A Marriage of Environmentalism and Technology: Saving Lafayette’s Trees and Relishing Their Community
Interviewees: Brock Evans and Linda Garcia
Date: Nov. 18, 2012
Interviewed and transcribed (from audio recording) by: Joan Solomon Janshego
Location: Janshego residence in Chevy Chase DC
Q – I know that you are an environmentalist. You are a lawyer and a lobbyist in the environmental movement. Can you tell me how your interest started?
BE – Back in the early 60s I was trying to decide what I wanted to do for a living. I knew that I did not want to go into medicine and business, and so I went to law school. I went to the University of Michigan law school. Actually, I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t like my first year in law school very much, so I got a summer job in Glacier National Park, which I thought was in Alaska. Anything not to be a lawyer anymore.
From the moment that I got off the train in Glacier, Montana, I was stunned at the magnificent beauty. I am a midwestern boy and had never seen this before. It was like a lost chord was plucked inside of me. It said “now you are home.” I spent 2 magic summers hiking there. I worked there at a hotel, because I was always on scholarship. Then I moved to Seattle with my first wife, Rachel. It was cheaper to take the bar in Seattle than it was in California. I got a job there as a lawyer and I practiced law for about 4 – 5 years.
Q – What kind of law did you practice?
BE – It was general practice. In those days, a medium-sized law firm was 15 people. It was wonderful for a young lawyer starting out. I did admiralty, constitutional law, traffic cases and everything under the sun. So it was a general practice, and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I was there for the country. I was there to hike and climb in the mountains on either side of the sound. If you have been there, you know how beautiful it is. That was fine for a number of years. I was making my living as a lawyer and exploring this wonderful part of the country.
Then I got very upset. They were cutting down all the trees in the forest. It was about 1964 – 1965, and I was very unhappy because, of course, there were no environmental laws then, and I didn’t know what to do. Someone said you ought to join this group called the Sierra Club down in San Francisco. They are passionate about these things. I joined some local groups who were fighting to stop these things, but there were no laws. To make a long story short, I became such a passionate, active volunteer – and most environmentalists are volunteers; they are not lucky enough to get paid to do these things – that I spent all of my weekends and nights , as well as half of the time in my law office doing what we called conservation work. Then we were struggling to stop the logging and save national parks and wilderness areas out there, and that is how I got my start.
In about 1967, I caught the notice of the Sierra Club. They were a small group then. They had 40,000 members. Now I think they have a half a million. I got offered a job. They said, “How would you like to be our Northwest representative?” I thought it was Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. You got paid. It was a small pittance, but the psychic rewards were huge. I got to wander around those four states and try to save rivers and wilderness – my passion, my love – and get paid for it, too.
After I got hired, I found out that my territory also included Alaska and British Columbia and California – Northwest North America. So I had six glorious years doing this. We were making a life for ourselves in Seattle. We had our two little boys. But I had to come back to Washington to lobby a lot. I didn’t know what lobbying was, and neither did anyone else in the environmental community at that time.
I remember coming here in 1967 or 1968 to meet with the four or five people who did these kind of things, here. My boss was a famous guy named David Broward. We were trying to stop dams in the Grand Canyon. That was the big deal in the 1960s, and so I testified at the hearings. I knew a little bit about that, being a lawyer.
He said, “ Go out and lobby.” I said, “How do I know how to do that?” He said, “I don’t know, just go out and do it. “ So I didn’t know, but no one else knew either. So I just went out and started talking to people in offices. I started this career because of my passion, and it has been a life long kind of thing.
I was asked in 1972 to leave Seattle and go to Washington. I had been pretty successful in my job in the Northwest. I said, “No – Who would like to leave a place like this for a place like that?” I had been back in DC, but all I could think of was the heat and humidity, which I don’t like. But we finally did agree to come back and head up the office of the Sierra Club. So I became the head of the office, and my job was to save all the good things and stop all the bad things. We came out in early 1973. Our youngest son was just 10 days old and the oldest was 2-1/2 at the time. We bought a house on 31st Street, just on the other side of Nebraska. My former wife is still there, and we are all good friends. The boys are all grown up.
Nineteen-seventy-three was the first so-called energy crisis, and I got a real introduction to national environmental politics. That was the year we passed the Endangered Species Act. For about eight years there were victories and defeats, and triumphs and setbacks. I traveled all over the country public speaking and going to meetings. I helped to build a whole environmental movement around the country – not just the Sierra Club but also Audubon and others like that.
In 1981, I left the Sierra Club and took a similar position with the National Audubon Society. I did that for the next 15 years or so, and then Audubon had an internal upheaval – a coup d’état – the way I put it in medieval terms. Audubon got a new prince, and I was minister to the old prince. So the new prince has a right to his ministers. I was one of the last people to be let go.
