Hanging Out in Rockford: What a week

This was a strange week, the full moon, the death of Chris Bowman, the edging in of the spring mentality. Cabin fever got the most of most, and they started venturing out. It usually happens about this time every February. On Friday, Chris plays my column on his show. On Tuesday, he is dead.

I walk into Little Italy on Monday night. Jennifer Daughtry is sitting at the bar. I slide in next to her and offer to buy her a drink. She accepts. We are talking about friendships and relationships when suddenly she says that Chris Bowman is in the hospital and is not expected to live. I can’t believe it, I say, I just heard him do his show. She says that he is in a coma and is convulsing, and he is not expected to make it.

Later, as I walk back to the Irish Rose, I look at my cell phone. There is a missed call from Mary Ann Aiello. I know what it must be about. She is calling to tell me about Chris. I dial back. We both talk about how hard it is to believe. I tell her to stay in touch. She says she will. Tuesday, as I am coming back from the market, my phone rings. It is my ex-wife Robin. She says Chris has passed away.

For the next few days, everywhere I go, people are talking about Chris and his untimely departure. No matter where you are, it is the first subject of conversation. On Wednesday, it is the cover story on both The Rock River Times and the Register Star. It has seemed to serve the purpose of reminding everyone of his or her mortality. Now you are, now you ain’t. Good bye Chris we will miss you.

But life goes on in the River District. We still have a television show to think about. Thursday comes and, as usual, I must go to the market. I leave at 6, because I want to be able to be at my Rockton store by 2:30. Brian Shelton from Rock Valley College is bringing a crew of students to Rockton to shoot a sequence for their public access television show. My new manager, Stephanie Franchini, is there with Jose and Maria. They prepare Filet Mignon Sauvignon for the camera. Stephanie explains the sauce quite eloquently. I make a mental note that I have a winner in Stephanie.

I also am there because I want to talk to Brian to pick his brain about video editing. He advises me to choose Avid as my video editing software. They pair up with Dell and are specific, he says, right down to the type of screws that hold the case together. Brian is focusing on restaurants this year. In the past he has done other businesses. Stephanie’s boyfriend, Eric, is there, too. He is the head chef at the Rathskeller. Brian makes arrangements with him to shoot the Rathskeller on another day.

That evening I am again at the bar at Little Italy. My phone rings. It is a person by the name of Fred Abbott. While he is talking, my call waiting signals that Dawn is trying to reach me. I excuse myself saying that I must take this call. Can I call him back? Dawn and I are planning to get together to talk about the project. After Dawn’s call, he calls me back almost immediately. He is a video editor graduate with a degree. He has a year to kill before he can start his master’s. He has been reading my column and wants to help. I tell him that I have to talk to Dawn about it and that I will get back to him. But when I try to store his number, it is concealed.

I walk down the alley to Dawn’s apartment. She is putting her boys to bed. While I wait, my cell phone rings. The voice on the other end says it is Michelle. I act confused. She says she is one of the three downtown Michelle’s and that I used to like her because she was very well built. I am still confused. Then, after I hang up, I realize that it is Michelle Burns. I call her back. She says that she is at Bacchus and that I should stop.

Meanwhile, Dawn has gotten the boys to bed. We hang out, and I tell her about the call from Fred Abbott. We both agree that this would be an excellent way for us to get up and running. I am tired from the long day. I walk down the alley and think about going to Bacchus, but I am too tired and I go up the back stairs and let myself into my little apartment.

Saturday night the floodgates open. It is the start of the spring season for the River District. After I cook at Rockton, I stop for one drink at the Brick House, down the street from the Rockton restaurant. Adella greets me warmly. I want to hang out a little with her bartender, Fawn, who is not working tonight; I like her intelligence. But she is surrounded by young men and doesn’t notice me. I stop at Serrano’s for tacos. The place is packed, but I get the last seat at the bar. Afterwards, I drive back to the Irish Rose and circle the block looking for a parking space. The area is so crowded that it takes me 15 minutes to find one. The flag above the Faust is pointing straight north. Spring is coming. Call me, Fred.

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 WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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