Thursday, July 11, 2024

Soccer with an Englishman

 I KNOW A little bit about soccer. I grew up playing it in Canada.I wrote about a lot of soccer games in my 10 years as a sports writer. My daughter played in her younger years and I helped coach her team. Actually I more or less coordinated who brought treats after the games. Who Brought Treats then became a famous Gus Macker team name. But I digress.

Soccer is actually called football in the rest of the world. I know we think the world  revolves around us, but it doesn't. But we are right to call it soccer. Even though it's not the right name.

There are several big soccer, er, football, games on Sunday. One is the finals of the Copa America, which I thought was a Barry Manilow song but is actually a tournament for all the countries on the left side of the world. The bigger tournament is called the Euros and it's in Germany. 

Canada is actually playing for third place in the Copa. Apparently they are playing the Urologists, who got beat the other night in the semifinals. Their players then climbed into the stands and brawled with fans from the other team. Copa! Excitement! I kind of understand it, because I certainly wouldn't want to upset my urologist, especially after the procedure he did on me about a month ago. 

Wait. I'm being told it's Uruguay. Whatever. It still sounds like something connected to the prostate. And if they brawl with fans in the stands, they deserve to be seen by a urologist every day. 

The Euros feature the best teams from, you guessed it, Europe. It is a huge deal over there. I watched a game last weekend and all I could hear was the crowd singing and chanting and banging drums. And it was 0-0, or nil-nil, as my football friends like to say.

England is playing Spain in the Euro finals. I know a guy from England. He works at Blessing's 48th facility. His name is Martin and he's a good guy. He's kind of obsessed with the Euros and his English team being in the finals.

I asked him if he was going to watch the game. Turns out he doesn't have the station that carries the games. 

"Well, we should invite ourselves to Avery's house Sunday. He's a big soccer oops football guy," I said. Avery used to work at 48th and knows the names of all the players on every team.

There was the minor issue of informing Avery's girlfriend Sadie, who also works at 48th and is amazing. I took care of that. "We are coming to your house to watch the game Sunday," I said.

"Oh," she said.

Anyway, we worked it out. Now there might be burgers and beverages involved. See? This soccer ooops football stuff is like the Super Bowl! Only you kick the ball most of the time, not pass it or run with it. And there are no commercials during the actual game. Hmmm. I'm liking this soccer oops football thing more and more.

So we are getting very excited about watching England play Spain and seeing if Martin has a stroke when it goes to penalty kicks. These football fans are really into it, you know.

It could be the greatest afternoon of our lives. If England wins.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Sweating is good

 I SWEAT. A lot. It's gross, I know. But sweat keeps us from overheating and killing ourselves. So it's gotta happen.

We've come off a spate of oppressively hot 90-90 days and nights. A few weeks ago I played three outside shows over the weekend and I went through seven T-shirts, three towels and massive amounts of water. What can you do? Somebody came up to give me a hug at one of the gigs and got a lot of .... me. In sweat. Ugh.

At work we've recently learned lab couriers can wear shorts. It makes a huge difference. Does it keep me from sweating and changing shirts two or three times in 8 1/2 hours? Noooooo! Of course not.

I just keep telling myself I'm "sweating out toxins" and it's good for me. Unfortunately, we don't sweat out toxins. Crap. I wanna believe it so bad.

On Saturday I played golf with some Lab Brats and it was humid. We walked. I was soaked after the first hole. I just focused on chipping for bogey and drinking water. Look at all these toxins I'm getting out! Wrong. I'm just sweating.

Bad golf in humid conditions is exhausting. I went home and took a long shower and had something to eat and I felt a lot better. Then I went over to the friend's house and smoked a very nice stogie and had a beer and more food and fortunately reversed all that sweating out of toxins thing. Wait. We DON'T sweat out toxins. So in the end it didn't matter. I think.

So if you see me at a show or at the golf course, and I look like I'm drenched, well .... I'm just getting it out of my system, toxins or otherwise.


Monday, June 24, 2024

Signs of life at 5th and Maine

 EVERY DAY AT about 4:30 p.m., I cross the Memorial Bridge into Quincy. Most people turn left at Third and head to Broadway. But I hate Broadway. So I go up Maine Street to Eighth or Ninth and then head north. That means I get to see former Second String Music location at Fifth and Maine, and it's bittersweet.

We closed almost two years ago to the day after 10 years at 100 North Fifth. It was a good decision and things have worked out. But I do miss certain things about the store, the building, the corner of Fifth and Maine. Man we had some good times there!

Malcolm liked hanging out in the back.
The space on the main floor was vacant and the music store signs in the windows stayed, but they were taken down a few weeks ago and there's activity inside. There's a logo on the front door and it appears to be some sort of thrift store.

Saturday I played at the MidSummer Arts Faire and I noticed somebody inside, behind the counter. I thought long and hard about checking it out. But there are no open signs or hours posted, so maybe they aren't open and just getting ready. 

And ... maybe I'm not ready to go back in there. 

Best of luck to the new business. It's a great space with a ton of history. Supposedly there's a coffee shop going in the 505 Maine space as well. It's an anchor location and downtown Quincy needs something there.

When the time comes, it will be cool to check it out.


Monday, June 17, 2024

The long and short of work clothes

 SUMMER IN ALL it's hot and sticky glory has descended on the Q. It's 90 90 time - 90-plus temps, 90 percent humidity. It's just the way it is, and we sort of get used to it.

Saturday we had two outdoor shows and I went through at least five shirts and three towels. It's OK. Sunday night I mowed my weeds and it wasn't horrendous, but it's a workout in the heat.

As a lab courier for Blessing, I'm expected to dress respectably. That means collared shirts (most of the time) and dress pants. Sometimes I'll even tuck my shirt in. We are visible so it's understandable.

Last summer I inquired about wearing shorts. We are in and out of air-conditioning all day and I sweat. A lot. I'm gross. It's not unusual for me to run home on my dinner break to change. There's nothing like cooling down by going inside, then getting back in the oven-like vehicle and driving for half an hour with the AC blasting in a futile attempt to keep me from looking like I've had water dumped on my head.

Couriers were under the Diagnostic Center at Blessing. My boss was awesome. But she said no to wearing shorts. Again, it's understandable - you put the Blessing tag on and you gotta represent. 

Last October we were switched to working for Purchasing. The new boss is a great guy and I like working for him. On Friday I was in Hannibal and the purchasing people said, "Lab couriers can wear shorts now. You didn't know that?"

Apparently we can. My boss is out of town this week on a well-deserved vacation so I can't ask him directly. But somebody said something to somebody who said the boss said it was OK to wear shorts when it was really hot. They can't be ratty and you still gotta tuck your shirt in, blah blah blah. 

So. Do I wait until he gets back, beg for permission to wear shorts and hope he says yes?


Yesterday I went clothes shopping (ugh) and bought three pairs of nice shorts. And a couple of shirts with buttons. Yes, they were on sale. Yes, they are respectable. Yes, it will help me stay cooler and it won't keep me from sweating, but it will help.

So get ready for knobby knees and shorts that hit the knee for most humans, but are above the knee for a 5-foot-19 lab courier who wants to look his best. That's the long and short of it. 

I might tuck my shirt in, too.


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

That long ago?

LATER THIS SUMMER I'm going on a week-long Michigan adventure because my youngest sister's son is getting married. Charys lives in Colorado now. Her family has rented an Air BnB in Grand Rapids for the week. I'm going to hang out with them.

It's about a block from the corner of Burton and Eastern. And that's where the memories, however fuzzy, really kick in.

In the summer of 1985, I lived in a house at 830 Burton in Grand Rapids. I had at least one roommate, Bill Oostendorp. Was there somebody else in there with us? We had friends renting the house but they weren't moving in until late summer to attend Calvin College. 

I was working at a restaurant as a cook. It was called Mountain Jacks, and the job wasn't much fun. I was also getting ready to move to Mount Pleasant and tackle the journalism degree at Central Michigan University. So basically I was a broke college kid idling through the summer.

It was almost 40 years ago. Yup. Forty freaking years. That hit me like a runaway train the other day - how does time slide by like that? 

The main thing I remember about 830 Burton is the porch. It was massive and a great place to watch traffic and people. I'd get home late at night, take a long shower and hang out. It was a really hot summer, from my vague memories, so there were a lot of 3 a.m. porch sessions just staring at a quiet street.