In the meantime, I took a sabbatical in 1984 to run for Congress out in Seattle. How could someone like me who is clearly a carpetbagger do that? Well, I became well known in Seattle. I was asked by the chairperson of the State Democratic Party to run for an open seat. So I gave up everything and went out there and took the plunge. It was quite an incredible experience. I was separated from Rachel at the time. Rachel is a great lady. She came out and campaigned for me. I didn’t win. It was a district that had been Republican for 40 years, and I got 46 percent of the vote. And the best thing was that my campaign manager was a young woman named Maria Cantwell, who is now a U. S. Senator from Washington State. I taught her all about the environment. So that has been a nice contact over the years.
I came back and stayed at Audubon until 1995. That was when the coup d’ etat came about.
LG – It happened at the same time that I was with the Office of Assessment Technology and Congress shut it down in 1995.
BE – So it was Christmas time, and we were both unemployed. Life was over. I was living in Linda’s house down the street. And then I was offered a job with the Endangered Species Coalition. I also worked as a consultant for a couple years. I made more money that I had ever before, but I didn’t like it very much.
I became Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, which is a small national group. It represents about 450 scientific societies and religious groups and others who care about endangered species. We built it up and made it a national political force, which is what I try to do. That was a struggle, because there have been many political attacks on environmental laws since Ronald Reagan got elected. It was not all of the time but most of the time. But there was a lot of stress and strain. Then Linda got another really interesting job. She will tell you about it.
We took another sabbatical in 1998. I had a lot of Jewish friends in the environmental community. I took a couple trips to Israel to see the thriving environmental movement over there.
LG – We were both fired, and so we didn’t have that many commitments.
BE – I was working for the Endangered Species Coalition then, but I told Linda, “I just got a call from Alon Tal, head of the Israeli environmental movement.” She never heard of him. He founded a new institute over there, which brings Arabs and Jews together. Arabs from Syria, the West Bank and Jordan and Orthodox Jews from Israel and North America and secular Jews too. It is all in English.
It is at a kibbutz in the desert. It is called the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and I was a visiting professor. We did not talk about “politics” as it was called over there. We talked instead about the common language, which was the environment – rainwater, and black water, and clean water and wildlife and wilderness and open space. Everybody loves that. So I was talking about the politics of saving things even if under different cultures. We did that for a semester in 1998.
LG – I had lost my job. I was a adjunct professor at John Hopkins and Georgetown, and so I was able to go.
BE – So I said that I wanted to go to Israel for six months. But I had a wonderful staff on board here in DC and everything went fine after I left.
In 2002, all was going along and things were going fine. Again, the income for any paid environmental work is a pittance, but the psyche benefit is enormous. Anyway, I got this pain in my shoulder and it would not go away. For two months, it got worse and worse, and I finally got it diagnosed the end of July – bone marrow cancer – a death sentence. It is still incurable. My doctor said you can stay here and die, because no one knows how to treat this cancer in DC. Or you can go to Little Rock, Arkansas, which is the only place that treats it. I said, “I’ll go to Arkansas.” I was given three weeks to live when I got down there, and Linda was my caregiver. She had started her work at Georgetown. It was a rough year. I had three or four rounds of chemotherapy. I lost my hair, but I survived. I am in complete remission. But it took two to three years to do that.
Then I realized that I could no longer go on with the strain of being executive director with 10 young people depending on me to raise the money and keep it going. It was too much stress. So I got myself kicked upstairs to be the president of Endangered Species in 2006 because I had recruited our whole board of directors anyhow. The president is an unpaid position. You have to have a title around here. I still love the earth and the environment and everything about it. So I am the president, and we have an executive director, and she is terrific. I help her to raise money and do lobbying, but I am free now to do lots of different things. I am working on all kinds of environmental crusades – things I care about here, and elsewhere.
In Washington State, the east side irrigators want water to irrigate their hay for Japanese racehorses and water for hops, apples and cherries. They want to build a couple dams with $5 billion of taxpayers’ money to flood some ancient forests – the big trees that I fought for all my life. So we are fighting quite a political battle out there, since I know that place well. So I go back to the Northwest a lot.
This year, there is another bill in Congress where the Obama administration is attempting to overturn a victory that we won 20 years ago which basically saved all he remaining ancient forest in the Northwest, and I am working on that one too. Here, I an involved in the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club. I am on their local Board. They are working on things like making sure that recycling laws are followed. We are trying to change the energy patterns of use. Mayor Gray says that he wants DC to be the number one environmental city in the country and already we are in the top 10. And they are trying to get better energy use – like a garden on every roof and reflecting things. So there are all sorts of individual things that I do. I am busy and active.
I just finished writing my second book. It is my first book in a long time. It is a book for young adults, and it is called “How to Save the Earth.” That is the working title. It is just basic stuff for young adults and teenagers. I used as an example Lafayette Park.
