The Last Word by Marcus Fisk

Happy Birthday Alexandria!!!

Alessandria, Piemonte, Italy (Courtesy

Alexandria, VA – They say it’s your birthday

Well, it’s my birthday too, yeah

They say it’s your birthday

We’re gonna have a good time

I’m glad it’s your birthday

Happy birthday to you.

Lennon & McCartney

1968 “The White Album”

This is Alexandria’s 275th Birthday and Alexandria is celebrating. The town is pulling out all the stops to recognize what it was, where it has been, and what the town has become in those 275 years, plus a few of those decades before it formally became the city we call Alexandria.

Our Publisher and Editor put out the edict for this edition that July’s Zebra will be all things Alexandria since it is a banner year. Now you have read it through this far, you are no doubt amazed and filled with pride from all the news and columns about our home town, its heritage, its famous personages, the strength and breadth of our educational institutions, the contributions of our citizens as volunteers and patrons, its culture, arts, athletic and health opportunities, and the dozens and dozens of civic and charitable organizations over the past 275 years.

Alexandria is exactly 205 years older than me. Although the town is not marking my birthday with the same excitement and reverence, while working on this column, I wondered if I should write a piece about another Alexandria that shared the same name, perhaps the same age, or other facets of the other Alexandrias, I could play as if I were confused about my Publisher’s mandate and snag a few funny lines.

I searched for another Alexandria and wanted to include all the features of another Alexandria continents away and take you, dear readers, down the path of ignorance only to discover that I was leading you astray and had no clue which Alexandria was celebrating its birthday. Instead of finding a sole culprit for my scheme, however, I was staggered by the presence of upwards of 50 other towns worldwide named “Alexandria” or a close derivative.

Their numbers break out along these lines: Australia (2), Canada (3), Europe (6), United States (19), Turkey (3), Iraq (2), Iran (1), Afghanistan (7), Turkmenistan (1), Tajikistan (1), Pakistan (4), India (1), Brazil (1), Egypt (1), Jamaica (1), and South Africa (2). I’ve included a chart for all you statisticians out there who want to keep track.

Many of the Alexandrias from West and Central Asia are likely the product of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great was quite a guy. Born on the 20th or 21st of July 356 BCE, he was the son of Phillip the II of Macedonia in Greece and ascended to the throne in 336 BCE at the ripe old age of 20. He studied under Aristotle until he was 16, then, on orders from his Dad, packed up his old kit bag and started attacking all the world’s known kingdoms until he acquired huge tracks of Europe, the Mediterranean, and parts of the Middle East.

By 30, Alexander had conquered most of the known world and owned real estate from Greece to India, which made Dad quite proud. Not bad for the new kid on the block. His military successes might explain all the Alexandrias located in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, as well as located in a bunch of the ‘’Stans” (e.g., Paki, Tajeka, Turkmena, and Afghani).

I wanted to draw a few comparisons between the listed Alexandrias and our own Alexandria, but most population totals, commerce, geography, etc., never even came close. The nearest to mirroring our Alexandria is Alessandria, Piemonte, Italy, a city of 93,000. Alessandria is located in Northern Italy. Its climate is similar to Alexandria’s, described as “a humid subtropical climate” which enjoys “moderately cold winters and sultry summers.” (Sound familiar?)

Alessandria, like its American Cousin, is a cultural town with nine history and art museums, a professional football (read: Soccer) team, hosts the “Madonnina dei Centauri” International motorcycle rally, the Fraskettando SkaBluesJazz Festival each July, which has featured the Blues Brothers, Eddie Floyd, and Taj Mahal among many others. It is also the home of the “Michele Pittaluga” International Classical Guitar Competition held annually since 1968.

Finally, it shares another similarity with our hometown. The Alessandria railway station houses the Turin-Genoa Railway Line, inaugurated in 1850, and similar to our Amtrak station, is an important rail junction serving Piacenza, Novara, Pavia, Cavallermaggiore, Ovada, and San Giuseppe di Cairo rail lines.

All this, as well as statues, memorials, and other cultural events, shows Alessandria as the closest thing to a country cousin across the pond.

So, let’s just marvel at our accomplishments and enjoy all the events that Alexandria has to offer this July as we light up the sky on Alexandria’s 275th birthday. Then, when you’re rested up after all the festivities, make sure your passport is up to date, brush up on your Italian, and go check out your country cousin. Why not? July in Alexandria is hot, sultry, and humid. You might feel right at home.

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