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.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Men - get checked!

 I JUST GOT back from the annual physical by my family doctor. I didn't want to go. I was a day late. But I got it done.

On the one hand, it's not that much time. My doctor, Luc Tchapnda of Blessing Health System, is excellent. I'll get some labs and they will check the oil and make sure everything is up to snuff, and I'm good for another year.

On the other hand, I hate going to the doctor. It isn't cheap, even with good insurance. And I messed up and thought the appointment was this morning, when in fact it was actually yesterday morning. The office manager was amazingly patient and so was the nurse. Thank goodness the appointment was first thing in the morning and they could get me in. Look - if you want me to be your patient, you'd better expect a certain level of ... of .... wait. It's a medical term. Oh yeah! DumbAssery! 

As I'm creeping up on the dreaded 60th birthday, it's also time to think about a colonoscopy. Again, Dr. Luc was great and he referred me to a Blessing doctor to get it done. They will call me next week. For these kind of procedures, just getting in can be the toughest part. Dr. Luc made it easy.

Men, listen carefully. We are the worst when it comes to the medical stuff. We don't want to do it. Yet a simple yearly physical and a colonoscopy starting at age 45 is not hard. It. Can. Save. Your. LIFE.

I am biased, of course. I work for Blessing. For years I went to the awesome Rick Noble at Quincy Medical Group and he always took care of me. Sometimes you have to make health care choices based on insurance, so I moved to Blessing last year and it's worked out.

I am lucky and grateful to be in good health, despite falling off stages, getting scratched by cats and being addicted to snacks. I walk more than five miles a day doing this job, and that might be why I feel really good.

Men - take care of yourselves. We have excellent health care providers in Quincy and the surrounding area. Don't put off an annual checkup - this goes for eye care and dental, too. And, in my case, getting the ears cleaned out.

Be happy and healthy - they go together!


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Identifying with songs

EVER GO THROUGH phases and get obsessed with songs? They just reach out and grab you. I'm playing in a couple of groups right learning songs and it's amazing how they worm their way into your brain and won't let go.

Eric Carmen recently passed away. He was one of the great voices of 70s rock with The Raspberries. Their song "Go All The Way" is on auto-repeat around here and every time I listen there is something new going on. In my guitar lessons we study chord progressions and why certain chords and notes sound good (this is also called "music theory," an ugly term we avoid]. "Go All The Way" ignores standard progressions and careens all over the place, yet comes back to rock and roll. It's like somebody took time to actually write a song. The live version is sublime.

Last night Allison Hutson and I got together and practiced a few songs and listened to others. She's now enamored with Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes" from the Dirty Dancing movie, and we might give it a shot at our March 30 show at Quincy Brewing Company.

A song I really hope Allison and I do is Lauren Daigle's "Hold On To Me." You could sing this in church on a Sunday morning or stop traffic in a bar on Saturday night. It's not easy to make choices and then lose friends over it. Sometimes songs help you get through life. Enough said.

Allison wants to do a Jonas Brothers song called "Montana Sky." My first reaction was, what? By who? I forced myself to listen. And listen. And listen again. Now it’s grabbed me. We are doing it a week from Saturday. 

You gotta open your mind when you play with younger people, or play songs from genres you don't normally care about.  

Another band I'm hanging out with is Prospect Road. We have a show this Saturday in Clayton at a place called Shorteez. Among the songs we may or may not play is "Angel From Montgomery," the John Prine classic. Bonnie Raitt's version is ghostly and gut-wrenching - how did I not listen to this years ago?

In the last verse, Raitt sings, "How the hell does someone/Go to work in the morning/Come home in the evening/With nothing to say?"

You can't tell me you haven't been there. Thank you, John Prine, for writing songs about our lives. And thank you, Bonnie Raitt, for searing it into my soul.

If you see me walking into walls at Blessing Hospital or wandering around the hallways in a dazed circle, it's probably because I have a song stuck in my head and I'm trying to get it out. Either that or I can't find the Urology office. Focus man! Focus! 

