Musings on music, sports, life in general from Quincy, Illinois.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Camping In The (Galesburg) Lane

I went to Galesburg last night to watch the Quincy High School girls basketball team play. I had a really nice talk with freshman Amy Wentura, who was called up from the freshman team to play in the JV game because of some injuries. Amy did a great job and has a bright future as a Blue Devil.

Amy reminded me I coached her on a YMCA basketball team six years ago, when she was in third grade. "I didn't score a point the whole year," she said. "You told me to get under the basket and camp out in the lane, so I went under the basket, sat down and crossed my legs. That's what I thought you meant — camping in the lane!"

Galesburg does a nice job supporting girls basketball. It helps to have one of the best programs in the state, of course. The fans filled the gym and actually cheered after the awesome pep band cranked out pre-game songs. They actually have an announcer DURING the game, and two Galesburg radio stations broadcast every girls basketball game.

The best part was before the opening tip, when they selected a student to raise the flag during the national anthem. They recognized the student for her grades and athletic accomplishments in track and cross country, and she got a huge ovation from the crowd. She pulled the flag up on a rope as the pep band played a spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner — NOT a taped, grindingly slow and overwrought anthem.

At this point I could say something about how it was a much more appropriate pre-game ceremony than using an occult symbol with horns and a pitchfork, but I love living in Quincy so I'll just shut my mouth now.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Restaurant Blues

On Saturday mornings, provided the time and inclination, the five-block walk to the Hardees and 12th and Jefferson can be a wonderful thing. Nothing cures the draft beer blues like a couple of artery-hardening breakfast sandwiches.

The service is always slow but bearable. Unfortunately this morning, it was slow and not bearable.

I am hesitant to be critical of those in the restaurant trade. I worked in several restaurants and know what hard and low-paying jobs they are. This morning at Hardees they were swamped at the drive-in and inside, and I waited 25 minutes for my two sandwiches to go, which cost me all of $2 (bless my Dutch heart).

It's awkward when an order gets screwed up. Do you go to the counter and ask about it? The problem was obviously on the line, where somebody was sssslllllooooowwwwllllyyy putting together orders. The servers out front gave me pained looks and I felt genuinely bad for them.

Six or seven people who came in after me got their orders, including a customer who ordered and got her food in about four minutes, so I finally just gave up and walked out. A person at the drive through also gave up and left while I was waiting. Maybe I should have been more of a jerk about it, but they can have the $2.

It's hard to get mad at management. Good help is hard to find, and the employees were at least trying.

Is this too whiny? Is this too big of a deal? Maybe. We're all human. Well, most of us, anyway. Perhaps just walking out made it worse. They didn't get a chance to correct the error or mixup.

I can't afford to eat out that much, but there are good places to eat in Quincy. The Steak N Shake on Broadway is a favorite. Tiramisu at Third and Hampshire has awesome food and great service. Lately we've been getting takeout from the pasta place at Eighth and State, and I love the 14th and Harrison Hy Vee chinese food.

As a matter of fact, the next time I get those Saturday morning blues, I might just walk to 14th and Harrison, because they apparently have good breakfasts, too.

But for this morning, I think I'll make myself an omelette .....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Age ... And When Your Head Hurts

And a very happy Turkey Day to everybody today. It's a good time to be with family, adopted family and friends.

So today I am 42. Last night I thought I was 22. This morning I felt like I was 82. The whole age thing is relative. Right? RIGHT?

Ouch. Not so loud, please ....

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Band

What I'm discovering is a lot of people listen to WQUB and are just starting to read this blog. So for the loyal Funions readers, have patience here just for a minute ....

The Funions started in June 2000 at First Union Congregational Church. We've gone through several major lineup changes and had several drummers spontaneously combust on stage, but we hired a lawyer, actually got one to play in the band, and we got all that cleared up.

The band is Dr. Mark Brei on bass, Chris Cornwell on drums, me staying away from the guitar and microphone unless absolutely necessary, and Larry Flavell on guitar and keyboards. Mark and I are original members, Chris is the best drummer in Quincy and half our age and sometimes wonders why he plays with a bunch of old washed up rock and roll guys, and Larry played in many bands back in the day. We dusted off Larry's amp and dragged him out of retirement about a year ago.

