Thursday, January 28, 2021

Old snow days

WE HAD ABOUT an inch of snow yesterday. I did have one guitar student from Missouri reschedule a lesson and I don't blame him - the roads were slippery and he just felt safer staying at home. 

But. It was an INCH of snow. As usual, we had the usual Winter Weather Death Is Coming Advisories and people were slipping and sliding all over the place. If you want the best unintentional comedy ever, click on the local media pages and try not laugh. At least there were photo opportunities. Right.

One story was about how Blessing Hospital was ready in case of a big traffic accident. There was two massive pileups in Missouri because of the weather the past few days. There were no problems with massive casualties or too many people coming to the hospital at the same time. But there could have been. And we need to get somebody from some health place to look serious and say in case it happens, they'd be ready. They probably should have commented about Quincy City Council approving stop signs instead of yield signs at a few intersections, too. 

Yeesh. I do remember we had a big blizzard maybe 10 years ago and I tried ducking when coming into the Whig newsroom because we did stories for at least a week. I get it. But I grew up in places where summer was just two lousy weeks of ice fishing. So I still scoff.

My father and I were reminiscing about the huge blizzards of yesteryear. In January of 1979 there was a record storm still talked about which buried a massive part of the U.S. Midwest and Ontario in snow. My father called somebody to plow our driveway, but all the guy did was pile up the snow in front of the garage door. It took my brothers and me two days to dig it out.

We visited Emily in Rochester, N.Y., a few years ago. We got there on a Friday and it was snowing. We left three days later and it was STILL snowing. We couldn't get to our hotel one night because they had closed off the street so trucks could get the snow off the side of the road and sidewalks. "Happens all the time," Emily said with a shrug.

You get used to it, I guess. The older I get, the more I get used to the idea of living in my brother's basement in Phoenix during the winter. He doesn't have a basement. But we'd make it work.

This morning it was 11 degrees and sunny with no wind. The dogs had a great run and it was bearable and even beautiful, the cemetery covered in snow and the sun glinting off ice-glazed monuments.

In a few months we'll start bitching about how hot it is around here all the time. So it all works out.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Hurry Up, Vaccine

HURRY UP, VACCINE. Get here. Now. I am tired of not playing shows, wearing a mask all the time, social distancing, constantly keeping my guard up because of the COVID-19 virus. I want normalcy. NOW. So hurry up. Please.

There are priorities. I want Sheryl to get it, and soon. She is a Type 1 diabetic and if she gets the virus, there is likely no more Second String Music because of her immune system, or lack thereof. She was thinking about getting the vaccine now because she is still a substitute teacher. "I'll wait. I want the actual teachers to get it first. I'll get it when 1c is ready," she said.

I don't know when the rest of us mere mortals who are healthy will get it. Today we hear Johnson & Johnson is close to getting a vaccine out. And it's just one shot, not two. We'll see. I'll hurry up and wait.

Mainly, I want to play music again in front of people. Cori Powell-Green and I (HartLyss) are going crazy from waiting. I got several calls the past few weeks wondering when we'll be ready. Well, we are ready. But we are waiting until its safe. Cori and I have both had Covid. It's not fun. Don't get it. It does mean we have anti-bodies, but it doesn't mean we can't get it again, and spread it. 

The second we can make arrangements to play, we will. 

The Cheeseburgers are on hiatus, for now. Until it is safe to potentially practice, there is no news to report. Would it be awesome to play outside this summer? Yes. But we'll hurry up and wait.

Actually, I'm going to form a new band and call it "Hurry Up And Wait." Our hit songs will be "Operation Warp What?" and "Stick A Damn Needle In Me NOW." They will both be huge, but we won't make any money because we can't tour. 

Patience, friends. I'm tired of the word. But it's our reality. We are beginning to see light. Sooner than later, we'll be back to rocking and rolling and being social again. 

Just get here now, vaccine!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Family photos

NOT LONG AGO we had an extended Hart Family Zoom. Many of my father's family still live in Canada, most in the Toronto and Ottawa areas. 

