A Wash Out

Not every well-planned journey turns out like we had hoped.

On paper it played out perfectly.

Get up early on Saturday morning, catch a flight that would drop me in Baltimore at noon, stop by the studio to check on the props I had shipped up earlier, then start my F. Scott Fitzgerald afternoon tour of Baltimore: the grounds of the cottage he and Zelda had rented in 1932, the townhouse they moved into at 1307 Park Avenue after she nearly burnt the house down in one of her schizophrenic rampages, the original Johns Hopkins Hospital where Zelda had been treated (and where, a few years later, friend and Asheville native Thomas Wolfe would die at age 38 from tuberculosis that had infected his brain), and a jaunt out to Rockville and the cemetery where Scott and Zelda finally found the peace they had spent twenty years trying to find together.

The flight went fine, the rental car was waiting, and the props had arrived undamaged for my Sunday morning television show.

But then the rains came — and came — and came.

And never ceased.

Each of my stops was to be a drive by, a stand and look, snap a couple of photographs, and try to imagine what the neighborhood looked like eighty years ago, then walk, and look, and feel.

The walking is the best part, the most important part.

For the walks are where most of my discoveries take place.

But not even someone as stubborn as me takes long, introspective walks in a downpour, searching to find insight during a raging monsoon.

At least not without an umbrella.

And so I did what I like to think a normal person would do given the same set of circumstances: I found a quiet bar to have a couple of Baltimore crab cakes and a glass of wine, and watch it rain. (Or was it a couple of glasses of wine and one crab cake?)

Now, if I had been a true Fitzgerald devotee, it would have been at the Belvedere Hotel, where Fitzgerald hung out in the thirties, either between visits to Zelda or while working on Tender is the Night, which came out in 1934 to disappointing reviews and lackluster sales, dashing his hopes of a literary come-back nine tortuous years after The Great Gatsby.

And so it was that when Baltimore could no longer offer him any hope for his future, for their future, that Scott Fitzgerald did what he had always done: he ducked and ran.

And so he escaped to Asheville and the Grove Park Inn, locking himself inside room 441 for the greater part of two years as he tried to reclaim the passion, the inspiration that for 16 years had guided him through four novels and more than 160 short stories.

And that continued to elude him, even as he ran one last time to Hollywood, where he died of a heart attack.

At the age of just 44.

Well, maybe next time it won’t be raining.

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!


Top photo courtesy of curbed.com.

Bottom photo by en.wikipedia.org