The church version of The Funions plays once a month at First Union and features Jack Inghram as our sax player. If you've never heard him play, you are missing out. Jack was a member of the legendary Freddie Tieken & The Rockers and man, can he blow that horn!

Our new CD, Just Pretending, is our third. Just like What Are You Waiting For? (2001) and Is This Appropriate? (2003), Just Pretending was recorded this summer at Copper Mine Studios in Quincy with Alan "Ghetto Fabulous" Lawless at the helm.

Just Pretending is 10 original songs and a mix of blues, pop and rock. We go from harder songs like "Ain't Love Grand" to a keyboard-driven ballad called "Better Place," written for my mom, who passed away in May 2005.

We are playing a CD Release party Friday, Dec. 1 at the Blue Onion with awesome local band Bartholomew, and we'll have CDs on sale for just $5.

Further inquiries, email me at

Monday, October 23, 2006

Former Funion

It was great to see former Funions drummer and guitar player Josh Kattelman (and his dad) at our Washington Theater show.

We're starting to get to the point where we can wax poetic about the band. The Funions started in the summer of 2000 at First Union Congregational Church, which is where the name came from - First and Union. In the band for the first time that June Monday was Josh on guitar, Devin Cashman on drums, Dr. Brei on bass, me on guitar and vocals and Rev. Scott Snider on vocals and tamborine. I think Scott Piner played trumpet with us a few times that first summer too.

Josh was a great drummer and a member of the legendary JWMF, sort of a punk band on speed. Randy Wells of The Speed Holes played guitar with JWMF and Mark Bokish, who was in Red Medic and just took off for the Air Force, was the bass player. I remember interviewing them in Randy's bedroom, where they practiced. Randy lived with his parents and they played a song and the noise was incredibly deafening. I walked out and Randy's mother said, "Oh hello." I asked her about the loudness and she said, "What loudness?" They were conditioned, obviously.

The Funions played at some legendary shows with JWMF, including one at Eagles Alps. I hope the video of that show was destroyed, that's all I can say about it now.

Anyway, Josh lives up in Minnesota now and he looked really good in a Pink Floyd T Shirt. Not sure if he's still playing music, and if he isn't, he should be!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Spooky Fun

The Washington Theater show was among the best the Funions have ever done.

Sadly the crowd was sparse, but I think everybody had a good time. The guys from 7 Deadly Sins, a young hard rock band, wandered in and were blown away by the old theater. The band had a lot of energy and people were listening, and much thanks to Pat Cornwell from Vegas Music for doing sound in a very demanding environment.

We are going to work with Paul Denkler and try to get a show set up in the spring, when it warms up a bit.

Now we need to finish our mix on the new CD!

Friday, September 08, 2006

CD title suggestions

We had our first practice in three months last night, and it showed. But, in true Funions form, we had a lot of fun banging away.

Jim Bier is now playing guitar with us. We have a show Sept. 16 at the Blue Onion, and the next day at Rocky Point for a benefit, so we're trying to work out some of these new songs.

After practice we went to the Copper Mine. Alan Lawless is still editing tracks,we're probably a few weeks away from the completed CD.

We tossed around names. Hello Cleveland is my favorite. "If people get it, they get it," Alan said. "If they don't, they don't."

Jim had some interesting ideas - High Annuerysm, or something to that effect.

Larry suggested we call it Ain't Love Grand? after the song on the CD, which pretty much captures the ironic mood the past year or so. Just Pretending is another good title.

If you have one, let me know in the comments section.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I recently found out a soccer mom brought bananas for an after-game team treat.

Bananas? BANANAS?

I know we live in a health-conscious world where everything must be politically correct and we shouldn't encourage unhealthy habits. But I don't care. Bananas?

When Emily played for the Pink Monkeys (later Tiramisu) Quinsippi Soccer League team, the treats were always the best part. Win or lose, it didn't matter. The big question on everybody's mind was .... "WHO BROUGHT TREATS?"

