On March 12, 2017 · Comments Off on Regurgitated

Twelve Mile Circle goes back into its vault every once in awhile to offer little addenda to earlier articles. Sometimes it involves a flash of brilliance that I wish had come to mind during the creation of the original. Other times something new comes to light that didn’t exist beforehand. Still in others instances, it relates to trivial items that nobody cares about except for me. Guess which category prevailed today. Please feel free to indulge my personal whims or go ahead and skip to the next article that will appear in a few days. I won’t feel bad either way.


Duckpins Beer
Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin IPA

I mentioned an unusual variation of bowling found in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states not long ago called Duckpins. I said that it always seemed to be a "Baltimore" thing to me. Now I have more proof.

Look what I found sitting in my refrigerator when I came home from work a couple of days ago. Not one, but two beers with a duckpins theme. I guess my wife must have fixated on it after our recent journey to the duckpins lanes in Maryland. She explained that she got into a conversation with a brewery representative stocking the shelves at our local bottle shop, as she often does. He recommended Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin Double IPA, both made by Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore (map). I loved all of the duckpins that decorated the bottles, especially the Double.

The brewery certainly enjoyed this local connection, saying things like "the pins may be small but the flavor is huge" and "danker than a rental shoe and rolling with ten frames of juicy, resinous hops down a solid lane of malted barley and wheat." I couldn’t help feeling maybe they missed a marketing opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to purchase bottles shaped like duckpins? Then I considered that nobody would collect and place them on a shelf like I would. Drinking and glass bowling pins might not be an ideal combination.

This wasn’t the first time a local beer made the pages of 12MC either, by the way (e.g., 12 Mile Circ… no wait, 16!)


Four Miler Elevation
Four Courts Four Miler Elevation
via Pacers Running

One time 12MC focused a series of pages on various natural forces including gravitation. I had my own experience with gravity yesterday. Seriously though, why would my wife sign me up for a 4-mile (6.4 km) running race with that awful hill in the elevation chart shown above (map)? Sure, running downhill would be great. However the uphill return began to haunt me in the days leading up to the event. Just to make things even more special, winter decided to return this weekend with a race-time temperature of 26° Fahrenheit (-3.3°C) and sustained winds of 14 miles per hour (23 k/hr). Guess which way the wind blew. Directly down the hill and into the faces of people climbing back up to the finish line.

Four Courts Four Miler
A Guinness at 10:00 a.m.? Sure. May I have another?

I didn’t have much of a plan although it went beyond my usual "Run Like Hell" strategy that wasn’t really a strategy. I did use Run Like Hell on the way down, then switched to "Catch Your Breath" on mile 3 because I knew I would have to revert to "Suck it Up" for the final mile. I wanted to break 30 minutes and I did manage to accomplish that, just barely, at 29:42 (a 7:26 min/mile pace).

That was good enough for first place in my age category although I didn’t have a lot of additional competitors in my bracket. We live in a very young area so it was me and a bunch of 20-somethings. Plus the really good runners skipped this little neighborhood jog for a large marathon taking place at the same time across the river in nearby Washington, DC. At least I scored a legitimate victory this time. My wife signed me up for the local Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving and I "won" my age category… because she accidentally signed me up as a woman.

The course actually involved a bit of geographic trivia. This hill — part of the Arlington Ridge — marked a transition between two of Virginia’s physiographic regions, the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont. That little nugget didn’t propel me uphill any faster although the free pint of Guinness waiting at the end did serve as decent motivation. After all, the race started and ended at a local Irish pub.


I explained my fear of the hill to a coworker a couple of days before the race. Nervous? Me? Really, it turned out to be a lot easier than the tricks it played on my mine beforehand. Don’t get me wrong — it was still dreadful — although I got through it mostly unscathed. He said it reminded him of a hill during his army training days. The soldiers wore heavy packs while they ran so that put things back into perspective for me. He couldn’t remember the nickname they gave the hill although it probably involved cursing. We decided a fine fictitious name would be something with a little play on words, like Damn it to Hill. That reminded me of the amusing Damfino Street in San Antonio, Texas.

Could there actually be a hill with that name, perhaps shortened to something like Damita Hill? Well no, and I checked the Geographic Names Information System carefully. The closest I got was The Dam Hill in Essex County, New York (map) and Dam Hill in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania (map). I similarly found Pull and Be Damned Point in Skagit County, Washington (map) and Give-A-Damn Canyon in Lincoln County, New Mexico (map).

I also learned that there were at least several people named Damita Hill.

Divine Apartments

On June 16, 2011 · 2 Comments

I can’t tell if I live in an area overflowing with geo-oddities or whether my personality reflexively uncovers unusual situations wherever I happen to locate myself. Would I be equally adept at mining unusual patterns in London, Toronto, Sydney or Dakar? Perhaps. I’ve argued before that weirdness exists everywhere. Even so, my home area provides strange situations in great abundance and continues to add to them.