Thank god I wasn't 21 yet, though we had our fair share of getting into trouble. There was an end-of-summer bash that involved a keg. One of my few clear memories is the massive amount of ice we went through to keep the beer cold - must of gotten it a few days before the party. Right.

The week in Grand Rapids will be great, seeing family and old friends. I'm sure there will be some summer evening strolls around the neighborhood, and I'm sure I'll stop by 830 Burton to look and remember, mostly with a smile and good vibe.

How four decades passes like the blink of an eye is beyond comprehension.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Busy music weekends

A RARE SATURDAY night night off is a nice thing indeed. But I know how much we appreciate people coming to see us play, in whatever band is playing. It doesn't have to be a ton of bodies but human beings bring energy and performers feed off of it. The more you get into it, the more fun everybody has.

Saturday night at Quincy Brewing Company, the lovely Hannah Mahon Haubrich played in the outdoor beer garden. The weather was perfect and the crowd slowly filtered in after she started. By 8 p.m. the place was packed. 

Hannah just got married and has had a lot going on in her life, so it's understandable she hasn't played much in the past year. I hope that changes. She is SO good, with a beautiful voice and amazing original songs. What a perfect night to hear great music!

The next two weekends are going to be busy ones, so here's a schedule. The show looming July 27 is going to be really cool ... can't say much about it yet, but there's a good chance of former Cheese with some Radio mixed in! Also fired up about hanging out again with powerhouse vocalist Cori Powell-Green and band this Saturday night in Hannibal, and some fun summer shows with Prospect Road.

Saturday, June 15

Maker's Market on Hampshire St. between 6th and 7th with Allison Hutson, noon to 2 p.m.

HartLess (full band), Tipsy Bricks in Hannibal, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, June 21

Private Party, Quincy

Saturday, June 22

Mid-Summer Arts Faire, Washington Park, Quincy, time TBA (about 1 p.m.), solo show with a very special guest!

Prospect Road at Sportsmen's Hop Garden, Mount Sterling, Ill., 8 p.m.

Saturday, July 20

Private Party, Quincy.

Saturday, July 27

TBA, Club Tavern, Quincy, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 2

Private Party, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Saturday, Aug. 10

Quincy Farmer's Market, Washington Park with Allison Hutson, 10 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24

Quincy Farmer's Market, Washingotn Park with Allison Hutson, 10 a.m.

Sunday, Aug. 25

Pop A Top, Plymouth, Ill. with Prospect Road, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 7

Private Party with HartLess, Coatsburg, Ill.

Saturday Sept. 21 

Great River Brewing Company, Hannibal Mo. with Allison Hutson, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Not getting lost in Rochester NY

WHOEVER INVENTED GOOGLE Maps deserves an Emmy, an Oscar, an ESPY, an arrow glued to a piece of wood dipped in gold - whatever they give to honor navigators.

I went to Rochester N.Y. and hung out with Dr. Emily Hart, Amy, their dog Stevie, and Gaelic Football enthusiasts. It was grand. Rochester is big enough to have big city things, but the charm of the city and surrounding suburbs is in the movement and emphasis on the outdoors. 

I stayed at a decent hotel and rented a car. Emily was more than happy to have me stay with her, but this arrangement gave us space and flexibility. As my father said, "Guests are like fish. After about two or three days, they start to stink." 

I have used Google Maps before but not extensively. I like writing down the instructions and the ensuing panic of getting lost. Why have the way pointed out when you can turn left instead of right and end up in Connecticut? This time, I used it. A lot. And it was amazing.

On the phone app, a map appears and a voice says, "In 200 feet, instead of being a dumbass and turning left like you probably would, turn right. You'll get there faster." The voice was always right. I even plugged it into the rental car, which had a display screen. It was .... wondrous. Emily just rolled her eyes when I excitedly told her about not getting lost, which is a big deal to her old man.

Welcome to the 20th century, Hoser.

I drove to the Gaelic Football game Saturday in East Rochester and went through one charming burg after another. It was a beautiful early summer day. There were farmer's markets, outdoor book fairs, sporting events of all kinds on community fields. Everybody was out walking or riding a bike. I had to stop every half a block in some places because pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks (think 10th and Maine in Quincy, where nobody stops for the poor QMG employees).

And they have roundabouts. And they work. Wait. They work? Yup. Keeps traffic moving and gets you there faster. Progress! Don't rock the chair too much, Quincy. We wouldn't want a developed waterfront or safer intersections soon. We might get used to it.

My apologies - I love living in Quincy. Every city has its quirks and challenges. We should all travel and see how other places do it, or don't do it.

Sunday morning we went to Durand Beach on Lake Ontario. It was quiet and Stevie loved the walk. The beach isn't huge but it's big enough, and there are other more developed spots, Emily said. I don't know - being a beach conniosseur, it more than passed the grade.

Emily gave lessons Sunday afternoon, so I went solo to a Rochester Red Wings game. The Wings are the Triple A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. I paid $6 to park right across from the downtown stadium. I walked up to the ticket booth and bought a $19 ticket to sit five rows behind the third base dugout. I avoided the $11 beers. There were tons of young families and season-ticket holders, and they all seemed to know each other.

A guy named Conehead roamed the stands selling concessions, wearing a cone on his head. It was his birthday. They all got up and sang happy birthday to Conehead. 

I left in the 9th inning with the Red Wings way behind. In five minutes I was in the car and on the highway. 

Try doing all that at a big league game in the Lou or Chicago.

 Even my flights from St. Louis to Rochester and back were smooth, on time and crowded, of course, but bearable.

Emily is moving to Florida this summer to start her new adventure as oboe professor at the University of Florida. But she and Amy love Rochester so much, they just extended their apartment lease for another year. So I'll be back next summer, if things work out.

Rochester, you are beautiful. Thanks for the great visit!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Gaelic Football - run kick pass and pass out

 UNTIL LAST SATURDAY, I'd never seen a Gaelic Football game.Geesh. What rock have I been hiding under for nearly six decades?

Emily and Amy play for the Roc City Gaelic, part of the Midwest Division of the USGAA. Saturday was a glorious early summer day in Rochester, N.Y. Roc City played rival Buffalo and lost 13-12. They could've won, but that hardly matters.

Gaelic Football is played basically on a soccer field. It has a soccer goal with American football goalposts above it. The ball is about the size of a soccer ball and really hard. The idea is to kick or knock the ball into the goal (three points) or kick it through the uprights (one point). Players can pick up the ball or catch it, and can advance around four or five steps before either dribbling it off off the ground or kicking it straight up to themselves.

There are 13 players per team, including a goalie. They pass by holding the ball in one hand and punting it with the other. Technically there is no contact allowed, but there is a lot of reaching and grabbing and running into other players. It's physical. Emily and Amy could hardly move the next day.

 You can only dribble once and then you can kick it to yourself. If it sounds hard, it is - running and dropping the ball and kicking it back to your hands takes skill and practice. Much like ice hockey, Gaelic is a game of turnovers - you are moving up the field until the ball squirts loose, and the other team picks it up and quickly swings momentum.

Like soccer, it's about possession and spacing. And being fit. You run and run and run, catch your breath, and run again. I pulled a hammy just watching Roc City warm up. Emily says she's not in very good shape (she's 33, one of the older players). So you pick your spots and bust your butt when you can, and recover when the ball goes the other way. At the beginning Emily was in the midfield and set up some nice scoring chances. Later she was moved to the back, probably because she was gassed. Amy whizzed up and down the field with abandon and also picked her spots.

The Roc City team was formed last year. Amy was playing on it and brought Emily to a game - "Oh, it will be cool, you'll like the other girls and it's really chill." Oops. Emily was thrown into the game without a practice or the foggiest idea of what to do, but she was a natural. She used her 6-foot-1 frame to post up and catch passes, and she has good field vision and a strong leg.

Roc City plays teams from New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. They have yet to win a game in their young history, but they came close Saturday. Roc City led 6-1 early and almost went ahead late in the game with a some good chances, but Buffalo held on.

Buffalo had a lethal one-two punch, and small and shifty midfielder who could run and create offense, and a big girl with a massive leg who was deadly accurate from about 30 yards on in. They seemed a bit more organized and eventually wore Roc City down with good passing and aggressive defense.