Lafayette Park is everyone’s beloved place around here. We still walk our dogs there. I was jogging a lot around there, when unbeknownst to me, someone said, “Do you know what some people want to do?” I said, “No.” Well a self-appointed citizens committee on Lafayette Park – not appointed by the mayor – said, “No one is using that park. It is a wilderness out there. We are going to cut down all of the mulberry trees, because they are dirty and we are going to cut down the black beeches on the other side , because they might fall over on a car some day. We are going to put up tennis bang boards and put up a big gazebo in the middle of the place. We are going to make it so the people can use that place.
And I thought , “This is an idyllic little, green gem. It is the last thing from a wilderness.” I found some neighbors – in fact one of them is living in one of these houses, I can’t remember her name right now – she and I became co-chairs, and we called some emergency meetings. We had only about a month before the City Council was going to hold a hearing on it. We didn’t even know it was going to come up.
We formed a coalition of Friends of Lafayette Park and Playground
So we got all of the kids to leaflet the neighborhood. I think it was about May 1977. We ran about a two-month campaign and had several hundred people turn out for the hearing. So every time I walk by – I can’t jog any more – I hug that old mulberry tree. It is dirty and sloppy I know, but I pat it. They were going to cut down at least half of the trees there. They were going to put up tennis courts and bang boards up there – that is in addition to those they already had.
So I tell this story in my book. The publisher has it now. It is being edited now.
So that is me now. I have not been paid for these things for some time. I get an honorarium some time.
LG – [laughs]. I call him my charity.
Q – So you said this is your second book. What was your first book?
BC – My first book was about an area we were trying to save near Seattle in the 1970’s called The Alpine Lakes. It is one of these big picture coffee table type books that you see. The Seattle Mountaineers published it, and it sold about 7,000 copies. I was the author. Of course, everyone looks at the pictures. But I wrote the words.
LG – He also has kept prolific diaries throughout his life. My favorite is a set of diaries he wrote when he took a tramp steamer and went to the Middle East. He did this when he was in college. He has it totally documented. It is a beautiful thing. I don’t know why he doesn’t send it to a publisher. He also has diaries when he was in Glacier Park and his trip west with his wife and just throughout his life.
Q – Are the diaries focused on environmental issues – or things that you see?
BE – We were not even called environmentalist in the 1960s. No. It is just how beautiful everything was. It is about thoughts and emotions and who am I and who am I going to be, as well as like, it is now 120 degrees out in the Red Sea and there is no air conditioning. I am sitting in the boiler room at 140 degrees. Linda calls it the young Werther stories. (“Young Werther” – the title of a book by the 18th century German poet, Goethe, about a wandering young man).
LG – He has volumes. He is quite well known and famous and so there would be a readership for it. He lost some of it, and so it ended up that I had to retype it one fall. I could not get over it. And the diary on the ship – you see a young man who is trying to figure out who he is. He is on a ship. He doesn’t speak Norwegian. There were no Americans on the ship. It is fantastic – the cities that he visits .
Q – So are you considering Linda’s suggestion?
BE – Yes. I am an inveterate diarist. It is not exactly a strong chronicle. It is much more a diary of feeling and thinking.
LG – He also has the cancer diary.
BE – A nurse’s journal published part of that. Cancer nurses and medical people want to know what cancer patients think. I went to a long struggle within myself after getting this diagnosis – am I going to die or not? Not much I can do about it – or can I? I was searching within myself. I learned to talk to my body. So it is a story of a struggle. I kept saying to myself, if I am going to die, I am going to die the way that I think I lived – with all the flags flying.
LG – I also said that he was going to die publicly.
BE – That’s right. Linda said that you are going to die publicly, because you are well known.
It was about the caregiving and my journey. I found a new kind of semi-profession, which is consoling, and comforting people who get stricken. Everyone goes through the “why me and it is not fair. My life is over.”
And this is a digression but it is on point, after I lived for the first few months, it looked like I was responding to the treatment. I had two stem-cell transplants. But I had a long way to go. So I was really gloomy. The mental part is a big part of this. Linda got tired of me being glum around the house. She found a cancer psychiatrist for me named Judy Siegel over in Friendship Heights. I remember going over there to see her. It was about October, because I had already lived beyond my allotted time. But I had to go back for another chemo. All those wonderful cells that fought for my life back in the worst time, in August, had regrown – the transplant. I had to kill them again. I got tearful: I am killing all you guys again. I am sorry. So I went to see the shrink about it. She said of course you feel like crying all the time – a catastrophe has happened to you. That is why you feel that way. That was license and freedom to cry.
LG – She also taught him to visualize and go inside of his body, which I think helped to save his life because he set up a whole kingdom in his body.
BE – Yes. I learned to talk to my body, and that is what I talk to people about.
When I got my draft notice in the cold war, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I thought if I am going to be a soldier, I might as well be the best soldier that I could be. I didn’t do anything heroic, but I was there and I learned about hardships – mental and physical hardships.
