order one from Boss as we are dealers, though it's pricey (around $1,000 retail) and it's not yet in stock.

Here's a much more practical idea if you are tempted to try an awesome modeling pedal - the Boss GT-1. It's $215, it's got a bunch of preset tones and it's super easy to use. Steve Herrington and I have been messing around at Second String Music with one and it's so cool - it has a looper, expression pedal, tuner and it can be powered by batteries. It even has a headphone jack (parents of younger players love this). You can put it on the floor and plug it right into the PA and it rocks.

We only have a few in stock and I doubt we'll have any left by the end of Christmas. If we do, I'll probably snatch one up, but I'll wait until January so we can have as many as possible for sale.

I invite you come in and try it out to see and hear for yourself. Keep rocking and working on your tone, and play, play, play!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Store party returns!

 IT'S BEEN A long two years since we've had a Second String Music store party. So it's time - this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ish), we are celebrating our annual Saturday before Thanksgiving gathering.

It will be a little bit stripped down from regular store parties, many of which spiraled delightfully out of control. We will have a jam session, store specials on drum sticks, strings, straps, reeds and rosin, and just generally a good time. 

It will be fun to jam again!

We are still in a pandemic and we are still trying to be as careful as possible. You don't have to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination to come to the store, but we do ask you be as careful as possible. You can wear a mask or not, it's up to you. Sheryl and I have had both the vaccine and the booster shot and we are feeling better about things. 

If you want to jam, bring your instrument and sit in. Most of us are acoustic guitar players who just want to have fun. All skill levels are welcome.

As always, we will honor our friend Pat Cornwell, who passed away an unbelievable 11 years ago. It will feel good to hoot and holler again, and we hope it kicks off a great holiday season at Fifth and Maine. 

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Building sold, business stays

SHERYL AND I are proud to announce we have sold our historic Dodd Building to Andrew Mays and Brian Hendrian of Quincy. We owned it for eight years and did a lot of improvements, but it was time for somebody else to step up and take renovations to the next level.

Second String Music is not, repeat, NOT, moving. We are now leasing the space. We have no plans to move and we'll keep rocking at Fifth and Maine.

We bought the building in 2013, a year after we moved. It was a good investment. It hadn't been occupied or owned by a person who cared for a long, long time. We replaced the second floor roof, got the second floor spaces cleaned up and rented, and also got the 503 Maine space fixed up and rented. There were a lot of HVAC issues to deal with and the million other things an older building requires. We loved owning it. But we are not building renovators and it was time for a new owner.

It was important to sell it to a local entity. Brian and Andrew have big plans, starting with the elevator and putting in a new entrance on the northwest corner. We are sure they will do great things with the space.

It is a little strange to no longer go upstairs whenever we want, but it's actually a huge weight off our shoulders. Now we are off to another great adventure in owning old buildings, and we'll leave it at that for now.

Good luck to the new owners, and we continue to look forward to being your music store in Quincy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

To jam or not to jam

HERE'S SOME FRIENDLY advice about asking to play with the band. Sometimes it's OK. Other times it's not. In the end, it's up to the band.

The Cheeseburgers were playing for a party this summer and an older woman asked if she could get up and sing with us. It was in the afternoon and there weren't a lot of people there. We figured, why not? She sang a song with us and forgot most of the words and the crowd couldn't have cared less. They whooped and hollered and thought it was the greatest thing ever, and we got a huge kick out of it.

Earlier this year Cori and I (HartLess) were playing in a local establishment and an inebriated man attempted to sing with us. He wisely backed down when I towered over him and told him firmly it wasn't a good idea. Had he messed with Cori it would have ended very poorly for him, and I would have just sat back and watched.

You play long enough and you learn the hard way when and where to let things happen. 

If you have friends at your show, it's no big deal to invite them up. Again, it depends on the venue and the circumstances. I like going to see my buddies play and I never have the expectation they will ask me to play with them. Never. Every situation and show is different, but tt's their show and I'm just there to hang out.