While this is a pro league, none of the Roc City players get paid - you actually have to pay to join the association. So there is a real sense of camaraderie, even with the other players. The action would be focused on one end of the field, so the players on the other end would take to each other and end up laughing most of the time.

After the game there was a team picture being taken, and the Rochester players insisted Buffalo come over and join in. There was a gathering Saturday night at an Irish bar called Johnny's, a team sponsor, and some of the Buffalo players came by. There were some hilarious discussions about recruiting and trying to find new players - Sunday night, Emily talked to her upstairs neighbors about getting their college-aged daughter on the team.

The Buffalo men are really good and easily won the men's game. There was also a Hurling game after that, which is basically field hockey with a wooden paddle and smaller ball. Rochester's men are pretty good and went to the national tournament last year.

At Johnny's that night, Emily and Amy had a great time with their teammates and friends. I think that's the best part - they are part of a team and sense of belonging. Joining the Gaelic Football team is one of the best things Dr. Hart has done in her Rochester years.

I'm ready to see them play again next year!

More on the trip and Rochester observations later this week.



Wednesday, May 29, 2024

I'm getting exciting to see Dr. Hart!

 WHEN EMILY WAS little, and we had a big event coming up like a birthday or vacation, she'd say, "Dad! I'm getting very exciting!"

Now her father is getting exciting, because I'm going to see the newly minted Dr. Hart in Rochester, N.Y. It's been almost a year since we hung out and I miss her a lot, and of course I'm one proud poppa.

It's just a three-day visit and we don't have a lot of plans, except for one day, and I'll probably spill the beans about her Gaelic Football adventures later. I just want to hang out. What's also terrifying and thrilling at the same time is renting a car and trying to find my way around Rochester.

"Rochester isn't that big, dad," Emily says. She rolled her eyes. I saw it. And we were on the phone. 

She's getting ready for her big move to Florida, and she starts her professor job at UF in Gainesville in August. Geesh. Now that is exciting!

In honor of Dr. Hart, I present to you this amazing baby picture, and quite possibly the best Herald-Whig column I ever wrote. Emily found it when we were on a family Zoom and started talking about Harry Potter. She loves Harry Potter. We went to see one of the movies a long time ago and I had no idea what was happening. But it turned into a good column idea.

I just re-read it. I have no memory of seeing the movie. The reason it's so funny is because it's probably all true. In truth you find the absurd and the laughter. 

Rochester, hope you are getting exciting!

Friday, May 24, 2024

I still love you if you don't know Van Halen

 WE HAVE A lot of problems. War, greed, inept political leaders, crumbling streets, the high cost of snacks, even making a 6 when you are right beside the green in 2. Chaos! It's enough to get you down if you think about it too much.

But how do you cope when you hear a Lab Brat say, "I don't know who Van Halen is. What does he sing?"

Earlier this week I told some of the Lab Brats about a milestone birthday coming up. I won't tell you how old. It's .... old. I said, "I'm gonna have a party, and I'm hiring Van Halen."

One of the Lab Brats said, "Tough to do since he's dead." Another said, "You are really that old?"

But it was the third Lab Brat, and I won't embarrass her but her initials are Connor, who really stunned me when she admitted she'd never heard of Van Halen.

Momentarily stunned, I dropped my transport bag and fell on the floor. Somebody mopped my brow and got me some water. I ignored the caustic "You probably shouldn't drive" and "Are they from Germany?" comments from other Lab Brats.

I will give Connor a pass here. She is young and helps me carry heavy stuff into the lab. She also doles out excellent advice about dry skin care. So I won't diss her.

Eddie Van Halen is one of the greatest guitar players and musicians of all times. Ever. I like Van Halen AND Van Hagar. I even liked Gary Cherone's one failed bid to sing with the band. Van Halen wrote and played some great classic rock songs. Nobody sounded like them. Nobody played the guitar like Eddie. Sure, they were a walking rock and roll soap opera.

Maybe it's just a connection to a younger self.

When the album 1984 came out, we watched the premier of the "Jump" video at a friend's house in Grand Rapids, Mich. It was Jan. 1, 1984. We were amazed - Eddie is playing keyboards! Then the rest of the songs came out and soon we were cranking "Panama" and "Hot For Teacher" and even "Drop Dead Legs."

If you want to talk cultural significance, well ... there's a reason Eddie's guitar is in the Smithsonian Institute.

In the summer of 1983, a friend gave me the first Van Halen album, which I still think is one of the greatest rock and roll recordings. I was18 and rebelling from the whole Calvinist thing at the time and identified with "Running With the Devil." Hey baby, "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love!" Songs like "Atomic Punk" and "Erruption” careened off the rails and blew me away. Who was this guitar player and this crazy lead singer? It seared into my brain and I still get fired up hearing "Jamie's Crying."

So maybe it's more about identifying a simpler time, and rock and roll roots.

Other younger Lab Brats know Van Halen, or at least, "Jump." At 9th Street, Lead Lab Brat McKenzie started asking everybody who the man in black was, and that got some really interesting responses. And if you really think about it, not knowing Johnny Cash's nickname might be a bigger faux pas than not knowing Van Halen.

It's all good. Times have changed and kids these days are into different things, and I'm too old to disagree or get upset about it. Once I get off the floor when hearing they have no idea who Van Halen is, I'm okay. 

And I need all the dry skin care tips I can get from Connor.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The new wallet

 EVERY FOUR YEARS I get a new wallet. Or, more accurately, Sheryl gets me a new wallet. 

Wallets are like socks. Even if they get old and smell and have holes in them, you don't throw them away. Why? They hold everything in, whether it’s toes or credit cards. And so what if the leather, or pleather, or whatever they call it, starts peeling off like a bad sunburn?

On our morning dog walk the other day, Sheryl noticed the old crumbling wallet and announced she was getting me a new one. I'd been meaning to do it. Really. 

"If you remember I got you one a few years ago. I got two actually," she said. "I wasn't sure which one you would want. So we gave the other one to Clark."

"Clark" is Dr. Clark Andelin, a baby delivery doctor at Blessing Hospital. Back then he was a guitar student. Now I see him weekly when I'm delivering stuff to his 927 Broadway office. These wallets hold a lot of irony and I bet Clark has no idea his wallet is four years old. I wonder if it looks as battered as me. And my old wallet.

According to Sheryl's shopping history (a thing, really), I got a new wallet in 2016, too. If she says so, it's true.

The good thing about getting a new wallet is you clean out the old one and fine stuff you had no idea existed, like old college IDs and membership cards to historical societies. Geesh! I finally found that elusive orange Dunlop guitar pick I like so much.

So I have a new wallet. And I feel like a new man. Actually, I feel like a man who has a wallet that isn't broken in yet. I need to sit on it and lose it a few times before it actually feels like it's mine.

Thank you Sheryl and thank you old wallet for the memories, and onward with new leather or pleather!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Bo knows national anthems

 WE HAD A great weekend playing shows with The Whatevers. Friday at noon Allison Hutson and I played at the downtown Plaza show - it was warm but bearable, Big Bros BBQ was off the charts and we had a great time.

Saturday night we played at the St. Peter's block party. We were really looking forward to having drummer Thomas Gunsten and bass player Joe Desmond with us. We had an amazing practice in the garage a few days earlier and had a few new (to us) songs to unleash. Playing with a band versus a two-piece acoustic duo is quite different - but when a band clicks, there's nothing like it.

A few hours before the show, Joe messaged us and said he was dealing with a horrendous migraine. He said he'd give it a shot, but that was a bad idea. Having dealt with migraines, and how it affects vision and balance, there was no way he was going to play a three-hour show in the early summer heat.

So Thomas, Allison and I did it. I played acoustic guitar instead of turning up the electric. You know what? We had a blast and we played out hearts out, and that's all you can ask. Everybody seemed happy with us after the show so I'm chalking it up as a win.

The  moral of the story is to keep going, no matter what life throws at you.

Before our St. Peter's show, 10-year-old Bo Weiman played the national anthem on his guitar. Bo has been a guitar student for two years and has blossomed into a musician - he also plays organ, piano, drums and bass guitar. When he recently declared Eddie Van Halen was the best guitar player of all time and that the Beatles were cool, well .... we have a little rock and roll monster on our hands.

Bo decided he was going to play the national anthem by memory, not with his music in front of him. A bit into the song he hesitated and momentarily forgot where he was. It was only a second or two and no big deal, and the main thing is that he kept going. He. Kept. Going.

