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 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.


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.


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.

Three of Them

Sequences of three came to mind, a trio of possibilities. Little did I know that so many places also focused on a similar theme. I found an abundance of opportunities. Of course, that equated to long lists for me to review as I started searching for something memorable. By "memorable" I meant to me personally. I gave up trying to figure out what might resonate with the larger Twelve Mile Circle audience a long time.

Three Coins

Three coins came in the form of Trois-Pistoles, Québec. I’d hoped that the French pistole might be a cognate of the English pistol. Unfortunately that seemed too good to be true. Something involving three pistols would almost automatically guarantee an interesting story. Instead the French pistole referred to a type of gold coin common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An early French settlers wanted a drink of water and dipped a goblet into the river. Unfortunately the goblet slipped from his grasp and fell overboard. This must have been a pretty nice goblet because he wasn’t very happy about it. He exclaimed in dismay that he’d lost the equivalent of three gold coins. This all happened sometime around 1620 according to the Commission de Toponymie Québec and the name stuck.

I mentioned this town briefly in an earlier article about Canada. Specifically I noted a beer made by the Unibroue brewery called Trois-Pistoles that referenced the town. This time around I found a video that offered an explanation. The beer honored a legend about the town’s Catholic church, Église de Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, or Our Lady of the Snows (map). Very briefly, church construction ran behind schedule so the builder enlisted the Devil’s horse to pull stones up from the river. A magic bridle slipped from the demonic horse and it escaped, leaving the church incomplete. It still lacks a single stone somewhere in its wall, for those who believe such stuff. Watch the video if you want to hear the full explanation in an entertaining French-Canadian accent.

Three Rivers

19830624 07 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by David Wilson on Flickr (cc)

A ridiculous number of places claimed Three Rivers although its use as a nickname for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came to my mind quickest. Maybe a more common usage existed elsewhere. To me, Three Rivers was pretty synonymous with the city where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers joined. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve become more sensitized to Pittsburgh because I’ve been there a couple of times fairly recently. I’d never been there before and then suddenly I rode on the Great Allegheny Passage and later stayed a little longer.

Its nickname became so common that a local sports stadium used to be called Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh’s professional baseball and football teams played there for thirty years until the city knocked it down in 2001. Now Pittsburgh has a stadium with the name of a corporate sponsor just like every other place. A large park still bears the name though. Three Rivers Park includes a bunch of the immediate waterfront along the rivers near downtown, even incorporating Point State Park at its confluence (map).

I supposed I could have selected any of the actual places officially named Three Rivers. One of them existed in Michigan where the Rocky and Portage Rivers joined the St. Joseph River. I crossed the St. Joseph a little farther downstream on the old camelback bridge during my recent trip through the Midwest (map). Nonetheless, I still gave the honor to Pittsburgh.

Three Brothers or Sisters

Three Sisters Islands. Photo by David on Flickr (cc)

Numerous examples of Three Brothers or Three Sisters came to light during my search. This highly common variation existed practically everywhere. Naturally I selected one familiar to me because I’m lazy. I see three little rocky islets every time I bike along the Potomac River heading upstream from Georgetown (map). They’re called the Three Sisters. I’ve known about them my whole life. I remember my father pointing them out to me even during my childhood. The usual legends existed; Indian maiden this, Catholic nun that, someone stranded, someone drowning, on and on.

The Three Sisters had a more modern history, though. The government wanted to put another bridge across the Potomac River in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It would have become the Three Sisters Bridge. Back then it seemed that the solution to every traffic need involved another superhighway. Many cities lost vibrant neighborhoods under ribbons of concrete. However, relatively few highway lanes ran through parts of the District of Columbia because people fought their construction and won. Washington largely escaped the fate of other US cities of the time where highways marred the landscape and separated their citizens. The Three Sisters managed to retain their charm.

Three More

Three Mile Island
Three Mile Island. Photo by Jennifer Boyer on Flickr (cc)

I figured I had a little extra time to mention a trio of others, although briefly.

