Hanging out in Rockford: Cooler heads will prevail

It’s Friday night; Friday night of the Waterfront; Friday night that I used to think was from hell, but they have been getting better. I go to cook at my little restaurant in Rockton, but they are all on and handling it well. All I do is socialize with some of the customers and make a few special appetizers. I get back to Rockford, and a special friend comes to see me. We try to decide where to go. I suggest the Oasis, Uncle Nick’s new place, and we walk down the street.

Nick has put together a very nice little bar. He opened it a few years ago as a private club, but for some reason that didn’t quite work out. He has two shiny brass cruivnets, probably the best setup in town for serving wine, and a dozen or so fine and imported beers on tap, all of which he sells too cheap. I told him so. We have a couple of glasses of very good Chardonnay. I wasn’t playing the wine snob, so I didn’t get the name, but it was very good.

(I was so proud of myself last week. Dan, one of my wine distributors, brought in a bunch of wines to sample. Among them was an Australian Shiraz that I knew was a little young, but I kept insisting was the best wine there. I bought it. It was incredibly cheap for a wine of its quality. That is how I usually like to buy. After I had bought it, they gave me a promo sheet showing it as a Wine Spectator best buy with an 85 rating. My grin was a mile wide. I can’t help but wonder if they did it as a ringer. I also picked up the 85 rated Chardonnay.)

I am sitting there with this very special person. I’m sitting and talking, and I let a little too much of myself out. I have been doing that lately. She seems to respond and scolds me for a telephone call. She says she saved it to play back to me. I’m feeling really good about the whole thing. I have always secretly (OK, maybe not so secretly) loved this person. I think of the recording I have on my computer hard drive. “Look at the moon. Just go look at the f#%?@!g moon.” That was another time, a year ago. I tell her I love her for her talent, it’s true.

We sit and talk with Nick and Tony (Tuco) Encinas. Nick is the center of attention, as usual, but that is part of the fun of going there right now. His first bartender, a former Irish Rose employee, left him to go work at the Surf Lounge, and now he and Tony are managing the helm. I manage to lose the crowd and concentrate on talking with my companion.

Then we walk back to the Irish Rose. I think we agree to meet again later, in retrospect, probably wishful thinking, and I hang out, grab a shower and drink a lot of coffee. I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I leave The Rose for a while. I walk down to the Surf. One of the dancers is standing outside; she used to work for me as a waitress. She gives me a hug. She is very beautiful. Inside, I sit with Kirby Babbler and watch the other former employee dance. When I get back, my special person is sitting in a booth with another. They leave together. The next night she is with a different person. I feel so foolish. I remember an old girlfriend saying, “I never dated, I always just knew.” I thought I knew.

n n n

I sit with my friend Elisha. She has also had a hard week. Tonya and Jack are there too, but Elisha and I talk privately. She has a lot of wisdom for a young person. What I like most about her is that she holds out for what she really wants, and she refuses to accept second best. But she is so damn beautiful, she can afford to be choosy. I respect her for that (and for the fact that she is total lightning on the computer). She analyzes my situation. She hits everything right on the head—one, two, three. The same way I did to her when she was head over heels in love with some young man, and she didn’t want to listen. I don’t want to listen either, but her advice sounds like my own, and I have to listen. I don’t want to hear, but I have to.

The girls and I are going to Kryptonite. Jack is tired and heading home. Elisha and I walk; Toni takes her car. We meet up at the Kryptonite. Some fabulous country band is playing. We sit outside in the new beer garden. I see Chris briefly, and we exchange a few pleasantries. The girls want to go to Gaspo’s, and we walk around the MetroCentre. They have opened the new side, and we can see people in there through the full-length windows. The place is so crowded that we have difficulty getting through the door. We work our way into the tent, and it is almost as crowded.

Then we go back out to the bar. It is so crowded, it is difficult to get a beer. Finally, Elisha gets us Miller Lites over the bar. I take a couple of sips and then tell the girls that I want to get out of there. I walk over to the Paragon and get a glass of Chianti from Rose. When I am paying, Mary teases me about getting old and not liking crowds.

I walk slowly back State Street. This time it is the flag above the news tower that catches my attention first, forewarning of things to come. It is standing straight out, pointed straight south. Then it falls and just lies shrouding the pole. A brisk breeze picks up across the bridge, the flags lining it flapping, flapping. I walk past my old apartment above Runner’s Image, past my old business with all its memories, past the Surf Lounge of the night before. No temptation reaches to pull me in. By the time I get to the Rose, the flag above the Faust is also pointing south. Cooler weather is to come the following day.

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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