On Friday night, I was at Revelry with my buddies Jim Percy, Dave Shaffer and Brad Fletcher. We've formed a jam band called The Second Stringers. We don't play out much, we started by accident and we don't practice, but we've done a few gigs and they've gone well, and we've had great fun.

So we are rocking along and at about 11 p.m. a slew of people start walking in, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing - the legendary Micki Free was in the house! I've known Micki a long time and have always gotten along with him, and I knew he was in town with his band to play for the Prince tribute show at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. I thought his after-party was at another bar in town, but for some reason he changed his mind and headed to Revelry.

A little bit later one of his friends came up and asked if it would be OK if Micki and his bass player and drummer could come up and jam. Of course! Dave handed Micki his Fender Strat, Jim got the drummer set up and Brad graciously let the bass player use his bass. I was standing off the side and jokingly told Micki it was a bucket list item to play with him. "Of course, man. Jam with us!" Micki said.

I lowered my guitar volume and plucked along while they tore it down. Micki is the consummate showman and he soon had the whole bar rocking along. They played for about 20 minutes and couldn't have been more gracious when they got done. I think they had a blast and it was an honor to let them play.

We finally got done at 12:30, an hour later than scheduled, but we wanted to keep playing with such a fun crowd in the house. Of course when we got done a gal said to me, "I have this girl singer here and she's going to come up and sing with you now." Uh, sorry. She wasn't happy. I shrugged and move on. C'est la vie. 

We played the next night again at Revelry and Jim asked if his friend could play drums with us for a few songs. His buddy, Bob, killed it and again it was more fun than you should be allowed to play. 

I love the spontaneity of live music and knowing anything could happen, within reason. Rock on and make sure you continue to support live and local music!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Catching the window breaker

 IN EARLY AUGUST, a massive window on the southwest corner of our Second String Music building was intentionally broken. It was a huge mess, and it was expensive to replace. It was obvious that somebody did it on purpose. The police responded immediately and we think they developed a suspect right away, but nothing happened.

We paid for the window to be replaced and chalked it up, sadly, to the cost of doing business. 

Last week, Quincy Police Officer Katie Dolbeare called Sheryl and gave her good news - she'd caught the suspect, and he confessed to breaking the window because he was angry after confrontation in Washington Park. We believe Officer Dolbeare knew who it was but she really couldn't prove it, but she didn't give up on the case.

She recently visited the suspect in the Adams County Jail, where he was lodged on another charge. Lo and behold, the man confessed to breaking the window, and he will be given a criminal damage to property ticket. 

I'm sure he'll be ordered to pay restitution. Hopefully we find out when he is sentenced, because I'd at least like to be there and look this guy in the face, and impress on him just how much stress and damage he inflicted. We seriously doubt he will ever pay for the window, but that's life.

So thank you, Officer Dolbeare, for your hard work and determination and not giving up on our case. It is appreciated. Our men and women of QPD do amazing things every day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Mary was a great neighbor

OUR NEIGHBOR AND friend Mary Dickerman passed away Saturday morning. She lived at the end of the alley with her husband, Tony, and they were great home owners who cared about Calftown and our little neighborhood. Click here for the death notice. Mary had been sick for a while and was about to enter hospice, so she's in a much better place now.

I will miss talking to Mary about the hood. She worked at Hy-Vee on Harrison and it was always great to see her smile, eat one of her samples and laugh about the chaos of the world. My favorite memory of Tony and Mary is when they'd sit in the backyard playing board games while their chickens clucked and their dog, Stella, kept a watchful eye on everything.

Sheryl loved bringing Mary and Tony stuff from our garden. We are friends with Amanda, their daughter and grand-daughters, Olivia and Emma. Mary passed away early Saturday morning, and Sheryl bought a plant and a card to give to Tony at his new Good Sam Home cottage.

