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. 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.