Wednesday, June 30, 2021

How did you gash your nose?

 I HAVE A NASTY gash on the top of my nose. I'd like to say it's from defending the store against vampires or looters, or holding off overzealous fans at the Q-Fest Street party Saturday night, or being licked to near-death by the dogs.

Nope. It's from walking into a door. In the middle of the night. While going to the bathroom.

Getting old sucks.

At least I didn't look like this.
I went to bed about 2 a.m. after the street party. I think it's because I was sleep-deprived and still in a dream, but I vaguely remember getting up and walking toward the bathoom.

Then, BAM. Head-first. Right into the door. Talk about waking up in a hurry.

I did my business and went back to bed. Then I felt something warm trickling down my nose. I got back up and looked in the mirror.

It wasn't pretty. I gashed it pretty good right at the bridge of the nose. I also had a small mark above my left eye. I cleaned it up and I think I fell back asleep quickly.

I was sore the next morning. It was still pretty raw. But I left it alone, and fortunately it didn't bleed. Sheryl suggested putting a bandage on it, but that would have been admitting I'm really old and that I don't know how to open a door in the middle of the night. 

Then, last night, three nights later, I got up and it was bleeding again. Blechh. So I finally relented and put a bandage on my nose this morning with some ointment. I look like one of the Hansen Brothers from Slap Shot. But one of the things about getting old is that really, it doesn't matter. 

And my glasses aren't slipping off my nose. See? Win win. 

The moral of the story? Always leave your bathroom door open. Especially after defending your music store business against the Zombie Apocalypse. That's the excuse I'm using, for now. I mean, running head-first into a bathroom door just seems so .... lame. 

Or like something an old man would do.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Don't need nothin ... but a good time!

YOU CAN'T ERASE your past. I grew up in the 1980s. It was the best 15 years of my life. So I apologize for nothing. If I start bellowing along to Still Of The Night by White Snake, it's a good thing and embedded in my DNA.

I especially won't apologize for having a good time. And I had one of the best times ever Saturday night at the Q-Fest Street Party in front of Second String Music. St. Louis band Top Gunz, an 80s tribute party band, played in front of 2,000 people on Maine Street between Fifth and Sixth.

It. Was. Glorious.

The Top Gunz guys are excellent musicians and play shout out loud arena rock songs, but far more importantly they understand it's about the party and energy. When they arrived Saturday we immediately hit it off and they were thrilled to have Second String Music as their Green Room and base for the night's festivities.

"Well," said Hollywood Velvet, the bass player, "We are used to getting ready in closets. Like, one at a time."

These are regular dudes with regular jobs and lives, but when the party starts, Blaze Magnum joins Hollywood and Danger Zone and Izzy Rocks and Nas-T and it's on.

Let's just put it this way - I knew it was going to be a good night when I walked into the back room of the store an hour before the show and there were five dudes putting on makeup, dousing wigs with hairspray and slipping on spandex. 

This was by far the best attended street party at Q-Fest, and there were a couple of reasons. First, people are hungry for entertainment coming out of Covid. Second, it was a beautiful night - the initial forecast was for rain but the stars came out and the temps stayed down as the night progressed.

Top Gunz at Fifth and Maine, baby!
We couldn't believe how many people were already in the street half an hour before the show. Nobody shows up early for concerts in Quincy. The crowd kept coming and coming and half an hour in they were pressing up against the stage. And the more the crowd got into it, the more amped up the band got. I'm sure they've played before bigger crowds in bigger settings, but they were genuinely impressed with the reactions to their songs and the whole street vibe. They were sincere when saying it was one of the best Top Gunz gigs ever.

Tim and Laura Smith joined us on the sidewalk for the pre-game festivities, and it was fun guessing the songs with Tim as they started up. I knew every one. Every. Single. One. That's either a damning indictment of my journey to 80s adulthood or the fact I can remember silly and irrelevant things at the drop of a hat, but not important things like birthdays and shopping lists. Hey man, it's "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" by Night Ranger. And who cares if I forgot to get pickles?

Sheryl and I mingled in the crowd from time to time, but we mostly kept to the Fifth and Maine sidewalk to play band host and to keep the store safe. I mean, the Second String Music Green Room is for the band.

It was a long night, and I hung around until after 1 a.m. so the band guys could store their gear overnight in the store while they slept at nearby hotels. Who cares about sleep?  

Props to Chris Cornwell and Trent Vogel for putting in a long day and doing another great job with sound, and the Young Brothers for the lights. Thank you to all the volunteers who took tickets and cleaned up the mountain of empty and half-empty beer cans after the show, and to Q-Fest in general. Our gazebo music was awesome as usual and it was so nice to see the energy and vibe back in Washington Park with the vendors and the crowd.

