Phalli and wine, Raw Art Studio to Lucerne’s

Phalli and wine, Raw Art Studio to Lucerne’s

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

On a Friday, my manager Susie calls me from Rockton. She has a family emergency and wonders if I can get one of the downtown waitresses to work at Rockton. Fortunately, it is early enough, and I ask Jessy, who is working lunch, if she can come in to replace one of the girls, and she can. At 5, Dawn Smolinski arrives at work, and I ask her to go with me to Irish Rose Norte.

We drive up North Main Street, and when we get as far as the old Kmart, I remember that Molly Fleming told me there was an opening tonight at Raw Art Studio, Russ Blahnick’s gallery in the old Atwood building across the street. She was standing at the soup, salad and sandwich bar at the Irish Rose. She was having lunch with her boyfriend Matt. Molly said the show was a ghetto show. I didn’t understand what that meant and pressed her for an explanation. She said it was a show about phalli. I say we should stop on the way back and Dawn agrees.

We have a lot of fun working together at the little restaurant in Rockton. I concoct an idea about serving a fixed price dinner by reservation only on Wednesday nights up there. Sort of fresh from the market. Everybody gets tired of listening to me about it. But I think it is a really good idea, and I am thinking of pursuing it.

On the way back, Dawn checks with her new man friend by telephone, and he isn’t planning to show up until midnight, so the coast is clear. As we enter the side entrance of the Atwood center, we are passed by a group of people descending the stairs. One of them tells us that the beer is all gone. That is OK, we aren’t drinking anyway.

We walk into the main gallery room and look around. Not a phallus in sight. After looking at all the art in the first room, I walk into the second area to see what is going on. There is a large group gathered there socializing. I am definitely the oldest person here, but nobody seems to notice. I look around a little, but then, having lost track of Dawn, I go back to the front room.

I see Jeanne Coe arrive. We exchange greetings. “Where are all the phalli?” Jeanne inquires. “I don’t know,” I say. Then we laughingly agree that Molly might have just said that to get us to come. Well, it worked, what can I say. I go looking for Dawn. We discuss phalli. She points out one small grouping of paintings in the second room. She is ready to go, but wants to go to the restroom first. “Don’t be too long,” I tell her. “I once lost you in the restroom here.” I can tell from her look that she doesn’t remember.

The following night I am on my way back from Rockton again. I decide to stop at Lucerne’s for a glass of wine. Mark, the owner, is behind the bar. He says, “You will never guess who is here … Amy Towne.” Amy used to work for both of us at different times. He runs behind the partition to get her, and she comes around to say hi. Then her companion (Scott Snyder) joins her, and they sit at the bar.

Somehow the subject of my going to Ireland comes up. I tell the tale of wanting to get my green card renewed so I can get a passport. Amy says I should get my citizenship papers (I am naturalized through my mother. She just never processed the papers for me to be able to prove it.).

I tell her that I am not so happy about the idea of being an American with the president we have, and what he is doing. I kind of like the idea of being a member of the European Economic Community and just living in the United States. Other than not voting, it wouldn’t change anything at all, and it is by far the easiest solution. She says I shouldn’t change my citizenship based on laziness, that I am an American whether I like it or not. I guess I am; it’s just difficult to accept what is happening.

I am reminded of an e-mail forwarded to me by my son. A friend of his wrote, “For most of us, social change is bigger than party politics. Life is what we do the morning after the election day and all those that follow. It is the causes we support in our community and the world, the choices we make to live our values even when what we believe seems fundamentally out of fashion.”

Mark won’t let me pay for my wine. He says it has been a long time, and he is just glad to see me. I tell him that the last person I was seeing wouldn’t come here, and I got out of the habit. He says, “I’m glad you got rid of her.”

Raw Art Studios Gallery is at 2500 N. Main St. in the old Atwood building. The show will be coming again Friday, Jan. 24, and Saturday, Jan. 25 from 5 to 11 p.m. For information, call 227-9017 and ask for Dr. A. W. Hellnaw.

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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