Hanging Out in Rockford: As birthdays go—part two

By Mike Leifheit


The girl cab driver offers to drive back to the Irish Rose to get the tickets, the tickets I have forgotten to transfer from my first jacket of the evening. My companion is kind and understanding about the mix-up. She offers her cell phone, which only works when set on speaker. She dials the Rose, and I stand there outside the MetroCentre yelling at Katy on the phone. Finally, the cab driver returns. I have only large bills in my pocket, and have to borrow a $20 from my companion to pay her. So far, the night is going really well. I look like a real class act.

We bump into some friends of my customer/date/companion on the way into the concert, and then find our seats just in time. The concert starts with a bang. No opening act, just Dylan and plenty of Dylan. An older man (but probably not much older than our concert star) is seated in front of us. He is complaining openly about the concert. He says something about it not sounding like folk music. Evidently, he missed the part about Newport in 1965. They didn’t like it then, either. Finally, he ascends the stairs, practically crawling. He doesn’t come back. Dylan kept growing—he didn’t.

(When I first heard Bob Dylan coming out of Courtney Spencer’s dorm room at Beloit College, when I was 17, I said, “Who’s that hillbilly?” I lived to regret that remark. All my East Coast friends made fun of me. The kids from New York had been to see him in clubs in Greenwich Village. I was just a kid from Harlem High in Loves Park. I had a lot to learn. I actually liked him more when he went electric.)

The floor underneath us vibrates to the bass line. At first, I find it irritating, but then as I get more into the music, I am caught up by it. The floor audience is on its feet for the entire concert. Everyone seems to get into the harder numbers more—you can tell by the movement of the crowd. Sitting here in the Rockford MetroCentre, I am struck by the similarity to the sports arena where I saw him in concert on my birthday, on my 57th birthday, seven years ago, before my heart attack, before closing the Rockton store. Seven years ago.

Dylan’s voice is pretty strong in the beginning, but falls apart pretty quickly. The same was true in Budapest, but the band is so good it carries the show. Actually, I can’t understand the lyrics unless they are ones I know. Later that night, my companion admits to the same thing.

The lights go out as the band leaves the stage, and then the crowd stamps and calls until the obligatory encore ensues. We watch until I think it is the last song, and then, at my suggestion, we break for the door. The Kia is waiting in the parking lot where I secreted it earlier in the day. We drive back to the Rose to sit at the little bar and have supper. Jonathon makes us a frittata and crispy bacon. Maria makes us shrimps with much garlic.

My companion, who has been talking about places in the world she would like to visit, says she isn’t interested in anything romantic, just a friendship. I hold back a remark that I just got out of a silly deal like that. I say I am tired from having been up since 4 in the morning, and climb the little stairs to my apartment. I am probably asleep before my head hits the pillow. It was a pretty good birthday, as birthdays go. I think I’ll go to Budapest in the spring.

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 11-17, 2009 issue

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