Hanging Out in Rockford: The end of summer—part one

It starts, so you don’t notice. The changes are subtle. The ever-so-slight differential in the tint of green. Then, the slightest hint of brown pushing on the edges. And then, you realize it is the end of August. Before you know it, the leaves will be changing dramatically. Before you know it, you will see your breath in the air.

I get sick on a Friday night. I am just sitting around having a good time, having drinks with friends, when a sharp pain forces its way through my midsection. I decide to ignore it, and have another Irish whiskey. I’m not going to let a little pain in the stomach spoil my fun. I go to bed, and cannot sleep. It is like a full moon night. I sit there in front of the television, not really watching; the pain has come back. I start to realize it may be something more than indigestion. I sit awake all night, napping only fitfully, awakening to drink cold water that doesn’t help.

When Saturday comes, I realize it may be food poisoning. It wouldn’t be the first time; I eat most of my meals out. Sunday confirms my suspicion, but I am showing signs of getting better, and so I don’t worry about going to the doctor. I decide that since I haven’t had a drink in three days, I should go a little longer. It’s a good idea to do that every once in a while.

Sunday and Monday are really slow in the restaurant. I look at the year before, and we are off $1,000 both days. At first, I am puzzled, since all other factors are the same and, usually, we run ahead of the previous year. Then, I realize it is the change of season. People can feel it. Last year, it didn’t come so early. Last summer, On the Waterfront still seemed like summer. This year, it’s different. Every year it’s different, but people can feel it and know when it happens.

By Wednesday, the folks are back out. By Wednesday, my neighbor Paul’s bar is packed for the $2 cosmopolitans as I walk by and look in the window. I look across the street. Sambuca is still under construction. I pass by Cru, also waiting to open. I walk on past Little Italy, and I am temped to stop in to see Julia, but I am not drinking, and I know if I stop there, I might break my streak.

I walk on to Kuma’s. I am hungry. I need to eat. I want to have the Korean ribs (Bulgalbi) that Kuma served me the last time I was here when I told her to just pick something for me. I want the spicy freshness of Kimchi and radish salad (she makes them from scratch). When I walk in the front door, Fred and Kuma are there. If they are open, Fred and Kuma are there. I wish I had their skills with the public. If I did, I would be a millionaire.

Kuma ushers me to a table. She sits me in the exact same seat she seated me in last time, and sits across from me. I realize this is the table where they always entertain their special guests, and I am flattered. I tell her I want the ribs again. She orders for me. The waiter asks what I want to drink. I turn it over to him, and he brings me a Cherry Coke. Fred asks if Sambuca is ever going to open. I tell him that it will, just like he and Kuma finally did. I think he takes my teasing OK. I sit there eating ribs with my fingers, spicy hot, homemade Kimchi and radish salad alternating with mouthfuls of plain rice—and talking to Kuma.

To be continued…

For all of you who want to see the changes in Block 5, this week would be propitious. We are having our annual party, this time a little trimmed down from past years, but a little more directed at our usual customer base. Friday night is more for the jazz and blues crowd. Saturday night will appeal to a little younger set. You can find a listing of our acts on stage elsewhere in this issue of The Rock River Times. Advance tickets are available at both Brio Restaurant, Wine Bar and Patio, and the Irish Rose, and are only $5 for both nights. We’re calling it Block 5 “After the Front.”

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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