Hanging out in Rockford: Cruising down to Rockford
By Mike Leifheit, Columnist
I am in the Villager cruising down North Main to Rockford. It was a little slow in Rockton, and I broke away early. I am full of energy and looking for company. Jenny Geiger has called earlier in the day; it is on my messages. I return her call both to her home and her mobile number, but no such luck.
Im looking for Jennys number. I spy Izzys. I havent seen Izzy for a while, and I give her a call. She has company but wonders what l am doing Sunday. Cant do it, I say; I have a cooler to repair in Rockton on Monday, and so I must stay home and work on Sunday. We both promise to stay in touch and see each other as soon possible.
As I arrive in Rockford, I see an open parking place in front of Little Italy. Too good to be true in Block 5 on a Saturday night. I decide to go no farther and park my van for the evening only half a block from home. As I exit the van, I see Kerry Knodle through the window of Little Italy, and I walk in to join him at the bar.
After sitting for a few minutes, I call to the Irish Rose to find out if my world traveler son, who is visiting from Budapest, is at the restaurant, and he is. He is with his friend Csilla and a professor friend of hers. Csilla is the assistant to the president of Beloit College. Csilla is a tall blonde Hungarian woman who reminds you of the Gabor sisters. Csilla always has a lot of men around her. No wonder my world traveler son likes Budapest; it is filled with women like this.
I tell Drew (the son) I am going to have one glass of wine, and then l will join them. I lie, I have two glasses, then I walk down to the Irish Rose. Drew is standing, getting ready to leave. You almost misused us, he says. Surprise, surprise, the professor is a woman, and a womans studies professor to boot. No one introduces us and I never learn her name. We set out on foot to go to the Carlyle Brewery. It is cold, and the women complain a little, but it is not that far and the walk goes quickly.
At the brewery we order drinks and stand and talk at the bar. The place is crowded, and there is no table available. Jean Phillips, daughter of Larry, waits on us. Other than her, I dont recognize a person in the place. They are bringing a lot of new people downtown, and that is really good for business. We have our drinks and then decide to move on to Paragon. I tell the girls I will call a cab to take us home. I have been wanting to hang out at Paragon. The last time my friend Jon and I tried to go there, they were closed (to the public) for a wedding.
The Dean Moriarty Band is playing. We sit at the second table in the bar area. Elda, the bartender, helps with our order even though she is not our server. (She is the most beautiful Mexican woman.) Izzy calls and says she is free, but I tell her I am already spending time with my son and his friends. We promise again to get together soon. I see Danny Casten, Zack, Henry and the other guys from the band. The girls are hungry and want to know if the food is good. I tell them that my friend Sandi (Cohn) and I always order the appetizers when we come in late like this and that some of them are really good.
We get a menu, and I order the salmon and crab cakes, the brie with roasted garlic, and the Cajun shrimp. The food comes and the conversation ceases for a moment. Mary stops by to see how things are. She looks the best she has since I have known her. The women rave about the food. Mary looks pleased.
I want to go on to Kryptonite, but everyone else is tired, and so we decide to call it an evening. We call a cab, but it never comes, and so we decide to walk back. Drew and I donate our jackets to the women as we walk across the State Street bridge. The cold is having little effect on me, as Sarah Jones would say, drenched in wine. The little flag atop the Faust is hanging straight down. The cold wind from the north is over. Perhaps the weather will be nicer tomorrow.
Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheits 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.