Rodney is not sure about his new baby sister .....
My cousin, Klaas Hart, said he was going through some old boxes when he found a bunch of photos. They were presumably taken by his father, Henk, my uncle. They were taken mostly in Nova Scotia and Montreal, so they dated from the 1960s when Henk visited his brother Dirk and his young family.

There were also a few of my grandfather and grandmother, and of their family. Priceless.

One of the photos (shown below) particularly caught my eye. It appears to be of our brother, Greg, who passed away in 2002. He was adopted around 1969/70 when we lived in Nova Scotia. It's the earliest known photo we have of him, I think.

It's fun going back in time and I'm glad Klaas found the photos and sent them to me. They'll be kept safe and remembered as important parts of the Hart family history.

Gregory Klaas Hart, May 1970.




Thursday, January 14, 2021

Itching to play

THE COVID VACCINES can't get here fast enough. Hopefully we keep moving in the right direction with a new administration, but who knows? Trust in the government isn't exactly at an all-time high right now.

I am going stir crazy not being able to play live shows with Cori, The Cheeseburgers, Pepper Spray and whoever else is around. I miss going to The Club to jam with the Matt Roberts Blues Band. I know they are still playing, but I can't re-expose myself to covid until I am vaccinated.

The Cheeseburgers are on hiatus. I am ever hopeful we will get back out there when things improve, but we are in a wait and see mode. There is a lot more involved with a band than a duo or solo performer, so it's frustrating on both ends - we want to play, and venues want to book us, but there's so much unknown and it's hard to make plans.

I don't play music for the money, but it is a part of my general income and guitar strings don't grow on trees. 


In Missouri, where they "don't have Covid," a lot of venues are still open and having live music. No thanks. It's not helping to slow the spread and I've already had it, and don't want to get it again.

Restaurants and bars are going to open again Friday in Illinois, but it's still a wait and see thing with us. Sheryl and I prefer to order and pick it up so we can still support our restaurants.

The last few times I went to Hy-Vee nobody was without a mask. Nobody. And it was busy, too. It's encouraging and I think people are taking it seriously. At some point, hopefully sooner than later, Cori and I may brave it and think about playing an indoor gig.

Sooner. Not later. Fingers crossed, and we hope to see you soon at a live music gig!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Phone manners matter

ONE OF THE many things we've lost as humans are phone manners. Our phone rings a lot in Second String Music and we make every effort to answer it.

Remember rotary phones? No? Well, you aren't RFO (really old) like me. They had an earpiece on one end and a speaker on the other. You held it up to your ear and mouth. Now we have these tiny little cell phones where the speaker and the ears are the same thing. You just generally talk into it. Plus you can place a call from anywhere, while doing anything, and being distracted by everything. I have enough trouble strumming with one hand and fretting with the other. Doing too much while talking is not a good thing.

Sheryl thinks people are used to texting and emails and have lost the art of talking on the phone and having real conversations. Knowing what you want to say and speaking in a manner that helps the person on the other end of the phone know are skills that need to be learned by all.

When you call a business, please keep the following things in mind.

1. It Might Be Busy: Usually when people call they have one or two things they need to check, and that's fine. But remember, we are a small retail business and have people in our store. Please don't try to engage us in long winded conversations on your thoughts of the expanding universe. I don't mind chit chatting about musical instruments, but if it's busy, we appreciate keeping the conversations short and about musical instruments. 

2. We Can't Hear You: Please hold the phone up to your mouth. Please do NOT use speakerphone unless you have no other choice. Please don't yell into the phone, or have another conversation with another person, or forget why you called in the first place. Believe me. It happens.

3. Do You Have ...? Sometimes we have it. Some things we don't. If we don't have left-handed pan flutes, please don't get mad and leave a nasty review. No, we don't carry karaoke equipment or needles for record players. We don't mind referring you to someone that might have what you need but this is a small town and sometimes the answer really is St. Louis, or the internet.

4. Bring It In: If you have a guitar or amplifier that doesn't work we repair those. Well, most of those. If it is the free amp that came in your guitar pack, we can replace the fuse but otherwise they aren't repairable. Old tube amplifiers, bad pots in your guitar, replace the output jack? YEP, we do that. We also restring and intonation for guitars of all kinds, including Floyd Rose tremolos. Please remember to wear a mask.