That’s what I finally thought to myself, when I had the cancer; most chemotherapy is clear like vodka. But one was pink and the nurses would hook me up to my IV in my port and say in her Arkansas accent, “We are going to fry you good, Mr. Evans. This one is called Red Devil.” So I was watching it, hissing and spitting into me. Linda was sleeping in a cot beside me in Arkansas, and I thought that there goes Red Devil killing all of my cells. Then I remember: Red Devil was the name of the most famous British paratrooper unit in World War II. So that fit with me. I knew my cancer cells were my own cells. They were the traitors. I knew the white cells were the fighter cells. So it was easy for me to make the transition that my cells were fighting regiments. So in my own mind, I conjured up the most famous fighting regiments in history – the Iron Brigade in the Civil War and so on. That metamorphosed over time. I would not say that it saved me, but it sure gave me something to do than just wait for more medication and hope for luck. I felt that I was taking part in my own salvation. I would go down and talk to my cells every night, and we would have a counter attack the next morning. I have talked myself out of migraine headaches and being sick, since then. It doesn’t always work, but it seemed to save me then. That’s what I tell people.
Q – Are you working in some organization for cancer patients?
BE – No. People just call me up and ask me to talk to so and so. You know what it is like – half of the people don’t want to talk about it. The other half does.
Q – So Linda – Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
LG – I was born in Paterson, New Jersey. I am a New Jersey girl. I went to Syracuse University. When I came back, I wanted to get out of Jersey. I was in a pretty middle-class neighborhood. And I wanted to cross the bridge to New York. That was my goal, and I did that as soon as I graduated from Syracuse. I started at Columbia University when I studied International Relations and Comparative Government, Comparative Economics, and I started my PhD there, except I got married to my first husband. I was all but dissertation when we moved to Washington.
Then I was lucky to work for the Office of Technology Assessment just two years after it was established. It was established in 1974 and we came to Washington in 1976. I ended up working there for 19 years and six months. Fortunately, I was over 50 when it closed down, but the House Science and Technology Committee put me on the committee staff for six months so that I could have a full 20-year career. That was wonderful.
BE – It wasn’t just shut down easily. It was part of Congressman Gingrich’s Contract with America. We say Contract “on” America – because that is what it was. Anyway, it was the only thing that they shut down. It was $25 million in savings. It was an impartial organization. I guess they didn’t want impartial advice.
LG – The Office of Technology Assessment was set up to help Congress, which had very little background in science and technology to help them understand things like double-hulled ships. My studies were on radioactive waste disposal and acid rain. Then I moved into the area of communication and did studies on rural development in telecommunication. I did a big study on communications and intellectual property rights.
BE – She is famous for a lot of things in her field – especially for standards. She is on this board in Austria (a review board of the National Academy of Science in Austria).
LG – I am well known in standards, and I just recently got a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to design prototypes for on-line courses in standards, which I am very happy about. So when OTA closed down, I was able to teach as an adjunct at John Hopkins and also at Georgetown in a program called Science, Technology and International Affairs, at which point I did that for a year ad a half.
Then we had the offer to go to Israel. At that time, I was negotiating with people at the University of Pennsylvania for a job there. But this was a long negotiation. At first, I was not happy to go to Israel. What was I going to do there? But it turned out to be a very transforming experience, because I had worked on science and technology issues – especially telecommunications policy. But the idea of doing this any longer after we had been to Israel, and we were dealing with Arabs and Jews and Christians and issues that had to do with identity, culture, peace and war, I just could not come back and say I was going to do telecom policy again. So we came back, and Georgetown was setting up a new graduate department called Communication, Culture and Technology, and I was hired there.
Q – What year was that?
LG – That was 1999. What is interesting is that the year that OTA shut down, my former colleague – someone I had worked with as a contractor at OTA – Abbe Noskowitz – had a joint appointment at both City University and the University of Amsterdam. He called me up and said, “You need to finish your PhD.” I was 30 years from my PhD. He said, “The Dutch will accept all your credits from Columbia University and I can help you.” I had done a study at OTA on electronic commerce, and he said, “We can turn that into a thesis for you. You can come over here and get your PhD,” which I did. It was a gift from heaven.
Q – How long did that take? How long did you have to be there?
LG – I didn’t have to be there more than two weeks. I had to have the first session translated into Dutch, and a very nice person from the Dutch Embassy volunteered to do that for me. And then I had to go to Amsterdam to defend. I knew in advance that my thesis would pass, because otherwise they would not have accepted it.
But the defense was very scary. It was in the oldest Methodist Church in Amsterdam, and everyone was dressed in velvet. It was very elegant. I thought to myself, “If it is going to take you 30 years to get your PhD, you might as well do it in style.” When you get your diploma, it is wrapped in this big red box, and you walk down the street, and everyone knows that you just got your PhD. It was very special. And so I would not have been able to get the job at CCT as a full-time person without that. I was hired as the associate director there, which was a good thing. It was a stable job but not tenured, because I was in a half-administrator role. But I helped to design the program, and I became director – a position I held for 11 years.
