Happy Birthday, F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s my sister’s birthday, too. She’s 45 29. Scotty would be 116.

This weekend, I went on a tour of his old stomping grounds. My cousin accompanied me so I wouldn’t have to be all by myself, taking an historic tour with a bunch of strangers on a Saturday afternoon. What a good sport.

Here he is with the rest of the group, staring at 589 Summit Ave., where Fitzgerald lived when he was recovering from a convenient illness during a rough semester at college. He wrote much of “This Side of Paradise” here.

I learned two things on this tour. 1) The Minnesota Historical Society has sucky tour guides. Or, at least, our tour guide was sucky. She walked like she was trying to lose us, like she couldn’t get the tour over fast enough, so when she paused to inform us, she was out of breath, like so: “This (pant, pant) house (pant) was wh- (pant, pant) where (pant, pant)…” and so on. She provided us with no new information or stories of interest, no insights, and, at each stop, she spoke for two minutes or less about the man. Then, she stopped to talk about a bunch of houses she liked that had nothing to do with Fitzgerald. She just liked them. Lady, you suck at your job. If she were a volunteer, I might be able to forgive it, but she’s a legit historian. No. Bad tour guide.

The second thing I learned, or, rather, was reminded of, was that Nathan Hale, the man who famously said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” didn’t actually say those words. Not exactly. There’s a statue of him on Summit Avenue, which is a remarkably well-preserved historic street in St. Paul that has long been home to many wealthy and out-of-touch families. His exact words are inscribed on the statue’s podium, and they read: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”


For some reason, the use of this word makes a difference to me. Or, rather, the word most authors of history choose to replace it with makes a difference.

One other thing about the tour guide: she used the phrase “or something like that” three times when listing facts about Fitzgerald. Three times. My cousin counted. I think that alone should mean the revocation of her historian card. She needs to turn in her badge and gun.

So, the walking tour gets a bad review, mostly because I paid $12 for the privilege to jog behind this brusque woman who seemed to know less about Fitzgerald than I do. It was cool, though, to see the place where Fitzgerald spent most of his childhood and learned to mock the wealthy. I recommend driving through Summit Avenue with a guide-book and taking a look at some of the historical homes there. They’re pretty awesome. Behold:

Mrs. Porterfield’s boarding house, where several other young authors and Fitzgerald’s friends lived.
In the spirit of our easily-distracted guide, here’s a photo of a random house that has nothing to do with Fitzgerald, but looks cool.
Finally, Marie Hersey’s house. She was Fitzgerald’s best friend, to whom he complained about all his girlfriends, and, later, his wife. He dated Hersey’s cousin, but never Hersey herself. If this girl wasn’t totally friendzoned, I’ll eat my hat.

If you want to wish my sister a happy birthday, by all means, send her a message on twitter: @ZorbaBezoar. She’ll be so full of squee!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I enjoyed this little historical tour and have decided it has earned my year end Super Sweet Blogging award which will be given out with others on my blog tomorrow. Stop by for a tasty morsel.

  2. Love this! Good on Jimmy for tagging along. Now I’ll have to remember my password so I can read all the loads of twitter message I’m sure to get 🙂