Sheryl and I loved playing host to the Top Gunz guys and it was more fun than should be allowed. Yeah, I'm still Living On A Prayer and reliving my 80s rock and roll dreams. I have the hoarse voice and two days later still dragging my sorry sleep-deprived butt around - and I love it!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Bike Riding Paradise

 LATELY I'VE BEEN getting out on my Trek bike more. Well, except for last weekend when it was 120 in the shade, but fortunately only 90 percent humidity. Better temps this week mean evening rides, and Quincy is a paradise for casual bikers.

I go up Fifth and Maine and once you get west of 12th, the homes are spectacular. Try walking or biking on Maine instead of riding in the car and you'll get a much better appreciation for the beautiful houses. Maine Street isn't that busy at night, and the summer solstice means you can start a good ride well after 7 p.m.

Head south at 22nd and there are more spectacular homes. I rode past the former Weinberg residence last night and couldn't believe it was the same house - you might remember the guy who lived in there was a hoarder and the property was a mess. Now the landscape has been cleared and the house itself shines. I think I saw a grandfather pushing his grandkids on the swing set in the backyard. It's back! And it's beautiful.

This guy is getting a workout!
If you get to State Street and keep going, the homes turn to more modest bungalows. The vast majority are kept in good shape, and the ones that aren't stick out like sore thumbs. I love the front porches and the families sitting out as the evening air begins to cool. You see more people walking and more kids roaming around on bikes in this neighborhood. The streets are generally in decent shape.

Then it's on past Harrison, and the houses turn into the 1960s and 70s ranch style. Again, almost every house is immaculately kept. You almost never see people out though, as there aren't as many porches. The street is flat and the ride is steady.

Finally I head west when getting to Cherry Lane. This has a huge hill at the end near South Park and you have to be careful zooming down the hill and negotiating the corner. Then it's back up a big hill on South 12th, and it gets to be a workout. But that's a good thing.

Pedaling through Calftown is also interesting. You see far more homes in desperate need of some TLC, and some of the streets are bumpy, to say the least. Again, you have to pay attention because not everybody stops at stop signs. Which is the point, I think. 

Anyway, I always feel good when getting done with the ride and it's a great way to see Quincy. I will often alter the route and take a street like 19th or 17th heading south. Last week I ventured out to Quinsippi Island for the first time in years and it was awesome, though you do have a huge hill to negotiate to get back to Third Street. I ended up walking the bike to the top. Ten years ago? Maybe I make it. Not now and I'm not too proud to say I take my time and tend to soak it more in when I ride.

So see you out and about on warm summer nights, Q-Town. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Schnack family ties to our building

 I WAS SWEEPING the sidewalk in front of our Second String Music building at Fifth and Maine last week when Drew Schnack came walking across the street. I've known Drew for many years, mostly from my time at The Whig when I wrote about crime and courts. Drew is one of the better criminal defense attorneys at town and he was always willing to talk after a big case.

"Hey, can I come in here for a minute?" he said.

Sure. We went inside. He said, "My grandfather was the president of Mercantile Bank when it was in this building. As a matter of  fact, he died in his office. Right. There."

Still here at 505 Maine ....
Drew pointed to the northwest corner of our first floor. It's been altered since Mercantile left in the early 1960s, but you can see where it was a corner office. Turns out Drew's grandfather, Drew Schnack I, died in 1955. Drew's father was Drew Schnack II, and Drew II and Loren Schnack had a law office in our building in one of the upper floors, as well.

"I just remember being in my grandfather's office when I was really young and seeing Washington Park through the window," Drew said. 

Apparently his grandfather died of a stroke in the office. We've had paranormal teams go through the building and people make claims about it, but I've never seen or heard anything really strange or out of the ordinary, although a 125-year-old building does make some pretty strange noises at night.

Drew asked if I've ever seen his grandfather. "He's about 6-1. Looks like me," he joked.

I showed him where the old counter was and took him back to the 503 Maine space, where the first floor safe with the bank name is still located. "There used to be an elevator back here somewhere," Drew said. That's in the 505 Maine entrance, and Drew went back in time when he saw it. "Man, we used to go up and down on that thing when we were kids to my dad's office," he said. "Wow. It's still here."

It is still here. It hasn't worked for decades. We both agreed it would be amazing if we could get it restored, but we just don't have the resources. It was built and installed in 1920 by Hollister-Whitney.

"Why don't they have any interest in getting it fixed up? Drew said. "You'd think they'd be interested."