Of course we rolled up right behind Amanda, Ben and Tony like we were stalking them or something! We are sometimes better at sneaking in and out without being caught. Overall, It meant a lot to see them and express how sorry we were to hear about Mary.

I hope the house goes to a caring family and wants to keep things anchored at the end of the alley. It's hard to drive past and not see her or Tony there now. Life, as always, goes on.

Peace to Mary and her family. Things won't be quite the same in Calftown.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Avenue Beat says Goodbye

VERY SAD TO hear the Quincy girls who make up Avenue Beat have decided to call it quits. Sami, Sam and Savana moved to Nashville right out of high school and have made some great music. They have one final album coming out next month and the new song is "Goodbye," and it is bittersweet watching the video.

Ruin That For Me and Delight are perfect pop masterpieces. Throw in the success of the F-2020 last year and you had a trio ready to rock the world. Before Covid, they were scheduled to tour with the likes of Rascal Flatts and other big names. They were this whisper close to "making it," whatever that really means.

Back at the beginning ... Sam, Savana and Sami.
You know what the difference between being a star and just another face in the crowd is? Nothing. The girls have more talent in their pinky fingers than anybody topping the charts these days. Just when they were ready to rule the world, the plug got pulled, and they never really recovered.

Playing and writing music for a living is a grind. "Oh, how cool, you just get to write songs and get up there and play, and it seems like so much fun!" Right. The first line from the song Goodbye says it all, "Goodbye to hometown expectations." Whether they admit it or not, I think the girls felt pressure to "make it" in Nashville. 

The other amazing line in the song Goodbye is "Goodbye to respect in the room." The girls were getting noticed, people were listening, and that's a rare and precious thing. For every amazing gig where people are paying attention, there are 10 where the crowd doesn't care and it's just a social occasion. Avenue Beat was commanding respect.  

It's a strange business. A few years ago Avenue Beat landed a spot opening for this little kid who dressed up as a cowboy and yodeled. I am not making it up. The girls killed it to an OK response and then this boy went out there and people went nuts and thought he was the most amazing thing.

Who knows why bands break up. Band are made up of human beings, and human beings are fickle creatures, to put it mildly. And the bottom line is that it's none of my damned business, or yours. The girls had a great run. They've decided to end it and move on, and that's that.

Or is it? Savana and Sam are still writing and making music. Sami has decided to step away from it and is working outside the business in Nashville, and seems pretty happy. Good for all of them. 

I'm sad they are saying Goodbye. I'm proud they are from Quincy. And kudos to Avenue Beat for rocking and rolling and living the dream. 


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Happy birthday DC

MY BOSS AT The Whig, Don Crim, has a birthday today. He was a great journalist and is a dogged competitor on the golf course, and one of the funniest men I've ever met. I've learned a lot from him and wish I had more time to spend on the golf course with his one-liners and insistence we, uh, stay hydrated.

Today is also the 25th anniversary of my arrival in Quincy. I had worked for seven years in Alpena, Michigan and accepted the job as sports editor at The Herald-Whig. I drove to Grand Rapids on a Friday and had dinner with my mom, then stayed with my longtime friend David Wilkins. My recollection is that we had some other friends over and a poker game broke out, and I distinctly remember getting up early the next morning and David was a little green behind the gills. 

Ah, the old days, when I could drink a few beers and then get up the next morning without many issues. Long gone are those times. At least I left an impression on David. GUH.

Anyway, I made the long drive to Quincy for the first of many times. I rolled into town on Saturday afternoon. The Whig put me up at the Hotel Quincy - my family joined me in Quincy a month or so later. Making matters more interesting was the fact there was a massive kart race going on downtown and I had to sneak through a few barricades to get close.

That night I went to a party on Vermont Street for the former sports editor who was having his 40th birthday party. His name was Don Crim. I met a lot of great people and called it a night. 

