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

After some good conversation and some hearty dinner at Kuma’s, I wander back to the Rose. I think of all the plans I had made for this summer and how they all got swallowed up by work. I had planned to leave for Budapest to see my son on 9/11. I made jokes about getting a good price on an airline ticket. Then, I found out he had plans to come here on the 20th, and I decided to postpone my visit there. The mayor has asked me to head the Hungarian sister city program, and I am looking forward to it. I will go in November, and probably again as part of the sister city work.

I am still not drinking on the Friday of Waterfront. It has been a week. I spend the day replacing a freezer compressor in my old Rockton restaurant, which I have rented to Phyliss Beecher for her catering business. The compressor installation goes well, and about 5:30, I am driving back to Rockford when I get a call from a lady friend. Do I want to go for a drink? Of course, I say, realizing my week-long string is not going to be broken. Sometimes you just have to throw away resolutions.

I tell her I need to have a shower and that it will be about 20 minutes. She opens the door for me to get out by saying that I sound tired, but I pay no attention. We meet at Little Italy. She is going to order an appetizer, but then suggests dinner, and at Café Greco. I say, “Of course.” We decide to take the motorcycle. It’s too hard to get cars in and out of downtown; you cannot find anywhere to park. The motorcycle is the right instrument—the right instrument on this beautiful night at the end of summer.

Then, we are riding down Second Street to Morgan, and I suddenly remember that Jim Thacker called me this morning and invited me to dinner. One of the guys has bought some beautiful steaks. He didn’t know if it would be at his house or the mayor’s, but they live across the street from one another. I told him I was loaded down with work and wouldn’t probably feel like coming. But now here I am out on the motorcycle, out on the motorcycle with a beautiful woman, and it suddenly seems like a good idea. We go to Greco first to have a drink. We go to Greco first to have an appetizer.

After our drink and our deep-fried appetizer, we get back on the bike, and drive over to Thacker’s. No one is at Jim’s, so we walk across the street to the mayor’s. We let ourselves into the back yard, and walk up the steps to the deck next to the kitchen. As we walk in the door, I realize I have brought the only woman to this party of men. My lady friend offers to escape, but I tell her not to. She is the kind of girl who is happiest when she is hanging out with the boys, and tonight proves to be no exception. I have always been fondest of girls who liked hanging out with the boys.

I am not going to go into detail of what happened at the party, except to say it was the best kind of companionship. The kind where you tease your friends and they let you have it back. I will say there was a lot of typically Irish humor. You get points for a particularly insightful or witty remark. A couple of times this night, I get some points.

Some of the others go out the front door to see the fireworks unobstructed. I stand on the back porch, cooking steaks, and watch the fireworks through the trees. I cannot help but think that soon these very branches will be bare. After succulent steak and good companionship, you need dessert. I offer to buy back at the Rose. People are thinking of driving, but I point out that where they are parked is probably as close as they are going to get. The woman and I ride the motorcycle; the rest walk.

We sit there in the night air eating chocolate mousse and having cocktails. We sit there in the sidewalk café at the end of summer, on the first night of the Waterfront. We sit in front of the Irish Rose being witty. My friend decides she doesn’t need to have another drink if she is driving, and leaves. The others all leave and walk home. I sit there with one remaining friend, the one who bought the steaks, and a glass of Irish whiskey. I decide I don’t want it, and ask him if he does. He takes it, and I find my way upstairs to bed. Summer is over. Summer is definitely over.

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. 13-19, 2006, issue

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