Hanging Out In Rockford: Uncorked at 57

July 1, 1993

“Thank heaven for little girls, for little girls get bigger every day.” Maurice Chevalier sang that song long ago. Maybe that is why I keep trying to go out with young women. Maybe that is why I never give up. It is tough being a 57-year-old man on the look out. You get a lot of offers, but not too many you are actually interested in. Maybe one of these girls could grow into the woman you would actually be attracted to, and maybe not.

It is just like writing something on Microsoft Word. There are a lot of rules, but they don’t have anything to do with style If he depended on Word, Kerouac would never have published a novel. My 10th grade English teacher, Miss Johnson (unfortunately) would have agreed with Microsoft. She used to grade my papers and put many comments in the margins. I used to answer all the comments and turn them back in. All the students I knew who paraphrased others used to get As. I never did. While Miss Johnson was teaching Silas Marner, I would quietly sit in the back of the room and read Dostoevski and Tolstoy. Maybe that is why I remain a rebel to this day.

It is 8 a.m. In the morning on a Saturday. The alarm goes off, I turn over thinking it is Saturday and I can sleep some more, but no, it is the Saturday of Uncorked and I have to drag my 57-year-old body out of bed. Fortunately I didn’t go drinking or anything crazy like that last night and I start to find reality fairly quickly. I fight my way through the 57-year-old mind fuzz; I have to go pick up the charcoal grill at Lincoln Rental.

I got into all of this because of my little friend Megan. That’s Megan Gallagher for the uninitiated. She runs the Uncorked in the Rock River Valley. It is a tasting of wine and beer and food. She sucked me into participating last year after only four or five calls. It was some kind of a record. I swore I would never do it again, as I swore I would never do the Taste of Rockford. (That one took.)

I get up, shower quickly and head over to the rental place to pick up the charcoal grill I reserved. Then it is several hours of setting up to “grill out.” Marco, my head cook, is taking the whole day to help me; the other Mexican guys are going to carry the load at the restaurant. Jenny Geiger, my new partner and manager at the Irish Rose in Rockton is going to help service. We are the formidable three-man team, we are invincible.

Jenny calls and gives me trouble. She doesn’t want to be away from the restaurant in Rockton for even a day. I am curt and unresponsive. I tell her that I told her about this weeks before. I feel bad after she hangs up, but I believe in this event and it is important to me that she be there.

It gets close to opening time and it is the return of Daryl. The winds are amazing. The ticket-taker tent has a light hanging from it. It is jumping up and down in the wind; it is the dancing light. Later they remove it. Then we start cooking (pork chops and corn). Our tent seems to be the center of attention (maybe because my friend Dave Homewood keeps bringing us bottles of his excellent wine). Mike and Karla and Howard from Grazie and the ChopHouse step by and we all kind of hang out. Megan comes by a lot, too. She has a half of a pineapple filled with rice that she bought from the booth run by Bruce from Singapore Grill. It looks (and tastes) really good.

I sit by the river with my friend Karen from Minglewood. She and James are helping out at the ticket booth. Frank Schier of The Rock River Times drives his pontoon boat up to the shore and we help him dock. He comes ashore to have some wine and check out the show. We tie his boat to a lamppost.

After all the action, we still have to tear down. Marco takes a load back to the Irish Rose while I clean the charcoal grill. I have to wait for him so I lie down on the grass and stare up at the summer sky. The lights from the former Lorden Moving and Storage building shine straight up into the sky illuminating the bats flying around the downtown buildings, swooping and gliding in the summer night sky.

Marco comes back and we load the charcoal grill into my van (after we watch the bats for awhile). At one o’clock in the morning I take a shower. Friends I know well (Dave Lichteig and Corina Curry) want me to come to their table, but I am too tired and I have my waitress Jenn Bekael apologize for me. It has been a long day. Eighteen hours is a long time far an old guy to work.

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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