Later, this phrase was thought up by Emily's mother as the single greatest Gus Macker team name ever invented. But I digress.

Anyway, the mom handed out bananas and the dad hid behind a tree and the soccer team players, I'm told, sort of stared at the soccer mom in confused wonderment.

When Emily played and it was our turn to bring treats, Connie usually got out the chocolate chip cookies of doom and everybody was happy. Coaches included.

So. Soccer moms of the world? I'm not suggesting you bring Teeth Rot Cola or Artery Clog candy bars, but c'mon.


Monday, July 17, 2006

I Luv Ludington

Just got back from a massive Michigan road trip, and I do believe I've seen the best Gus Macker Tournament yet.

Ludington is located on Lake Michigan about an hour north of Muskegon. It is a beautiful town with a huge summer tourist season, all because of that big hole in the ground full of water.

People around here just sort of give me a blank look when I tell them about Lake Michigan beaches. There's really nothing around here to compare it to — let's face it, swimming in the Mississippi River is like taking a toxic waste bath.

Anyway, Ludington has its Macker in a big park right in front of a mile-long beach near downtown. I had sound stage duty and I literally looked over the Top Men's and Top Women's Courts to see the beach and the lake sparkling under sunny skies. It was warm but we had a breeze the whole time, and the local organizing committee couldn't have been better to work with. Both Saturday and Sunday afternoons I jumped in the lake to cool off. On Sunday I took over a court after we had some parent troubles and I did five or six games with 13-14 year old boys and everybody was great. Before the final game I got my suit on and ran into the lake to cool off, then officiated the championship game and it was a beautiful thing.

To put it politely, the scenery was, uh, spectacular. And, like Forrest Gump puts it, "That's all I'm gonna say about that."

Man, I just had SO MUCH FUN. I got to run my mouth into a microphone and be silly and I actually got paid to do it ... actually there's a lot more to it, with such a big tournament we were busy making announcements ("Bill from Saginaw, your ride is leaving NOW" or "D-Town Baller to Court Red E NOW"). We charged $1 for birthday and good luck announcements, and we gave away more than $100 to the skate board park project and the HELP (Hands Extended Loving People) program. The vendors kept bringing us incredible food and I made friends with Chris Boykins and his Outlawz team from Lansing, great guys (and Pam, too!).

This tournament has 900 teams and 60 courts, similar in size to our Quincy tournament. That's a lot of volunteers and a lot of hard work to plan and execute a a big tournament. There were a few minor issues and the usual three or four idiots who made trouble, but I think playing by the beach has a calming affect and personally, except for one moronic parent, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

I was sad to leave the sound stage Sunday night. It was two of the best days I've ever spent, and I hope I can go back next year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sammy Remembered

Finished with my guitar parts tonight at The Copper Mine. Larry starts his guitar and keyboard work next week. I'm heading to Michigan tomorrow night after the H-W Demons softball game, working for Gus at the beach tournament in Ludington

Most of the time when I'm assigned to cover a press conference about an event, I just shrug my shoulders, get out my notebook and trudge over there.

Press conferences are easy ways to get all the media together in a controlled environment. They are great for the TV and radio guys but most of the time boring for newspaper reporters.

A few weeks ago Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was in town to talk about a sex offender roundup in Adams County. Ten minutes after the press conference was supposed to start, somebody asked why we were still waiting. For the TV guys, of course! I suggested we get going, but Madigan looked at me and said, "Hold your horses. We'll wait for them."

So. I've been told to "hold my horses" by one of the top-ranking law enforcement officials in the state. I wear it like a badge of honor, believe me.

This morning I went to a press conference, and for once I didn't dread it, and it was a beautiful thing. The Sammy Fund is having its seventh annual event this October to honor Samantha Otte, who passed away at age 10 in 2000 from cystic fibrosis complications. Her parents, Chuck and June, decided to do something positive in her memory and the result is an annual event that raises thousands for children's activities in Adams County.

Chuck and June don't like the spotlight and would rather not have to deal with the media, but they believe in what they are doing and they do it with great humility, humor and love. (Chuck and June are in the Funions Hall of Fame, by the way).

