Hanging Out in Rockford: As birthdays go—part one

By Mike Leifheit


I visited my son in Budapest on my 57th birthday. I arrived in the afternoon, and he picked me up at the airport and took me to his apartment across the street from the Mamut mall. I caught a short nap, and then he and some of his friends took me with them to a Bob Dylan concert at the new sports pavilion. We took public transportation to the concert. I remember distinctly the ride down the escalator to the trains and how it shook and rattled. Other than that, the public transportation was a dream.

The sports arena was divided in half for the concert. I think that half seated about 15,000 people. It wasn’t full, so there were probably 5,000 people there. Budapest has an English-speaking community of about 30,000. Bob started out strong, but his voice gave up after a certain point. The band, however, was great. Afterward, we had great sandwiches at a bar Drew and a lot of his expatriate friends liked to hang out at. It was a great way to spend my birthday.

This year, I want to go to Budapest for my birthday again, but business has been slow—slow for everyone, from what I hear—and I don’t feel I can justify the expense. Fortunately, however, Dylan is going to be at the MetroCentre, and, believe it or not, on my birthday—this time, my 64th.

I walk into Café Greco, where my friend Crissy tends bar. I ask her if she will be my fall-back date if I can’t find anyone else to go to the concert with me. She gives me what my old-country Irish mother would have called a sidelong glance. I don’t pursue the subject, figuring I can bring it up later, perhaps in a more diplomatic way, leaving the part about “…if I can’t find anyone else…” out of the equation.

I cast about for a couple of weeks without any luck. The day of the concert is approaching rapidly. I tell Karen Elyea about my conversation with Crissy. I tell her the part about saying “…if I can’t find anyone else…” and the sidelong glance. She says that perhaps Crissy is too young to appreciate Dylan. That seems reasonable, and so I put Crissy out of my mind as a last resort. Then, a customer of mine and I are standing outside while she smokes a cigarette. In the course of the conversation, I ask if she is interested in going to see Dylan, and she is. Finally, I have plans, plans for my birthday. Plans to see Bob Dylan on my 64th birthday.

On my way to the market the morning of the concert, I call my friend Tom, who owns the cab company, to ask if he will do me a special favor and have a cab at the Irish Rose at exactly 7:15 p.m. He says he will. After the market, I park my car by the Hawk’s Nest so we will have a way home afterward. A friend drives me back to the Irish Rose. I have been up since 4 a.m. I catch a nap.

It’s my birthday, so while I wait for my companion, I sit at the little bar and open presents from my staff. I have actively been campaigning for a new pair of slippers, and someone listened. I love my new slippers. They are very warm. The girls get a kick out of the idea that I have a date, and they examine and comment on my dress and my appearance. They indicate that they approve of my longer hair. It’s my birthday, so while I am waiting, I have a few cocktails. OK, so it doesn’t have to be my birthday for that to happen.

My friend arrives, and I decide the jacket I was going to wear is too formal, and I slip upstairs to exchange it for a more casual leather one. The cab comes right on time, and we are whisked to the MetroCentre. As we are disembarking, I discover I have left our tickets and my phone in the jacket I left at the Irish Rose. I stand there feeling like a real idiot. I don’t even have my phone to call someone.

More next week.

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 November 4-10, 2009 issue

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