Hanging Out in Rockford: A horse is a horse, of course

My friend Floyd runs a horse carriage operation in downtown Rockford. Floyd is an interesting person. Floyd is not run-of-the-mill Rockford. He has unusual opinions, and a deep intellect. He is unassuming. He is in the process of bringing joy to a lot of people. He did this weekend, this weekend of the Groove Walk.

Friday, I have lunch at Café Greco, and Crissy asks what I am doing this weekend. I say nothing in particular, just kind of hanging out around my place because it is going to be so busy. She says she would like to stop by for a glass of wine after work, and I suggest supper.

Around 6, she shows up. Actually, the phone rings, and I look at the people I am sitting with and say, “That’s Crissy, and she can’t find a place to park.” I answer the phone, and I am right on the mark. All the people sitting with me get a laugh out of this. I point her to the Fran Kral lot, and then she remembers. Then, she is there looking very pretty.

We walk down to Kuma’s. Crissy wants to sit outside, so we do. We order. She picks out what she wants, but I tell her I am going to order the beef ribs, I know she will like them, and I will give her some of mine. I like to eat this way, sharing food with others. That way, you get to try more things. Of course, since we are at Kuma’s, I have to order the homemade kimchee and the radish salad. I can absolutely inhale these things.

The food comes, and Crissy loves hers, but, as I predicted, she really likes my ribs. Fred comes to the table, and we are almost dismissive. By now, we have had a glass of wine. We want Kuma, and we want her now. (It is like being Lulu Watt’s husband. That is who you are forever, but it’s definitely not a bad thing.) Then, the Queen shows up, and makes us feel special. I don’t know anyone in the business who does it better.

Then, I have a flash of inspiration. We will take the horse-drawn carriage to Swilligan’s after dinner for a cocktail. Crissy goes for this in a big way. Floyd picks us up right in front of Kuma’s. He drops us off in front of Swilligan’s, and we hang out there for a while. Then, we hire the cart again to go back. On the way back to the Rose, we decide to go to Jim Thacker’s, but he isn’t home. We do, however, see the mayor, who lives right across the street. Jim calls me the next day to say he heard we were by.

The next day is the Groove Walk. Unfortunately, because of a disagreement about scheduling entertainment, this is the first year the Irish Rose is not going to be a part of this event. I am concerned but adamant about determining the type of entertainment I host in the Irish Rose. We are having Frank Calvagna and Opan Jii. It turns out to be the perfect decision. While I notice some of the crowd is diminished by our not being in the mainstream, I maintain control of the atmosphere in my own establishment. We are downtown 365 days a year, and open all of them. We have to run our own place. One night simply does not make that much of a difference.

I walk downtown to see what is going on. I stop at Paragon for a glass of wine and talk to Mary’s daughter. They are having a nice shot of business in spite of their not being in the Groove Walk. Then, I walk over to Serrano’s. I want a cheeseburger. Cande makes me one, even though it’s late. They have really good cheeseburgers, maybe my favorite in the whole town.

A beautiful woman sits down next to me. She is with some friends. They are going to walk over to The Office. I quietly call Floyd on my cell phone. He says he can be there in 7 minutes. When the horse clip clops up, the girl in the other couple is so excited, she is bouncing up and down. The women hug the horse. We ride through town with the girls waving at the crowd like two prom queens. The beautiful woman gives me her phone number. Early the next day, I call and leave her a message. I hope she calls me back.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

from the May 16-22, 2007, issue

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