Later his mom said Bo was bummed. It's a normal human reaction - we all want to be perfect all the time. But it just doesn't happen - every singer and player wants the perfect song, every band wants the perfect show. Believe me, there were at least five times Saturday night I clunked a wrong chord or screwed up an intro. It happens. We try and strive to do better.

So I'm proud of Bo. And how many 10-year-olds do you know who'd even think about playing his guitar in front of a bunch of people, especially the national anthem? 

Bo is destined for great things. I just hope he remembers all the little people who helped him along the way, like his 5-foot-19 guitar teacher who is amazed every time he plays.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Young people and priorities

 I HAD A conversation yesterday with a young Lab Brat. She is only a few years out of high school. She is full of potential. 

She has a steady boyfriend. She said, "I want to get married young and start a family. I want to be a mom so bad!"

Initially I was taken aback. You don't run into many young people today who have this attitude. Or do you? Juggling the career with a raising a family, especially for a women, is really hard. 

I tried to tell her to wait and enjoy being young and to not jump into anything right away. I said, "Don't blink, because suddenly it's 30 years later." So she blinked and she smiled. It's what she wants to do.

Later I realized I was being a jerk and hypocrite. Who am I to tell anybody what their dreams are, what they want to do? I. Am. NOTHING. I have no right to tell anybody how to live their lives.

So later I apologized. The older I get, the more I apologize. I'm still lousy at it. We ended up having a really good conversation. She wasn't offended in the least and she understood the point I was trying to make.

She'll make a great mom someday. If it's sooner than later, good for her and God bless. 

Me? I'm searching for insomnia cures, getting to know my urologist really well and strumming one chord at a time. And trying to stay in my own lane and not be a jerk.

It's really hard, sometimes.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Second Stringers play again at Mayfest


Photo by Mike Sorensen/Bad Wolf Media

CAN'T WAIT UNTIL Saturday's Mayfest event in front of the historic Dick Brothers Brewery in Quincy. For the second straight year, the Second Stringers will take the stage near 10th and Jersey and rock your socks off!

It's been a while since Jim Percy, Dave Schaffer, Brad Fletcher and I have played. We had some really good gigs lined up last year but Mother Nature got in the way several times. Lately Jim, Dave and Brad have been playing with a new band called Out Of The Ashes, and we are busy with other projects. The Second Stringers were sort of thrown together and formed by accident anyway, so playing a show now and then seems about right.

We’ve had a couple of practices and it’s just like …. Falling off a bike!

We play at 1 p.m., followed by the Heidelberg German Band, Violet Hill and Soul Experience. We are on the big Quincy Park District stage and we have the awesome Chris Cornwell doing sound for us. It's a great feeling knowing all we have to do is show up and play and Chris will take of everything.

The Second Stringers are mostly a classic rock cover band, though we'll throw in a few surprises and maybe a song or five that you know but haven't heard in a while. These guys are great fun to play with and are always up for musical adventures. Plus we are playing for "only" 90 minutes, which means we can leave it all on the stage.

There is nothing like a well-organized street party, and kudos to Bret Austin and everybody involved for making this a great event. The weather is supposed to be perfect and there will be a lot of people hanging out. There are things to do for the kids, tunnel tours and all kinds of fun to be had.

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Lisa Neisen and 25 years

 I WAS AT Blessing Health Hannibal yesterday for the noon delivery and lab pickup, and I noticed a big tent set up and people gathered, presumably to eat lunch. It was BHH's annual employee appreciation cookout, and at the urging of lab and purchasing staff, I stopped by.

Standing there, of course, was my friend for many years, Lisa Neisen. Her title is something fancy now, like Administrative Director, Corporate Communications. When you have a stray comma in your title you've either been at the job for a while or awesome. Or, in Lisa's case, both.

Some 25 years ago, Lisa worked for Blessing PR. I joked about her writing my Herald-Whig health page stories. She laughed and said, "I don't even remember that!"

Well, I do. I can't remember what I had for breakfast, or the fact my Urology appointment was Tuesday and not Monday, or what time my skin cancer screening appointment is Friday, or when my latest credit card payment is due.

But I remember Lisa and her fellow staff members Steve Felde, Jenn Drott and Emily Robbearts. I think Ann Awerkamp Dickson was their boss. They worked out of the old St. Mary's Hospital Building on Vermont Street. Now it's just a big field - I think they put a plaque where Steve used to sit with the inscription "STEVE DID SOMETHING HERE."

I remember them mostly because they were very kind and patient when dealing with a nervous new reporter. In 1999, I switched over to the news side from sports and jumped into a whole new world. I was put on the health beat, and the Blessing PR staff made it easy and helped me navigate through an often confusing and intimidating time.

I always looked forward to meeting with them and figuring out stuff. If I needed something, they always delivered. 

I still see Steve wandering around the Blessing hallways. I think Ann and Jenn still work for Blessing, too. But I mostly see Lisa. She's usually holding a clipboard and going or coming from a meeting. The years have been very kind to her, much like she was kind to a clueless former sports guy a quarter century ago.

All these years later, I'm spinning around in circles for the same place I used to write stories about. It's proof that awesome people like Lisa are the ones who make the world go around.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Not a weatherman

 I AM IN trouble with a Lab Brat. Her name is Ashleigh. I gave her a wrong weather forecast yesterday.

"I have a bone to pick with you," she said, after it hailed golf ball-sized pieces of ice and rain flooded roads yet again yesterday afternoon. "You said it wasn't going to rain."

I was loading up my Blessing vehicle for the afternoon Hannibal run around 3:15 yesterday when Ashleigh and another Lab Brat walked by. They were on break and decided to take a walk. All day it had been sticky and threatening, but the rain kept sliding north. Now the sky to the west was black and the air was still - sure signs of nasty weather on the way.

"Is it going to rain?" Ashleigh said. 

"Nope," I said. "Wanna drive to Hannibal with all this stuff in the back?"

"Hahaha," she said, staring dubiously at the black sky and presumably rolling her eyes as she kept walking.

A little after 3:30, I was on Ill. 57 near 12th Street when all hell broke loose. The golf balls pounding the metal roof of my van sounded like bombs going off. I couldn't see because of the rain and the wind blowing debris sideways. So I  pulled over and waited it out, and waiting is something a lab courier isn't very good at doing. After a 15-minute wait, I kept going through the driving rain

I finally got back to 11th Street in Quincy more than half an hour late. Were the Lab Brats concerned about me driving through Armageddon?  

"You were wrong about the rain," Ashley said.

"It rained?" 

"Yes! We went outside and we watched it!" she said. She was very excited.

Look. We all want to be Rich Cain and try to get the forecast right. But let's face it, we can't always be like Rich, or his amazing daughter Audra, who took guitar lessons from me and is a rock star. But that's besides the point.

I just drive through it, splash through it, pray my windshield doesn't crack when being bombarded by hail, slow down and let idiots in large trucks roar past me on highways, or pull over when I can't see.

I'll try to be a better weather guy for the Lab Brats. Or give them simple advice, like, "Stay inside when it's storming."


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Going out to eat = $$$

 MOST LATE AFTERNOONS DURING the week I eat at the Blessing Hospital cafeteria. It's really good. You can stuff your face with an entree, salad and drink, and it's cheap - less than $10 for a full meal for a Blessing employee. 

Every now and then I run late and I have to grab something on the run. In Quincy, this is a challenge. Drive-throughs can be busy and the food substandard. And expensive, for what you get.

There are great restaurants in Quincy. Tiramisu is my favorite. 8te Open is running a close second lately. I do love Jimmy Johns, Chicks on the River and Platt Daddy's. People have their favorites like Tower, The Abbey, Kelly's, etc. It's likely more than tradition than anything.

I prefer to stay away from the chain places - the other night I got Taco Bell and it was awful, and horribly overpriced.

One of the Blessing Lab Brats suggested QDoba by whatever they call the Quincy mall these days. It turned out to be amazing - the burrito was almost bigger than my head. They make it right in front of you like a sandwich place, and the employee was very helpful when putting it together.

I got it with chips and salsa and a small drink. It was $20. What? 20 bucks? 

Then I thought about it. Gone are the days of restaurant workers making $5 an hour. More power to them - restaurant jobs are challenging, to say the least. The rent in that place must be astronomical. And if you think we pay more for food these days, well .... so do restaurants. So we don't have to like it, but I get it, and once in a while it's not a bad thing to support them.