They had a short presentation, handed out a fact sheet, thanked everybody profusely, and went on their way. And nobody told me to hold my horses this morning — the TV guys were only a few minutes late.

I admire and respect Chuck and June for perservering in the midst of great personal pain and tragedy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Goodbye, 49 Carlton

In 1980, a family of seven moved from London, Ontario to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Now only my father will be left in GR because my youngest sister, Charys, has decided to move to Denver, where her husband's family lives.

Can't say I blame her. She has a great husband, David, and two beautiful young children, Josh and Erin. They were the light in my mother's eye, and Grandma Hart took a piece of us when she passed on 14 months ago. Her death was especially hard on Charys, who we called the GR Kid because she was the last one in town.

So they are pulling up and leaving and it's a sad thing. The last time I saw my mother was at their house on 49 Carlton Street, during Christmas 04. It was our hub during her funeral and my place of refuge on road trips up north, and I will miss the porch and playing guitar with Josh, reading to Erin and hanging out with my brother in law and my sister on the porch.

I was there in May and as I pulled away for the very last time from 49 Carlton, the four of them were standing on the porch waiving goodbye, and that's a great memory to be left with.

I was feeling a little bit blue about it — also getting ready for a church meeting tonight, and I don't like church meetings — when I stumbled on this bit of 80s rock loveliness ....

If this doesn't take you back, NOTHING will!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Eric Tessmer

This reply came early this morning for an entry I wrote in early March .....

Hey Rodney,
I know it says anonymous, but this is Doug, the drummer for the Eric Tessmer Band....ran across your blog entry and wanted to thank you for such kind words about our band.

Quicy was very supportive to us this spring. I gotta say, we were surprised....Ash Wednesday...and we didn't think anyone knew who we were. Thanks to you and everyone that came to see us.

We'll be back at the Blue Onion on Tuesday, June 27 and we'll be there for Blues in the District on August 25. Hope we get to see each other again. Peace.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

One Year Ago

I don't put a lot of weight into dates and times. But it was one year ago almost to this very hour that my mom passed away in Grand Rapids.

There is still a very empty feeling today, especially with the rain.

She is indeed in a better place, and that makes me feel better.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Brother John Is Right On

John Frank preached for us at First Union this morning and gave about the most appropriate message I've ever heard.

It was about old stuff and new stuff, and how we treasure both. When it comes to music in church, you can have the best of both worlds.

You may be a traditionalist, you may love the sound of the organ and the old hymns, and you might not like the newer "contemporary" music out there, but it's all good if it's done in the proper worship setting.

John closed with a prayer of sorts by singing a song called "Where The River Is Flowing" by Gerrit Gustafson, and I played guitar for him. It's a very mellow song and John sung it beautifully. People actually clapped for us when it was done. The nerve!

After the service we got a lot of compliments, some from people I really didn't think would like it. Serves me right for being stubborn and narrowminded.

Anyway, it was the best Sunday morning I've spent in a long, long time.

Thanks, Brother John.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Damning The Dead

I hate it when sleep is the "elusive catcher." Maybe this will explain why sometimes it's hard to sleep.

Friday I went to St. Louis and covered the sentencing of a Hannibal guy who defrauded people and banks out of $1 million. I got the impression when he was on the stand that he's a used car salesman. And, wouldn't you know it, he still is.

His wife and his father and his lawyer told the judge about what a great guy he was, and how he got in over his head, and how he always helped people. What a great guy! Except for bilking banks and friends out of $1 million, of course.

He ended up getting 26 months in federal prison and he was ordered to pay it all back.

He was involved with a scheme with a Quincy banker. When authorities began figuring it out, the Quincy banker killed himself. All the details came out yesterday and I really struggled with how to handle the story. Damning the dead is wrong. But the story is the story. So I wrote about what happened (

The reaction will be interesting. I'm sure the dead banker's family and friends will be upset. I guarantee the email in-box will be full when I get to work Monday.