5. Your Name Is .... We love our customers. There are a lot of them. We know most of them. But if you call us, don't hesitate to identify yourself. I'm horrible at remembering names and screw them up all the time. It's nice to hear from you, especially when we know it's you!

Second String Music's phone number is (217) 223-8008. Give us a call or come by the store.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

13 days

 I WAS HORRIFIED at what happened Wednesday in Washington, D.C. I had a lot of guitar lessons in the afternoon and after a while I stopped looking at news updates. It was too much, too pathetic, a bunch of losers living in delusional paranonia.

I don't have the time.

But I got caught up and I looked at several sources from both points of view. And I got angrier and angrier. I learned a long time ago not to react right away when you see bullshit or see somebody intentionally trying to drag you down. You'll say or write something you regret and it doesn't do any good.

But to remain silent is to remain complicit. Domestic terrorism is real and yesterday it was a reality we could not ignore. Patriots do not storm the capital and try to force their representatives into not supporting our Constitution.

We tend to live in the bubble in Quincy. So let me ask you a very clear and very direct question, with only one very simple answer.

If an angry mob gathered in Quincy outside City Hall, stormed inside, confronted law enforcement, and a person was shot and others injured, what would you think? Would you blame the people that were at home?

I'm stopping now before anger takes over rational, and I write something I can't take back. 

BTW, the response from two of the mayoral race candidates last night was well done and appreciated. 

In 13 days Joe Biden will be sworn in as the new President of the United States. He has a big job to do uniting this country, healing our hearts and mourning those dead from COVID. Reality is not scary, it is necessary. The real work begins now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Colt Clark and his kids!

EVERY MORNING I get up, stumble around and make coffee, and click on a few websites to start the day. Yes, it's important to be up on current events. But it's depressing, too.

Thankfully we have Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids to make everything better. Colt lives in Florida and is a veteran music performer. When the country was impacted by Covid, he decided to make videos of him playing with his three young children. 

If there is a better version of Baba O'Reilly out there, please let me know. 

The best part is his little daughter dancing around and the sheer joy and goofiness of playing music with her big brothers and her dad. To the boys, of course, it's serious business playing music with dad, who often has to suppress a laugh or two during the videos. It takes a fair amount of practice to get the songs down and I bet they have just as much fun learning the songs as doing the videos. 

Take a second and listen to at least one song by Colt and his family every morning, and I guarantee it will make your day better!

Monday, January 4, 2021

First Kill

IT STARTED RAINING ice about 3 a.m. New Year's Day. By mid-morning the Calftown Hart House backyard was a sheet of ice. The dogs didn't really want to go out but Sheryl managed to coax them for a potty and the daily walk was delayed.

RIP, Calftown squirrel.
As soon as the dogs got out they trapped a squirrel and they had their first kill of the new year. Then Sheryl noticed what we think was the mate on the neighbor's roof, chattering mournfully and giving her the squirrel eye. There has been a bird condo up in the eaves of the neighbors house for a few years. The squirrels likely bunk there when the weather gets nasty.

"I almost feel sorry for it," I said.

"I do too. She looks shocked and scared," Sheryl said. "She'll probably have to move in with her mother-in-law." ACK.

Later in the day I was in the backyard trying not to fall and kill myself when I heard more angry chittering from the other side of the fence. There were two squirrels up there staring me down and denouncing the utter savagery of our dogs.

"Well, if your buddy hadn't been so fat, you wouldn't be mourning," I said.

The next day we went on our usual cemetery walk and observed the utter savagery of nature in general. There was a squirrel up ahead on its haunches looking around when a hawk came out of nowhere, snatched up his dinner and flew toward the river. Genie chased after it for a bit but then realized the hawk was probably in no mood to share. Sometimes I wonder if Malcolm, a smaller dog, could be snatched up too, so we are always careful and on the lookout for birds of prey.

Anyway, dogs and nature 2, squirrels 0. Off and running in the new year!