Tom’s Day

I remembered the day well although I couldn’t recall the exact date. It came to be known as "Tom’s Day," within my close circle of friends, a day so perfectly aligned with my interests that it must have occurred through divine intervention. No day will likely improve upon it. Many readers will probably consider it frivolous or even pathetic. How could it really be the best? My wedding and the birth of my children were more important of course. However, for sheer selfishness, nothing beat this single day focused completely on me and only me.

The topic came up in conversation from time-to-time, even as recently as a few weeks ago. None of us could remember the exact date. Was it a dream? I had to confirm its existence. Tom’s Day, I finally deduced, fell on September 16, 1995.



All events happened within a small, easily walkable area in and around the National Mall in Washington, DC. Even the weather reflected a comfortable perfection, a reasonable 71° Fahrenheit (22° C).


Frisbee Dog World Championship


Launch
Launch by Todd Jones on Flickr (cc)

Tom’s Day began at the Friskies Canine Frisbee Disc World Finals on the grounds of the Washington Monument, on its western side. I’d been a big fan of Frisbee dogs for awhile. They used to perform at halftime shows at my old alma mater once a year during football season. The football team lost a lot of games and the halftime shows usually sucked. Sometimes the fortunate appearance of Frisbee dogs spelled the difference between an awful afternoon and a somewhat tolerable one.

The Friday edition of the Washington Post on the eve of my perfect day mentioned an intriguing weekend highlight: "See 14 canine athletes compete in Frisbee-catching events during the World Finals of the Friskies Canine Frisbee Disk Championships, from 10:30 to 2 Saturday on the grounds of the Washington Monument." That was all I needed for motivation. Soarin’ Sam would win the championship for the third year in a row. I don’t recall if I stayed to the end; another even more momentous event beckoned.

Here I have to thank my wife the research librarian for digging into online newspaper archives to find that reference for me. I never would have found it on my own.


Fugazi



One of my favorite bands of that era, Fugazi, performed a free show on the southeast lawn of the Washington Monument. They played at the Sylvan Theater, an outdoor amphitheater set into a little knoll down by Independence Avenue. Only a few hundred feet separated Frisbee dogs from Fugazi although few realized it because sloping topography shielded one from the other. Anyone who ever heard of Fugazi understood this was a big deal, an easy opportunity to see one of DC’s most famous and influential punk bands in person with minimal effort. I’d seen them before and I would see them later although never again in the literal shadow of the Washington Monument.

This event served as the key to learning the actual date of Tom’s Day. Fugazi played at the Sylvan Theater only twice, and the other date didn’t fit. That led to the newspaper archive where I found the Frisbee dogs that confirmed the confluence.

I was going to illustrate this section with some generic photo of the band. However, someone actually took a video of the actual show I attended and posted it on YouTube. The camera shook and the sound quality didn’t amount to much although it was definitely the same show. Unfortunately, I stood towards the back of the audience and the camera didn’t capture my presence. I did check though.


Mid-Atlantic Beer and Food Festival


The crowds of Oktober
The crowds of Oktober. Photo by Scott Heath on Flickr (cc)

The show concluded and next came the Mid-Atlantic Beer and Food Festival. That same Washington Post listing I mentioned earlier also recommended the beer festival: "Sample 40 beers and enjoy live music at the Mid-Atlantic Beer and Food Festival, from noon to 6 Saturday and Sunday at 11th and H streets, NW." The location surprised me a little. My fading memory placed it closer to the National Mall. Still, the distance couldn’t have been too terrible because I know we covered it on foot.

The address made perfect sense in retrospect. It fell right alongside DC’s first brewpub, Capitol City Brewing. The business still exists although brewing takes place at a different facility now. I seemed to remember that the festival stretched for a couple of blocks although I hit a research roadblock trying to confirm it. Precious little information about a defunct festival held more than twenty years ago remained online. Finally I did uncover a mention in an old article from Washington City Paper once I learned the actual name of the festival from that Washington Post reference. The festival occupied H St., between 11th and 13th Streets, NW. Funny, my memory played another trick on me here too. I though the festival stretched north-south when actually it stretched east-west.

