Left Justified: Un-happy birthday to me

By Stanley Campbell

I did not get what I wanted for my birthday (which is Sept. 30, for those of you who are interested). I wanted the right to travel to Cuba, so I traveled to Washington, D.C., on my birthday to speak to our Congressman, a supposedly great supporter of our rights.

As Americans, we can go anywhere in the world, except Cuba. Since the mid-’60s, our country has been waging economic war on Cuba. We haven’t won. Former Cuban exiles dictate our government’s policy toward Cuba, and our Congressman is under their spell.

Don Manzullo was once a supporter of travel to Cuba, but he changed his mind (or had it changed for him). Not because of anything his constituents said, but because of what Miami Cubans wanted. When I went to see him, he had me speak to a staff member of the Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee. This kid did not have anything nice to say to me, nor to my fellow Illinoisans, nor about making peace with Cuba.

My birthday party was a bust. I am 59 years old now, and will not be able to travel to Cuba freely in the foreseeable future. We need a new Congressman.

So, I think I may “pray for a miracle” and get myself tickets for the upcoming Bob Dylan show.

Dylan is coming back to Rockford. The concert is Oct. 27, and it will be in our back yard.

I am curious about why at the MetroCentre and not the Coronado. I think he did not sell out the theater last time he was in town, so why he needs a few thousand more seats is a mystery.

I saw Dylan in the Coronado, and my friend Doug Kamholz saw him in Bloomington, Ill., in a converted hockey/indoor football arena. He then saw him two nights later at the “fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, a place as glitzy as the Coronado and kept in pristine condition,” he said. “Give me the hockey rink any day. Sheila and I had folding chairs in the 11th row, reserved seats on plywood sheets laid over the plumbing or something. People were standin’ up, hollerin’, dancin’ in the aisles and having a fine ol’ time. Sheila and I waltzed. To Bob Dylan. Live. Fifty feet away. Singing his heart out. Just so we could dance. Two nights later, at the Fox, pretty much everyone felt compelled to remain in their very fine seats and conduct themselves with decorum. It was duller. So maybe the Centre will be just ducky.” It doesn’t much matter to my friend. He’s already holding tickets for two consecutive nights at the Aragon Ballroom, Halloween eve and Halloween, the last two of a three-night stand in Chicago.

I, on the other hand, will have to go begging to my friends, hoping someone will purchase a ticket for an aging hippie’s birthday. If you cannot help me acquire a Bob Dylan concert ticket, could you at least ask our Congressman to let me go to Cuba (co-sponsor H.R. 874)?

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the October 14-20, 2009 issue