… to Brett Kavanaugh’s now-notorious statement in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his having – like UD – grown up in Bethesda. (Kavanaugh’s private high school, Georgetown Prep, a Princetonian spread with its own golf course, is just down the street from UD‘s house.)

I’m a native of this area. I’m a native of an urban-suburban area. I grew up in a city plagued by gun violence and gang violence and drug violence.

Well. If you’ve read this blog with any regularity, you know UD‘s had what to say over the years about her hometown, Bethesda, Maryland, arguably the most privileged stretch of unincorporated overabundance in the world. One supposes Kavanaugh meant in a sloppy way to say that if you grow up in ‘thesda you also kinda grow up in nearby (eight miles away) DC, so that by sheer proximity you experience gangs and guns and all. But really he grew up quite safely and uber-wealthily outside a city plagued by etc. etc. And that’s why everyone’s making fun of him – especially ‘thesdans like UD.

Bethesda is a lot of things, but hood — or even hood adjacent — isn’t one of them. White people who own yachts and drivable cars that you can plug into a socket, live in Bethesda. Good credit lives in Bethesda. Really tall skinny-ass dogs with long hair live in Bethesda. White women who get plastic surgery live in Bethesda. If Budweiser horses — those special horses that look like they are wearing Uggs — could own homes, those horses would have split-level McMansions in Bethesda.

Another ‘thesdan describes the crime-ridden horrors of a ‘thesdan upbringing:

By day, I was surrounded by drug dealers, pushing their Ritalin from their lockers and marijuana in the student parking lots. Every night, when I came home from lacrosse practice, I walked through streets flooded with white-collar criminals. On the weekends, juvenile delinquents filled the mall: Loitering, shoplifting, carousing — always unsupervised. There was no escape. You could try to call the police, but their idea of handcuffs was a slap on the wrist. The teens answered to no one.

When I got home, where I should have felt safest, I’d find my father lying on his SEC filings. My mom and I were just supposed to look the other way. He’d buy my silence with extravagant gifts. I knew something wasn’t right. But when crime is all you know, how can you ever learn right from wrong? And who was I going to tell? All the dads on my block were in on it. They were the first gang I knew, but they wouldn’t be the last.

No matter what I did, I felt like I was destined to follow in his footsteps, first by attending Georgetown Prep and then — it seemed pointless to imagine an alternative — Yale. You think it’s hard to escape a cycle of poverty? You should try escaping a cycle of illegally-acquired wealth.


Let me tell you about ‘thesda. Let me tell you the truth about just that strip of ‘thesda that runs from my house (technically in the incorporated town of Garrett Park, but ‘thesdan all the way) to the Garrett Park post office and Black Market Bistro.

Looking directly left and a few feet down the street from my house, you note a large construction project going on in Wells Park – a leafy expanse adjacent to the train tracks which has always had some sort of fun playground in it. Maryland Park and Planning decided the latest playground wasn’t glorious enough, so it took the whole thing down and started over. What’s taking shape is not merely a playground; it is a narrative. It is a magic kingdom with stairways up to various glorious myths and legends and adventures. It is beautiful. It is our latest goody – and we are choked with goodies.

Continue along Rokeby Avenue, and after the charming Garrett Park train station, where quiet comfortable commuter trains, each weekday morning, whisk you to Union Station in under fifteen minutes, you catch sight of the white tents of our weekly farmers market. UD happens to have visited this market last Saturday morning, so she’ll give you a snapshot.

The produce is big and very fresh; UD collects a variety of potatoes and onions for the hash browns she’ll make for Mr UD and La Kid when they, hours later, wake up. There are immense sunflowers, and UD takes a heavy bunch of these too, to make her jolly, passerby-friendly house even jollier. While she’s doing all of this, she’s talking nonstop to her neighbor Peggy, who tells her about the Alaskan cruise she leaves for on Thursday.

Waiting in line to buy her goodies, UD is hailed by another old friend, also a professor (though at American University), in charge today of the GIVES table. “Get me up to date on your life, Margaret!” she says, but first she tells me what she’s been up to. “We just got back from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness!”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s way up north in Minnesota, and it’s just pristine and amazing…” The line moves slowly, and UD listens to her neighbor describe the rugged, challenging, no-cell-phone-service thrill of the place. “And what about you?” she asks, and UD is grateful she can – not exactly compete, because Shenandoah National Park is nearby, only moderately rugged, and has cell phone service – but at least keep the ball in the air with her talk of viewing skyrocketing perseids all night long in Big Meadow.


Walk for ten minutes in the other direction from UD‘s house, and you are in another big meadow: The stretch of land Amazon might choose for its second headquarters (it’s one of twenty finalists). I doubt we’ll get chosen, but imagine the additional goodies that would bring!


Plenty more fun stuff here.

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5 Responses to “Wendy, a reader, has been sending UD the hilarious responses of some of her fellow ‘thesdans…”

  1. Wendy Says:

    I bet he rides the X2 bus all the time.

  2. theprofessor Says:

    I believe that Kavanaugh was following the Moore Rule (not to be confused with Ginsburg Rule). This is where you claim to be from a grimy, blue collar, uber-diverse town, such as Flint, Michigan, when in reality you were raised in the whiter-than-white nearby town of Davison.

    The Boundary Waters near Ely, MN are great, BTW. Back in the day, when I used to go, I caught some great bass and northern pike there. I never did get a walleye, though.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Boundary Waters do (does?) sound great. However, some of the YouTubes I’ve been watching very prominently mention black flies/mosquitoes.

  4. theprofessor Says:

    I was not bothered by the flies, but the mosquitoes–they are horrendous. Fortunately, they were not very active during the day, mostly around sunset and early night. Hungry bears are major issue. Campers need to be scrupulously careful about leaving food around. Once we forgot to put a small cooler with several pounds of hard salami away carefully enough, and a bear got it all, leaving some impressive claw and tooth marks behind.

  5. Home – Out of Context Says:

    […] — from “I, Too, Grew Up In the Crime-Ridden Streets of Bethesda, Maryland” by Jessica M. Goldstein, McSweeney’s September 7, 2018 (h/t University Diaries) […]

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