Nah. I'll let it ring around the brain. It will help me get through the day. 



Tuesday, March 19, 2024

New Faces ... again

 THE ANNUAL QUINCY High School New Faces talent show is this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The students put on a variety of performances, mostly musical and theatrical. I've gone the last two years and the shows were very long but had some amazing acts.

I got a message from the mom of a former guitar student. She was maybe the best student I ever had and is now a junior or senior at QHS. She auditioned and earned a spot in New Faces singing and playing by herself. I've heard she's really, really good. I know she can play but to hear her singing will be a joy. Her mom got me a ticket for Friday's show and I can't wait.

In 2009, Emily was in several acts. Her "Beans Beans Beans" skit with her friend Ginny was tremendous, and Emily's role in the Hollywood Squares parody was epic. She portrayed legendary Quincy Public School's music teacher Kathi Dooley, complete with the wig and large key chain. I remember her infamous line "Jesus was in show choir!" and the entire auditorium coming unglued from laughter. They still talk about it today.

The music and performing arts programs at Quincy Public Schools are second to none. Emily is finishing up her doctoral degree at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and she got a great foundation in Quincy. It will be fun to see the latest batch of Blue Devils singing, playing, dancing and acting at the QHS Auditorium. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Coffee shop returns to 503 Maine

 GLAD TO HEAR the news about a business using 503 Maine again, almost six years to the day Electric Fountain Brewing opened at the location.

We owned the former historic Dodd Building at Fifth and Maine and had Second String Music on the main floor, and renovated the old bank vault space and leased it out to several businesses. When we heard Ryan Christian was closing his original EFB location on Sixth Street (later the home to the Tap Room, now vacant), we asked him to take a look at 503 Maine.

It was the first-floor bank vault for Mercantile Bank and had some of the original features, though much had been altered over the years. The plumbing and electrical systems got updated and EFB  did well in the space until Covid hit four years ago. 

I loved the strong coffee smells and noises that came from the space. We even had Frank Haxel put in a door so people could walk right from the coffee shop to the music store. 

Later we leased 503 out to the Adams County Democratic party. The basement vault was also leased out, and the second floor was occupied. In the winter it was always a joy to see lights coming out of the first two floors of the old building.

We sold the building to Andrew Mays and Brian Hendrian, and closed Second String Music nearly two years ago. The Democrats left 503 Maine, and Isaac Smith closed his recording studio in the corner space of the second floor about a year ago. The other part of the second floor is still being used.

I drive past the building every afternoon about 4:30 returning from my lab run to Blessing Health Hannibal. Usually it's a smile or a good memory that comes back, and the recent warm weather brought back a lot of memories of store parties and Friday afternoons on the sidewalk.

Good luck to the new business at 503 Maine. It's a great spot and has lots of positive vibes. I'll stop in for a coffee some Saturday morning and think about the great times we had at Fifth and Maine. Here's to many more!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Picture yourself on a bag of chips

 I'M DONE. FINISHED. There is nothing left in the field of frivolous entertainment. I've reached the height, the summit, the very top. Coco and I are retiring to a Lake Michigan beach that time forgot and contemplating just how quickly the ascent took place.

That's right. My picture is on a bag of Rap Snacks. 

It started yesterday with an inane blog about Rap Snacks, which uses rappers to promote chips, popcorn and noodles. Yes. Noodles. As usual, what I thought was just a throw-away went viral. My phone blew up and everybody at work wanted to know more about Rap Snacks.

Allison Huber put a comment on my Facebook post. Then she posted the picture. Who knew it was that easy? Apparently you can go to Rap Snacks page and click on a bag, upload your photo, and boom. You are a rap star and on a bag of snacks. What else is there in life?

We could have Cheeseburger chips, HartLess Salsa, Whatevers Whisps, Prospect Road Dip, Travis and Rodney Gut-Wrench Colon Cleanse Tacos. The possibilities! 

