Hanging Out In Rockford: Not just another year

Another year has come and gone, and I am another year older. I celebrate my birthday by relaxing my self-imposed restrictions on food and alcohol (all week). The hard part will be getting back on track after this week. The night before my birthday, I go out with Elisha. We just meet at Little Italy for a glass of wine. Of course, it turns into more than one glass. We wind up having sushi at Paragon. Elisha says she isn’t hungry, but I talk her into ordering, and then, of course, she has to share. Actually, Tuesday night I don’t even think about my impending birthday, I just want to let go.

Wednesday morning, I awake and remember for some unknown reason that it is my birthday today: 59 years old. It seems only yesterday that I got to do 57 over again. I thought I was going to be 58 and my son corrected me. No such luck here. But I struggle through the day with a slight hangover, getting my work done nevertheless. I paint the rest of the hallway at the restaurant. The flag above the Faust blows straight north. The temperature is in the 70s, and the humidity is high. It feels wonderful.

That evening, Summer Victor shows up. She doesn’t know that it is my birthday, but upon finding out, she suggests that we do something. She wants to go to her dad’s club (the Polish Falcon’s Club, her dad runs it) and sit at the bar. But I tell her that I am a 59-year-old man who recently had a heart attack, and I have to get up to go to the market in the morning. We have to be back by midnight. We decide instead to walk the short block to Little Italy. Summer used to work there, but she has not seen it since the remodeling.

We hang at Little Italy for awhile and then work our way back to the Rose. I am fairly conservative about drinking even though it is my birthday because I know that I have a pretty big day Thursday. I have to go to the market for sure because Troy has so much to do that I cannot dump it on him (although he offers since it is my birthday). He has to make a full flight of appetizers for Northern Illinois School of Law’s Club Winnebago event. (They used to hold the event in David Taylor’s back yard; that is where it got christened Club Winnebago.) In addition, we are contributing appetizers to the River District mixer at CMF Mortgage, which I plan to attend.

But, of course, before any of this, I have to go to the market. I get back to Rockford around 2. Then Judy Moyer walks through the door of the Rose. She is waiting for her Volvo to be serviced at Fran Kral. I ask her if she is interested in lunch. We go to Café Greco and have giant hamburgers and Diet Cokes. Then she gets a call from Fran Kral, and I go up to my apartment to freshen up for the evening.

Then one of those nightmarish restaurant things occurs. I am climbing down the steep stairs from my loft to the restaurant when I spy the credit card machine almost out of tape. I call the waitstaff back to lecture them about this as it can cause paper to get stuck in the machine and render it inoperable. Of course, the next step is that they jam the machine. I spend three hours trying to repair it and eventually do repair the jam, but in the process I break one of the fine wires leading to the print head. It is junk. Then I remember that we have an extra printer left over from Rockton. It is practically brand new. I ask Christa to plug it in and try it. It works perfectly. Crisis averted. But I have missed the River District mixer. Karen Elyea shows up at the Rose after the mixer. She is one of my favorite people in Rockford, and I order a drink to sit with her. She is in rare form and soon has me in stitches. I forget about the printer debacle.

Friday I don’t feel like being around people. I hide out at Little Italy, where Marissa serves me dinner at the little bar. I am still being bad, and I have pizza, some of the best in town. I go back to the Rose and hide upstairs. Around midnight I get calls from Elisha and Summer. They are at Little Italy (it was a Little Italy week). But I am in no mood to go anywhere, and I just watch television. I don’t want to see people.

Saturday it is officially Mike’s birthday at the Rose, so I have to steel myself against the onslaught. Strangely, not too many people attack me. Chris from Kryptonite shows up with the Harlem Globetrotters. I feed the young hungry men off the buffet. They only protest slightly. Karen Elyea is, as far as I can tell, Little Orphan Annie.

Around 10 o’clock, I decide to walk around downtown. Bacchus is packed probably because it is their last fine dining night. Little Italy is already closed. I go to Paragon to talk to Rose and have a glass of wine, then to Serrano’s where Joyce makes me chicken tacos. Then I walk through the mall and back by the Lutheran high rise where Tuesday I will vote for John Kerry. Hopefully as you read this today, George Bush is no longer our president. I plan to visit my son in Budapest again, and I would like not to continually explain our country to everyone. Tonight the little flag is blowing straight south, but the wind is not that cold. What a beautiful fall we have had.

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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