So happy birthday, DC. Sorry I missed our get together last Monday. I can't believe it has been 25 years in the Q-Town. I blinked, and it went by. We should both have a beverage or two to celebrate tonight - but we won't do it up like the old days, that's for sure!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Stay out of it, Mayor

THERE WAS AN ordinance introduced at last night's City Council that would give the mayor the authority to appoint the chiefs of police and fire department. Not only that, the chief's term would end when the mayor's term ends. 

Ludicrous, underhanded and reeking of partisanship are descriptions that come to mind when looking at the issue. 

First of all, the chiefs are picked by a three-person commission. These three men, all good citizens of our city, take the applications and carefully go through an exhaustive process. The idea is to let them do their job and to keep favoritism and politics out of the process. And it works.

The commission got it right when they hired Rob Copley chief of police all those years ago. They got it right when they hired Joe Henning as fire chief. But now the commission is being called into question shortly after they picked longtime Quincy Fire Department firefighter Bernie Vahlkamp as the new chief to replace the retiring Henning.

Mayor Mike Troup says the ordinance was introduced because of cost issues and "accountability" after the commission picked Vahlkamp.

Read between the lines here - "cost" has never been an issue before. And "accountability" means somebody got their feelings hurt and threw a fit when their candidate didn't get the fire chief's job. 

Interesting how the ordinance was posted on the agenda on Friday, yet neither chief nor many of the aldermen were contacted about it or told it was coming. Neither were the commissioners. This is a big issue and it caught a lot of people by surprise. Intentional? You decide.

Look. If you are the mayor, or an alderman, or a member of the city administration, you are not supposed to have your buddy or your friend or your guy be the chief of police or fire chief. You are supposed to work with the person in charge, not manipulate or direct them to any certain policy. 

Why change something just because your person didn't get picked? Or are there other issues out there we don't know about? It give the impression that the mayor and his administration are trying a power grab to gain more authority. 

All I can tell you is the three men on the commission - Steve Meckes, Barry Cheyne and Kerry Anders - are good men who have quietly done a good job for many years. Ironically they are selected by the mayor to be on the commission. In fact, the commission was formed in 1972 and has rarely missed the mark when picking a new chief. 

Stay out of their way, mayor. They know what they are doing. It's one less thing you need to worry about.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Bank robbery across the street

THERE WAS A robbery at Mercantile Bank yesterday afternoon. It's right across the street from Second String Music. The man came in, got an undisclosed amount of cash, and took off on a motorized bicycle. This was about 1:15.

A few minutes later we noticed Quincy Police officers standing on the corner, and more officers arriving. They locked down the doors and stood in front of the entrances. They found a guy who saw the robber flee north on Fifth Street. Instantly the Web Warriors started making the usual ignorant comments on one of the social media sites, like "good for him" and "only in Quincy." 

This was the first bank robbery I can remember in a while. There were some horrific robberies when I was at The Whig. Hannibal banks got hit a bunch of times in a row and I'm not sure they caught the bad guys. The notorious Richard"Sincere" Carr, one of the biggest dirtballs to ever float through Quincy, robbed the credit union that used to be near 14th and Maine, right across the street from Quincy Junior High School. They locked down the school and eventually evacuated all the students to the high school. That was one chaotic and messed up day. Thanks, Richard. I'll never forget you or all the other stupid and downright evil stuff you did. And I assume you are still enjoying the hospitality of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

More than two hours after the robbery, Quincy Police officers noticed a man at 18th and Broadway who matched the description of the bank robber. They quickly moved in and apprehended him. QPD says all the money from the robbery has been recovered. So it looks like they got their guy and all is well.

The man's name is Samuel Kenwick. He looks vaguely familiar. But it's hard to say if he's a downtown regular or just a drifter. One thing I learned writing about crime and courts is that there are two sides to every story and often more to the story than meets the eye. But in this case, it's hard not to speculate.