  • Three Mile Island: A major nuclear accident took place outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1979 on Three Mile Island. It seemed like a big deal at the time although Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi eventually proved otherwise.
  • Three States: A little unincorporated village surrounded the Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas (ARLATX) tripoint. Logically the settlement took the name Three States. Only about 45 people lived there at the most recent census although I couldn’t think of any other community so focused on a similar geo-oddity. I might even get a chance to visit Three States someday.
  • Three Churches: West Virginia included the community of Three Churches named for, well, three nearby churches.

I could have continued although I didn’t want to mess up the theme. Although I guess I already did that when I added this fourth section down here for the miscellaneous stuff.

Highest Numbered Street

Newer cities created on grid patterns often used street naming systems based on numbers. The closest street to an important urban feature would become 1st Street. Numbers increased from there. Distinct patterns emerged in different cities, of course. Maybe numbered streets increased outward in two directions, north and south or east and west. Plenty of other variations existed too.

I wondered about the highest numbered street, though. Apparently a lot of other people on the Intertubes wanted to know the same thing according to what I found as I searched. Specifically though, I sought something within a single city in a generally contiguous manner. There shouldn’t be huge gaps. Otherwise I’d look at something like 1010th Street way outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and be done with it.

New York City

Queens County Farm Museum
Queens County Farm Museum. Photo by Nick Normal on Flickr (cc)

New York City seemed like a logical starting point. The city sprawled densely across five boroughs and used a numerical grid for much of it. The highest numbered street seemed to land in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Queens. There, way out on the distant edge of the city near its border with Nassau County, appeared 271st Street. This quiet middle class neighborhood consisted primarily of a large garden apartment complex. On 271st St. however, just three blocks long, the houses all appeared to be detached single-family homes (map).

This neighborhood sat so far away from the action that it contained an actual farm. A farm in New York City? Well, actually, that might be a slight exaggeration. A few blocks away from 271st Street stood the Queens County Farm Museum. I guess that counted as a farm in a sense. As the museum explained,

Queens County Farm Museum’s history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State.

Where in New York City could someone go on a hay ride? Only way out near 271st Street, I’d imagine.

Washington, DC

I figured I could also look closer to home in the District of Columbia. With Washington being so much smaller than New York, I certainly wouldn’t expect it to reach the same number. However, it did have a nice grid divided into quadrants. Looking near the right angles of its rectangular border should help find the largest street numbers. They ran north-south in the nation’s capital. The western cornerstone fell in what is now Virginia so that wouldn’t work. That left the streets near the eastern cornerstone as the best place to search.

There I found 63rd Street Northeast as probably the highest number street (map) in the District of Columbia. These four blocks featured mostly modest brick duplexes with a few small apartments. The boundary stone could be found about a block farther to the east near the intersections of Southern and Eastern Avenues. Some maps called this the East Corner neighborhood appropriately enough, although I couldn’t find any more information about it. The cornerstone near 63rd Street, it should be noted, went through a rededication recently after many years of neglect.

The highest numbered street in the Virginia area previously part of the District of Columbia appeared to be 44th Street in Arlington (map).

Tehran, Iran

Tehran , Iran
Tehran, Iran. Photo by daniyal62 on Flickr (cc)

The city of Tehran in Iran had something of a grid in spots, including some with numbered streets. The city even had a 305th Street (map). This short block included space for two apartment towers, a park and a farmers’ market. However, I couldn’t make sense of the numbering scheme and it seemed like several different patterns existed in close proximity. I included Tehran solely because I wanted an Iranian push-pin on my Complete Index map. Now I have one.

Milton Keynes, England

Milton Keynes, England (June 2009)
Milton Keynes, England. Photo by Mark Pegrum on Flickr (cc)

Few examples of numbered streets existed within the United Kingdom. Most towns formed centuries ago in a haphazard manner. They didn’t include regular grids like their cousins that formed from scratch on the North American prairies. Milton Keynes incorporated one of the the best examples of numbered streets that I could find, though. The city didn’t follow the same model as much of the rest of the UK. It didn’t have an ancient pedigree. "When the UK Government decided to build Milton Keynes in the 1960s, the area was mostly farmland and undeveloped villages." Thus, it followed a model much more aligned to what happened on the other side of the Atlantic.

Even so, its numbering climbed only as high as 14 as far as I could tell (map). Also, city planners didn’t like numbers as numerals so they spelled them out. People lived on Fourteenth Street not 14th Street.