Hanging Out in Rockford: Old times, new times—part three

Leaving the Dylan concert, Drew says he wants to take me to his favorite bar. It is a place owned by an Irishman, and I say, “Oh no, not that.”

Miklos has something to do early the next morning, and he apologizes for not being able to accompany us. So Drew, Andros and I take the long escalator down to the underground train system that serves Budapest. I notice that the escalator has fits and starts, unlike our smooth, modern escalators—a leftover from communism.

When we get to the little bar, it is crowded. The people look much like the Irish Rose crowd on any given night. We want to know if we can still have food, so Drew and Andros go to check out that situation while I look for a place for us to sit. Finding none, I am standing by the only empty table, which has only one chair, wondering what to do. I ask people sitting at an adjacent table whether I can take a couple of chairs, and they are most accommodating. But then Andros walks up and announces that we are going to sit at the same table as these other people. I say it is their table, but he says yes, but there are three empty seats and we need them. I realize then that is the custom, and the phrase European seating springs into my mind.

We are sitting having our drinks and sandwiches (roast beef and bacon on black bread and roasted veggies on black bread along with some very nice salad with good tomatoes and cucumbers) and people-watching.

A very drunk young woman is propositioning a man sitting in front of us. His buddy is looking like he is not too happy about the whole thing. They have two tall glasses of beer on the table. The woman is trying to sit in the lap of the first young man. Every time she does, the glasses of beer almost meet the floor but miraculously, every time, the other man seems to catch them at the last moment. We are fascinated by this and wonder out loud how long it will take to break the beer glasses.

The first young man (the one being accosted) deftly reaches around her at one point, takes a drink from his glass, and then returns it without looking. The table tips to an angle of 15 degrees or more, but still the glasses remain standing. An older gentleman, who is sitting at the bar, walks over to the table and tells her in Magyar (the Hungarian language) to go home. She pays no attention and continues to throw herself at the first young man.

This goes on for some time with the older gentleman returning to the table again and again to tell the young woman to get home. Eventually, she leaves with the two men. The older gentleman just shakes his head and also leaves the bar.

A friend of Drew’s stops by the table to say hi. She is part of a group that he plays basketball with regularly. I hear an accent and ask her what it is. She says, “Can’t you recognize it?” She is Irish, straight off the boat. She asks if I drink and can tell a good story. I say I own a bar and what do you think? Then, she regales us with tales of her time in Afghanistan and eating mutton three times a day. She has us in stitches telling the mutton stories, and then goes back to join her companions.

We leave the bar fairly early to go back to Drew’s flat. I get to sleep late the following day. Then Drew takes me to the Turkish Baths, but they are closed for the holiday(it is a Hungarian national holiday).

First we visit the main market hall and then we wind up going to another bath house near the Danube, a co-ed facility. But first we have to buy me a bathing suit, which we accomplish at the Mammut (mammoth) Mall, which is near where he lives. There is a big wooly mammoth above the door of the mall. It is very modern and feels like a modern mall in the U.S.A.

Having acquired the aforementioned trunks, we walk several miles to the bath house. Drew says he never gains weight in Budapest, regardless of what he eats or drinks. It is because of all the walking. I am noticing that also. I believe I have already lost several pounds.

The bath house is a gas. We change into our suits in little cabins, proceed to the showers, and then to the bathing rooms. The different pools have different temperatures listed. The people-watching is intense. Aged women with rolls of fat share the stage with hot young babes in string bikinis. We watch the girls in the bikinis, of course. Young couples kiss openly. Drew says it has to do with the lack of privacy because of crowded living conditions.

We move about from pool to pool. It is so relaxing that at times I have difficulty rising from one pool to move to another. I feel like jelly all over. Then we walk back to the apartment. On the way, we stop off at a little bar and have drinks.

That evening, Drew, I and Dori (his girlfriend) have dinner at a restaurant called Soul Café. The food is modern and would fit in any U.S. up-scale, hip restaurant area. I drink too much wine and cry. I am happy to be here with my son at this most wonderful time in my life. Drew has a little tif with Dori about her refusing to talk to any of his friends in English (I think perhaps she is self-conscious about her abilities in the language). It is the only thing they ever disagree on.

Later outside, Dori speaks to me in perfect English. We get busted by Drew, who asks if she has been speaking English to me. I, of course, deny everything.

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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