I watched the program grow. It is a fantastic program – totally interdisciplinary. It covers everything that you could think of in the area of communications, culture and technology. We have students from everywhere. When I stopped being director, my former dean became director and he put me on a tenure track, which means that when I am 73, I am going up for tenure, which will be very exciting.
BE – She is writing all the time. Her nose is always buried in some book.
LG – Brock has two sons and I have one son. We have four grandchildren together. We have a summerhouse in New Jersey. I am 5th generation and we go there every summer. My son married the girl next door who also has a house there. We have this wonderful time each summer when we are in the woods of New Jersey.
Q – Is this near Paterson?
LG – No – about 40 or 50 miles west. The people who founded it were from Paterson and Hawthorne. But they called it a camping club, and they bought it for a dollar an acre after it had been timbered.
BE – It is in the highlands – in the northwestern corner where the three states come together – New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. She talked about the mountains in New Jersey when we were courting. I sneered. The highest point in New Jersey is called High Point, at 1800 feet. There is a series of long, gorgeous granite ridges with the Appalachian Trail running through it and hundreds of little lakes and magnificent recovering trees – big trees now. It is like a semi-wilderness. This is an enclave of about a square mile of magnificent recovering forest around a 50-acre lake with about 30 families with homes there, too.
LG – We spend our summers sitting on two wicker chairs on a screened-in porch watching things going on around us. It is just reading and writing. My son has a good Internet system, and so I stick my computer in the window facing his house. We get a signal if there is good wind.
Q – This is his summerhouse also?
LG – He married the girl next door. He will inherit my house. But he married Haley, who has her own house next door.
BE – “Next-door” means from your house – across the street to the Lafayette Park hillside. It is deep forest and a ravine, where the bears come to drink.
LG – There are quite a few bears. And down the road – maybe three houses away– is my sister and my niece is up the road a little way. Second and third cousins are all around.
Q – You said five generations in New Jersey. Is that in Paterson or at this place?
LG – Both.
Q- So your family members have been going there for many generations?
LG – Yes.
Q – What a story!
LG – It is quite a place.
BE – I wrote an article called the Battle of Sparta Mountain and described the community and the interaction of the 30 families, because they are not allowed to sell to developers. The community owns it. Anyway, the interaction of all the lives – every one knows each other.
LG – Intermarriages.
BE – Plus nature coming back. It is a unique American thing I think. I don’t know anything else quite like it.
Q – And New Jersey – you don’t think this would be in New Jersey.
LG – That is why I like Governor Christie. He was on Saturday Night Live. He was really obnoxious, because New Jersey people are supposed to be obnoxious. I am not even a Republican, but I still think that he is charming. I just think there is something about New Jersey tomatoes and New Jersey corn. When I grew up, there were some positive things about New Jersey.
BE – I agree. I went to Princeton University for my undergrad. There are a lot of beautiful places if you know where to look.
LG – I didn’t like the suburbs, because everybody was too similar and I wanted to get into the city. I am very much an urban person. I wasn’t in Paterson for more than 2-1/2 years of my life when I moved to the suburbs.
I was trying to describe this morning who are the people who originated the lake, because it gets difficult. My great grandfather’s brother was mayor of Paterson, and my great grandfather owned a lumber company there. And then his three daughters were high school teachers. My great grandfather was a Rosicrucian. But his daughters were raised as Quakers. So somehow there were a lot of Quakers up there, and a lot of them were schoolteachers. The children play together like nothing you would believe. My son and his cousin put on a treasure hunt for the kids every year. They write poems about the lake, and they have the kids find the clues and then find the treasure. It is unbelievably community. We are very lucky.
Q – Is your house very old?
LG – 1908.
Q – Is that the age of most of the houses?
LG – People – like my great grandfather – settled on the far side of the lake from us, and then they moved around. So this would have been my grandfather’s house. My great grandfather built his house in 1895.
Q – So the houses are all quite old?
BE – There are a couple newer houses.
LG – My mother rebuilt the house that my sister has.
BE – It is interesting. Me being an environmentalist, I saw the picture of the schoolteachers from Paterson and Newark who bought this for a dollar an acre in 1895 and as a vacation place. It looked like a barren, clear-cut scrubland without any bushes – what kind of vacation is that? The houses were built about 13 years later when the trees started coming back. It is now magnificent mid-Atlantic forest. The trees are 100 feet high. Our puppy treed a momma bear and three cubs a few years ago. Coyotes yelping – nature has come back.
LG – I saw a bobcat there a couple years ago
BE – I still like to go west with my backpack in the wilderness. When we were getting together to see if we could live together, Linda had to go on some long eight-day backpack trips.
Q – Is that the first time that you did something like that?
LG – Yes. Well, growing up at the lake, I was active. But it was nothing like this.
BE – She was terrific. I had to get the approval of my friends. We describe one hike that we went on, and my friend said, “You are taking her there?” Then I knew I had a high status woman.
LG – It made my name out there.