Maybe he needed bigger tires on his motorized Duicycle. He might not quite be all there - police said the suspect was wearing clothing that matched the description of the bank robber. Who would be seen at the busy intersection of 18th and Broadway just a few hours after robbing a bank? Change your clothes, you silly goose! Maybe he was having a cold one at the local tavern, or getting a prescription at the drug store near the corner, or at the gas station scratching off a lottery ticket.

The one thing not to take lightly is the trauma induced on the bank tellers. There was no mention of a weapon being displayed, but we tend to downplay just how terrifying it can be to go through a robbery. There was a really good SSM customer who was in the store just after it happened. He is a therapist. "I probably will get some business from this," he said. And he wasn't joking or being facetious. It's a terrible thing to go through. And with this mask business going on, you can't blame the tellers for being jumpy or wondering just who is going to wander through the doors next.

Anyway, we are glad nobody was hurt, the bad guy was presumably caught, and the money recovered. Just another afternoon at Fifth and Maine!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Sound like SRV? Good luck!

 A YOUNG MAN came into Second String Music Tuesday and started asking questions about tone. We played a couple of the amps we have in stock, like the Fender Mustang modeling amp and the Katana. He is a fairly new player and he couldn't believe what kind of sounds were coming out of the amps.

Then he said, "How can I sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan?"

The short and simple answer is, of course, you can't. Or can you?

It was easy to see what the young man was implying. He loves the blues and he wants a tone like one of his guitar playing heroes. I'm all about that - I love chasing tone and sounds, though I'm not a guitar gear head or amp fanatic. Most of what I do in The Cheeseburgers and other bands is pretty straight forward - get a nice clean tone and then dial in an overdrive sound for rock songs and leads.

There are plenty of players who can mimic Stevie Ray's sound. But nobody sounded or played like him, or ever will. It was the way he approached his tone and style. He used super thick guitar strings and different amps during his day, but he never used a ton of effects or pedals. 

Great guitar players are dime a dozen. The ones who are legendary are the ones who have recognizable tone. As soon as you hear Jimmy Page, Lindsay Buckingham, Angus Young, Eddie Van Halen, Pete Townshend, Eric Johnson, Tom Scholz, The Edge (just some of my favorites), you know it's them. The guitar and the tone is a reflection of their soul and spirit. It's what makes them special.

I often refer to great guitar players as being from other planets. They are wired differently than regular human beings. They also pour thousands of hours into their craft, and have a pure love and discipline to their art. And playing the guitar is an art.

It's great if a students wants to learn an AC/DC song, or figure out how Slash played "Sweet Child of Mine." Yesterday I had a student asking some technical questions about Slash's approach, and then I realized this young man is a way better guitar player than I am, or ever will be. So be it. He's taken off and is heading for a higher ground in guitar adventures, and that's a good thing.

So here's the simple answer to a very hard and complex question. How can you sound like your guitar hero? Put in the time, chase the tone, and keep striving for bigger and better things. 

And, most importantly, be yourself and believe in yourself. Your sound will emerge.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

School band season again

SCHOOLS ARE BACK in session this week, which means it is school band season again at Second String Music. We are partnering with the Music Shoppe for instrument rentals, and we have the books and supplies like reeds, oil, rosin and music stands.

Getting started in band can be a little intimidating. Work with your teachers and listen to your child when it comes time to picking an instrument. Renting is a great option because you pay a little at a time and can return the instrument any time if the child loses interest.

Sheryl spent a very long day last week putting a slew of instruments into inventory, and she's also training myself and our part-time guy, Steve, to correctly fill out the paperwork and make sure the students have the books and stands. 

As COVID Delta variant is still making in person transactions troublesome, Here are a few modifications to make the rental process easier in our store.

1. Please leave your child at home if possible. We realize some parents simply can't do that with younger brothers and sisters around. We are just trying to minimize the number of people in the store at one time, and rental season can get a little crazy around here.

