Reflections: My 21st Birthday (In Which I Make the Best of What’s Around)

Having a birthday right smack-dab in the middle of the Thanksgiving season (November 27, specifically) hasn’t always been awesome (although I do get to hear the “Well, I’m sure your Mom had a lot to be thankful for that year” quip about 35 times each year).

Since cruising into proper adulthood, I’ve gotten used to unofficially celebrating my birthday the first weekend of December, when everyone is freed up from holiday travel or hosting houseguests.  But as a kid, my parents would try to preserve the specialness of the actual day itself (or at least the Saturday in closest proximity).  This led to many sad birthday-party pictures featuring me and one (or two) guests.  Now, even nerds who were also teacher’s kids had friends; it’s just my friends apparently all spent Thanksgiving at their grandparents’ homes.

I know how you feel, man

Image courtesy of

My late-November birthday also meant I was typically the youngest person in my class that hadn’t skipped a grade. Not a big deal, except when those ages of 16 and 21 rolled around. Yes, by the time I was of legal drinking age, I was almost halfway through my last year at UVa.  I’d also been drinking for about three years – don’t tell my parents.

And so it was fortunate that my actual 21st birthday fell on one of the best days it could – the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Everyone was back in town from Thanksgiving break and ready to celebrate my foray into legitimacy.  But, alas, I had four classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays that semester, so I decided to do the responsible thing and delay the drink-fest until Tuesday, the 28th.

Tuesday. This was my first (well, my only) mistake. Some context/background is required.

Every Tuesday, from late 1992 through late 1993/early 1994, this little start-up band from Charlottesville called the “Dave Matthews Band” gigged at this crappy club called Trax that was, fittingly, just barely in the wrong part of town. “Awesome, Lucy!  So you got to hear Dave before they made it big?”  Well … no.  Because I was never cool enough to go, I hung with the wrong friends, I needed a fake ID, or I spent most of 1993 obsessing over Duran Duran’s comeback, making up dances to ‘Jeremy,’ and doctoring various flavors of Lipton Noodles & Sauce.  I did hear them play the UVa amphitheater in the fall of 1994, but this was post-‘Ants Marching’ and ‘What Would You Say’ and they were already on their way into the jam-band hall of ‘fame.’

I knew them when ... okay, not really at all

Anyway. Jumping back ahead (back?) to November 28, 1995.  Another local musician, Tim Reynolds, was set to be playing Trax that particular night. A friend and frequent duo partner of Dave, Reynolds attracted a similar following. This particular night, the buzz all around grounds (that’s ‘campus’ for the rest of you), was that Dave would be showing up for a ‘surprise’ guest appearance. My friends instantly boarded this train.  “Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if Dave showed up on your birthday?”  Ummm, sure? I thought, never a huge fan of Dave and certainly not a fan of Trax.

You can see where this story is going.

Even less a fan of confrontation, I agreed to celebrate my 21st in style at Trax, with its cement floor, haze of Camel-Straight smoke, and limited alcohol selection. Non-existent were the fun and flirty shots to which I felt entitled (Cement Mixers! Red-Headed Sluts! Alabama Slammers! Purple Hooters!  No, no, no, NO!).  Instead, I downed three bottles of Rolling Rock and called it a night.  Dave?  Never showed up.  But you already knew that.

Dave Matthews Band, Trax

They barely had working cameras in 1993

On the plus side, I felt pretty darn good the next day after just 36 ounces of lager-style beer. Thank you, glass-lined tanks of Old Latrobe.

My favorite nostalgic beer

Nearly 10 years later, I would again be comically slighted by Dave and his band.  But that’s a story for another day.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


2 thoughts on “Reflections: My 21st Birthday (In Which I Make the Best of What’s Around)

  1. Pingback: Crash Into Who? (In Which I Revisit One of my Many Public Humiliations) « Neurotic City

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