Hanging out in Rockford: Life, love and the Lower lizard—Part one

Hanging out in Rockford: Life, love and the Lower lizard—Part one

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

The summer is well under way, and unlike the last three summers, I still have no girlfriend. I mention this to Karen Elyea, and she says it is because there have been no hot, sweltering nights. Well, now, even that has come and gone and still no luck. But then again, it is not because there have been no offers; it is because I can see the future, and I don’t like it. Why begin something when you can already see the middle and the end?

My son is visiting from Budapest. I intend to visit him there about this time, but he surprises us by coming here. We have a number of good times while he is here. We pick up a couple of books at Barnes and Noble, an anthology of Jack Kerouac and a book called Fast Food Nation that is on The New York Times best seller list. I am still working my way through Kerouac, but we both have read the other book, and we discuss it. I drive him to Midway Airport on Monday morning. It’s about our lousy culture and food, and how we are exporting it to the rest of the world. Profit as the ultimate motive with no regard for quality.

I drop Drew off in front of Continental and head back to Rockford. I am really sad to see him go, and my eyes water as I find my way back to the interstate. On the way back, I perk up and decide to make the best of the fact that l actually have an afternoon off. I worked all day Sunday to assure that l would be able to take Drew in to Midway. I call Dawn Smolinski to ask her if she wants to go for a motorcycle ride, and she agrees. I say I will be there about one o’clock.

When I get back to the Irish Rose, Raymon is standing outside, and I ask if he has seen Dawn. I thought she might have come to the restaurant to wait for me. But she hasn’t, so I head down the alley behind Little Italy. I get there and shout into the open window. She is still in the shower. I walk back down to wait patiently in the van. Lateness is the obligation of beautiful women.

After a while, she comes down the stairs wearing tiny little shorts, definitely worth the wait. Then we are on the bike and heading north. I tell her that I want to check a cooler that has been giving me endless problems in Rockton, and we drive up North Main Street. We pass a house that has memories for me, and I acknowledge aloud that some things are harder to get over than others.

In Rockton, I check my cooler, and then we spy Tricia Davie at her office-store (The Green Quarter) across the street, right next to the Rockton Inn. We hang with Tricia. She shows us her plantings, the large stone wall behind her place (that her company built) and the new pond that is attracting all sorts of natural wildlife. Then it’s back on the bike. Dawn complains as the hot leather seat hits her bare legs.

We head straight west and get lost on the back roads. Eventually, we wind up at the Sugar River Preserve, and then I know where I am again. Dawn is hungry, so we head for Pecatonica, fumbling our way to Route 75 and then turning left on Pecatonica Road just past Durand. Entering the village, we pull over, across the street from the Lower Lizard Lounge. We walk into the lounge and sit at the bar. We are greeted by a comely woman who turns out to be the owner.

I order a gin and tonic, and Dawn says that she will have one also. The woman owner asks for her ID, but Dawn has neglected to bring it. “She is old enough,” I say, but the woman is insistent. I understand, so does Dawn. She says it’s OK and just has a Coke. I tell the owner that, believe it or not, Dawn has two beautiful 7-year-old twin boys. She remarks that her son is 23. I look at Dawn and say, “You could date her son.”

I first started going to the Lower Lizard when I met MaryAnn. She owned the place, and she used to eat breakfast at the Short Stop Grill, next door to the Irish Rose where the Bacchus dining room is now. All the cops would hang there to write their reports. It was when Georgene was running it after Pete died, and Mary finally gave up the business. It was a sad day when they had the auction and sold off all the antiques and clocks on the walls. More next week.

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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