Elizabeth C. Beller, 30

Seventh Ave between 13th and 14th Sts.


Photograph: Jay Muhlin

What's the C for? Collie. It's a family name. I have an aunt whose first name it is. I can't imagine how she went through life.

You mean with all the bitch jokes? Exactly. [Laughs] But she's a very tough woman, so I guess nobody wanted to cross her.

What do you do? I work at a bookstore. I'd like to go back to grad school for library studies. I speak Japanese and there's a huge need for Asian-language librarians in U.S. universities.

How did you learn Japanese? I moved to Japan when I was 11 and lived there for three years.

So you arrived without knowing a word? Yeah. I took Berlitz [language classes] and learned, like, nothing. My brother learned how to say, "I am a pencil." [Laughs]

Useful. Yeah. So we moved to Japan and then I got lost on a trip one day without my parents. I had this After-School Special moment where this old man pulled up in a car and was like, "Get in." I got in. And he took me back to the hotel where we were staying. That was when I was like, I need to figure this language out, because that was not cool.

Ever think about moving back? I do. I always joke about going back as a hostess. It's like soft prostitution: You sit and talk and have drinks with people. And you make really good money.

So it's either a "soft prostitute" or a librarian. Exactly. Those are my two options. [Laughs]

More from Elizabeth 

"This summer I started playing ptanque in Bryant Park. These little old men sit and wait for girls to walk by and then they drag them onto the court. I gave in and now I'm a regular."

"I moved to the countryside for a while—to the San Joaquin Valley in California. It was Grapes of Wrath come to life. I wasn't wired for it. I'm so used to being able to get whatever I need when I want it."

"I work at Kinokuniya books. It is very much an escape from New York City in there. Most of the staff are Japanese. Every morning we stand in a circle and chant back and forth to each other. It's like calisthenics or something. It's our group bonding for the day."

—Kate Lowenstein