Hanging Out in Rockford: California dreaming: The reality

After Garberville, after the party, after wandering around the mountainside with bare-breasted lesbian girls, we returned to San Francisco. After fixing the Volkswagen the woman from Eureka had abandoned on the road, and after we started to repair the pump that brought water over the mountain and were told to stop because we were fixing too many things. The girls liked to be independent, and we were acting too much like men. After all of this, we returned to San Francisco and one more dinner with the Japanese businessman. We sat on the floor, and were served by a geisha.

Then, we headed our bikes south and drove down to Ventura, taking the coast road. It took all day, but the views were breathtaking. We pulled into Southern California at night to waves crashing on the beach. We visited Ron’s sister-in-law and her then-boyfriend. Then, we made our way back through the desert to the Grand Canyon. We rode all night through the valley of giants, not stopping until we were in Colorado at 3 in the morning. The next day, we rode over the mountains and camped in Grand Island, Neb. The next day, we rode home.

I spent the next three years figuring how to move to California. I took a job as sales manager of the Royal Crown Cola Company of Sacramento, Calif. Robin, my wife, didn’t move with me. I went entirely on my own. One night, I journeyed into San Francisco to hang out with Lynn. One night, we went to a bar, and her roommate picked up a fellow. That night, she brought him home. The bar itself was unique, although I didn’t appreciate it all that much at the time. Later, I went in for Thanksgiving dinner. The same fellow was at the door. Lynn’s roommate opened the door and said, “Hi.” I thought they had been dating. Later, I found out they had not seen each other since the night of the bar and the night of coming home. I used to say that was what I didn’t like about San Francisco, the impermanence.

But now it is the present, and now I am going to San Francisco. I get up early and pack my bag. It isn’t too hard because we are only staying the weekend. Easter weekend in San Francisco. I jokingly remark to Gerlinde at Water Street Café over some eggs that we are flying out there to have dinner—not too far from the truth. But then, we both needed to get away, even if it is for a short time. Gerlinde says we should go to the Wharf and have a cracked crab and a bottle of chardonnay. She says when her son Swen lived there, that was her favorite thing to do. I call Summer, and she is ready. I have Gerlinde make a sandwich to go. I know Summer—she will need something to eat.

We drive into O’Hare. We park the van in the economy parking. We have to walk a long way to the tram. We fly first to Minneapolis and have to hold over. Then, we take our connecting flight to San Francisco. We get there and negotiate our rental car. We drive up 101 from the airport to the city. I am driving, Summer is navigating. We stumble around and finally find our hotel. We are hungry, but all the tourist-centered restaurants on the Wharf are closing. We decide instead to go to the bar.

Our bartender is Mario. He jokingly refers to himself as the rookie bartender. He has been there 20 years; the other bartender has been there 28. We have several martinis. There are two people at the end of the bar with British accents. We are making jokes. Summer is talking to a friend back home, who points out our itinerary has us returning to a different airport than the one we left from. Summer, the little girl who grew up with a dad who ran the Polish Falcon Club, lets go of a string of profanity about what Northwest Airlines can do. The one person at the end of the bar says confidently to his friend that she is from Chicago and that you can tell because they talk like that in Chicago. The whole bar erupts in laughter. But we do have a serious problem. Our car is at O’Hare, and our return flight is to Midway. We decide not to let it bother us. We leave the bar at the hotel and wander over to the Fiddler’s Green, the Irish bar across the street. I haven’t been there since Sonia and I went there six years ago. Nothing has changed.

At about 2 in the morning (4 a.m. our time) we catch a cab to find a restaurant. The cab driver drops us off about half a block from Nan and Curry. We can smell the restaurant when we step from the cab. Curries too hot for Rockford, handmade tandori bread, 24-hour Pakistani food, gorgeous dark women dressed stylishly and ordering smoking curries that will take the top of your head off. This is why we came to San Francisco. More will come in the morning.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life.

From the May 17-23, 2006, issue

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