Hanging out in Rockford: Three Irish whiskeys and three hamburgers

Lately, everything has been getting me down. I think it is a culmination of the long winter combined with the war in Iraq and the possibility that the Katzenjammer Kids will get us into another mess in Iran. I have been overly sensitive to all sorts of things. This has finally resulted in my complete withdrawal from the world. I have been staying away from my business and hiding out in my apartment.

The back page of the Chicago Reader contains an ad for the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Chicago May 6. I am tempted to go. The subject of his talk is “Finding inner peace in a world of turmoil.” Somehow, that seems appropriate to the mood I am in. I seriously consider going online to purchase tickets, but then mentally set it aside for a later time.

Depression is a natural phenomenon. If you are never depressed, how do you know when you are happy? I live in a world of people some might refer to as bipolar. I call them normal. They self-medicate, but they are not on the pharmacological roller coaster. Occasionally, somebody I know tries Prozac, but I suddenly find him or her less interesting. Sunday, I am thinking about all of this, and I decide to break my disappearance act and venture out into the public.

It is a beautiful day, and that helps overcome the feeling that suicide is somehow necessary. I walk slowly down State Street. I notice, through the buildings, April’s new salon, Bliss, and head in that direction, thinking I will take a look in the window. Surprisingly, she is inside and opens the door as I approach. I look around and ask her how it is going, and she tells me, “Well.” I say downtown is finally getting going. She corrects me and says downtown is going. I congratulate her on her new enterprise, and move on.

Farther down the block, I run into Bill Johansson outside the East Side Center. Bill brings up the subject of how downtown is doing, and I repeat what April said. We continue to talk about the kinds of things downtown people are interested in, and then I tell him I am on my way to Swilligan’s for an Irish whiskey and a hamburger. He says something about that being two food groups or something to that effect. I am planning on having only one whiskey and then a hamburger.

When I get to Swilligan’s, Paula is behind the bar. Bryan Crammer is sitting at the last stool, and we strike up a conversation. I tell him his name came up recently, and he says the same about mine. We figure out it is because I visited Michael Verace’s new place last week, and he has been working there for a few months. I was there on a Monday for lunch, and didn’t get to see Michael. Randy, who also waits there, related my visit to Bryan. I hadn’t seen Randy since he left Gerlinde’s.

After the first whiskey, we are joined by a gorgeous young woman, a little slip of a girl. Her name is Dena, and she works at Octane. Later, her girlfriend, Jannie, joins us. They are the Octane mainstays. I buy a round of drinks, and order another Irish whiskey. Rules are made to be broken, especially when there is a war going on. The conversation is lively, and the girls are adorable. What more could a 61-year-old man want?

Then, I order a third whiskey and a cheeseburger. The cheeseburger is outstanding, one of the best I have ever had in a bar in Rockford. Reggie and I had a conversation about this very thing the other day, the importance of having a good cheeseburger in a bar. He has a good pork tenderloin sandwich, too. I think Mike, the cook, is partially responsible; they are not over cooked.

I wander out of Swilligan’s and cross the street to Parthenio’s. I am still hungry. I walk in and order two cheeseburgers to go from Mary. I walk slowly back to the Rose. The flag atop the News Tower is blowing straight north. Spring is coming. I take a nap, and then awake to eat my cold sandwiches. I hide in my apartment again, not wanting to see customers. The next morning, I go online to look at the ticket site for the Dalai Lama. The event is sponsored by Exelon, the same company that is stealing from our community with its new, cooked-up increase disguised as deregulation. I don’t order tickets. I sink back into depression. Spring is coming. I hope it is soon.

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 issue March 14-20, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!