Hanging Out In Rockford, I had never heard her sing

Hanging Out In Rockford, I had never heard her sing

By Mike Leifheit

By Mike Leifheit


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 website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

I think it was about a year ago. We were short handed. We were desperate. We needed help, badly! Then suddenly, there is this lovely woman applying for part-time wait-help. I think I just said, “You’re hired; now we just have to work out the hours you want.” Later I almost regretted it. But never, really. I had never heard her sing. Don’t get me wrong; I knew she sang, but I just never heard her sing. I always thought she would be good, but I wasn’t prepared for how good.

I have had a lot of things happen in the last few weeks. I was still recovering from the motorcycle accident. Then my restaurant in Rockton caught fire. The company that was cleaning the ducts was skipping the wood-fired oven flue. Creosote had built up in the flue, and it caught fire. There was this wonderful message on my Primeco answering service that consisted of fire-engine sirens and my cook, Jose, claiming there was no fire; it was just because he started with wet logs (a lot of smoke). There was, however, a fire.

I leave Rockford about five o’clock. My driving to Rockton is distracted. I try to focus on the task at hand. Before leaving, I grab the receipt for the last duct cleaning, now barely two weeks old. When I arrive at the Irish Rose North, there are fire trucks all around. I ask for the chief, and one of the fire fighters takes me to him. I show him my receipt for the cleaning. He is very receptive. “My son has a restaurant,” he says. We go inside, and I look up the flue. I get some hot ash in my eye. Later, one of the paramedics removes it.

I have a meeting with the guy from the cleaning company, and initially he accepts responsibility, but then later he changes his mind. I think it unfortunate that people are not standing behind their work the way they used to. I think it is unfortunate about the state of business ethics in general. I was cheated so many times in the course of what should have been a normal business insurance recovery, that it affected my feelings about the world.

But I still have a column to write! Then suddenly, it is Block 5, and it almost seems like there will be no time to write a column. (And what will I write about?) Friday is absorbed by putting up the fences, hooking up electricity, and putting out fires with my staff. We have the most temperamental staff in the world at the Irish Rose. Great accomplishment and temperament often go hand in hand. Don’t expect your favorite artist to be your best friend (or lover). When you get it good, however, it can often be great. It will never be recorded.

Sunday morning, my kitchen staff shows up, all friends again. Thank God, everything is back to normal. All but the damned leak from the front air conditioner that defies logic. I get to have a fairly normal Sunday morning, which means four or five hours of bookwork and accounting. But the pressure isn’t there. I get my work done and then head out on my new motorcycle (new to me). It is the heaviest motorcycle I have ever owned. I miss the kickstand at Serrano’s and have to call to a young man who is passing by to help me stand it up. I have never owned a bike I couldn’t pick up from the ground.

I go first to Parthenios for a Greek Salad (and to read the newspaper). John comes over to ask about the Block 5 party and whether it was good for business. “It was,” I say, and furthermore, “I had one of the best first parts of the week that I have ever had. This may be the best week I have ever had,” I tell him. He seems genuinely pleased. He is one of the nicest people I know that way. I am still hungry, and I head over to Chen’s for a couple of drinks and the barbecue pork appetizer. Doc, the golf pro, is there, and we buy each other drinks. Then I drive up to Rockton and go to Ye Olde Pub for a Pepsi.

When I get back to Rockford, I stop at the Artery. They are having their “Lunacy Collective,” something to do with the full moon. Susan Hofer is singing. Ryan Swanson is playing sax. Izzy and I lean on the desk and listen. I am knocked out. I had never heard her sing. I give Izzy the price of a ticket and go home to write this article. I write it straight through, first time with hardly a correction. I go back to the Artery and let Izzy see the article. She reads it aloud; then she has to go home to get ready.

I go home to kill time watching television. The stress of the past few weeks catches up with me, and I awake at 1 a.m. I miss the “Lunacy Collective,” but at least I got to hear her sing.

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