Hanging Out in Rockford: California dreaming: Getting started

We are at Little Italy. We are drinking red wine. Summer is saying she needs to get out of town, that she just needs to get away. I am struck by the similarity of the situation with one I had encountered a couple of weeks earlier, a situation that simply did not pan out. I am ready, too. I suggest we get out of Dodge. Summer says she will think about it.

We have been talking about doing this since I had my bypass operation. Then, it was Mexico. But then time passed by, and we lost our resolve. Things came up, things that got in the way of our going anywhere together. Things that were really not that important but seemed important at the time. Now, things didn’t seem so important. Now, it seemed like a time when we would really go.

I go online and look at different Web sites. Almost by accident, when I am reading my e-mail, I click on AOL Travel. There is a thing called last-minute getaways. I am attracted by the idea. I look at escapes to Mexico and South America. I see a weekend in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic that looks really promising, and one in Puerto Rico, but then almost inexplicably I am drawn to an old favorite, San Francisco. I haven’t been to California in more than half a dozen years. The last time I was out there, I went with Sonia. We had a wonderful time.

I call Summer at her work and run the idea past her. She is definitely interested, but doesn’t make a commitment. I tell her she should come down to the Rose and we will get online with my laptop, look at what there is out there, and make up our minds together. I tell her I very much want it to be her decision. She seems OK with that. On a Tuesday night, we sit at the bar with the computer and look at our potential flights.

After some searching, we finally decide on a Friday departure. There is one that leaves Thursday, but she hasn’t been in her new job long enough to take the extra time off work. We will leave on Good Friday, and return on Sunday. We try to book our flights, but for some reason the Web site will not accept our reservation. Then, the whole thing crashes because we have been online too long. God bless AOL, they need it. I can’t help but wonder if this is a sign, a sign that we shouldn’t go.

I go back on and vainly try to find the exact same bookings. One fortunate circumstance is that in rebooking our hotel, we wind up with the Holiday Inn right at Fisherman’s Wharf. There are other darker circumstances, however, which will be revealed, but for now, everything is rosy. We get to the part where it says enter, and Summer says that means we are going if we push the button, and I say, “Yes.” And we push the button and hug because we are committed to go to San Francisco.

The next day on the way to the market, I get a call from Summer. All she says is “We’re going to California, we’re going to California.” I know exactly how she feels. I am excited, too. Wednesday, I run out and buy some new clothes. I pick up a new pair of 925 New Balance walkers at Runner’s Image. I get out my carry-on bag. I am really going to California. I am really going to San Francisco. I am going with my friend Summer, and we always have fun together.

I remember the first time I went to California, to San Francisco. I went with my friend Ron Mackey. We were 30, and we rode out there on our Honda 750 motorcycles. I was at a certain place in my life. I was frustrated with my job. I was just turning 30. I went out to visit with a friend, Lynn Soper, whom I had taught with at Roosevelt Middle School. She wrote me in a letter that she had fallen in love with a whole state. Then, it was my turn to fall in love with California, too.

More next week

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are available on his Web site, IrishRoseRockford.com. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the April 26-May 2, 2006, issue

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