Wait. Somebody actually went to the time and effort to put my picture on a bag of chips? I'm okay with it, if somewhat bemused. The photo is from a legendary Second String Music store party some years ago, which explains the dazed look on my face and the fact I remember none of it. In other words, perfect for Rap Snacks.

This Rap Snacks thing keeps getting better and better. Here's a company that openly encourages you to pirate their copyrighted product by putting your picture on it. It's marketing genius, really. 

So it's all that and a bag of chips. I'm not sure I can cope with the fame. Coco will keep me grounded. 

This doesn't mean I actually have to eat Rap Snacks, does it?

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Rap Snacks is a thing

 THE OTHER DAY at the 48th Street lab, a Blessing employee who shall remain nameless (her initials are Kasie) was eating a bag of chips made by Rap Snacks. The bag had a rapper on it called Lil Baby. Apparently Lil is huge in the rap world.

I'm not up on my hip hop artists. To get educated I should call my former Herald-Whig compadre Don O'Brien, who was a bottomless pit of rap knowledge. I'm pretty sure Don eats Rap Snacks.

Anyway, Rap Snacks is a thing. They make all kinds of snacks and put all kinds of famous rappers on the bags. They are only $1.93 an ounce if you order them from Amazon. The chips Kasie had were salt and vinegar flavored, and she graciously offered me one. It wasn't bad! Actually, it was overloaded with seasoning, which is a huge selling point in greasy and bad-for-you snacks. "I think I need to drink a gallon of water now," Kasie said, after handing off the half-full bag.

The chips were purchased by another lab person, Jody. "I bought them at a gas station halfway between here and Kansas City," she said. Intrigued, I did some research, and it turns out you can get snacks endorsed by such legendary artists as Snoop Dogg, Notorious BIG, and my favorite, Moneybagg Mo's dill pickle jalapeno chips.

Jody warned you should check the ingredients before imbibing. "I was driving and eating the Snoop Dogg snack and suddenly I got very sleepy," she said. Ah. Snoop can do that to you.

Rap Snacks is a genius idea. Classic Rock Snacks, Country Snacks and Yacht Rock Snacks were never invented and never made a dent in the $40 million snack industry. I'm pretty much a loyal snack guy (I can demolish a can of Pringles in five minutes) but I'd try Rap Snacks if given the chance or driving to Kansas City and stopping for gas. 

Rap on, snack lovers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Mayoral race shapes up

 YESTERDAY THE MAYOR of Quincy announced he was running for a second term in next year's elections. This was after he publicly stated last summer he'd make an announcement within a month. One wonders why he waited more than half a year to say he wants to be mayor again.

He faces a stiff challenge from former Quincy City Alderman Dan Brink, who formerly announced last October he was running as a Republican. The current major is also a Republican. Brink wasted no no time responding to the current mayor's announcement, and you can read it here

Brink has a lot of ammo. He can go after the current mayor for the bungling of the city insurance, the no-confidence vote from city council and the absolute botching of the police chief search and recommendation. That one worked out, despite our mayor's best intentions. 

The current mayor has ticked off much of the moderate Republican core in Quincy. But the current mayor has many staid and conservative Quincy Republicans on his side. More importantly, he has their cash. So it won't be easy to knock him off.

Former city treasurer Linda Moore is a possibility when it comes to the Democrats. She'd make a great candidate. But she's hamstrung by having the D designation. It's all about who will actually show up at the polls, and right now that's a tall task for the Ds.

I'll wait to see how it all plays out before making up my mind. It's a long road to next February's primary elections, and to the April 2025 election. I encourage all of us who are registered to pay close attention and make an informed decision.



Monday, March 11, 2024

Feeling 59

 AGE IS RELATIVE, right? People are surprised when they find out how old I really am. They think I'm much younger. Maybe it's the the fact I never grew up. Truth is, I'm chasing 60 and will get there before the end of 2024.

I visited the one and only Anne Mays last Friday on her 90th birthday. She is still spunky and sharp as ever. She said, "I feel like I'm only 70." That's the legendary Grannie Annie for you.