You get what you pay for. I'll be back, every now and then. There was a steady stream of people coming in to eat and picking up orders on a late Monday afternoon, so hopefully it's doing OK.

My hat is off to restaurant owners and workers everywhere. It's a huge part of what makes Quincy special. There are a ton of places I haven't mentioned and a goal is to visit as many as possible

Eat on, Q-Town!

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Emily is a Gator!

 DR. EMILY HART is a Gator. A Florida Gator. Her old man couldn't be prouder.

Emily officially received her DMA, or Doctorate in Musical Arts, from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Her long and challenging path included graduating from Quincy High School in 2009, Western Illinois University in 2013 and Eastman with a Master's Degree in 2015. After several years as an assistant professor of Oboe at Western Illinois, she returned to Eastman to get her doctorate.

In August, Emily starts her new job as Assistant Professor of Oboe at the University of Florida School of Music. As in, the Gators. The big school in Gainesville, Fla. When I talked to her about the big adventure, she said, "Wanna go to a football game?"

She knows her old man too well.

Her oboe odyssey began at a very young age when she went to a "petting zoo" at Quincy University. The details have faded with foggy memory, but somebody recognized Emily had ability to blow on a reed, a very difficult thing to do. Quincy Public School's music program helped her lay a foundation for the rest of her life.

There are so many people who helped her, and I wish I could name them all.

I'm going to Rochester at the end of May to hang out. And yes, I've checked the Florida football schedule for the upcoming season. Hmmm .... Gainesville is beautiful in November, right?

Dr. Emily Hart, I couldn't be prouder. I love you bunches. You have worked so hard and gone through so much to get here. And the adventures will only continue to get better and more exciting.

Go get 'em, Gator!

Friday, April 26, 2024

You can still park close

 ALLISON HUTSON AND I are stoked about playing at the Quincy Brewing Company Saturday night. We are hoping the rain stays away and the beer garden in back is rocking and rolling. 

QBC is on Sixth Street between Maine and Hampshire. It's part of the Sixth Street Promenade. It will look amazing when it's done.

But progress often carries pain. The street looks terrible right now and is all torn up because workers are replacing sewers and doing other work. You can't park right in front of the Quincy Brewing Company, or any business on Sixth between Maine and Hampshire, except those on the corners.

But it's still easy to access. There's tons of parking within a square block, including several city lots. You don't have to walk far to see us play Saturday night. In fact, you can walk into the back area where the beer garden is located.

Click here for more info on public parking in downtown Quincy. Most businesses are within 300 feet of a municipal parking lot. And the lots are always open.

We battled parking issues when we owned Second String Music at Fifth and Maine, mostly because the WCU Building employees sucked up all the spaces first thing in the morning. Still, you didn't have to park far away.

Parking is all about perception. If you go to Wal Mart, you park more than a block away, but it looks like you are close because of the massive building. The businesses on Sixth have small doors on smaller buildings, so it appears you are further away. You aren't. A few years ago I walked off the steps from a block away from our store, then went to Sam's Club on a busy Saturday. I parked much further away at Sam's. 

 Come see us play Saturday night! It's just a short stroll from the parking lot to the beer garden. And sooner than later, you might see us playing on the street of the beautiful Sixth Street Promenade.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Kelleys at rest ... later


VICTORIA AND CHRIS Kelley are two of the coolest cats you will ever meet. They own Table 16 Productions. Over the years we've had a few adventures, including making movies in music stores, having glory stolen from us at talent shows and hanging out in haunted places.

If you really want to see their artistry, check out the guitar drop video they made with me and the legendary Greg Ellery. I can't believe this was 10 years ago. And Greg STILL cheated. But I'm over it. Maybe.

Victoria and Chris have creativity and talent, something I lack in spades. But we do share one thing in common - our love of Woodland Cemetery. The Kelleys, ever the planners, have decided where they will rest in peace when that day comes, hopefully many years from now.

They put up a tombstone in Woodland this week. It. Is. AMAZING. And there's a poem on it. The marker is not far from Quincy founder John Wood's grave. John Wood allegedly brought his father's head from New York and buried it in the family plot, so it's fitting the Kelleys will rest near a legend, with legendary tales. And heads.

We walk the dogs every morning and always say hello to familiar faces - Bob Mays is the most prominent. Now we get to say hello to the Kelleys. And they aren't dead. Yet. How cool is that?

There's got to be a way to tie this in with some sort of Green Room or wedding vow gathering. Wow. A Kelley bash in Woodland Cemetery? Perish the thought, and I wouldn't be caught dead thinking about it. 

Still .... it's an idea!

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Faded memories and a bizarre murder story

 TRAVIS HOFFMAN AND Chris Koetters have an awesome local podcast, Wild Quincy. I joined them this week to talk about a crazy story, maybe the most interesting and bizarre tale I ever told in my 24 years in journalism - the murder of Phillip Stanley Goodside.

You can listen to the podcast here. Stanley was killed in 1976, his body cut into pieces and found in two separate locations. The story involves a love triangle, a huge pot bust, a sensational murder trial and a lot of unanswered questions.

I was trying to remember how the story got told. Now it's beginning to make more sense. Let's face it - 15 years is a long time and memories get clouded. So here's some info that's come to light since we recorded the podcast.

I don't remember the conversation, but I believe Lani Block, the central figure in the story, called me in October of 2009 and asked if I knew anything about it. I investigated and called up some the characters involved and wrote a column for The Herald-Whig about it.

Again, memories fade, but I think Bob Brewer of Quincy read the column and called me to talk about the strange things he experienced in the house where it all happened. Back then we were really pushing social media stuff at the paper, so I wrote a Herald-Whig blog about Bob's experiences. I can't find the blog post online. Some of them were archived but most vanished into cyberspace after I left the paper.

In 2012 I wrote a much more detailed story about the murder. I cannot remember what prompted it - maybe another conversation with Lani? Click here to read the story.

I think Lani saw the blog about Bob Brewer's experiences in the house several years after it was published, saw the photo of Roger, and she called me. She'd never publicly talked about the story. Maybe it was time.

 This was a good story. Like all good stories, it wrote itself. I do remember putting a lot of effort into it, and that's something because by 2012, I was months away from leaving the paper. I had covered crime and courts for more than a decade and I was burned out. Few things got me fired up towards the end, but that story sure did - I remember going to the property at 24th and Locust and being amazed at everything that happened.

Here's what I want everybody to take away from this - Lani Block was an incredible person. She passed away about a year ago. She would call from her Arizona desert home and you hear the pain in her voice and the sadness, yet you could also trace the love she had for Stanley Goodside.

I have been in contact with Lani's sister, who lives in Iowa. She is letting Lani's daughters know about the podcast, and I hope they listen.

Lani and Stanley weren't criminals. Not even close. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think Lani wanted Stanley's spirit to be at peace. And that's why she called me all those years ago.

Thank you, Chris and Travis, for shedding light on a dark time in Quincy and showing respect for Lani and Stanley.


Monday, April 22, 2024

I don't understand Barbie

 Last week was national Medical Laboratory Professionals week. Blessing took part by going pink and by going Barbie.

I can't figure it out.

Every week is something something week in health care, and it's understandable. I especially relate to national Falling Off Of Stages week, sponsored by Orthopedic Care. It's important we recognize the hard work and extra efforts of health care professionals in all fields.

Lab week has a theme every year. Last week, the theme was Barbie. As in, the doll and apparently the movie. I didn't see the movie - I must have been taking a nap, applauded by national Insomnia Week and Sleep Study workers.

Some of the lab workers, or Lab Brats, really got into it. There were pink balloons, pink blood vials, pink cupcakes, pink photo booths. Pink pink pink UGH. Everywhere. Apparently pink is Barbie's favorite color.

At the Blessing Health Hannibal lab, Sadie was ecstatic. She's a huge Barbie fan. "This is the best week of my life!" she said. "And see Mark over there? His name isn't Mark this week. It's KEN! Tee hee hee!" And off she went to draw blood, which I assume was red and not pink like Sadie claimed.

Mark, er, Ken, just rolled his eyes. I suspect he puts up with a lot of that kind of stuff, which makes me appreciate Lab Brats even more.

