Four And Twenty

Yesterday, the 20th day of April, was Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

This is a bummer for other people born on April 20. Because it’s like you’re supposed to be sort of embarrassed, being born on the same day as Hitler. You can’t really, fully celebrate. For it’s just too shameful, sharing a birthday with Hitler.

I know somebody who was born on April 20. And throughout her childhood it was a happy day indeed. Because, well, it was the day on which she was born. Then Hitler showed up. Then he got bad. Then he got worse. Then he became The Colossus Of Evil Who Bestrode All The World.

Even today, 66 years after Hitler went up in flames, she has to hear every year that she was born on the same day as Hitler. It’s like she’s expected to be ashamed. To keep it secret. Like her birthdate is some mad aunt stashed up in the attic, or a peculiar porn collection burrowed away in a disused drawer.

Similarly, I know a guy who was born on November 22. And that was a good day for him . . . until 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Now he’s expected to hang his head in sorrow, to have been born on such a day. And I know a young one born on September 11, who had that day ripped away from her before she ever entered her teens: how can she now celebrate such a day, a day when America Was Attacked?

I myself was born on a date upon which occurred an event that, when I was young, was in this nation considered a Good thing . . . but is now regarded as Shameful and Wrong. I can’t tell you what that day is, because there are Mean People out here on the intertubes, some of whom Hate me, and, if they had my birthdate, together with my name (which some of them have), they might embark then on Great Wrongness. Hack and Ruin me. Destroy, say, my credit rating. If I happened to have a credit rating.

Every date, if you examine it enough, offers people, places, and things both good and bad. Because that’s the kind of world it is. Agony and ecstasy.

So, in honor of this woman who every year is tarred as Hitler’s birthdate-mate, I thought I’d muse a bit on some other, lesser-known realities associated with April 20.

On April 20, 1526, for instance, the last ruler of the Lodi Dynasty, Ibrahim Lodi, was defeated and killed by Babur in the First Battle of Panipat. Obviously, this was a bad day for Ibrahim, and for his dynasty of Lodi. And since this was only “the First Battle of Panipat,” clearly tough days lay ahead for Panipat, too. Babur—I don’t know who that is. I thought Babur was an elephant. Learn something new every day. I also don’t know if this Lodi dynasty is associated with the fetid heated valley town of Lodi in California, a place so riven with dead dull horror it was immortalized as roughly equivalent to Hell on earth in a song by John Fogerty: “oh, lord/stuck in Lodi again.”

On April 20, 1792, France declared war on Austria. Though that’s not particularly notable, because the French were then declaring war on just about everybody. Because everybody had already declared war on them. The French, you see, had had a revolution, and all the crowned heads of Europe lived in mortal fear that liberté, égalité, fraternité would spread to them. Which, eventually, it would.

Billie Holiday recorded “Strange Fruit” on April 20, 1939. That’s a good thing, because it’s a good song. It’s bad, though, that she had to record this, an anti-lynching song. Because, although the Civil Rights Act became law on April 20, 1871, not a lot of people paid attention to it. And so in 1939 black people were still regarded as subhuman throughout most of the United States. As the teabaggers would have it today.

On April 20, 1914, 19 men, women, and children were killed in the Ludlow Massacre during a Colorado coal-miner’s strike. This during the period when American workers were trying to secure the right to join labor unions. The right that GOoPer governors and Congresspeople are currently working to strip from American workers, from sea to shining sea.

On April 20, 1836 the US Congress passed an act creating the Wisconsin Territory. I suppose that, in the course of things, this enabled us to eat cheese.

On April 20, 1861 Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the United States Army, in order to command the forces of the state of Virginia . . . thereby becoming a traitor. He got his, though. Union forces soon thereafter seized and occupied his plantation and began planting bodies in it: it is known today as Arlington National Cemetery.

The “Sun Dog phenomenon” was observed over Stockholm on April 20, 1535, leading to the painting Vädersolstavlan, reproduced there to the right. Sun Dogs consist of ice crystals that form in cirrus clouds, or, in very cold weather—which is known to strike Stockholm every now and again—by ice crystals called “diamond dust” that drift in the air at low levels. The crystals act as prisms, and, as they sink, they become vertically aligned, refracting sunlight horizontally: voila, Sun Dogs. Aristotle saw these things, and wrote: “two mock suns rose with the sun and followed it all through the day until sunset.” But how do we know they are mock suns? Maybe they’re actually real suns. Who’s to say? After all, we just found out today that there are three different bacteria-worlds in human innards. Maybe these extra suns have been missed all these years, too.

Peter S. Beagle was born on April 20, 1939. He wrote The Last Unicorn, which was later made into an animated film, which I watched with my daughter about 67,589 times.

Not once during those 67,589 viewings did I smoke marijuana, although in recent years young white privileged cannabis cultists have promoted April 20 as a day to celebrate fogging one’s cranium with ganja. The 420 phenomenon apparently began with some—yeah, yeah; surprise me—Marin County, California high-school youths who would meet at 4:20 p.m. each day to blow gage and plot crop rip-offs. This eventually evolved into a religious requirement that cannabis be consumed at 4:20 p.m. every day; ultimately, the cultists decided to also take over the day 4/20—April 20.

Stranger things have been known to happen. As an example, on April 20, 1818, a British court upheld the right of Abraham Thornton to contest the accusation of murder levied against him via “trial by battle.” Thereby proving that the English remain so ossified in the medieval that it is little wonder they are currently proceeding to spend $8.2 billion on the marriage of a couple of kids, one of whom has been pronounced a “prince.”

Well, there’s a smattering. And a final word to the woman saddled with the burden of being Adolf Hitler’s birthdate-mate: more people may know who he is, than know you, but that’s because he was really bad. That you’re good; that tends to get less notice, round these parts. Someday . . . .

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8 Responses to “Four And Twenty”


  1. 1 possum April 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    In about 6 more minutes we can celebrate 4:20 Eastern time on 4/20/2011. Momentous. Nice reminder.

  2. 3 possum April 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    another day lost in Possum Valley. (:

    • 4 bluenred April 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Blame it on Daylight Savings Time, Leap Day, something like that, my advice. : /

      • 5 possum April 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

        Much as I hate to think so it was a senior moment driven by too much going on in the day.

        • 6 bluenred April 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm

          I think it was a trap set by Molasses Stonecutter, the author of the post. If he had actually published the piece on April 20, on April 20, instead of on April 21, there would have been no Confusion.

  3. 7 Elva April 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I had completely forgotten about this movie and song. Thanks for all your information of the things that happened on April 20th.
    I am amazed that I learn so much from your blogs, that I did not
    learn in school.

    • 8 bluenred April 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      To tell you the truth, I knew almost none of these things until I started researching this goofy piece. So I learn writing the thing, too.


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