BE – All my friends love her.
Q – Are you still going on long hikes?
BE – Not so much anymore. I am 75 and I had this cancer. I did eight miles just a few months ago.
I take Sierra Club people to see the wilderness in Rock Creek Park at Nebraska Avenue. There are some lovely places there. We do what we can. In New Jersey until the ticks came , we used to take a hike every week. There are some beautiful places to hike. We would go on a hike and explore the New York state wine country on the way back.
Coming back to this place, it is an amazing place. It has stayed so stable. We have foreign visitors, they all comment that we are not tearing up the open space like happened in Columbus, Ohio, where I came from.
The place where I used to walk my dog is now 20 miles of strip malls and freeways outside of Columbus. Not that there are not nice places there. There is still a lot more green around this neighborhood in DC. There are some in-fills, but it is wonderful.
LG – We lost a beautiful loved tree in the last storm. It wrecked our garage and some of the neighbor’s property.
A – So you moved here in what year?
LG – 1976. My husband came to work at the Library of Congress. He was a researcher there.
Q – You are in the same house as you are now?
LG – No. We moved to McLean Gardens first. We moved to the house where I live now in 1977.
Q- Why did you decide Chevy Chase?
LG – My friend lived on Macomb Street. She was here first. In fact, her husband helped my husband get a job at the Library of Congress. The year that we graduated, there were no teaching jobs. So we came down with them. She was going to marry him, and she said that “I am not going to come to Washington unless Linda comes too. “ So he found my husband a job. Later, some people I knew from Columbia came down. We went to McLean Gardens, because Mike had lived there before. So when he married Anna, and they moved to Macomb Street, we moved into his apartment. Then we started looking for a house. I also had my mother-in-law with me then, because she was sick with cancer.
My son, Steve, went to Lafayette, and then he went to Edmund Burke.
Q – What was it like in 1977?
LG – I told you I was a city girl, when I first moved here. I was shocked that the Washington Post was considered a city newspaper. I was disappointed in some of those things. DC seemed parochial compared to Manhattan. I went around Manhattan and cried when I said goodbye to everybody. What I loved about Manhattan was that if the grocer saw the police coming, he put a dime in your meter. There was lady in my apartment building who had 18 cats, and she fell and broke her hip. She would not go to the hospital because she was afraid of what would happen to her cats. So everybody in that apartment building found a home for her cats so that she could go to the hospital.
When we came here, people were polite, but not that friendly. In New York or New Jersey, they are not polite but very friendly. I thought this was a very southern city – polite and reserved. Anna’s husband helped me get my job at OTA. When I started working, I felt much better. You could not have asked for a better job. I rose from research assistant to senior associate. I was involved in so many exciting studies, which is what I love to do. We often say, “We have had a very good life. We have been very lucky.”
Q – Were you too busy to be very involved in neighborhood activities?
LG – I am terribly shy. I always worry that if I retire, what would I do? You were talking about going to the Cinema Club. I was thinking, “Would I ever go there?” I am shy about going to places that I have never been before.
Q – You are not shy about being in front of a classroom – right?
LG – No – because I have an established role. I know what I want to say. They say many actors are shy, as well. I am a performer once I get up on the stage. I do talk to people on the street when I walk my dog. I know every dog’s name in my neighborhood. But to go someplace – like the Northwest Village events – I don’t want to go. There is just an incredible shyness that I suffer from.
Q – When were you two married?
BE – We married in 1996. We started living together when I came back from the election campaign, and I started living life over again. Rachel and I agreed to separate. We were already living in separate floors. But we loved the kids, and we wanted to parent together. So Linda and I were together from about 1985 to 1996 when we married. I moved into Linda’s house in 1985 after Rachel and I separated. We had a lot of issues to work out. The divorce didn’t happen until 1994 or something like that.
LG – I didn’t get a divorce until my husband and I were separated for eight years.
BE – If you love your kids, you want your kids to be as OK as they can be.
LG – The thing about Rachel is she made a place in the boys’ life for me. She is a very unique kind of person.
Q – Tell me more about the neighbors in Chevy Chase.
BE – We had different first years, because she was with her first husband, and I was with Rachel, who is now a successful lawyer. She works in Bethesda. We got involved in PTA. Both of my kids went to Lafayette and went to Deal. We participated in lots of neighborhood parties and things like that. I had a different experience than Linda. I felt that people were friendly. But coming from Seattle where people were super friendly was different. Getting used to the traffic was different. I remember when I was agonizing on whether to move here or not – to leave my beloved Northwest or not – one of the things that persuaded me the most was I asked a friend – an older man – older than me – maybe 40. He said, “Well, Brock, Washington is not a lot of glitter and jet sets and things like that. But what you have in Washington is a lot of good talk. Interesting people are coming from other places.”
