Jenny and me—Part One

Jenny and me—Part One

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

Jenny Geiger and I have been exchanging telephone calls. We never seem to hook up. Both of us have ideas. I propose restaurant visits, and Jenny agrees, but then she has to work or isn’t feeling well, or whatever. But we both like each other’s company, and we both know it, so the outcome is inevitable. Finally, Jenny shows up at the Irish Rose (after an announcing telephone call).

She brings me the biggest basket of sausage, cheese and wine known to man. She has done this before. I think it is a perverse attempt to keep me grandfatherly. But I love the baskets. I think I ate this one in four or five days. Leave out the crackers next time, Jenny, I don’t need the carbs.

After the gift-giving, or should I say receiving (I had nothing for her), we get into the Mercury and turn onto East State Street. At first, I head west, but I can’t think of anything that I want to do in that direction. I ask Jenny what she wants to do, but she doesn’t have the answer. Finally, I say that we should go to Belvidere, and Jenny readily agrees. I turn around by turning right at Wyman Street, right in front of the Luther Center, then turn left on Mulberry Street, right after the Morrissey Law offices. Then it is down to Church Street, take the one way to Chestnut, then back across the river.

I follow the one way to the new Charles Street. I love the new Charles Street. It gives a whole new perspective to downtown when you are coming from that direction. But I like it when you head east, too. My friend Jon Agustsson especially likes the house at the top of the rise when you are going east.

I take Charles all the way to the east side. Turning on Alpine and then on Newburg, we head for Belvidere. When we are almost to Belvidere, I turn in to Funderberg Antiques. I pull up in front of the warehouse, I tell Jenny that I think she will really like this. She hasn’t been here before. We go inside. Jay’s son is polishing his SUV. We walk ahead to look around. As we walk around, I tell Jenny about all the things I have bought here over the years.

There was the English Art Deco furniture that Tracy (the girl who started Norte with me) and I bought. The antique birds-eye maple bedroom suite with the built-in bar and coke mirror (No, I don’t do coke, but I liked the mirror and the idea that someone once had). All the furniture that we bought together that Tracy removed from my house on the eve of my 52nd birthday. I came back from the market. I had just had my apartment cleaned by the Mexican ladies. The clean apartment was now a total disaster. All the furniture was missing. Apartment flotsam and jetsam all over the floor.

I tell Jenny about the English bookend veneer bar that Rosanne Pumilia gave me on my birthday that must be worth $1,500 today. But Jenny isn’t listening. She tells me that her mother Janet would really like this place. She says you probably wouldn’t be able to get her out of here. Jenny is walking and talking slowly. She almost seems to be dragging her right leg. I slow up to walk with her. I am worried that she might be having a low blood sugar situation. That happens sometimes, but it has only happened once before when I was with her, and then we were not alone.

I head straight for Belvidere. I want to get to the restaurant so she can get something to eat. I cut through the back way past the VFW and over to State Street. As we drive south on State Street, I look for the new restaurant, Bacchus Nibbles. I spy it and pull up in front. I offer my arm to Jenny. She seems to be depending a lot on my ability to guide her. She is heavy on my arm. We enter the restaurant.

I order food and wine for us, feta cheese in phylo dough, smoked salmon and two glasses of wine. Jenny looks slowly from side to side. I am concerned. I try to get her to drink some of her wine. I finally get her to try the cheese appetizer, and she responds with a big “Mmmm!”, but then won’t take any more. I am seriously concerned and afraid about my ability to take care of her. I ask for her mother’s phone number, but all she can say is, “Three, eight nine; three eight nine….”

I pay the tab and walk her slowly to the van. As we drive down State Street, I call Susie, my Rockton manager, to ask her to call her mother Janet. Susie calls right back and says that she can’t get a hold of Janet, but this is what I should do. I have to get her to drink a large soft drink, something really sweet like a Mountain Dew, the whole thing. And if she resists, I have to hold it in her mouth and force her to drink it.

I swerve into the Clark station. I frantically search the soft drink case. I don’t see a Mountain Dew, but I grab a 16-ounce Seven-Up. Unsure if it is sugar or diet, I ask the clerk to be sure that it is regular. She assures me it is. Back in the van, Jenny drinks the soft drink. In three or four minutes, she is perfectly normal. We head for the east side of Rockford, and I’ll tell you about where we went, next week.

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: and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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