I see a lot of younger Blessing employees every day. There are a couple at 48th Street who are still in their teens. I joke about my socks being older than them. Of course, the reason it's humorous is because it's true. 

One of them said, "You are the same age as my dad. So I'm going to call you dad!" So she does. Every day. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I suppose it's a compliment of sorts.

Another one who just turned 19 says her grandmother knows me. "And my grandma is a little crazy," she said. "I think you could actually be my grandfather. Wouldn't that be cool?"

We are most assuredly not family. But if she wants to think that way, if she calls me grandpa every time she sees me, should I feel old about it?

All I know is that the three-hour gigs get a little harder to do, bedtime comes earlier and the ability to do nothing for long stretches of time gets easier and easier. I'm taking vitamins and trying to be careful about what I eat and I'm walking a lot doing the job, which helps me feel better. 

So bring it on, 60. I'm not afraid. Age is just a number. And my socks look great for being that old.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Open Mic tonight!

 SUPER EXCITED TO host the Open Mic Night at the Calftown Coffeehouse tonight. We will start around 7:15ish. I am subbing for the legendary Steve Rees, who has built the twice-monthly event into quite the happening scene.

Calftown Coffeehouse is at 832 S. 8th, right across from State Street Bank at 8th and State. Open Mic Night is all inclusive and features music, storytelling, poetry reading and anything to do with expressing yourself in the arts. My friend and musical partner Travis Hoffman will be helping me with the host duties and playing as usual.

I love it because most of the performers are getting way out of their comfort zones. Many are terrified of performing in front of people, so it's therapy and courage all in one. You do the best you can do and the crowd is very receptive, attentive and respectful.

Bill Burns and Margarita Oguilve are amazing hosts and have graciously give us their space and time for the event. It doesn't hurt to have awesome coffee, specialty drinks and food available. I just set up for tonight and Bill made me a spinach, feta cheese and mushroom quesadilla to die for. Yum!

I used to fill in for Steve when he did Open Mic Night at One Restaurant a few years ago. Many talented performers cut their teeth on that big stage and venue. We always had a blast. I have been to a few Open Mic Nights at Calftown Coffeehouse and you won't find a more interesting and engaging experience, if you come with an open mind and supportive vibe.

See you tonight!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

If it's broke, don't fix it

I LIVE BY the saying, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." I also live by the saying, "If it's broke, don't worry about it. Unless it's the TV remote."

We were driving back from the dog cemetery run this morning. Sheryl turned on the windshield wiper and pushed the lever for the spray. It didn't work. It hasn't worked in a long time. "I can take a look at that if you want," she said. "Or you could look at it."

I could look at it? Oh, the enormity of the futility of that statement. Wait. Enormous Futility would be a great name for a band! Never mind.

I don't drive that much, to work a mile a way, to gigs on the weekends, to the grocery store. I can see fine out of my windshield. Does it need to be cleaned? Yes. Am I getting antsy thinking about my dirty windshield? No. Once in a while I look around the inside of my Jeep and see how filthy it is (from often wet and smelly dogs, mostly) and I get motivated to vacuum it out. But that's usually before I know I have to pick up band members on the way to the gig.

There are a lot of things that are broken that I need to fix. The ceiling above the shower. The back door to the garage. My back after I picked up a box at work the other day. Use your legs, dumbass. But they don't always work, either.

If I break a guitar string, it gets fixed right away. If the lawnmower goes kaput, I think about hiring goats to see how long I can go without getting another lawnmower. 

The late Frank Haxel used to talk about a long list of things he had to do and fix at Vancil Performing Arts. He'd complain about it and use it as an excuse to not do something else. Then he'd say, "Hey. It's Friday!" And happy hour(s) would commence on the Second String Music sidewalk.

It's the way we are wired. It drives normal and respectable people crazy. To them I say, too bad.