And I found that out in spades. Wherever you go, any dinner party, somebody is doing something interesting. There is a lot to talk about. So we do that a lot. Around here, your neighbors are doing interesting things. We don’t know their last names, but we know their first names and their dogs. I find it quite friendly. Maybe not as friendly as Seattle or New York City, as Linda describes it. But it is a compact unity where there is community spirit and I love that. I am a poll worker at Election Time – at AU. People come out, and they are in good spirits. It is the Americanism of it. It is the community center. Even if we don’t go to the Avalon that much, I am glad that it is there – and I am proud of it.
LG – I love how Connecticut Avenue is becoming “The Avenue” – like in New York. I also love St. Columba Church. It is a nice church with nice people.
Q – Speaking of “The Avenue,” we spoke to a long-time resident who said that in her childhood, they always called Connecticut Avenue “The Avenue.”
LG – It feels to me like that. I feel that this has happened in the past few years with people sitting outside at the restaurants. I am a sociologist. I love watching people.
BE – Just to give you another example. I was going through some old photographs today because the insurance adjustor is looking for a picture of the garage – what it used to look like. I came across these great pictures of the Lafayette Fair. It is a wonderful thing. Then the Broad Branch Market. It is such a stable community.
LG – I have seven routes when I walk the dog, and she even knows every single pathway. I love that. In the spring, you see everyone’s flower gardens.
Q – Did you use the Broad Branch Market very much when you were a young mother?
LG – No. But now, yes we do. It looks like it is filling out without getting big.
BE – Maybe I had the sense of community when I was here a few years, and they wanted to cut down the trees. It was like a spark. That’s when I got to know a lot of other people around here.
LG – But Brock is the kind of person who makes friends easily.
Q – Did you play tennis?
BE – A couple of times – but I was not one of the regulars.
Q – Go to our website – Historicchevychasedc.org – just Google it. Look at the Needleman interview. There are some great stories about the tennis pro – a man called Chico who lived in the basement of Lafayette.
BE – I am glad those stories are there. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in DC.
LG – Nor I. In fact, when we talk to people we say we live in a great neighborhood.
BE – When I came here in 1972, I could have lived on Capitol Hill because that is where my job was going to be. It was $80,000 to buy a house – that seemed outrageous. Our Seattle house cost $20,000 and it was five times as nice. So by luck – we missed a turn east of Rock Creek Park, and we ended up on Military Road. We drove around. There were kids playing with no one supervising them. I didn’t know this place existed. So there was a for-sale sign on the house on 31st Street – where Rachel still lives. They wanted $45,000 for that place. That seemed a huge price at the time. It has been a great experience. We have been fortunate.
Q – Did you investigate the schools first?
BE – No. We figured if kids were out there playing, and there was no supervision, the school system was probably alright too. My oldest was only 2-1/2 then.
Q – One of the things that Northwest Neighbors Village wants me to ask is how did you sign up for northwest Neighbors Village.
LG – I think somebody told me about it. Brock is the one who took the initiative. We went to a meeting early on. We thought it was great.
Q – Did you talk about retiring someplace else?
BE – We talked about going back to Seattle and seeing old friends.
LG – But not as a retirement place.
BE – Our networks and friends are here now. I don’t want to retire anymore than I am right now. There are beautiful places in eastern Oregon and Seattle. I would say that with all the love and affection we have for our friends in Seattle, most people in my experience there talk about where they went skiing or hiking last weekend. It is OK – but you don’t have very much of the good passionate talk about issues as we have here. We like that.
LG – One of favorite things to do is to go out to dinner with our friends and just have glorious talk. And it is not about politics most of the time. It is about life in general – about mortality – and Brock and one of his friends – who was also an old friend of mine – they talk history and whatever. You never come home without thinking “wasn’t that wonderful.”
Q – You are not going to necessarily get it somewhere else?
LG – At our age to get it somewhere else – no. We have made the connections here. There is a guy that I worked with on the Hill. I hired him as an adjunct professor at Georgetown, so there is a long history. We lived through each other’s divorces and re-marriages and things like that. It takes time to establish those kinds of relationships.
BE – I think we would be lonely. We have out networks and friends here. So this may be a metaphor, but I don’t want to play shuffleboard. I love to do what I do. It is stressful and wearing, but it not a job. But you do get paid decently – “psychic income,” I call it.
LG – I just think we are very lucky. I love what I do. I retired with what I call the last vestige of socialism – the government retirement package. I have it and then was able to take another job. So Brock doesn’t have to have a job. This is not a cheap neighborhood to live in. We raised three kids and helped them in time of trouble and helped them put their kids through school.
BE – I just joined and became a partner in an LLC – which is a bunch of consultants – we are well off enough, and I’ll make some money there. But making money is not the thing – it is doing the things that we love.
LG – We belong to the Sport and Health Club by Tenley. We go there two times a week. These are things that are important to us.
BE – The only negative thing that I would say is the climate. From September to May, I love it. The rest of the year is not so great being outside. I hate the humidity.
