Julia Louis-Dreyfus get a life: Columbia is fandabidozi (awesome)….

Listen to this article

You might not know, as Americans, what the word FANDABIDOZI means. To me, as a Brit, it means ‘super, marvelous, great, brilliant, fabulous’- or, if you like, ‘awesome’.

This is a word I used to describe the place where I live in the USA to a British friend back in the UK the other day.

‘What’s Columbia like, then?’ she asked.

‘It’s fandabidozi,’ I replied and I went on to tell her why it was so super, marvelous, great, brilliant, and fabulous. And not just because it’s voted as being one of the top 10 places to live in the USA year after year.

That’s not to say that Columbia is not without its faults, because, like anywhere, I recognize things about Columbia that are not so great and which need a big old kick up the wotsit.

Oh Juila, you really don't know much about much.
Oh Juila, you really don’t know much about much.

But it’s not a ‘here nor there place’, as described by Jonathan Van Meter, who recently interviewed actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus for an article in New York magazine and its pop-culture website Vulture, which has made a lot of my fellow Columbia residents a little on the cross side.

In the article about Louis-Dreyfus the purpose-built city of Columbia (where she is filming the next series of Veep) was dismissed by Van Meter as ”home to one of the dreariest American landscapes imaginable: office parks, chain malls, and a cluster of Northeast-corridor warehouses for Sears and the like.”

Louis-Dreyfus added: ”Thank God the work’s good…..Can you imagine if it wasn’t? It would be a prison.”

Oh dear, a prison?  Holy smokes, did she just refer to James Rouses dream planned community as a prison?  No wonder the Columbia community is up in arms!

The star of Veep has since tweeted that she “loves Maryland” and was joking that the warehouse where the show is filmed is prison-like, not Columbia, in a Twitter post Thursday evening.

“Just want 2 clarify. I love Maryland. Our crew is fab. The prison joke was a joke re: the warehouse. Truly sorry if anyone was offended,” Louis-Dreyfus posted.

So, she’s sorry, which is good. I think the rub is with Van Meter, who seemed to revel in the fact that Louis-Dreyfus was having ‘a pop’.  All day long I’ve seen posts on Facebook and Twitter from the ‘outraged of Columbia’ declaring why Columbia is awesome, and they, quite rightly, have pointed out that Columbia is pretty awesome. In fact, the whole debate is entitled #awesomecolumbia.

I’ll be honest; it took me a while to warm to Columbia. I’m used to quaint, historical villages with a heart and centre to them, high streets and everything in walking distance , or big, grand cities with architecture and culture seeping from its very pores back in the UK.

I honestly couldn’t believe it when I first visited Columbia and mooched on out of my hotel room by the Lakefront, enquiring of a stranger “Where is ‘downtown’?”. I was excited; this was my first USA ‘downtown’. “You’re here,” he replied and I looked around me at closed restaurants and no nightlife and no ‘centre’ and I felt dismayed. I was nervous about coming to live here. This was pre-move to the USA and when I returned from this initial visit I voiced my concerns to my husband. ‘It has no soul,’ I told him.

Columbia so scenic!
Columbia so scenic!

I also write a blog about being British in the USA (www.ukdesperatehousewifeusa.com), and, in fact, my blog entry, from that visit March 2012, reads thus: ‘There is a lake near Columbia “town center”. Columbia does not actually have what we Brits would call a town center. It has a shopping mall. This happens to be near it.”

Yes, I had concluded that there was not much to Columbia from that one flying visit, but I decided to give it a try and test things out when I moved out here, just in case there was more to it than a bunch of 1970s buildings and a lot of roads with no signage. After all, there is that old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, and I’ve been wrong before!

Well, after 16 months I can tell you that there is much, much more to it. Columbia is still a young city and the downtown is in development.  I am a fully-fledged (honorary, perhaps?) member of the community here in Columbia now and I am always astounded by the amount of love and passion that people are putting in to developing the community aesthetically, spiritually and culturally. Columbia doesn’t yet have a downtown to shout about, and it’s stationed between the cultural hot bed and crazy night life of Baltimore and the political and historical arena of Washington (both of which I frequent and love), so it’s got a lot of catching up to do.

