Librarian in a New City: A Dispatch From North Bethesda


I haven’t blogged in a long time, and quite a lot has happened since my last posting here.  I’ve sold my scooter and my surfboard, packed up all my stuff, and traded one coast for another.  I’m no longer a Los Angeleno, but a North Bethesdian?  Marylander?  I’m not really sure what the right word is, but I’m living in North Bethesda, MD, a suburb of Washington DC, and working at that National Institutes of Health (I’ve had to go through a lot of ethics training in the last few days, so I feel obligated at this point to say emphatically that all the nonsense I write here is my own thoughts and should not in any way be taken to represent the US government, etc).  In any case, here are some observations about the highlights of my new life after my first couple weeks here.

– seasons are pretty awesome so far.  Look at that tree up there in the picture and all the leaves!  You don’t get that in LA. Plus, I get to accessorize with things like cute hats and gloves and scarves.  I’ll admit that I thought I might die out there when I went for a 30 minute run in 48 degree weather today, but I’m sure I’ll get acclimated.  Either that or use the very nice gym in the lovely building where I live.

– being a Metro commuter is kind of nice.  Granted, it’s not as fun as aggressively racing around the city on a scooter, but it’s a lot less stressful than having to deal with traffic.  I live only two stops away from my work, so the ride is almost short enough to make it pointless to even bother bringing a book to read.  My metro stop is outdoors, with a little hilly grassy area on the other side of the tracks, and the first time I ever took the metro, I was standing there waiting for the train and saw something that looked like a beaver running on the grass along the railing.  I was staring at it with apparently a rather dumbfounded look on my face, because a guy who was also waiting for the train said to me “there goes one of the four-legged commuters.”  I asked him if it was a beaver, and he told me it was a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, and then laughed at me like I was an idiot.  I told him I was from LA and had only been in town for two days, and he seemed satisfied with this explanation.

– speaking of wildlife, Ophelia is enjoying herself tremendously here, especially all the opportunities to encounter new animals.  At first, this little urban dog was highly skeptical of all the beautiful walking trails that go through these great wooded areas.  We would start down a nice tree-lined trail, and she would get visibly freaked out and refuse to continue.  I’m sure she was asking herself, where are all the buildings?  Why aren’t there any homeless people throwing pizza or screaming at me here?  Why are there so many trees, and why do they have leaves instead of palms on them, and more importantly, why are these leaves falling on my head?  However, when she realized there were things like rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels of many different colors hanging out in the woods, she became much more interested.  Now when we walk down trails, she’s running from side to side, sniffing excitedly, trying to drag me into the trees to chase small wildlife.

– this is probably going to sound ridiculous, but by far the best thing that has happened to me here, the biggest and most significant change in my life, is that I have a dishwasher now.  After three years without one, I’d gotten very tired of washing dishes by hand, and very lazy.  I would think about cooking something, and calculate the number of dishes I’d have to wash by hand, and then I’d shake my head and order a pizza.  If by some miracle I did motivate myself to cook something, I’d often eat it straight out of the pot just to save myself the trouble of having to wash a plate or bowl.  The pizza delivery guy and I literally knew each other’s names because we saw each other every week, and one time he said “I brought you some extra ranch dressing this week because I forgot it last week,” which was nice, but kind of an embarrassing reminder of how often I had junk food delivered directly to my door so I could avoid washing a dish or two.  I’ve lived here for almost a month now, and you know how many times I’ve ordered pizza?  ZERO.  In fact, I don’t even know where to order pizza from in this neighborhood.  If I want pizza now, I whip up my own made-from-scratch crust and make my own pizza, and I don’t care if it dirties one dish or twenty, cause I’m throwing all of it in the dishwasher and it’s emerging sparkly clean and sanitized.

There are lots of things I have to say about my new life here, as well as waxing poetic about science and data and librarianship in my typically nerdy fashion, but I’ll save that for later.  For now, good night from Maryland!

On Singing, Showers, and the Politics of Neighborly Relations (Plus Music and Movies!)

The title of this blog is of course Librarian in the City, so tonight I’m going to deal more with the “city” aspect of that moniker. 🙂  Since 2009, I’ve lived in LA.  I’ve been in three different apartments, but each has always meant living in very close proximity to people.  Often loud people.  Frequently drunk people.  I think several mentally ill people.  At least it was always interesting.  But my frustration with my neighbors has perhaps made me hypersensitive to being loud in my own apartment.  Apartments in LA are very close together, and since most of us lack air conditioning, and the weather is perfect nearly year-round, windows are always open.  So sometimes it feels like your neighbors’ party is happening in your bedroom.  Or your neighbor’s awkwardly personal conversations is right at your kitchen table.  So I assume if I can hear them so easily, they can probably hear me, too.

One of the things I would totally do if I didn’t have to worry about neighbors overhearing: sing in the shower.  I’m thinking of this after watching the latest Woody Allen film, To Rome with Love on my last flight from Dallas to LA.  I’m sorry to say that even in such a captive situation, it didn’t hold my interest and I didn’t watch to the end.  It may well be that Allen can never do anything that will surpass Midnight in Paris for me, because it is honestly one of my favorite films of all time, about my favorite city, and I would SO love to have the plot of that movie happen to me. 🙂  However, one part of To Rome that I did really like – the character who is a fantastically talented opera singer, but only when he’s in the shower.  As Woody Allen’s character points out in the film, it’s true that we all do seem to sound better in the shower.

I do love to sing – I used to sing in the Women’s Chorus of Dallas before moving to LA, but never found something like that in LA.  If I didn’t have to worry about it, I’d sing in the shower all day long, but in an apartment, I don’t feel like that would be very polite.  I had some crazy neighbors at my old apartment who would sing a lot – well, sing is putting it very politely.  It was more like…moderately tonal screaming, I guess?  I would hate to be that neighbor, so I have thus far refrained from singing in the shower (especially since I think I am one of the earliest up in this whole building).  However, sometimes you need to sing a little, so I have been doing it (quietly) while I work on stuff tonight.  In case you’d like to hear some good music and sing along with me, here’s my (in progress) Spotify playlist.  Some of it might surprise you, and it’s not all very good quality music artistically speaking, but it’s all stuff I like to sing along with.

So what’s your take on neighborly relations, my dear readers?  Would you sing in the shower with neighbors in close quarters?