They aren't. Several Hollister-Whitney employees have seen it, and we even contacted the big wigs over there, but nothing ever came of it.

Drew said he appreciated the visit. I learned yet more interesting information about our historic downtown building. And you know there are a million more stories and pieces of Quincy history just begging to be revealed at Fifth and Maine.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Cops, basketball and memories

OUR GUS MACKER was two weeks ago. It was a good weekend, save for a few knuckleheads. The weather was perfect and Washington Park was alive. It feels good to slowly return to normal, and this was a major step as summer looms.

This was the final Gus Macker organized by the Quincy Exchange Club. I will miss working with those guys on Macker weekend. They've done it for 30 years, so the time was right. We are hopeful somebody else in Quincy will step up and take over the daunting task of putting it on.

I've worked this tournament since 1997. Of all the crazy times and encounters and long hours on Memorial Day weekends, I have one favorite memory. And it happened at the last tournament.

On Saturday night at about 6, games wrapped up for the day. Our Macker national staff assembled by the Lincoln-Douglas monument and prepared to head for staff dinner. I looked down the street and saw four Quincy Police officers standing on the Top Men's sport court. 

We walked down to Fifth and Maine. Lo and behold, the officers were engaged in a spirited game with four young Quincyans. The four officers had worked most of the day at the tournament, and I think they were officially off duty.

And there they were, hooting and hollering with the young people, throwing up bricks and dribbling between their legs. There was a lot of excited chatter and laughing. It looked like a blast.

You can do many things as a police officer to improve community relations. You can go to the schools, you can write a warning instead of issuing a traffic citation, you can defuse a potentially dangerous situation with calm authority. You can be a presence. You can listen. 

But the greatest thing you can do is simply be yourself and interact. And if you think playing basketball with the neighborhood kids on a Gus Macker Saturday night is no big deal, think again. 

We have major issues in this country with our criminal justice system, and with law enforcement. I'm not sweeping any of it under a rug or pretending we don't have issues. But I will say this - I know many of the men and women in the Quincy Police Department, and they are good people. They are human and they aren't perfect. But they go above and beyond to protect and serve.

One of the young people playing is a guitar student of mine. He's a great kid, about 14, and he spends his summer days roaming the south end of town with his buddies. I think he's kind of the leader of his pack. He was definitely the leader of the team playing the police officers.

After the game, the officers sat in the shade and talked with the young people. I think they were there about half an hour. I did not hear the conversation. So I asked my young guitar student the other day what they talked about.

"Nothing, really," he said. "We just talked about .... stuff."

Stuff. I suspect they talked about life. And I suspect the young people will remember playing basketball against the cops for the rest of their lives. And they'll also remember the officers were regular people, just like them.

And that is the best memory you can ever have.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Last visit to family beach

Monday night on Lake Michigan. Glorious!

to a special place earlier this week. After Gus Macker ended Sunday night, I got up early the next morning and headed to the Lake Michigan home of Uncle Peter and Aunt Helen. It's between Saugatuck and Holland near Halfway Creek. They've lived there for 20 years and are moving. They needed to downsize and the magnificent house on top of the wooded sand dune was too much for them, so they bought a condo in Holland and will have a lot less maintenance issues.

In 2005, we scattered my mother's ashes on top of the hill next to the house. We also scattered my brother's ashes on the hill a few years earlier. I got up there one last time (it used to be a lot easier to climb!) and remembered. It is a powerful and holy place. The owners of the property who live next door say I'm welcome anytime to visit and go up the hill, and you never know, but it was likely the last time.

It was cool and cloudy on the beach as we descended the long staircase. Geesh ... that used to be a lot easier to go down and get back up too!  There is a natural ebb and flow to the beach from year to year, and right now there is tons of sugar-cane sand after really high water the past few years. 

I spent more than a few days and nights on the beach. I took three friends from Quincy to this place five or six years ago and I'll never forget the look of astonishment on their faces when seeing it for the first time. 

I helped Uncle Peter move a few things to the condo. He's also bought some property about 10 miles south in Douglas along the Kalamazoo River. He is planning to build a unique house and seawall and make it the next place to gather for his family.

I had another great time hooting and hollering with my cousin Roland, a really good guitar player, and my cousin Natalie's kids, Will and Hannah. Sitting around the campfire and strumming is the best, so much fun. 

I will miss doing it there. But we'll do it again on another Michigan beach or waterfront at another time, promise.

It was a short trip, way to short. Thank you, Roland and Amy Hart and kids, for your hospitality in Zeeland. Now it's back to guitar lessons and jam sessions and summer gigs in the big Q!