Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Welcome back Gus!

GUS MACKER IS back in Quincy for one last hurrah in Washington Park. It's one of our favorite events of the year and it's three days of hard work, loads of fun and a great way to show off our downtown. I'm working on the national staff again and this time I'll be hanging around the bracket tent, though I'm sure I'll be out and about and maybe even doing a Dream Court game or two. I bet we can even get Malcolm to run through the tunnel before the start of a DC game!

Let's dispel the biggest rumor right now - this is not necessarily the last Gus Macker in Quincy. The Exchange Club has put it on for 30 years and has decided to step away from organizing the tournament. It's a lot of work and though it's a great fundraiser and the club has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities. But the time has come for them to step away.

I think it will be the last one in downtown Quincy, and likely the last one on Memorial Day Weekend. Maybe. Let's just say we are thinking of new and unique approaches to keeping Gus alive and well in the Q-town.

In the meantime, let's enjoy one last weekend around the square. A reminder to our awesome and loyal Second String Music customers that it will be tough to get to Fifth and Maine on Saturday, so stock up on your musical needs before that if necessary. We will still be open Saturday if you want to also enjoy the basketball scene.

Sheryl and I love Gus and we hope this weekend ends the downtown run on a positive note. Work on your game and I'll see you downtown!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Get Vaccinated!

IF YOU HAVE had the COVID-19 vaccine, you do not have to wear a mask in Second String Music. Some of our customers still wear a mask. Others are relieved they can take it off after entering the store. Sheryl and I have both been vaccinated, but we keep a mask handy and we will wear it out of respect for some customers.

We still get people who come in with blank looks on their faces and act like we are asking them to shoot themselves if they haven't been vaccinated. We will continue to ask you if you have had the vaccine. If we've already asked you, our apologies. It can be hard to track everybody. 

Last week we had a man who refused to wear a mask and got upset when Sheryl said he couldn't come in. "Well, I could lie to you," he said, when asked if he'd been vaccinated.

True. You can lie. You can act like this is just a big silly conspiracy and that masks are useless and COVID  is a plot by the government to chip us and track our movements. Hmmm. Turn your cell phone off if you don't want to be tracked. Then get the vaccine. AND don't try lying to Sheryl. No one wants to try that do they?

COVID-19 is still a thing. Yesterday I lost two guitar students for two weeks because they had a little sister test positive. We are waiting to hear if they are OK. They wear masks and are super careful when they go out. But it's still an issue for them.

Out of respect for employees and fellow shoppers, I'll wear a mask when I go to the grocery store or other business. So I'm being overly safe. No one should care if I'm protecting myself. 

I think the real key is our upcoming summer events like Gus Macker and Blues In The District. If we can get through those without a COVID-19 spike, maybe we really are in the clear. There are people who think we have lifted the mask mandate too early, and that we should still be shut down and not go anywhere. I think we have to get back to living, albeit carefully and with common sense.

If you have had the vaccine and come to Second String Music, it will be great to see your face. If you haven't, please wear a mask. It's not too much to ask that you be careful. We long for the day when COVID is not longer a threat and we don't have to ask you about the vaccine. May it come much sooner than later.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Holy old hockey games!

I RECONNECTED WITH an old friend on Facebook Messenger last night. Ken VanAndel was a fellow Calvin College student in the early 1980s, and we had a lot of crazy times together. I haven't seen him since those days. We were childhood friends in Montreal when we were 7 years old, and he now lives in Toronto.

We probably should have been talking about important things like kids, jobs and why Toronto is still shut down due to COVID-19. The discussion started innocently enough when he said his mother, longtime family friend Vicky VanAndel, wanted to know what my late mother's grandkids used to call her (Mimi).

Kenny V (far right) and me, circa 1974?
Then we decided to remember really important things, like the name of our old Calvin College intramural hockey team. It was Dog Named Blu, named after a former Bruins' coach's dog. We recalled key historical dates like when we lost in overtime in the championship game, and the number of hockey bags it took to bring all the beer into the Calvin dorms when the weekend arrived. 

Then it got really historically significant. We started using many exclamation points when recalling the first hockey game we ever attended. I vaguely remembered it was in the Montreal Forum and it was the Canadiens against the Bruins. Ken got really excited and said it was the first game he ever saw in colour (yes, with a U. Spell it right, Hoser). Ken marveled at the red goal posts and said the game ended in a 3-3 tie.

Look. It doesn't matter that we can't remember kid's birthdays, or when the license plate fee is due, or when we are supposed to go to the family gathering. Go ahead - I challenge you to remember what you got your kids for Christmas two years ago, even last year. See? The really important things are the things we just don't recall, because we are Men and that's the way we are. 

Remembering a hockey game from 50 years ago? Now THAT is important.

Without knowing what the other was doing, we both engaged in painstaking and detailed historical data retrieval, a fancy way of saying Google Is My Friend. And we discovered the game in question took place on Nov. 29, 1972. Guy Lafleur scored a power play goal with five minutes left to tie it. I think my father got the tickets from somebody in his church, First CRC in Dollard Des Ormeaux. 

See? It's the important things that matter. And yes, I was hiding behind the couch in May 1979, barely able to watch the Habs beat the Bruins in game 7 of the semifinals on a goal by Yvon Lambert. Not that who scored when is important or anything.

Anyway, it was great to swap stories and laugh out loud with Ken last night, doing it the old fashioned way over the internet and while watching the crucially important Lightning-Panthers first-round playoff game. Someday when this COVID crap is over I hope to make a Toronto road trip and hook up with my old friend again. I'm sure we'll revive our long-standing argument about who was the better band, Zeppelin or The Who.

Not that I remember arguing about it, of course.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

No sign of signs

A FEW WEEKS ago a guy riding his bicycle opened the Second String Music doors and said, "This is the worst town I've ever seen with signs." Apparently he was from out of town and had a hard time navigating through town.

The guy was rude and obnoxious. I pointed across the street at the street signs that said Fifth and Maine. He looked over and said, "I can't see them."

I could. And I really haven't thought about it. So I just walked away. Hopefully the guy wasn't too lost for too long, at least in Quincy.

But he brought up a good point. In downtown Quincy, we really do have a lack of decent street signage. There are no signs at all at Fifth and Hampshire. On most streets they are tucked away under a street light, not the traffic signal. At Eighth and Maine there's a big sign for both streets, but that's because it's an old state highway.

We have a lot of pressing challenges in Quincy, like potholes and changing the name of the mall. Why should we bother worrying about an outsider's opinion about getting around town?

Because if Quincy wants to be vibrant and attract new people, we need to think outside of our own little worlds. That's why.

On the upside, The District is doing really well. Bower Real Estate (which owned our Second String Music building many years ago) has opened an office on Hampshire by the Washington Theatre, as has a fishing bait business. In Lisa Crocker's old space on Hampshire just east of Fifth a neat shop called Loyd's Gifts & Collectibles has opened. Another real estate business is in the former John Wood Community College building just down the street from us.

There's a consignment shop in the Maine Center where the bridal place used to be. Apparently the old Kirlin's building at Sixth and Maine has been sold and there are plans for offices and potential retail development on the main floor. Across the street at Grown N Gathered, Michelle Wilkerson is partnering with a new organic pantry and remodeling. There are other businesses opening in downtown Quincy. We are bouncing back from a very tough COVID-19 time.

At least all signs are pointing that way.