Hanging Out in Rockford: Dinner and a tattoo

My friend Crissy (the beautiful bartender from Café Greco) stops by. Her timing is excellent. I want to go out for dinner, and she does, too. I ask her where she would like to go, and she suggests The Great Wall. Excellent, one of my favorite things to do on Sunday, sit at the bar and eat dinner at The Great Wall.

Dinner is great, as usual. I have been eating mostly vegetarian, and have lost about 20 pounds so far. My favorite vegetarian dish in the whole city is the Ma Bao bean curd, which they will make without the pork if you ask. I add to it some fresh green beans. I really like the combination, and it sure makes being vegetarian easier.

After dinner, Crissy wants to update a tattoo she got with her girlfriend Shannon when they both were divorced. I try in vain to talk her out of it, but Crissy is pretty hard-headed, and she has made up her mind. My plea of this is something you should plan carefully, falls on deaf ears. We drive down Charles Street to the place she usually goes to, but they are closed. However, I had previously mentioned the beautiful new tattoo parlor downtown, Sacred Art. We decided to drive down to see if they are open.

I like to take long walks downtown. It is one of my favorite reasons for living here. In my walks of late, I have noticed the changes they have evoked in what used to be Beale’s Jewelry, formerly run by my old friend, Vern. I have known Vern for about 25 years. He used to have the coin and stamp shop on the corner of Dennis Clements’ building before he moved into the Beale’s space. Chris, the new owner, has taken the building back to its essence. This is the way I think renewal should be done—letting the old building dictate its own style, not forcing a modern condo into an old building.

Chris has restored the old ceiling and fully exposed the original front windows. I like the mixture of antique lamps. I wonder where he got that idea? He is there when Crissy and I pull up, as is Frank, the guy who rides my favorite Suzuki motorcycle (it looks like an old Indian). Crissy announces her intention to get tattooed, but the guys are reluctant—they have been working all day in Lake Geneva, Wis., and they are tired. But she is insistent and, as pretty as she is, she usually winds up getting what she wants. She starts talking very fast about what it is she wants. Frank is impressed she knows exactly what it is she would like. Finally, he relents, and agrees to do the job.

We go back to the Rose and get Crissy a courage cocktail while Frank sets up his equipment. Then, it is all about tattooing. I watch Crissy, and I see little tear drops forming at the corners of her eyes, but she is a tough girl and makes very little fuss. When it is all done, her old tattoo is covered with a star and surrounded by little stars sort of shooting off in various directions. She seems very pleased with the change. I am tired, and when we get back to the Rose, it is all I can do to walk her to her car and then make my way up to bed.

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 Sept. 12 – 18, 2007, issue

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