I gotta go vacuum my Jeep. Or at least think about it. When it's clean, I'll look at the windshield wiper thingy. Promise.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Do something by doing nothing

 I DID SOMETHING yesterday and helped by doing nothing. It happens all the time. I'm good at doing nothing!

I made a delivery to one of Blessing's buildings and came out to find an elderly woman trying to get out of her wheelchair and into her car. Her husband was helping. But she was obviously struggling, trying to stand up and then sitting back down.

I asked if I could help. The man had a very kind and patient look on his face. He said, "Thanks! I think we have it." The woman tried to stand up again and didn't make it.

She said, "I just had a stroke. If you could do me a favor, just stand there and do nothing. I'm going to pretend you are a wall. It will help me stand up."

I always try to help. Yesterday I directed a man to an office at 48th, and another couple to an office at 927 Broadway, which is a labyrinth and not easy to navigate. Going to a medical facility for the first time is intimidating enough, despite the signs. I still get lost in the main hospital and get turned around at 927. The ability of a Hart to get lost is well documented

So I just stood there in the parking lot. The husband counted to three, and the woman slowly rose from her chair. They stood there for a second and the man said, "We have it from here. You were a big help. Thank you!"

When you work in healthcare and you see people struggling with physical issues, it's hard. I just deliver stuff and pick it up. We have so many great people who do the actual helping. 

Less is more, and more is most.


Monday, March 4, 2024

Stray cat strut, every day

 ABOUT A YEAR ago an alley cat came into the yard and asked to be fed. Yup. Asked. Very politely.

"Well, I'm living at the other end of the alley and crawl under the fence and sometimes the human puts food out. But sometimes she doesn't. Got any milk?" the cat said.

I'm a sucker for a furry face. So I fed her. And she came back the next day. And the next.

Then she disappeared for about a week. She showed up looking tired and hardly able to move.

"Never mind," she said, when asked where she'd been. "It's a cat and momma thing."

Uh oh. Momma thing?

Then, at the end of April, I got up on a Saturday morning, went to the porch, and there were four little alley cats staring at me. "Well, you fed momma. You can feed us too," they said.

I had two choices. I could feed the kittens, and I knew they'd stick around. Or I could ignore their cute little faces and pathetic mews and growling tummies.

They are my strays now. "Haha!" Momma Cat said. "You really are a sucker!"

The first thing I did was call Sally Westerhoff and The Quincy Cat Coalition. They have a free spade program through the Quincy Humane Society - you just have to take them back. It was easier said than done, but eventually all of the cats except one (he took off and eventually found a home a few blocks away) were taken care of.

That included Momma Cat. Boy was she pissed after I took her and the kittens to the Humane Society. When she got back, she promptly marched her brood to the house next door and moved in under a shed.

"She will be mad for about three days," Sheryl said. "Don't worry about it. She'll come back."

Three days later, Momma Cat and three little cats came back. Eventually Momma Cat left and once in a while comes around, but she raised her kittens and she's done. 

Bigsby, Taylor and Martin still live in my backyard. There's a comfortable bed and blanket in the garage, and they sleep in a big furry pile during the cold winter nights. Bigsby is skittish, Taylor looks like her momma and likes a good scratch while sitting in your lap, and Martin is the Alpha cat - he bosses the other cats around, and doesn't mind a good scritch either.

Yesterday they made themselves at home on the patio chairs and porch, enjoying the warmer weather and making me feel guilty about not getting enough cat treats.

They stalk squirrels, catch snakes and birds, and drag worms onto the porch every morning. They are carnivores. Momma Cat decimated the baby bunny population last spring and taught them well.

I think about finding them another home - maybe a farm somewhere, since they are such good mousers. And it would be nice to get my garage back.

And it ain't cheap to keep them fed, but you know what? They are are happy. They can't make more cats. They have the run of the yard and the alley. They are just ... cats.

"Stuck with us!" they say. And I'm OK with it.