But, for me, right now, it is a great place to raise a family, hike the urban trails, get involved and be part of. It’s exciting times for Columbia and things are always moving on, evolving and getting better. That’s the spirit of Columbia – change is good and it recognizes that it does need to change and keep on improving. I understand that for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Columbia probably isn’t a great place to hang out when you’re used to New York (I adore NYC, by the way!) and wot not; but then she should have come out with me and the #hocohomos to Ellicott City one night – we’d have changed her mind! 😉

Idyllic Columbia
Idyllic Columbia

These are some of the great tweets defending #awesomecolumbia and #morethangateway (‘Gateway’ is where Louis-Dreyfus’s filming took place)

So, these are just some of the things that Columbia folk are saying about living here. Oh, don’t get me wrong, whilst I do love it, and I am very proud to live here, sometimes it totally does my head in and I recognize its flaws and I wish I could walk to places more easily, and that the public transport did not suck, and that the ‘center’ would hurry up and be developed before I leave (I’m only here for three to four years).

You just have to read my blog to find out all the amazing things I’ve found and done in Columbia.

You can be part of something when you move to a place, or you can decide not to be.  You can embrace it or you can resist it. I discovered Columbia is richer in culture and intelligence, passion and spirit than I ever imagined.  Living in Columbia has taken me on a journey and through this I have become part of something. For me, that is pretty special.

Columbia and its people (and I’ve met some amazing ones) have allowed, and encouraged, me to do this and you just know you’ve developed a relationship with a place when you find yourself in sync with its culture, its thinking and its philosophy.  And yet, at the same time, because of my relationship with Columbia, I feel that I can also freely challenge things that concern, confuse or bemuse me. Because a lot of stuff still does.

Cheers Columbia - That's me celebrating this great place to live.
Cheers Columbia – That’s me celebrating this great place to live.

Overall, though, living in Columbia has shown me that to be truly part of something – part of a community – you just have to take a leap of faith, and it’s by far the most rewarding leap I’ve ever taken.  Ever. I’ve made new and exciting friendships; taken new and totally outside-of-the-box opportunities; been to some amazing events; and experienced a whole new way of life. For that I am so, so grateful. I don’t know if that would have happened anywhere else, I truly don’t.

I am proud to have developed a close relationship with Columbia, and, while I am still being a complete and utter Brit at heart, this place has, at the end of the day, allowed me to appreciate the USA, change my perspective, enjoy differences that I never knew existed and enhance my expat journey.

Thanks Columbia, it’s a privilege. I think you’re fandabidozi.

P.S. Julia, next time you’re in town, tweet me @ukhousewifeusa and we’ll hang out.

P.P.S. Jonathan Van Meter, you’re not invited 😉




6 thoughts on “Julia Louis-Dreyfus get a life: Columbia is fandabidozi (awesome)….

  • December 13, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    P.S. Jacksown Brown recorded “The Load Out” in Columbia! Recorded live (8/27/77), Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD!!!!

  • December 13, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Dear Claire, thank you for defending my hometown. I wish you could have been here in the 1970’s and 80’s while I was growing up. It truly was the best place to grow up. The diversity is my favorite part of it. Columbia is unique and might be be for all tastes but I love it and so do many others. What other town has such silly street names taken from poetry and literature? (Did you know that?) That author Vanmeter is a jerk. I hope Julia takes some time to actually learn about and visit the real Columbia outside her warehouse prison. She needs to spend time at Lake Elkhorn, or Centennial Park, visit some of the pubs and jam some karaoke, talk with some of the people, attend events like Wine in the Woods and the summer concerts in the parks, or the Columbia Festival of the arts, or 4th of July. Vanmeter can kiss my butt though. Thanks again for defending my town.

  • December 13, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Awesome piece, Claire! I’m so glad you’re part of #FANDABIDOZIColumbia A small correction, though: JLD didn’t say Columbia was ““home to one of the dreariest American landscapes imaginable: office parks, chain malls, and a cluster of Northeast-corridor warehouses for Sears and the like.” The article’s author did. She was referring to the warehouse where they work, as you know.

    Columbia’s architecture and layout is kinda drab, imo, too. But the people??? That’s where the magic lies.

    • Claire Bolden
      December 13, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      You’re right on all counts, Jessie!

  • December 13, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    The thing about Columbia is, the function of a building is not always immediately obvious from its exterior – what looks like an office block can house a school/preschool/restaurant/adventure playground/hairdresser/church – and sometimes all of the above! That’s what makes it more of an achievement to find out what Columbia offers and each discovery more of an adventure. Well done, Claire, for doing so spectacularly and successfully!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.