The Lab Brats at 11th Street made little posters for each worker. They even made one for me and said really nice things. I don't understand - every month I finish fourth in the Courier of the Month contest. And we only have three couriers. Maybe bribing them with chocolate is paying off. Anyway, I kept the poster and will have it framed because I want proof they like me. 

 Lab Brat extraordinaire Jenni made me take a picture with her in the Barbie photo booth. Yup. The 11th Street crew had a Barbie photo booth. I didn't look like Ken. I looked like I just finished fourth again.

At our 9th Street location, staff dressed up for Barbie week on Friday and wore bathrobes. What? Maybe it had something to do with the movie or the fact they got up late and had to rush to work. I don't recall my sisters playing with Bathrobe Barbie or Just Waking Up Ken, but maybe they did.

There were all sorts of other activities and fun things going on and I'm glad Lab Brats everywhere got recognized. I've met some amazing people in those labs and they do great things every day. They deserve the love. 

And if the Barbie theme meant it was the greatest week of their lives, well ... here's a pink cupcake just for them.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Getting around crashes

 YOU WOULD THINK being a courier for a big hospital would mean having a sense of direction and not getting lost. You would think.

For a short time when I was a Whig guy we did a series of stories about really small towns in Illinois and Missouri. We visited some fascinating places and learned a lot about the history of our area. I have a vague memory of me and the late Whig photographer Mike Kipley taking a wrong turn near Spalding, Mo., and being very, very afraid. 

Getting turned around and lost is hereditary. My mother, Virginia Hart, was very good at getting lost. All the time. We'd dread trips in the massive station wagon when she drove. One time when we lived in Montreal we nearly ended up in Toronto coming home from somewhere.

Times change. You say, "Just use your map app on your phone." The only apps I really know about are the ones you get before dinner - they aren't very big and usually are very expensive. But they get you ready.

Yesterday I was running late in the afternoon and drove through a pouring rain across the bridge in Quincy. I had stuff for our Palmyra clinic and had to pick up Blessing Health Hannibal labs. It was about 3:45 and I was a few miles north of Doyle Manufacturing on U.S. 61 when I noticed a sign that said, "Incident Ahead."

The only thing that makes my stomach drop as much is a roller coaster. Sure enough, just past Doyle, where the road dips down and then goes back up, there was a line of traffic. Stopped. As in, not moving. In both lanes.

I was in a bind. I had no idea where the crash was, how long we'd be stuck, or how to take a shortcut. I really couldn't turn around on a divided highway.

Just ahead was a dirt road going off to the right. A few cars were taking the road. Maybe they knew something. So I made an executive decision, knowing full well my penchant for getting lost - I turned off the highway, onto a dirt road called Marion County Road 320.

The vehicles in front of me kept going, but there was a road going south called 361. It started as gravel and turned into pavement (sort of). The terrain was rolling and quite lovely, with a few farmhouses here and there. I could see the highway to my left with vehicles still not moving. A couple of miles later, the road came out past the UPS facility and back to U.S. 61, about 100 yards short of the crash site.

Workers were removing pieces of a huge semi that had crashed and was blocking the right lane. The road had just opened back up and traffic was starting to move, and I eased my way onto the highway in front of a lumbering truck. Boom. I was through. And I probably saved myself at least 45 minutes to an hour, because on the way back the truck was still there and workers were trying to free up the right lane.

It looked horrific and I hope everybody involved was OK. I only saw the semi and don't know if anybody else was involved.

Who knew that just shy of turning 60, my sense of direction is getting better? Or maybe I was just lucky. 

Next month I'm visiting Emily in Rochester, N.Y. I'm flying and renting a car. Dear Lord, please help me to not get lost and end up in Toronto.

Maybe I'll order one of those appetizer things for my phone.


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Angus turns 10!

 A VERY HAPPY birthday to Angus The Young, the former Second String Music Cattledog Corgi of doom, turns 10 today. He's still spry and active because of his daily cemetery strolls. He's also still ornery and demanding of scritches. 

Angus was born the same time Lucy, Sheryl's beloved Border Collie, passed away. So there's a special connection. Angus was a big draw at Second String Music for many years, as was his nephew, Malcolm.

 Five years ago today, I remember being in the store and trying to figure out why Angus wasn't around. I walked into the adjoining EFB coffee space, and there he was, happily splayed out on the carpet in the old safe area, getting tons of birthday love from EFB employee Brianne Campbell Blaine. Bri put a silly hat on Angus and probably got him some good coffee. 

If it was up to Bri and the EFB crew, they'd have kept him in there all day. But Angus had specific greeter duties in Second String Music so he probably shuttled back and forth.

To prove it's a small world, Bri now works at Blessing's 48th Street campus. When I take stuff to her office we often laugh about the dogs and those days at Fifth and Maine. Maybe I'll stop by there today to make sure she knows her old work buddy turns 10.

And, as you can see, I care a lot more about dogs and birthdays than I do about humans and birthdays.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Concerts In The Plaza are back

 I HUNG OUT with new District Executive Director Brianna Rivera yesterday. She's planned some amazing Concerts in the Plaza and we needed to find the District PA. Most of it was in the District office basement, and we found speaker stands and microphone stands in a back room. 

Not sure how long ago it was - 10 years maybe? I had an idea to have noon shows at the plaza, which belongs to the First Mid Illinois Bank on Maine Street just west of 7th. I went to Bruce Guthrie, then in charge of the District, and he was all about it. It became a May staple in downtown Quincy, first on Thursdays, then on Fridays. 

When the weather was nice and we had a food truck, we'd get big crowds enjoying music in a beautiful park setting. Frank Haxel and I would get the District PA from Bruce's office and lug it over to the plaza. There were times I'd drag it over there from Fifth and Maine in a rickety wagon that eventually fell apart.

Brianna has done a great job getting sponsors and lining up the music. Allison Hutson and I are doing the May 17 show. Jared Holbrook, Brittany Griffin-Vogt, Katie Smith and Steve Rees are also featured.

Thank you, Brianna and the District, for supporting live and local music in downtown Quincy!

Friday, April 12, 2024

Stickers on pants

 I DID SOMETHING the other day I never do - buy clothes. Ugh. I'd rather stick needles in my eyes or watch Downtown Abbey on repeat all day. When shirts and pants start falling apart, well, even a cheap Dutchman knows it's time.

It's very hard to find pants that fit because I'm 5-foot-19. Thanks to Sheryl and Amazon, I purchased two pairs of jeans. Did I throw the old ones away? Never! What else will I wear while mowing the lawn or playing a show at the Weed Violence Festival? No offense to my new friends Continued Without A Finding, who are playing at said show later this month.

So I wore them to work the other day and I was quite proud of myself and they felt good and I was happy. I walked into the Blessing Hospital Pharmacy, and the first thing I heard was, "Hey Rodney. Bend over!"

Just generally speaking, hearing "bend over" while walking into any office or area at Blessing is NOT a good thing.

I won't mention any names, but the initials of the person who asked me to bend over are Kelly. She said, "You have a sticker on your butt."

Kelly, not her real name, was wrong. The clear sticker showing the size of the jeans was actually on the back of the leg. In my defense, it was very hard to see. But it was there.

This caused massive amounts of giggling and commotion among the very professional and serious Pharmacy employees. There were other comments made but I don't want Human Resources to call me, or even know I'm alive and work at Blessing. 

The huge advantage to being RFO (Really Old) is that I simply don't care anymore. If it was the worst thing to happen, then I had another great day going around in circles as a lab courier. And I was laughing as much as anybody. What can you do? I'm a dumb youknowwhat. Hardy earth-shaking news, Holmes.

Now I'm sticker free and no longer have holy jeans. Or holey jeans. Wait. Holey Jeans would be a great name for a band!

I'm just gonna cue up this song and make sure nothing is hanging from my new clothers while going around in circles, and it will be a great day.


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Brad Fletcher's excellent grind sludge metal adventure

 BRAD FLETCHER IS living proof you can go back in time. You can reconnect. You can be true to yourself in music. You can tour your old haunts and tour Iceland. Music, no matter what form, can take you back and propel you into the now.

Wait a second. Tour Iceland?

Brad lives in Quincy. He moved here in 2008, a year after his band in Weymouth, Mass., disbanded. They were called Continued Without A Finding. Brad works for Kohl Wholesale in IT. He plays bass and drums in a couple of area cover bands and loves it.