Friday, March 1, 2024

Medical terms and band names

 IF YOU ARE going to work in healthcare, you better have a sense of humor. I love my job because 99 percent of the time, the people are great. But here are places where I go on a daily basis where it's evident the people who work there don't have a sense of humor. I pity them. It's an awful thing. 

Much of the humor needs to remain in the lab, the office, the loading dock. If you don't work in healthcare, you wouldn't get it. It's not necessarily inappropriate, but it can be dark and funny at the same time. Enough said.

I pick up items at various labs and transport them to the main lab at Blessing Hospital. Let's start by saying I am not making fun of any medical procedure or body part - I take very seriously getting things to the lab and it can literally be a life-changing item I'm transporting. I busted my ribs and had my finger drained from a cat bite last year, so I know how painful and embarrassing medical stuff can be. 

I don't look at anything I take. HIPPA is a thing, you know. But I have to sign off on it. I don't see the names. I do see what I'm taking.

It's just too easy to take stuff, and then make band names out of stuff.

Examples? Butt Cyst, Gallbladder With Contents, Inked Tonsils, Fourth Toe, Bladder Wash, Dumb Lab Courier Forgets and Cat Bites Hurt would all be GREAT band names. 

Sometimes it's not the stuff. It's the situation. A friend at Blessing's 48th Street location had to work late this week. She asked if I could bring her french fries near the end of her shift, when I'm there to pick up the last labs of the day.

She ate them on her drive home. "They were gone by the time I got home," she said.

We both agreed Devouring Fries is another amazing band name.

Sometimes it's medical but not job related. Like, "Ripped Nail" because of my bad guitar strumming technique. Another favorite is "Chipping For Bogey," which happened a lot during my recent trip to Arizona and is also the name of my autobiography.

There must be something wrong with me because every day I hear something or take something to the lab and I think, "What a great name for a band!" Maybe I should pay more attention to the road or not forget the dry ice on my way to Hannibal.

Hang on. Dry Ice To Hannibal. GUH. 

It never ends.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

The job

IN THIS LIFE, we are often defined by our jobs. Fair enough. But we put too much emphasize on careers, on making money, on being standards for our professions.

I was a journalist for 24 years. The music store was an 11-year adventure. In September of  2022, I took a job as a lab courier for Blessing Hospital.

Lab courier?

Blessing is a good place to work. They give me a vehicle, a gas card, a schedule and places to pick it up and bring it somewhere. A gall bladder in Hannibal? I'm your guy. Office supplies for 48th and Maine? That's me. An emergency trip to somewhere with oncology drugs? Yup.

It's not hard. It's a lot of responsibility, and stuff can go sideways in an instant. You can't forget to pick something up. You. Just. Can't. Plus people don't know how to drive. But the boss lets me do the job and 99 percent of the people I work with are amazing. It's 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week.

The days fly by. I've made some good friends. The pay is decent and benefits are really good.

I'm happy.

I wasn't looking for a job after we closed Second String Music in June 2022. But doing lessons out of the house just wasn't cutting it. I applied for the Blessing job on a whim and really didn't think about it. Then they called. I went into the interviews with a slightly cavalier attitude - this is who I am, this is why I think this would be a good fit, and whatever happens, happens.

Lo and behold, I had the job half an hour after my peer interview. And it's been a ride, literally, ever since. 

People who make marks often do it in their professions. And that's great. The pastor, the civil engineer, the doctor, the journalist, the small business owner .... More power to them. They chase their passion in their calling and it defines them, in a positive way.

But you don't have to work at a job you don't like. You can find your way. You can change careers. You can work for less money and be 100 times happier.  You can be .... you.

Gotta go get ready for ... work! It's sunny and the weather is warming up.

Life is good. So is work.


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The missing glove

 I AM ALWAYS missing stuff. Keys, wallet, work badge, guitar capos, the meaning of life. It's not easy being so clueless all the time, you know.

Recently I lost a glove. A really nice ski glove, one that kept my hand warm. When you walk dogs every morning, it's important to protect the hands in cold weather. Of course I can't remember where I lost the glove.