The same brewpub still holds an Oktoberfest at its Shirlington/Arlington location across the river although no vestige of the old Mid-Atlantic Beer and Food Festival remained. I’d heard at the time that shutting down two streets in downtown DC for a weekend proved to be too much of a hassle.

Anyway, for all of the reasons one might imagine, I enjoyed the beer festival immensely. We even bumped into another group of friends completely by accident who didn’t know we’d be there. Tom’s Day broadened its circle.


Epilogue

That evening, returning home on the subway, we stopped at a restaurant for my all-time favorite cuisine — barbecue. That was a perfect way to end my perfect day. I even got to bed nice and early.

My wife and I were still newlyweds at the time although she didn’t attend Tom’s Day. We lived apart briefly until she finished Grad School. She heard all about the day though, and she’s had to listen to stories over-and-over as the years passed. That’s why she gets a pass whenever she wants to take a Girls’ Weekend. It was worth it though.

Everyone should have at least one Tom’s Day in their lifetime.

Before and After

I’ve returned, in a sense. The decompression lasted a little over two months and I’m ready to start posting occasional articles again. However, the old Twelve Mile Circle remains firmly in the past where it belongs. I don’t want to go back in time although I do miss interacting with the wonderful readers of 12MC. New posts will happen sporadically whenever I have something worthwhile to share.

Moving On

I’ve been busy these few weeks, really busy. The Twelve Mile Circle site looks a lot different than the last time anyone dropped by. A new design reflects an interesting realization, that something like sixty percent of visitors arrived here using mobile phones. The old theme couldn’t handle small screens well. I focused on improvements like that with the extra time I didn’t spend writing articles.

A worthy successor also appeared on the scene. I hope everyone got a chance to read Mapping Americana. The author, Aaron O’Neill, followed 12MC for several years and decided to give it a try when I called it quits. Mapping Americana picked up where 12MC left off. I read every article. It’s nice to sit on the receiving end of good geo-oddity content.

The extra time also let me enjoy pursuits that maybe fell farther down on my list during the previous decade. I renewed my love of reading, I ran a half-marathon, I visited several new breweries. The historian in me that often made guest appearances in 12MC came to the forefront. I spent a lot more time on my personal family history, my long-neglected genealogy pursuits, and I made great progress on projects long neglected. A couple of work trips took me out of town and then the holidays kept me busy. Those following my Twitter feed learned much of this already. Surprisingly, I even picked up a handful of new Twitter followers unrelated to 12MC.


Introspection

I wandered around the neighborhood a lot too, either while running for exercise or during long contemplative walks. Several years ago I walked over to a house where my dad’s cousins once lived. The address had appeared in the 1930 Census. However, Arlington County changed most of its street names later that decade to create an alphanumeric grid. I actually had to go down to the county library’s local history room to cross-reference the address so I could find the house.


The Vacant Lot

I did find it and I sent a few photos to the cousins who hadn’t thought about their old home in years. Some of the cousins stopped by the house a couple of years later and found a vacant lot. It had been bulldozed. Unfortunately that seemed to be a common characteristic in my neighborhood recently. Perfectly functional, architecturally distinct homes seemed to be less desirable than big boxes with modern amenities and sheer square footage. The dirt beneath the old homes became too valuable to justify their continuing existence in they eyes of many people hoping to move there.

Anyway, with more time on my hands I could better discern the rapid replacement of historic homes as I explored my way down different streets. I also spent a bunch of time on Google Street View and I could actually catalog a lot of the changes. Here were a couple of examples found near my home.


McMansion

This imposing behemoth replaced a simple frame house.


Modern House

I wasn’t even sure how to categorize this other thing. It looked almost like a small office building although it served as a single family residence. Someday many years from now my own home will probably face a similar fate. The economics of this close-in area no longer support older homes of modest proportions. I may shed a little tear when that happens while I pocket a pile of cash that will help fuel my eventual retirement.