2. If your child is playing a stringed instrument, please measure them at home. Here is the link to a measurement guide for Violin and Viola. Your band teachers can help you with this too.

3. We are not requiring masks in the store, yet. But that could change if infection rates continue to rise. Please be prepared for that possibility.

4. If anyone is even feeling a little sick in your house, please do not come into the store. You can order an instrument directly from The Music Shoppe or go to the Instrument EXPO in August at Baldwin School.

5. Yes, we are sick and tired of COVID-19. Yes, we wish it was over and life was back to our new normal but it isn't yet. Please be considerate of Sheryl's autoimmune disorder and her need to avoid getting this virus. She runs this place and without her the store can't function.

Let's have a great musical school year!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Bill Klingner Trail is impressive

  THIS SUMMER I'VE been getting into riding the bike. It's great exercise and a fun way to explore Quincy.

We tend to live in our own little worlds and are creatures of habit. Riding the bike breaks habits and it's fun to veer off traditional paths and discover the many neighborhoods that make up our fine city.

Until last month, I didn't know about the Bill Klingner trail, and I suspect a lot of Quincyans have yet to check it out. That's OK, because it's world-class and the less people know about it, the better. More room for us, right?

The trail starts at Parker Heights off of Bonansinga Drive. It winds all the way up to 24th street, and if haven't been on it and are just looking for a leisurely pedal, you might want to ease into it and enter from Bob Mays Park on 18th, because it's a steady uphill climb from the bottom road to 24th. There are only two real tough stretches, one when you first enter and another between what would be 8th and 9th streets. Going up, or east, is a great workout, and the reward is going back down without doing much pedaling.

You go over Cedar Creek a bunch of times on bridges, there's tons of green space, and the other day I saw rabbits, squirrels and even a deer wading in Cedar Creek. You pass the tip of the Veterans Home cemetery, go under several massive arched bridges, and while the trail does twist and turn a bit, there are no blind corners or really dangerous spots.

The trail is used and used a lot. Yesterday morning there was a bunch of kids running, probably a club or school team, and it was a bit hard to pass them because they were spread and on the wrong side of the trail. The pavement is wide and clearly marked with a yellow line down the middle. This leads to another point for cyclists, and the ones I've seen on the trail follow this rule - SLOW DOWN. When you are coming up somebody from behind, don't blast past them, especially if they have a leashed dog with them.

The other night I came up on a grandma and grandpa walking with their very young grandson. I could see the little boy was weaving around and very excited about the adventure. So I slowed way down, and sure enough, he jumped right out in front of me. He was in no danger of being hit, and the grandparents were a little embarrassed. I assured them it was fine, and I think a generational family walk like that on a beautiful trail is indeed a beautiful thing!

Also, wear a helmet. I've never been much for wearing one before but I am now, and it's because you can't predict what the other guy is going to do.

I wish there were more ways to access the trail for bikers. Right now Bonansinga Drive is an excellent way to go because the city is tearing up Broadway below the Bayview Bridge. So there isn't much traffic. I have noticed a lot of loud pickup trucks tend to blast down the road, and I mean blast. There is a bike path on either side of the road and it feels safe, but it's still unnerving when a vehicle roars past you at excessive speed.

Bob Mays Park is a great place to park and then go on the trail, but getting to it from the south end of town on bike means going over the Tom Awerkamp bridge by Quincy University's North Campus. Going south means barreling down a steep incline. Coming up the bridge is a huge challenge. Not sure if there's something to make it safer, and I only go down the bridge if it's a little later in the evening.

These are minor issues. Lately I've been going down Bonansinga Drive, up and down the trail, then going back into town up Cedar Street. The another night I managed to get up Cedar to 3rd Street, a very steep incline, and up pulled Cori Powell-Green and family, laughing at my out-of-shapeness. Hey. I'm trying! And the more I do it, the better I feel.