But his original music and his friends from back home are his true love.

Brad Fletcher (top) and his CWAF brothers.
"We all grew up in garages, playing crazy music," he says. "I just love playing originals. It's a totally different animal from doing the cover band thing. You need a tablet and the tabs to play all those songs. The originals? I know every word and every note. And it's like exposing yourself, the way you are creating something from the ground up."

CWAF includes guitarist Tom Walsh and drummer John Gillis. Eric Yetman joined as a guitar player last year - he was the lead singer way back in 2002. They describe their music as crushing grind sludge metal - really, really heavy.

In the 2000s, the band kicked around the Boston area and played weekend tours, and playing heavy originals was a tough road to sled. They got onto bills and tours and played wherever and whenever they could. Brad and his band learned from friends and other bands about professionalism - showing up on time for gigs, knowing the material, playing their hearts out no matter how many people showed up.

Tom and John moved to California is 2007. Before they left the band recorded seven songs for a self-titled debut album. It was cheaply done in a basement. Tom and John wrote the music, Brad the lyrics, and Brad sang. The project was long forgotten when Brad reconnected with his old friends last year. 

"Tom somehow got my number and he called me. I hadn't talked to him in 10 years," Brad says. "He asked about the songs we did. I told him I still had the recordings. And off we went."

Walsh founded 1635 Records to support heavy original music and to put out CWAF's album. The band got friend Chris Leamy to clean up the recording. Another friend, Karl Dahmer, did the artwork for the CDs and album (yes, album, as in record). Last July Brad went home for a visit and met up with his bandmates for the first time in a decade, and in October they had a practice.

"Just like riding a bike," Brad says.

Now they have a four-city tour planned April 18-21 in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island. In October the band plays at a festival in Reykjavik, Iceland, and hopes to play a few other Iceland shows "in cities with names starting with an R," as Brad puts it. CWAF also has a June show in Weymouth, and the band is recording cover songs for another album. More original material is being created for yet another album, hopefully later this year.

Brad hopes to bring to the band to Quincy and the Midwest in about a year.

They even have a new single, mixed by Quincy's Jim Percy, and on April 17 they will play it on a livestream from the "home studio in Dorchester."

Song titles include Copulate, Lunghammer, Arm Of The Pig and Just Another Day In The Orifice. Brad has the Spinal Tap sense of humor - when asked about the Orifice song, he says, "Oh. That one? That's an instrumental."

Going home to play with his old friends is important to Brad, as is family. Last May, his parents and family came to Quincy to watch Brad's daughter, Alexis, graduate from Quincy University. That afternoon Brad's band, The Second Stringers, had a show at Mayfest in front of Dick Brothers Brewery. Brad's parents had only seen him play once - his first show, in 1993. They just weren't into the heavy stuff Brad was playing.

"But they were very supportive. They'd watch the kids so I could get out and play, things like that," Brad says.

"It felt great to look out there and see them all singing along," Brad recalls. "My dad was blown away. He said, 'I had no idea you could sing!'" 

The show became even more special when Brad's father passed away at home a few months later. "It meant a lot they could see it," Brad says.

So the excellent music adventure continues, heavy grind sludge style, bashing away in the bars and venues just like the old days. Brad and Continued Without A Finding are back, for the aptly named Prodigal Tour 2024.

"So much fun," Brad says. "It's hitting the ground running, non-stop, 100 miles per hour."



Monday, April 8, 2024

Rest In Peace, Fast Eddie

 MANY SECOND STRING Music patrons will remember Fast Eddie, our cat who graced the original Eighth and Washington store and later the Fifth and Maine space. We got the sad news last week from Eddie's owner that he'd passed on to that great catnip patch in the sky.

When we opened SSM in 2011, we inherited the late Pat Cornwell's cat, Lucky Cat Vegas. Lucky had her own Facebook page and was a huge draw to Pat's Vegas Music store on Broadway. So when Pat passed away and Sheryl announced we were opening a music store, it was only natural Lucky follow us to Eighth and Washington.

Not long after we were running around on East Broadway and Sheryl insisted on stopping at a pet store by the mall. There were two cats in cages with hungry eyes and pitiful mews, Eddie and Fuster. They were brothers. Sheryl pleaded to take one of them home. I told her Lucky was enough.

Then I showed up at the store the next day on my lunch break and heard the mewing and looked down and there was Eddie, happier than a pig in poop. Couldn't really take him back, right?

Fast Eddie loved people and demanded attention at all times. He became a huge draw at the store - people would come in just to see him and the dogs. Lucky passed away a few years after we moved to Fifth and Maine, and after a while Fast Eddie grew tired of the long hours he was alone in the store.

The story of how Fast Eddie found his new home is chronicled here. Suffice it to say Fast Eddie was much happier in a home environment, and he especially bonded with his new owner's young daughter. They became inseparable and best of friends. 

I'm guessing Fast Eddie was about 12 when he passed away peacefully in his sleep last week. He lived a full and happy life with some  big adventures. What else can you ask for? I miss him to this day and we are grateful he spent his sunset years in a loving home.

Maybe I should tell Fast Eddie's humans about the three cats living in my garage ....



Friday, April 5, 2024

Rude, dismissive and personally offensive - hello mayor!

 THE DIRECTOR OF Quincy Regional Airport announced Wednesday he is quitting. He hasn't been here that long. He's a military guy with 30 years of airport experience. He says he's leaving because of one reason - our mayor. Muddy River News has an excellent story about the whole sordid mess. The man who is leaving calls our mayor "rude, dismissive and personally offensive."

To be fair, there is probably much more to the story. Maybe the airport director wasn't a good fit. Him leaving may not be a bad thing. The mayor has yet to comment publicly, wisely so. Maybe they just clashed and couldn't get along.

You don't have to agree with somebody all the time. At Monday's city council meeting, the roundabout at 48th Street issue was voted down. Do I think aldermen who voted no are wrong? Yes. Do they have reasons for voting like they did? Yes. When the two aldermen in the ward say it isn't supported by the people they represent, you have to listen and work with them. 

It's called working with people, NOT saying I'm right and your are wrong.

This is a black eye for Quincy, not just the mayor. If this city wants to grow and progress, we have to bring people in. Now when one of our big employers tries to recruit somebody, what is going to pop up when that person does research to find out more about Quincy?

All they see are the headlines, unfortunately.

The airport director had one thing going for him - options. He doesn't have to live here. The best part of the Muddy River story is when he was asked if he went to Jeff Mays to talk about some of his issues with the mayor. Nope. He went to someone higher than Jeff - his wife. She told him to get out. So he's gone.

And here's another thing to consider. Other people have options about where to live, too.

Even people who have lived here a long time.


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Round and round about roundabouts

QUINCY DECIDED MONDAY night to not give $2.6 million for a roundabout at 48th and State. This is not surprising. The money would have matched Adams County's commitment. We can't have the city and the county working together! Then it would be cats and dogs communing as one and Quincy can't handle too much getting along.

Wait a second. It costs $5.2 million to build a roundabout? Are the weeds choking the intersection corners tipped with gold? I'm naive about construction stuff, I guess. No wonder aldermen were concerned and the vote was 9-5 against.

The mayor of our fine town told the press he was disappointed. Yikes. I'm agreeing with him. The mayor should form a citizen's shareholders committee, have meetings to set up meetings, and hijack the whole thing to make the city pay for the roundabout.

Hang on! Didn't the mayor already try that tactic? Didn't it fail miserably and blow up in his face but ultimately work out for the best? Right. Never mind.

The roundabout will eventually get built out there, and it's needed, but now the city will have to pay for the whole thing. Who cares? Let the people who are living here 10 years from now figure it out. By then the riverfront development stuff will be in full swing and quality of life will be better, so let our future taxpayers and residents deal with it.

Roundabouts work. They decrease wait time, they make intersections safer, and they are cool. I drive through one four times a day when going to Blessing Health Hannibal (formerly the Hannibal Clinic) for work. It's right by the entrance to BHH and Hannibal Regional Hospital. It's a high-traffic area. I never have to wait. You just make sure nobody is coming in from the left, and you slide into the circle. 

It's. Easy. People. 

Look. We can't just pay massive amounts of money for being cool and being safe, not when our water bills are about to double again and there are a lot of other projects to finance. Plus it would make us rock too fast, and Quincy is the quintessential Rocking Chair Community - don't rock too slow, but don't rock too fast.