I knew the dead banker, too. He did my home mortgage refinancing a few years ago. Saved us about seven years of payments, too. He was a young guy with several young children who had something go terribly wrong. I think about him a lot because he worked at a bank just blocks from where I live, and I drive by it almost every day.

I pray for his wife and children.

And I wonder about this job.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Joy of Reading

Last Tuesday I read to the third-graders in Mrs. Frank's class at Berrian School.

Berrian is a very interesting story. It's a building more than 100 years old that was basically shuttered by Quincy Public Schools in the 1960s. In the late 90s the school board decided to open it again, as it is a classic neighborhood school.

The building was completely overhauled, and it opened in August of 1999 for grades K through 3.

At that time Emily was getting ready to enter third grade at Adams School, where she had gone since kindergarten. When Berrian opened the district lines were redrawn and we found ourselves in Berrian's district. We could have kept Emily at Adams, but decided to send her to the new school.

A lot of the neighborhood parents kept their kids away from Berrian. They didn't want their kids going to school with the children from the nearby projects. The neighborhood runs from middle class to well under the poverty level, and the projects by Indian Mounds aren't pretty.

Boy, did they miss out.

Third grade proved to Emily's best year ever in school. She flourished in the small classroom environment and she had a superb young teacher, Jill Schinderling. The principal, John Tignor, was a visionary who worked his butt off to prove Berrian could shine.

I drive up Eighth Street a lot and I always look at that northeast corner classroom window, remembering that great year.

Today, Ms. Schinderling (now Mrs. Reis) is the principal at Berrian, and they are still doing great things there.

Last Tuesday, I talked to the 11 third-graders about the newspaper business and we stressed the importance of reading. Then I read the story called "Conrad The Cricket" from the book we published in honor of my mom. She wrote a short story for each of her grandchildren for Christmas 2004, and we had it "published" for her birthday last March. After she died, we used some of the estate money to publish hardbound copies with her stories.

The kids loved the story and were very polite and full of good questions. It might have been the most productive half an hour I've spent in a long, long time.

Mom? Your stories live on. Your book is still at Berrian School, and I hope Mrs. Frank's class reads the rest of the stories.

They are still doing great things at Berrian.

Funny thing is, it's not just the students who learn.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Susan's Better Place

Susan White died this morning after a long, often brutal but always courageous battle with cancer. She leaves two sons and her husband, Rev. Tim White, who has been a friend for all 10 years I've been in Quincy.

I give guitar lessons to Drew and Devon, great kids. Actually they give me lessons in life and about how great it is to be a young person with their head screwed on straight.

I went over there this morning after hearing about it and I just didn't know what to say. I gave Tim a big hug and talked to the guys for a few minutes.

What do you say?

It just isn't fair. Sometimes I get angry at God and this is definitely one of those times.

But you have two choices. You either stay angry and bitter and let the darkness prevail, or you think about what Susan would want and you forge ahead.

I thought Susan would win. I thought that sonovabitch cancer had NO chance. She was tough as nails and she never publicly complained. She was really sick in recent months but you wouldn't have known it, unless you heard that nagging little cough and unless you knew she had her lungs drained twice in recent weeks.

A lesser person would have succumbed a long time ago. Susan, who taught at Baldwin School, hung on through sheer will and prayer power. I'll never forget the night much of the Trinity UCC congregation huddled in the fall rain outside their Vermont Street house and cheered Susan for getting through her chemo.

She walked around the house with that bald head of hers and we laughed like crazy about it.

She hung on for her kids. They were everything for her. She tried to pay me for guitar lessons and finally I had to throw her money back at her and I could see she had it figured out - her guys were worth it, but I couldn't put a price on it. They taught me as much as I showed them, which wasn't really that much.

These next days will be really hard for Tim, Devon and Drew, but the following weeks and months will be even harder. Realization has a way of settling in and gnawing at you and it takes a lot of courage and strength to work through it.

Tim has comforted thousands during his ministry, and now it's time for us to comfort him. Thank God he has friends like Kris and Shelly Bentley, and the rest of the Trinity family.

Susan - you are in a better place now. My heart cries for your family, and gives thanks for having known you.

I rest easier knowing your fight is over.