A ton of planning and work went into building the trail, and there are more plans to eventually extend it east from 24th. I'm just grateful for the two miles they've built and it's a stunning testament to the beauty of our parks and trails system.

Check it out for yourself if you haven't been on the trail. I guarantee you'll love it.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Busted window at 5th & Maine

SOMEBODY BROKE A huge plate glass window at our Second String Music store Monday night. I got a call from the alarm company about 8 pm. Sheryl got a call from 911 dispatch to tell her the police needed her at the store. We were there a few minutes later, and so were the police. The glass shattered and traveled at least 20 feet into the store, a huge and gaping hole. The window is right at the corner on the Maine Street side.

The officers (who were excellent, as always) talked to a few of the Washington Park people, but of course nobody heard anything. There were reports of a couple arguing loudly at the corner right before it happened. Who knows? It wouldn't be the first time somebody punched a window in anger. We haven't heard yet about any suspects, and the police are checking with local businesses to see if surveillance cameras picked up anything.

It left Sheryl and I sweeping up glass and wondering who would do such a thing. There's been an uptick in interesting people wearing backpacks wandering aimlessly around the park in the last week. We haven't ticked anybody off in a while or kicked anybody out of the store. Sheryl did make a lady angry last week when she asked her to stop parking in the alley behind the house but that couldn't be who did this.

Sheryl made a few phone calls and tracked down our awesome alderman, Jack Holtschlag. He came right over, looked at the window, then went to his construction company office and found two large pieces of plywood. Sheryl taped the shattered glass still in the window, and a few well placed screws later, Jack had the plywood in place and the building secure. 

There were no blood trail or spatters. I wonder if somebody had a bat or something to smash the window, because it likely would have cut the hand if punched. It takes tremendous force to smash a window that big.

Leo, from Custom Glass & Glazing, will be here today to assess the damage and get the glass replaced. It's not the first time we've had a window shatter, though it is the first time it's been intentionally done. 

I'd go on a rant about the piece of shit who did this, and how we'll post a reward for information leading to a conviction, and how it's a sorry state of the world when a business has to put up with a costly act of  vandalism. But I won't, you know. We'll get it fixed and move on. Such is life and the world of a small business. Thank goodness we have invested in an alarm system with glass breakage detection.

But if you hear anything .... let us know.

Monday, August 2, 2021

MTV in the Rosewood basement

FORTY YEARS AGO Sunday, MTV launched. I would go across the street to my buddy David Wilkins' house and we'd hang out in the basement, transfixed by this new channel that had music videos.

Click here for a list of the first 25 videos played on MTV. No. 1, of course, was Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles. I had no idea The Who's You Better You Bet was the fourth video ever played. And if you look at the list, there are more than a few songs and artists who have long faded into musical oblivion.

I loved sitting in that basement while David clicked the cable channels on this strange box with switches. We'd spend hours in the Rosewood basement hoping to see certain videos, anything by Tom Petty or U2 or The Cars. What I vaguely remember was many videos by one-hit wonders like Tommy Tutone (Jenny Jenny) and Donny Iris (Love Is Like A Rock). 

I'll never forget watching the beginning of the video we thought was Beat It by Michael Jackson. Instead, after Weird Al Yankovic spit out his coffee, we realized it was the hilarious parody called Eat It. Weird Al instantly became our hero.

The other bizarre video we always wanted to come on was Fish Heads by Barnes and Barnes. It was so strange and completely ludicrous, and we watched it time and time again while bellowing the chorus in falsetto. It didn't make any sense and was not supposed to make any sense - Fish Heads don't play the drums or play baseball, you big silly! 

The whole concept of music videos is lost on today's listener and viewer. Back then acts like Madonna and Duran Duran carefully scripted images based on videos, not necessarily musical prowess. You wonder if they'd be nearly as successful today. Michael Jackson shrewdly used music videos to propel himself into superstardom, and even today Beat It and Thriller are fun to watch.