So I went upstairs into a room full of junk and debris, also known as a "spare bedroom." I found another dark glove. It isn't even remotely a match for the missing ski glove. But it works. So I wear two completely different gloves.

A guy at work said, "Why do you have two different gloves?" I said, "The ski glove keeps my strumming hand warm." The guy was confused. Most people are after they talk to me. I just shrugged and kept going in circles.

The whole men not caring about two different gloves is actually Biblical in nature. Remember Abraham from the Old Testament? His wife, Sarah, gave him grief about losing his gloves when he left Ur. It's in the book of Genesis. 

"Yea and verily I sayeth unto you, Abraham, thou hast the brain of a sheep," Sarah said. "O Lord, my husband is a dumb ... well, you know."

The older I get the more I talk to God. Some people call it prayer. I call it therapy and conversation. So I asked God if it was OK to have two completely different gloves.

"Do they keep your hands warm, child?" God said. "And are they both dark in color?"

Uh, yup.

"Then don't worry about it," God said. "Although Sarah was right. About a lot of things."

I think what God is really trying to say is to not spend so much time looking for something so completely lost. Here I am, sitting in the pile of debris upstairs, and ..... Hey! I just found my checkbook! That sucker has been missing forever.

See how it all works out?

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

See ya judge

 BOB ADRIAN ISN'T a judge here anymore. What a sad, sad tale. Here is the story from Muddy River News, and here's his continuing oblivious reaction to the news. 

I wrote about the judge in one of my last posts before taking an extended hiatus. He was barely retained as a judge. He got less than 60 percent of the vote in Adams County. Once you are elected a judge in Adams County, it's really hard to screw it up.

He did. 

It would be interesting to hear from some former judges about the Adrian debacle. Back in my days patrolling the courthouse hallways, Mark Schuering, Dennis Cashman, Scott Walden and William Mays ruled the roost with effective and different approaches. It probably wouldn't make sense for them to publicly comment about this now .... but I'd love to hear what they have to say.

Adrian presided over some high-profile cases, and by all accounts did his job. That's all he had to do in this case - his job. He could have simply vacated the verdict of the young man accused of rape and moved on. He didn't have to say anything. When he did, the hole got deeper and deeper. Your shovel, your honor. Or, your former honor.

Blaming the media is old hat. Come up with something more original, your former honor. And we are still waiting for the name of the "public relations firm" that was hired to do a political hit job on him. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Tough times at Fifth and Vermont right now - there's mold in the courthouse, the public defender's office is in shambles and the wheels of justice are slower than ever, by all accounts.There are still good people doing the work and eventually it works out. 

Not with Bob Adrian as a judge. Your honor, your former honor. Hopefully he hits them straight if golf is his game and maybe retirement will bring reflection.

I doubt it.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Been a while ....

 SO. IT'S BEEN a while. Longer than a while, actually. It's like anything else in life - if you don't stay on it and it slips away, it's very difficult to get back.

But. I'm back. We'll see how long it lasts.

Yesterday I was sitting in the sun and drinking a beer, one I haven't had before. It's a New Belgium creation and quite good, one of those "drink one and that's enough" beers. I thought, why don't I tell people about this beer? Why don't I blog about it? Why is blog a verb? So you can see what I deal with every day. It ain't easy being easy.

I miss writing. A lot. Not long ago a person I haven't seen in a long time said, "Why did you stop writing for the paper?" It was too long of a story to tell her. So I said, "It was just time." For another 10 years I stayed on the blog, mostly due to Sheryl's encouragement. It was a good way to promote the store and the bands. 

Much has changed. Life is good, but there are many things out there to write about. Inane, serious, informative, or just getting it out of the system. There is no bad reason to resume. And there is no good reason to not write. 

We will see where it takes us. Did I mention I've missed it? Also, there are some shows coming up I'm very excited about and worth detailing. 

Gotta go to work. Wait. Work? A job? A REAL job?

Lotsa stories out there to tell, friends.