Hanging Out in Rockford: More next week

Sometimes you want to write about what’s happening. Sometimes what is happening right now takes precedence over what you had planned, but then there is the column that says, “More next week.” This is one of those situations. The weekend following my aborted trip to Milwaukee to see Cheap Trick is the weekend of Valentine’s Day. The entire block is up for grabs.

I have promised a whole salmon to Nello for his grand opening (The Casbah). I make a mental note to pick up one on Thursday when I am at the market, but I forget, so Saturday morning I call Logli’s on East State to see if they have any whole salmon. Luckily, they do. Oscar, who used to work for me, answers the phone. He says he will save me one. I drive out there as soon as I have the settlement done.

When I get there, Oscar reminds me of the night when the street person broke the front window at the Irish Rose. It was at the height of the dining hour, and it sounded like a bomb had gone off in the front of the place. He helped chase the vagrant down. I had the guy on the ground and was hitting him repeatedly, when my old cook Arturo made me stop. “You no hit more!” Arturo had said. And he was right, and I immediately felt bad. Arturo had a good heart.

But there was the other side of Arturo, the side of Arturo when he was drunk. He stabbed one of the dish boys one night in a fit of rage. Then there was the night he fired a pistol through the floor of his girlfriend Judy’s apartment, and we had to bail him out of jail so he could cook on a Saturday. I tell Oscar that Arturo is dead, that he died in an auto accident. I was canvassing with my menus a few years ago, and I was working the building at East State and Fairview, the one the Bagel Place is in, when I ran into Judy. She told me he died in a car accident. Oscar and I agree that he was probably drunk.

That evening, I work the Rose until all the tables are seated. Then, I take a walk down the block to bring the salmon, which Troy has baked, for their grand opening. Everyone is extremely busy, but then it is Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, and a lot of people are celebrating it over the weekend. I pass the Brio dining room, and all the tables are filled. I walk into the Casbah, and the place is packed, too packed for me to get any respite from the Rose—if I wanted crowds like this, I could have stayed home.

I walk next door to Little Italy. Their bar at least has seats available, and I sit there for a glass of wine. Then it’s back to the Rose. The place continues to be full, with tables waiting at the bar until about 10 p.m. Then, I decide I want to take another trip to the Casbah. I want to congratulate Nello on his splendid grand opening.

I can’t find Nello. I hear he has gone out to purchase things they are running out of. I tell his wife what a wonderful job he has done. At first, I don’t see her, but Cherry Brockway points her out. In the hallway, I run into Frank Schier. I ask him if he wants to walk across the bridge. He looks at me like I have green hair. Evidently, he is not in the mood for exercise. I am talking to him when the person next to him says something to me. Suddenly, I realize it is Rick Nielsen and that I had not noticed him, either. I make apologies, and relate the story of my medication debacle to Rick. I want him to know that I really wanted to go to the concert. I understand Chris from Krypto Music Lounge took my place.

Back at the Rose later, I see Frank again. He is standing by the bar. He looks content, no exercise for him, at least not tonight. No exercise for me, either; I wander up the stairs and put myself to bed.

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. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the Feb. 22-28, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!