I’m good with dates. More specifically, I’m proficient at knowing what happened on certain dates. I’m not one of those people who are on talk shows for being able to list everything that has ever happened to them, one agonizing day at a time, but I’m better at it than anyone I know.
Sometimes people will call me up or text me out of the blue and ask things like, “Hey. When did I move to L.A.?” Those are the easy ones. Harder is when a friend will ask me what day he met his wife five years or so ago. I usually get it right, though. It’s not uncommon for me to wish a friend “Happy half-birthday” and get an “Oh, good job. Didn’t even realize it,” in return.
The other week, the day of that “12-12-12” benefit concert, my knowledge of the birthdays of both Michael Stipe (1/4/60, the same week as Paul Westerberg) and William Faulkner (9/25/97) somehow came in handy. Not that handy, though. On the other end of this spectrum, there are what I can only describe as calendar black holes in my memory. The last week or so of July, November, and December, are for some reason fuzzier to me.
Occasionally I think about the fact that, as of the last time I checked, the comedian and late-night TV personality Jay Leno had five serious girlfriends or wives, and they all share the same birthday. I believe it is September 5th or so, somewhere around my own birthday. (Update: I just Googled around, and that date is, in fact, correct.) I have no further comment on this. The proof is in the pudding… isn’t really the expression that applies here, but what the hell.
My first real girlfriend has the birthday of October 21st. We got together in the fall (November 1st) of our junior year of high school, and she introduced me to a substantial amount of cool bands (this was 1996; the only Matador band I was into prior to being intimate with her was Guided By Voices, and my dad had gotten me into them). She was very thoughtful to me. The week of my seventeenth birthday, which was also the first week of our senior year, I broke up with her, for reasons only a seventeen-year-old can understand. Less than a month later I started dating a junior who would become my second girlfriend. Like Mr. Leno before me, her birthday was October 21st, as well. We broke up the night of the Portishead show (December 5th) at Hammerstein Ballroom where, for boring logistical reasons, I was seated in the balcony and proceeded to fall asleep, thus never meeting up with her on the general admission floor. I didn’t know how to communicate when I was seventeen. Girls mature faster than boys.
My grandmother (the one who is still alive but gradually becoming blind and immobile, the one I’ve always loved) has a birthday too, and it is, refreshingly enough, October 21st. October very well may be my favorite month (leaves, colors, clouds, etc.). For what it’s worth, two other girls I’ve dated in more recent years share a birthday one week earlier, on October 14th. (For what it’s also worth, October 16th had a streak in the early ’00s for being a bad luck day for certain Axelrods.)
Does astrology play into this? I tend to think not, even though when I ask a lady the date of her birth I often receive her sign in return. It’s not like that.
The first morning I woke up beside the girl who would become the one I (arguably) loved the most was on an August 16th (over 2000 years after Christ was born!). At the time, walking out into the Greenpoint streets that humid Thursday morning, I didn’t think too much of it. The ones we love the most aren’t necessarily the ones we expect to love the most. But the final morning we ever spent together in her bed was the next August 16th, exactly one year later. How did God do it like that. It was continually frustrating to me that I only realized this several months after the fact, when it would have been embarrassing-slash-depressing-slash-not-really-an-option-at-this-juncture to inform said ex-girlfriend of this interesting, yet also quite worthless, coincidence. It is often only with hindsight that I become aware of milestones such as these. (Mind you, this is a girl whose birthday shares the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.)
In my late twenties, after eight years of living in Chicago, I moved back to my hometown of New York (August 31st), a city where backpacks and other large containers are subject to random search by the police. And now I’m a thirty-two-year-old freshman in college and I live in Williamsburg, and Williamsburg is sort of still cool, but not so much (and certainly not on a Saturday night), and my building, near the Bedford L stop is not that cool; I live in a moldy duplex which is two-thirds of a carriage house, and the guys who live in the ground floor apartment across the courtyard get drunk on Friday nights and yell things like “Fuck vaginas” at alarmingly loud volumes. A gentleman-dude on a higher floor boxes with the punching bag he has installed in the courtyard, but not in a tough, local-gym-in-a-rundown-midsized-metropolis, Fat City kind of way, but more just as an aspiring yuppie who has happened to take up boxing. If I’m home in the late afternoon, when he’s in the mood to punch the ol‘ bag around, the intermittent slaps can make it hard to focus on all this date-remembering.
This is a problem, since in recent years I’ve gotten worse at this memory game. Mostly in terms of “knowing dates” from the last few years. Sometimes I worry that my life has become less interesting, and thus less memorable. Or perhaps it’s just a case of perpetually romanticizing nostalgia.
Another uneventful summer passes, the less I remember of recent times, the more the earlier ones crystallize.
And what use are all these crystals?