Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dates to Celebrate, Consecrate and Commemorate

Now that we’ve covered astrological signs, what about certain dates of birth? I get a daily e-mail from Garrison Keillor (no, we’re not such good friends) that comes under the guise of “Writer’s Almanac”. It’s really cool. (Yes, remember, I long ago admitted to being the world’s biggest nerd.) It starts out with a poem for the day, then goes on to cite important events that happened on the current date, often the dates of birth of famous people, usually literary people.

Garrison Keillor

This fascinates me, and I don’t know why. Ever since I was a little kid, and you’d find the special feature on the comics page in the newspaper every day (remember newspapers?) of “Today’s Birthdays”, I liked seeing the famous names, and guessing how old they were. “Ginger Rogers—Mom, guess how old!” or “President Nixon, really, come on—guess!” Yeah, that’s how cool I was, and I haven’t gotten over it, either.

So now I get a daily dose from the Writer’s Almanac of special birthdays and special events. What especially impresses me, though, is the aggregation of some amazing people on the same date. I’ve been jotting some of them down, because it just seems to me to be pretty remarkable that a cluster of highly renowned folks were born on the same day. Granted, this is usually many years apart, but still, I am kind of fascinated by it.

In July there was an especially strong run of these coincident dates. Look at this:

On July 3, Tom Stoppard (1937), Dave Barry (1947), and Franz Kafka (1883) all shared this birthday. This does not even include my old friend Jerry J. (1950). Now Stoppard, Barry, and Kafka wrote in entirely different genres, one could even say they were in different worlds, but I still think it’s remarkable that they all were born on the third of July.

Dave Barry

Then on the fourth, Thoreau moved into Walden Cabin (1845), Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass (1855), and Nathaniel Hawthorne was born (1804). Not to mention the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (I asked you not to mention that.)

As if that weren’t enough, look at the significance of the 26th of July: George Bernard Shaw (1856), Aldous Huxley (1894), and Carl Jung (1875) were all born on that day. Also, my daughter’s childhood friend Jason R. (1976). How much fame does one day get? This is a veritable plethora of big-brained people who achieved some level of either greatness or notoriety or at least fame, all born on the same day. Hey, even Jason’s a big-time surgeon now.

Carl Jung

So does it all mean anything? I looked again at the info for my very own birthday, June 14. Growing up, whereas just about every other day in the year had the birthday of someone admirable or exciting (or both) in the comics section feature, I remember every year being disappointed to find just boring old fat and dumpy Burl Ives. Sorry, but I never liked the guy, and came to resent him for sharing my birthday. Granted, he had it first (1909!—that’s waaaaay first!) but still, it irked me.

The dreaded Burl Ives....

Now along comes the Writer’s Almanac, and I learn that my birthday is also shared with Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811), and John Bartlett, who started the whole “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” project (1820). Now that’s better. I’m not feeling badly at all about sharing with such literary icons.

And with the advent of Google, I have learned that Boy George, Che Guevara and Donald Trump were all born on the fourteenth of June, Flag Day, just as I was. Maybe I was better off not knowing.

Boy George


  1. Eeek. Boy George isn't supposed to get old. It's been really depressing watching the original SNL cast get old. Chevy Chase was supposed to be young forever!!!

    We used to play that game at work. A woman would read the celeb bdays and everyone would guess an age. I was amazed at how much of the time I was close to being right.

  2. My birthday is March 11, just like Lawrence Welk. I was never thrilled about that, either. I think I'll have to subscribe to the Writer's Almanac...used to hear it on the radio but either it's not on or I'm just not tuned it at the right time. Happy Thanksgiving!