Day 516: Because It’s May 30

originally published May 30, 2013

I don’t normally do this, but then this is no normal occasion. Today is the birthday of one of the finest people I know. Some would say he is the perfect brother, in that I love the guy like family, yet share no actual biological connection to him, which is convenient if he ever needs a kidney or something. And though he may live a full hemisphere away, we are in tune with one another’s sense of absurdity as much today as we were when he lived here some two decades ago. 

Twenty-one years ago, Josh wasted no time in giddily gloating that he was 18 and legally allowed to drink. I was 17 and relying on a terribly phony-looking fake ID. We’ll see how that feels one year from now when he’s staring down the shotgun barrels of 40 and I’m still living it up in my thirties. 

Happy birthday, Joshie. Here are a few other reasons to celebrate the glory that is May 30

Well, this isn’t a great start. Way back in 70AD, Titus and his angry batch of Roman legions broke through the Second Wall of Jerusalem, sending the Jewish defenders back behind the First Wall. The Jews wound up losing the famous Second Temple in the Siege of Jerusalem, but they’d get their revenge in a few centuries when they’d make their way to America and invent show business. 

May 30 was also a less than stellar day for Joan of Arc, who faced execution by fire on this day back in 1431. The charge was heresy, and – let’s face it – making 15th century men uncomfortable by being a little too brilliant and a little too tough for them. 

On May 30, 1536, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, the one woman who bore him a son, and therefore was spared his executioner’s axe. The bad news is that she died due to complications from childbirth just one week later. Seymour was also known for her exquisite work on the popular CBS drama, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

Today would be the 439th anniversary of Henry III’s coronation as the King of France. Henry was the last of the Valois kings, as he produced no heirs to the throne. He produced no heirs because – rumor has it – he wasn’t particularly all that into women. He had a good run though, with fifteen years on the throne before some fanatical Catholic infused Henry’s abdomen with the cool steel blade of his dagger in 1589. Crazy Catholics. 

Andrew Jackson, a relic of those days when an American President could still legally serve even if he owned a stable of slaves and killed a guy for speaking out of turn, won a duel on this day in 1806. He was still over two decades from his presidential run, so when Charles Dickinson accused Jackson’s wife of bigamy, Jackson had no problem challenging Dickinson to a duel. Dickinson fired first and struck Jackson in the chest. By rule, he had to allow Jackson the chance to shoot. Andrew Jackson killed Dickinson with his shot, and could never remove that bullet from his chest – it was too close to his heart. 

Only six days after opening, the Brooklyn Bridge was rumored to be unstable and doomed to collapse. Some idiot blurted this opinion loudly enough on May 30, 1883 to cause a stampede which killed twelve people. The following year, P.T. Barnum would demonstrate the idiocy of the rumors by marching 21 elephants across the bridge. 

The first Indy 500 was run on this date 102 years ago. Ray Harroun won with his Marmon Wasp, a car that my wife’s Mini Cooper could probably destroy in a race today. Not that she’s bragging or anything. 

The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated 90 years ago today! Take note of this, Josh. I always told you that you’d look great in a stovepipe hat. 

Back in 1966, the Surveyor 1 was launched on this day from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Surveyor 1 was significant, as it was the first American device to get hurled out of our atmosphere and land on the moon. Sure, the Russians did it first, but this little unit set the stage for the Apollo missions. 

The Airbus A300, the first wide-body twin-engine passenger plane, made its debut for Air France on this date in 1974. That isn’t particularly interesting, but since Josh was actually born in 1974, I thought he’d find this worth reading. 

Of course, a number of people – living and dead – are celebrating birthdays on May 30. I assume the living ones are partying a little more, but I don’t really know, do I? 

Princess Caroline of Great Britain, daughter of George II, turns 300 today. She never married, and was particularly sad throughout her life because her one great love, Lord Hervey, was already married. He fooled around, sure, but not with her. He did allegedly mess around with her older brother though. There certainly are a lot of gay royalty stories on this date. 

Peter Carl Faberge, the guy who made those fancy eggs, turns 167 today. 

Today is also the birthday of the ineffable Howard Hawks, who directed brilliant movies like Scarface (the 1932 Paul Muni one), Bringing Up Baby (one of the funniest films from the golden age), and The Big Sleep (Bogart & Bacall – can’t go wrong). Hawks is also responsible for two of John Wayne’s finest moments in a cowboy hat, Red River and Rio Bravo. That’s a pretty good score for a shared birthday. Me, I get to share my day with Wilfred Brimley. 

Mel Blanc, the voice of our childhood from Foghorn to Dino to Marvin to Woody to Daffy to Bugs and so on, would be 105 today. 

Benny Goodman, the King of Swing and the most nimble-fingered clarinetist of his generation, would be 104. 

Franklin J. Schaffner would be 93 today. Who? Come on, he’s the guy who directed Planet Of The Apes, Patton and The Boys From Brazil

The Kansas Comet, better known as Gale Sayers is 69 today. Sayers set the record for most rushing touchdowns in a rookie season with 22, and played his entire career with the Chicago Bears. 

Stephen Tobolowski, one of the greatest character actors working today, is 62. Seriously? And I get Wilfred Brimley? 

Also celebrating May 30 are Colm “Transporter Chief O’Brian” Meaney and Ted “That guy who was in the crappier seasons of Happy Days and Married… With Children” McGinley. 

It’s also important to honor those who passed away on this date, because dammit, it’s in the Wikipedia article so it must be important: 

  • Christopher Marlowe, the guy some think wrote Shakespeare’s stuff (he didn’t), 1593. 
  • Peter Paul Reubens, Flemish painter and lover of the portly folk, 1640. 
  • Voltaire, the philosopher who suggested that if God didn’t exist, we’d just invent Him anyway, 1778. 
  • Milton Bradley, the guy who sucked away hours of my life pushing a thimble around a square of cardboard, 1911. 
  • Wilbur Wright, the brother who thought to bring a miniscule bag of peanuts into the sky with him, 1912. 
  • Both Dooley Wilson (Sam, 1953) and Claude Reins (Captain Renault, 1967) from the film Casablanca died on this date. Here’s looking at a coincidence, kid. 
  • Georg Wilhelm Pabst, acclaimed German director of The Joyless Street and Pandora’s Box, 1967. He had nothing to do with the Blue Ribbon beer. 

That’s it! Lots to celebrate, lots to toast, many reasons to end the night in a drunken stupor. Happy birthday, Joshie. jIH muSHa’ SoH loD. 

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