Behold the First Baptist Church of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia. I think you’ll agree that it looks fairly typical. Can you guess the weirdness associated with it without resorting to any of the search engines? Of course you can’t. It’s a complete paradox.

First Baptist Church of Clarendon

Historically, anyway, it was known as the First Baptist Church. I’m not sure if they are affiliated with a particular denomination any longer as they seem to have dropped the Baptist part of their name. That’s not particularly germane to the story, or perhaps it is; it’s hard to tell with everything that’s transpired over the last decade. I lifted the image above from Google Street View, and that’s how it appears in their database today (future readers may notice it change). It will look much different the next time a Street View car rolls by and updates its imagery.

I happened to walk past there a few days ago. I noticed that constructions was well underway.

View of Clarendon Under Construction

The Church at Clarendon struggled with a dilemma that many churches face today: declining membership; aging infrastructure; increasing financial pressures and an uncertain future. However, the congregation did not follow the typical approach. The physical building is undergoing a metamorphosis that will create The Views at Clarendon. When completed, the church will be totally rebuilt with a ten-story apartment building incorporated into its design.

A quick examination of the local area reveals the seeds of the solution.

View Larger Map

The Church, by fortunate coincidence, happened to be located on one of the few remaining parcels zoned for intensive development in a rapidly urbanizing corridor. The congregation faced financial pressures but it was sitting atop a fortune made of dirt. The land beneath their feet was incredibly more valuable than the structure rising above the surface. Many churches would have sold the property and rebuilt elsewhere, probably with enough cash left over to establish a nice endowment that would ensure financial solvency forever. That’s not what happened here, however.

The congregation entered into a triangular business relationship involving a developer and the state/local governments that set-aside a sizable portion of the apartments for "affordable housing." The congregation would gain a completely refurbished house of worship; the developer would receive significant tax breaks and low-interest loans, and the county would add 70 units to its list of affordable housing stock in an area where it had been diminishing. Everyone wins, right? Wrong.

The satellite image also reveals a justification for dissent. Notice all of the single family homes immediately adjacent to the church parcel. Their residents would now live in the shadow of a ten-story wall and their neighborhood would bear the pressures of increased cut-through traffic and competition for parking. I don’t have enough facts to form an opinion so I will simply note that there were two completely separate positions. The debate became heated and emotional with all of the obvious inflammatory charges and counter-charges one could imagine, hurled equally by both camps (NIMBY, Socialism, Racism, Greed, etc.).

The county passed an initial plan in 2004. Legal challenges were still underway as late as December 2010 when a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court upheld an earlier decision: the plan served a secular purpose and was not an entanglement between church and state.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only place in Arlington with an unusual church arrangement. Previously I featured a church with a gas station beneath it, just a couple of miles down the road. Are multipurpose churches a feature unique to the area or are they a more widespread indicator of land pressures in an urban environment? I’d love to know if other examples exist elsewhere.

St. Patrick’s Day in My Wacky World

On March 17, 2010 · Comments Off on St. Patrick’s Day in My Wacky World

I love my eccentric little neighborhood. It’s a perfect place for someone with unusual interests like me. I’ve discussed its oddities, peculiarities, history and geography on a number of occasions although they probably mean more to me than to you. I write the Twelve Mile Circle as much to amuse myself as to appeal to an external audience, maybe more. Still, I hope you will forgive the occasional personal tangent.

The Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia held its St. Patrick’s Day parade last night. That statement right there creates the first contradiction: it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Actually it was supposed to be the Mardi Gras parade but Snowmageddon ruined those plans. You can see where this is heading.

Sure, the parade had the requisite Irish folk dancers along with a forlorn bagpiper and drummer as one would expect, but it also had this:

Parade Dancers from Bolivia

For in Arlington, it’s not considered unusual for a Bolivian dance troupe to march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. The potato originated from that part of the world so maybe that’s the connection to Ireland. Does it really matter? It didn’t stop anyone from enjoying themselves.

Nor is it odd to encounter an all-woman roller derby team, a gaggle of drag queens perched upon a convertible, a "green" hybrid taxi, or a repurposed Mardi Gras float hastily covered with cutout shamrocks to match the Irish theme.

The correlations and contradictions of colliding and overlapping demographic swirls simply fascinate me, and they all gathered together for the parade. I have odd tastes and a skewed outlook. I admit it, and you already know it if you’ve read this site for awhile. We had a great time and the kids caught more strings of Mardi Gras St. Patrick (?), "whatever" beads than one could imagine. It was all good.

The Arlington Now website has a lot more photographs. You’ll soon see what I mean.

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