I remember once we were driving down Rock Creek Park, and Linda said, “Look at those pretty daffodils.” I said, “I know what is coming next.”
LG – When I first met him, I thought, “What kind of grouch is this because of his complaints of the summer?” I have trouble in the fall, because of the leaves.
BE – The way I describe it to my Seattle friends when they ask me what living in Washington is like. I say, “Out there in Seattle, it is grey all the time and you expect it to be grey when you get up. And sometimes the sun comes out. They call it ‘liquid sunshine’ when it rains. Here, you expect the sun to be up, and it usually is. There from say 11 p.m. on, you drive around and there is hardly any traffic. Here, there is tons of traffic no matter what time of the day it is. It is just different. In Seattle, you want to be outside in the summer. In DC, you stay inside in the summer.
Q – Of course, you spend summers in New Jersey.
LG – We spent six weeks last year. It has no air conditioning, and so it can get warm. But you can take a dip in the lake. We are 15 feet from the water. There are big trees and a breeze. I can leave my dog off her leash. She is on her own.
Q – You don’t come back at all during those six weeks?
BE – We have someone stay in the house with a dog
BE – I would say that this is a beautiful, graceful capital city, and that Chevy Chase is a special part of the city. I love it.
Q – One of the other questions that they want me to ask if did you have other family members and how they aged and how it was dealt with.
LG – I had my mother-in-law from my first marriage. She came here. She had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She was here about three years before she died. We took care of her in our home before she died. It was a difficult time, because she was very angry about being sick. My ex-husband had no means of communicating with her about her death, and so it was awkward. It is funny because I dealt with Brock and what could have been his death, but it was very different.
There was no way to communicate and so the whole thing got to be very awkward – not to mention the language difference although at that time I was very fluent in Spanish. So that wasn’t the issue, but culturally our styles were very different. I would expect that if someone is dying you talk to them, you share things with him. But her son, my husband, was very good at fixing the air conditioner or the radiator. He was good at fixing things, but he could not talk about it. He couldn’t talk about the fact that she was dying, where did she want to be buried, did she want to be sent back to Spain. What did she want. He couldn’t do that.
I am the kind of person who gets very intimate, and so it was a difficult period for me. I had a couple from OTA who were 15 years my senior, they were advising me. I needed help and I couldn’t get that much help. But when Brock was sick, we made a deal that we would cry with each other, we could talk about it. We got extremely close. So instead of getting further and further apart, we got closer and closer. So that was very different.
BE – To add one more thing. My mother died about six months ago at the age of 98 and going on 99. She lived with my stepfather in Columbus, Ohio, and until about four or five years ago, when my stepfather died, she was alone. Her mind was fine. But he did all the shopping and things like that. So my mother had to live somewhere, and she ended up living with my sister in Long Island. So we would go up to see her and we talked to her on the phone a lot.
My mother dreaded the idea of going to a home. That would have been the end. I have been in enough hospitals where you share the room and there are visitors. So I have a sense as to what that would be like. It may happen or it may not. You get up every day and it is institutional. If I have a choice, I would rather be in my own home any time. I hope I am never so frail that I can’t walk up the steps. I think this is a great idea, and we talk a lot about it with our friends. We are not wealthy and never will be. So we can’t afford boutique private rooms and things like that. During the hurricane, someone from Northwest Neighbors Village called to ask if we were OK. So even if you don’t need them right now, it is good to know they are there.
BE – We have a buddy. And if I want to get some things fixed around the house, I call Marianna, and she gives me the names of some people whom to call. You know how people come around trying to steal things, and we have been taken a few times.
LG – There was a man who wanted to fix our gutters and part of the roof, and I paid them. He came back the next day and said, “I lost your check.” I wrote him another check, and before I could tell Brock to cancel the other check, he had cashed it.
BE- Both of them.
LG – So you only get burned once.
BE – I don’t know what the others say, but it sounds like a self-help community people look out for each other. I told Marianna that I love the newsletter – and the calendar. I tell Linda we should go to more of the things. First, we are overwhelmed by what we are already doing. But second, we are shy. We could go together and be all right. They have sitting in place yoga. I did that before I started to go to the gym. But I like the idea of aging in place.
Q – Anything else I haven’t asked you.
BE – No nothing. It has been great.
© Copyright Historic Chevy Chase DC
Oral history interviews may be copied for personal, research and/or educational purposes only under the fair use provisions of US Copyright Law. Oral histories accessed through this web site are the property of Historic Chevy Chase DC. the copyright owner.
Use of these interviews is subject to the following terms and conditions:
- Material may not be used for commercial purposes. Short quotes and references are permitted for instructional and publication purposes.
- Users must provide complete citation referencing the speaker, the interviewer, the date and website with URL address.
- Users may not re-post or link the oral history site or any parts of it to another program or listing without permission.
Questions about the use of these oral history materials and requests for permission should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or HCCDC, PO Box 6292, Washington, D.C. 20015-0292.prev / nextBack to Oral Histories