More Plans

Future articles will have an actual focus and maybe even make a point. This time, I think, the only real purpose was to let everyone know I was still out here assuming anyone might have wondered. I have some major travel plans over the next several months that should result in a series of articles. I may finish counting all of the counties in one or more states. Also, I want to start coloring in more of the interior of the nation. Finally, I hope to take a trip to a foreign destination this summer although I’m not quite ready to reveal the location.

Stay tuned. It may take a little while longer before I post additional content although the new era of Twelve Mile Circle has begun.

Ten Years of 12MC

Ten years is a long time to do anything. I knew this day would finally come and I’ve watched it looming on the horizon for the last several months, with decidedly mixed feelings.



Scenes from Within the Twelve Mile Circle

The very first article on Twelve Mile Circle appeared on November 6, 2007. I never suspected this site would last another decade. I’ll bet it probably survived longer than 99% of blogs, a steady stream of articles as the years quickly passed. I watched my older son go from kindergarten to high school during that period, and my younger son from diapers to middle school. Somehow the list of potential topics in the hopper always hovered around a hundred and I never suffered from writer’s block.


That’s a Wrap


Irish Tripoint
Irish Tripoint

Every good thing must come to an end eventually and the tenth anniversary seemed like a nice place to pull the plug. Originally I planned to take this thing out to twelve years so I could say 12MC went "full circle." However, last summer when I repeated an article, it flipped a mental switch within me. I knew I needed to wrap this thing up. The details for this decision don’t really matter. My life is a lot more complicated now than it was ten years ago and it’s become increasingly difficult to find enough time to put the necessary quality into each article. I’ll leave it at that. I probably should have done it sooner.


12MC Won’t Disappear Completely


Center of the Nation
Center of the Nation

Twelve Mile Circle won’t be updated twice a week anymore. I’m going to take a break for awhile and when I’m ready I’ll start publishing again. That may not happen until after the holidays. I’m not sure. Maybe something really interesting will come up before then and I’ll want to share it.

It won’t be the same site, though. Future articles will cover things like my travel adventures and my county counting efforts. They will include periodic updates on my numerous obsessive-compulsive lists (like ferries, lighthouses, breweries, fortresses, and waterfalls). Also, be assured that anytime I personally visit a notable geo-oddity I’ll want to rush to the keyboard to tell everyone about it. Even so, I won’t be posting regularly. Articles will appear on their own schedule, when I feel like it.

What readers won’t see, however, are the types of articles that served as the backbone of this site for all these years. That’s what most people came here to see so I apologize in advance because I’m sure I’ll disappoint a lot of you with the new direction. I’ll always have that back catalog of 1,409 articles in the Complete Index though. Hopefully that will ease the pain a bit.


Keeping in Touch


Jerimoth Hill
Rhode Island Elevation Highpoint

Some of you may still want to follow along. It probably won’t make sense to check the front page looking for new articles. Updates won’t happen that often. I’ll suggest some ways to follow along, though. New articles links will always be posted on the world’s lamest twitter account, TheReal12MC. You can also use an old school News Reader to subscribe to the RSS feed. Or we can part ways amicably with no hard feelings.


A Big Thank You


Four Corners
Four Corners AZ, CO, NM, UT

Twelve Mile Circle was always my own thing. I wrote it specifically as a way to get away from the stress of the outside world while pursuing a few natural curiosities. This never became a popularity contest, of trying to attract the greatest number of eyeballs. It always amazed me that anyone else would ever want to read it at all, much less follow it faithfully. I appreciated all of the thoughtful and respectful comments too. In all of those years I had to block only a single troll from the site.

I’m glad many of you enjoyed the last decade and maybe a few of you will even stick around for what’s to follow. I wish each of you the best and hope your personal pursuit of geo-oddities brings a lifetime of joy.