That wouldn't be cool.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Music gone to the dogs

 ALLISON, THOMAS and I had a blast Saturday night playing at the Quincy Brewing Company. It was the first nice night of the year and we were outside on the back patio. The place was jumping and a lot of friends and family were there. It was just one of those great nights that make you glad you play music.

Quincy Brewing Company is quickly becoming a favorite place to play. Of course they have amazing beer (Bayview Blonde rules) and the owners have been very good to us. Tieraney and Josh Craig are the best - not just as business owners but actually caring about downtown Quincy, the riverfront and the community in general.

Moby stole the show Saturday!
It's a very relaxed open atmosphere. And ... they love it when you bring your dogs. How cool is that? Saturday night Jenni, one of the Blessing Lab Brats, brought her gentle giant Moby, an Irish Wolfhound. Moby is a little skittish, as all dogs in his breed are, but Jenni and Herman are very patient and brought a bag of treats so we could get to know Moby. Every time I looked over there I laughed at his big furry face. Moby isn't 9 months old yet so he might even get bigger! Allison is a dog-lover too so we think it's the greatest thing ever to have canines in the crowd.

Jenni made matching bandanas for her and Moby just for the show. Best. Idea. EVER. It was super convenient that Moby's favorite band is Duran Duran because we did Hungry Like The Wolf and he loved it.

It's pretty simple, really. If you have a well-behaved dog and it's on a leash, bring it to the QBC. It's not for everybody and you have to be a responsible human if you do. Remember - it's a dog's world and we just live in it!

The amazing Travis Hoffman and I are back at QBC on April 13, and Allison and I just booked another show there April 27. Along with Prospect Road, a Cheeseburger summer show, The Second Stringers at Mayfest again and even a HartLess gig or two, there is no slowing down this year for playing out. 

So support live and local music. And bring your dog! We might even play a song or two for your pet.


Friday, March 29, 2024

Killer cats

 ON THE ONE hand, the three cats that live in my garage are the sweetest and most innocent felines you've ever met.

On the other, I have pieces of rabbit all over my backyard.

The cats were dumped here by their momma about a year ago. They've all been fixed, and mama is long gone. Taylor, Martin and Bigsby sleep in my garage during the day, and at night they are on animal and bunny patrol. And bird patrol. Even squirrel patrol.

A year ago momma brought baby rabbits for them to play with, and ultimately to eat. Gross? Yes. Nature running its often cruel course? Of course! I'm not getting in the way of that, even though one day they used a baby rabbit eyeball to play soccer on the concrete patio.

They brought me an adult robin the other day. Well, most of it. I cleaned the garage two weeks ago and now I'm afraid to really look again, because they tend to decapitate birds in there. And they are so proud! Look what we brought you, human! Now buy us better kibble or we'll bring even bigger and fatter birds in there!

This morning there was half of a large rabbit by the patio. The cats purred and purred. It must have been an epic hunt in the alley overnight. And they won! They decided to tear the head off first and work their way down. No wonder most of the food I put out this morning didn't get eaten. 

I took some pictures, but Facebook says my last few posts have "violated community standards," whatever the $#@#$# that means. I can email them to you if you want. 

Bunnies are cute and it's Easter and I really should scold them for being killers - like it's going to do any good. Right now Martin is out there starting at the big backyard tree, because there are two squirrels having a confab on a low-level branch. One of these days the squirrels won't be quite fast enough - and it will be squirrel sushi stew time in Calftown.

Thanks for the Easter gift, cats. It's the gift that keeps on giving - if you count bunny fur and bones scattered all over my backyard.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Baxter and the 33rd Street plaque

 I DRIVE ON 33rd Street between Maine and Broadway three or four times a day for work. It has never occurred to me how the street came to be, why it was built, or what it took to build the street. It's only a few blocks long and connects the Quincy schools with Broadway, the city's busiest corridor. 

I kept seeing a plaque in front of the movie theater, but I never stopped to check it out until yesterday. It's dedicated to a Quincy man named C. Rodney Baxter. He passed away nearly 50 years ago. C. Rodney was instrumental in road and construction projects around here, including 33rd street, so the plaque was put up to honor him.

First of all, and most importantly, it's nice to see somebody else from around here who had Rodney as a middle name. And I thought I was the only one. Silly me! I hope C. Rodney's family is still around and realizes he's remembered as an important part of Quincy's history.

If you think about it, 33rd Street is huge. It takes a lot of traffic away from 30th and 36th Streets, which are frequently clogged. There's the YMCA building on Maine just west of 33rd, and there are several large bank buildings at 33rd and Broadway. And, of course, the big theater just south of Broadway. Without 33rd, those buildings couldn't exist.

I avoid Maine Street between 36th and 30th around 2:30 p.m. on school days, because that's when Quincy High School gets out. Could you imagine the chaos if there was no 33rd Street? It's a little nutty there as it is at dismissal time.

The plaque is easy to miss. The next time you are at the theater or in that area, check it out. It's a great way to remember C. Rodney. I will say hello to him three or four times a day from now on. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Buskers needed at Farmer's Market

 IF YOU ARE an acoustic musician and looking for places to play, the weekly Quincy Farmer's Market might be a good opportunity.

The market is every Saturday morning starting in May. It's put on by The District and takes place in Washington Park, on the north side of the square across from Washington Theater. The District is looking for acoustic performers to "busk," or play for tips. I believe they are looking for people who can play and accompany themselves .... no singing to tracks, etc.

If the weather is decent, and almost every Saturday morning is beautiful in the summer, you could make a few bucks. I'm all about performers being paid, and this one kind of falls between the cracks - but there are some big advantages to doing it.

It's getting harder and harder to find places to play in Quincy. This is a really laid back environment where people will give you a listen while browsing the various vendors. There is no pressure. The expression "it's good exposure" is awful and offensive to musicians - we don't need exposure as much as we need good places to play and being rewarded for the effort.

Track down Brianna Rivera at The District office for more info. Maybe we will see you in the park this summer!

Monday, March 25, 2024

Napoleon Dynamite dance - PERFECT!

 MY POP CULTURE is not your pop culture. The older I get the more I reason and try to understand why it has to be that way.

It ain't working.

New Faces was at Quincy High School over the weekend. It was really long (three hours and 15 minutes), and there were amazing acts. These are young people busting  their butts to entertain and express themselves through music, theater, dance and other ways. A young person who screws the courage up to perform in front of a big audience and their friends is a beautiful thing. So it was a good night.

The jazz bands were awesome. It was great to see former guitar students Tad and Zeke Bates jamming up there. And, of course, the trombone playing ruled, Natalie Wiemelt!

Former guitar student Maddie Daggett performed "The Ballad of Lucy Gray" from the Hunger Games, and she killed it. I was in awe. I think Maddie even surprised herself. She took lessons at Second String Music when she was smaller than her guitar. I'm like a proud papa watching her play and sing.

My favorite act was by Charly Nicholson. She did the dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite, and  nailed it. I mean, she crushed every move and I almost fell out of my chair from laughing.

But nobody got it. There were sporadic cheers for a few of her moves, but that's it. Watch the scene from the movie here, or below. If Charly was going for the same audience reaction as in the movie, she got it. Maybe that was the point - few people in the QHS Auditorium understood just how funny it was, because few got the Napoleon Dynamite humor and background. At the end I think there was an awakening because Charly got a pretty good ovation.

Their pop culture isn't mine. It kept me awake Friday night/Saturday morning. It doesn't take much to lose sleep. And I just realized Napoleon Dynamite came out 20 years ago. My. Head. Hurts.

The other night Allison Hutson and I were practicing for our show this Saturday at Quincy Brewing Company (7 p.m., get there early!). I suggested the Sam Cooke song What A Wonderful World from the movie Animal House. 

"I've never seen it," Allison said, rather sheepishly.

WHAT? How is that possible? I know my socks are older than Allison, but come on! Animal House? John Belushi? The zit scene? The marching band marching into a wall? Seven years of college down the drain? The Germans bombing Pearl Harbor?

Then again, maybe there are good reasons for us being so messed up as we climb into our 60s. And it came out in 1978. Ugh.

Anyway, kudos to Charly for killing it with the Napoleon Dynamite routine. She was brilliant. And kudos to everybody involved in New Faces. It was a great show.