Hanging Out In Rockford: Friday night arrives

Friday night arrives, and I am sitting at the bar wondering what to do. The place is a lot busier than I expected. We are all wondering at the ability of people to come out in the snowstorm. It is probably the worst night of the winter, and yet our customers defy the undefiable (probably not a word, but I like it). But then the front room of the Irish Rose is probably one of the prettiest places in the city to sit, have a toddy and watch a snowstorm. (The next morning, Troy does observe that no-smoking was empty all night. He chalks it up to the fact that our smoking customers are risk takers.)

Summer calls (Elisha and I refer to her as Sum-Sum). She wants to know if we can go down to her dad’s club. Her dad runs the Polish Falcons Club. Like I would say no! Then Elisha calls, and I figure out that the two girls have had this planned all along. Will I go along with it? Hell, yes! We warm up by opening the bottle of Big Daddy Merlot, which John (the cop) has mysteriously purchased and dropped off for my enjoyment. (You pretty much have to understand that I have been referred to as “Big Daddy” by my staff for many years, it’s an inside joke.)

After wiping out the “Big Daddy,” we decide that we should go to the art opening at J. R. Kortman. I have seen a wonderful color spread in The Rock River Times that has piqued my curiosity. The girls soon agree after I show them the article. Then we will go to Summer’s dad’s. Actually, it takes quite some time to decide that. At any given point, we are all waiting for each other. One will be ready to leave, but another will be engaged in conversation. And so it goes. Finally Elisha and I are just waiting for Summer, not an unusual condition I might add. Elisha takes the empty Big Daddy bottle and puts it in her trunk. Then finally Summer is ready, and we are going, but then Eric wants to go and we have to wait for him.

Finally, we all pile in the Villager and head across the river. It’s slow going, the snow is really coming down, and in spite of the plow trucks being out in force, the streets are pretty deep. We proceed, slowly, cautiously across the river and find easy parking behind Paragon. We tramp through the now-deep snow and enter J. R. Kortman. Some of us go in the downstairs door, and some of us the upstairs, but all of us wind up going up the stairs to the second story gallery. As I walk up the stairs, I cannot help but notice the painting on my left. It is in the same vein, but different than the paintings in the paper. Doc and Jerry both welcome me warmly (at different times).

Donna Gumas, the Donna of (among other things) the Red Whale (that used to be where that tattoo parlor is now and where we bought our first water bed). That Donna. She’s there. So is Kim Summerfield, who I think used to work for me but denies it now. And then there is a friend of Donna’s who is, believe it or not, Peggy Sue. All of these people, and a whole lot of others are at the opening. Dennis is bartending. I buy drinks for all the young women.

I meet Nicole, whose opening it is. She is a charming, unassuming woman. This was one of the nicest single person openings I have seen in some time. We are both knocked out by the turnout on this blizzard night. She has a lot of nice and affordable work here. A number of us (led by Donna) then decide that we should go to Minglewood. They are having bands tonight. Elisha wants to go back to the Rose. We decide that we should take her back before going on. When we get to the Rose, Summer decides to stay with Elisha. Eric and I head for Minglewood.

We get to Minglewood, and none of the aforementioned women is there. We find out that they all headed out together and that they will be back. I say that either they went to the Times Lounge or Swilligan’s, and I promote Swilligan’s as the number one choice. So we go to Swilligan’s. Once inside, the group is not there, but we decide to stay anyhow. I spend some time catching up with Chuck Kostantacos. We haven’t talked for a long time. Then it’s getting late, and the snow is falling.

Back at the Rose, I sit and talk to Molly. I bring up the subject of the jazz event at the Masonic Temple (presented by Charlotte’s Web on Jan. 30) and say it is this weekend. Molly says we should go together. (But I have the date wrong; it is the following weekend. Sunday when I look at The Rock River Times I realize this.) I am home safe, I have an Irish whiskey and then climb the stairs. Too much fun the night of the big snowstorm.

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, and featured on WNTA talk radio AM 1330. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

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