Geesh, it's been 40 years? Sometimes I long for simpler times, like going to David's house to catch the newest video. I mean, what trouble could we get into lounging in the basement watching MTV?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Are you watching the Olympics?

THE OLYMPIC GAMES are going on in Tokyo. Are you watching? Do you care? Are you all wrapped up in the U.S. men's basketball team losing a game? The women's soccer team losing a game? Swimmers and divers and runners and bikers and, well, skateboarders?

I admire any athlete who trains for a lifetime and represents their county. It used to be the Olympics was a purely amateur event. That's when it was interesting. Joe Schmoe, a carpenter from Romania, trains at night and somehow makes his country's Olympic team, then shocks the world by winning his event. 

Now it's 13-year-old skateboarders who are winning gold medals. Geesh.

Olympic Skateboarders

The way the games are viewed has changed. Used to be events taking place in a different time zone meant watching the tape delay and wondering who would win. On Sunday NBC showed the men's basketball team blowing a late lead and losing to France. France? Whatever. The game had been over for 12 hours and everybody knew the result, so why bother watching a painful collapse by a super team full of professionals with bloated salaries and entourages? I watched 30 seconds and went back to my golf nap.

There are a few events worth following. Like Simone Biles and gymnastics. Wait. She had a mental breakdown today, or yesterday, or tomorrow, or whatever time zone Tokyo is on. Well, at least the 24/7 news cycles can show endless stock footage of her on the vault and then bring in a talking head who doubles as a mental health counselor to guess why she actually quit.

Then there's the fact no fans are allowed to watch, and COVID is running rampant, and maybe the games shouldn't have taken place in the first place. Nah. Let 'em play. Who cares if a global pandemic is still raging? The Olympics take our minds off trivial things like living and dying. 

I'll check out the results, and if a big event is on and it's not midnight, maybe I'll watch. Or sneak a few peaks between gigs and golf naps.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Muddy the river online

QUINCY HAS A new online media outlet, the Muddy River News. It's being staffed by former Herald-Whig reporters and editors, and it's bankrolled by a local attorney and banker. 

This is no flash in the pan project. It has serious backing and is going hard after local advertising dollars. It's not a personal grudge outlet like the online Quincy Journal Bob Gough ran with the legendary and late Chip "Tookie" Gerdes in 2008. It didn't last long, but it made traditional media stand up and take notice of the new player in town, the online media. Muddy River has also recognized the power of the podcast, unlike the rest of Quincy media.

Gough started the site and quickly hired former Whig news and sports guy David Adam. Steve Eighinger was hired to write columns for Muddy River, and he has a huge audience in the area thanks to his many years of writing about the Quincy Raceways. 

The latest hire was a major coup - Matt Schuckman, who was a sports write and editor at The Whig for more than 20 years. Muddy River is launching a sports section in August and getting Matt to come aboard is a huge plus. It will be very interesting to see what the section covers geographically and if Matt is going to be a one-man show, a daunting task in a sports-crazed area. 

These guys are good at what they do and they are my friends, so I'm not going to give some overanalyzed dribble about Muddy River going after The Whig and other media outlets. I wish them the best of luck and they appear to be serious about entering the local media fray. 

The site is free, unlike the Whig's online edition, which gives you five free clicks and then puts up a paywall. 

Muddy River has a huge advantage right off the bat because it has little brick and mortar issues. The Whig staff has steadily shrunk and they are still in a big building at the corner of Fifth and Jersey. Muddy River is located in the Maine Center just a block or so away at Sixth and Maine.

I hope both outlets do well. Competition is a good thing, and it might force the new owners of The . Whig to up their game. Or maybe not. I still have friends at The Whig even though I left nine years ago, so I wish them the best too.

I don't read much local media coverage unless it's a big event. Muddy River won't change that. But it is a product of our digital age and shows how much our media consumption and habits have changed, and more power to them for starting a new endeavor.