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.