Wednesday, October 6, 2010

two quotes

Pho Comida Tipica
Earlier this week, Kensington Patch interviewed Lydia Sullivan, creator of T-shirt company/blog Snoburbia. When asked why she started the blog, Sullivan gave this answer, which has been repeating in my head for the past two days (emphasis mine):
"I don't actually consider people who live here to be snobs. We are all just doing what is best for our families. It's just that we don't really talk openly about class and privilege in this country . . . people assume that we in snoburbia get to live here because we've worked hard or are inherently awesome, rather than the series of events, parenting, and privileges that have led us here."
That's an interesting thought, especially coming from someone who proudly states she comes from rural West Virginia. Sullivan could easily say that she worked really hard and was able to create a life for herself and her family in affluent Kensington, but doesn't. Instead, she says, it's a combination of circumstances and maybe even luck that brought her to where she is today. That's a humble way to approach your situation, and if I had kids, I would probably teach them to feel similarly.

Obviously, working hard is important, and you may not get very far with out it. But work alone doesn't guarantee you a better life. I worked hard to get into grad school, but actually getting into one was almost an accident. So if one day I end up being successful and can afford to buy a big house in (heaven forbid) Bethesda, I can only give myself some of the credit.

The other quote I like this week is from an old issue of Dwell magazine about suburban design. In the Editor's Note, Sam Grawe writes about his childhood growing up in McLean, and how it (and his perceptions of suburbia) changed as he grew older:
"[In the 1980's] the Metro had connected northern Virginia with DC, so it was easy enough to soak in true urban grit . . . Just as often we would bargain hunt around the Beltway at vintage instrument and music shops, and eat dim sum in strip malls or late-night slices of pie at a Greek diner. The suburbs had plenty to offer; you just needed to dig a little deeper, and be willing to make a few concessions."
When my family first moved to Calverton when I was eleven, I was tempted to believe that stereotype that anywhere outside of the city limits must be boring and homogeneous. I'd find little proof of it as I grew up, though. My friends were from Israel, Honduras and the Philippines, and we'd go out to eat sambusas in Burtonsville, banh mi in Wheaton, and pollo a la brasa in Beltsville. When I finally started going to D.C. on a regular basis in college, I was surprised to discover that it didn't feel as "diverse" - or as "gritty" as some of the suburbs.

I don't know if that's the case in Philadelphia, where most of the suburbs I've visited appear lily-white and all of the good ethnic food appears to be in the city (much of which within walking distance of my house, which I appreciate.) But even in the city, the girl at the "Vietnamese hoagie" shop bristled when I asked her for banh mi.

"See, when you say that, you're speaking Vietnamese," she replied.

"Yes, I know," I said.

Privilege and urban grit have been on my mind this week as I prepare a pecha kucha presentation for the Montgomery County Planning Department's contest being held tomorrow. There are supposed to be several participants (I don't know how many) and audience members will be allowed to vote on their favorite using instant polling. Check it out! The event's at 7:30 in the Civic Building, located at . . . well, you should know where it is by now.


Patrick said...


I think you'll find as you get older that there is a lot of luck to life. Anyone who denies that is kidding themselves. Luck to finding the right job (some of it really comes down to timing and choices), luck to finding the right house (some people are able to get great deals because of market conditions or foreclosures) and even luck to finding the right spouse.

Conversely, there is also a lot of hard work to being successful too. Anyone who thinks success is just a mater of privilege is looking for an excuse not to explain their own failings.

One thing that people don't talk about much when it comes to success is networking. It's really important. You clearly already do this. Keep it up.

People like to hire and work with people they know. It involves less risk.

So yes, where you were born and who you were born to and luck do come into play with life success, but so does hard work and networking.

I must disagree about the awesomeness of Kensington. I'd much rather live in DTSS than there. Although I don't have kids, so maybe I'll change my mind on this, but I can't imagine living my life completely dependent on a car. Yuck.

~Patrick Thornton

Gary said...

I love the blog - didn't realize she was in Kensington. Can you really live east of Rock Creek and still be in Snoburbia?

Gary said...

Love the blog but didn't realize she lived in Kensington. Can you really live east of Rock Creek and still be a snoburban?

Delegate Al Carr said...

@Patrick - Kensington actually has pretty good transit service as suburbs go. We have a MARC station. We are close to both arms of the red line, L8 bus down Connecticut Ave to Friendship Heights Metro. Route 34 bus between Wheaton and Medical Center metro. 2 bus lines between Kensington and DTSS. Some folks here do get by without owning a car.

Al Carr

Patrick said...


Maybe Kensington isn't so bad. I'll have to check out how car independent it is. Although after my experience of relying on buses in Rockville, I'm not a fan of that method.

But I prefer being able to walk to daily activities: grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. It's healthier, cheaper, safer and better for the environment. That's why I chose DTSS. I can also walk to the Metro, which is a totally different experience than relying on buses.

My experience on buses going west to east is a big reason I support the purple line.

~Patrick Thornton