Hanging Out In Rockford: The Red Ball entertaining as always

I really didn’t want to go to the Red Ball. I went last year and didn’t have that great a time. In fact, my friend Elisha and I were unimpressed with the Rockford Country Club and left early. On the way back, we checked out some art exhibits that were having opening night functions. We enjoyed that more.

But Karen Elyea asks me if I will escort her this year. Her boyfriend James is otherwise occupied and won’t be able to attend. Karen (who owns Minglewood) is one of my favorite people in the River District. I decide not to get a tux for the black tie optional affair and just wear a jacket and slacks instead. Last year, I rented a tux to take Elisha, and half the people were in normal dress clothes. I almost felt out of place. That and the shoes, which I rented, didn’t fit. I didn’t try them on when I picked up the tuxedo. “Everything means everything. Why do you think they say try on everything?” scolded Elisha in the car on the way to the Ball.

I have to go to the wedding of my old friend Jenny Geiger in Beloit in the afternoon. (Saves getting dressed up twice.) Normally, I am in blue jeans and running shoes every day, one of the three things I promised myself when I moved back here from New York. (The other two were opening my own restaurant and making a million dollars. I am fond of saying I have accomplished two of my three goals.)

I get out of the wedding early and am on my way back to town. I call Karen to see if perhaps she is ready, and we can stop for a cocktail on the way. Beautiful woman that she is, she is (true to form) not ready yet. Par for the course. One thing about getting older is you don’t mind waiting for beautiful women so much; you are glad to be waiting for them at all. I go back to the Irish Rose to hang out. I allow extra time, but of course not enough.

I get to Minglewood, and Karen is there in a knock-out dress calculated to make all the other women (and men) jealous. Lucky me. I talk her into no make-up at all. I mean there was really no reason for it. I say that all the other women will be jealous that she looks that good without make-up. She remarks that James always tells her the same thing. Smart man.

We start out at Frank Turbeyville’s apartment 12 flights up in the Rock River Towers for champagne. The most influential people in the River District are there. I’m not going to drop names because I will get it wrong and leave a lot of people out. The apartment is gorgeous with a stunning view of the river. Frank pours a never-ending supply of champagne. Almost everyone is in a tux. (Go figure, I always get these kind of things wrong.)

Then it’s time, and we all migrate to the Country Club. I haven’t had a drink in a month, and the champagne is starting to take hold. At the Country Club, I have a few cocktails. Actually, I have been looking forward to this, and I start having a good time. Everyone is charming. Everyone is having a great time. I am quickly getting drunk, but having a wonderful time along the way. But between the medication and having too much too soon after having nothing at all for months, I soon am ready to go. Karen says she will drive me home and starts to make plans to leave, but I am impatient. I go to the door and ask Kim Wheeler whether she will call me a cab. But then unwisely, I just decide to drive home.

The next morning, I find my clothes piled neatly on the little blue couch where that customarily happens. My vehicle is parked, not abandoned, and everything seems OK. Troy, my chef, teases me about the mood I was in, and how I climbed the stairs. But I know I cannot do this again. Too long a time being too good, that will get you every time; you have to pace yourself. I call Karen to apologize, and James, who answers the phone, says it was the medication. “You don’t think it had anything to do with the three double whiskeys?” I counter.

Friday night, Kelly is sitting at the bar. I can tell she is tense from the way she is moving her head. I give her a back and neck massage, and she seems truly grateful. I owe her big time after the way she took care of me while I was in the hospital. Karen comes in to see some members of a band that is playing at her place tonight, Love, said Demeter. She says she thinks this is a band that will break out. After she leaves, I ask Kelly if she wants to go to Minglewood. She has never been there and readily agrees.

At Minglewood, we listen to the band. We listen, and they are good. We bump into Izzy, and she tells us that the drummer was in the first band that played at the Artery. Funny how these things go around. Then I ask Kelly if she is ready to go, and we drive back to the Rose. The little flag atop the Faust Landmark is pointing straight south. Winter is upon us. Next year, I will move to a warmer climate (maybe).

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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