Tender is the Strip Mall

Every summer I make a pilgrimage to Scott and Zelda's graves, in Rockville, Maryland. Sure, I could pay homage by going to Cap d'Antibes, where they whooped it up every summer, but the Euro is so high. And Rockville is so ... scenic.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his rather nutty wife are buried under a huge live oak next to St. Mary's Church, where their daughter moved them in the 70s. She probably wouldn't have done it if she had known what would happen to Rockville: the Rockville Pike, an endless strip mall that crescendos with Bloomingdale's and eventually fizzles out with Marlo Furniture. 

Which brings me to the cemetery, a stone's throw--a wimpy, underhanded, 20-foot stone's throw--from the discount furniture warehouse. You risk becoming roadkill to cross the pike, but there are dear Scott and dearest Zelda, who died in 1940 and 1948. Standing there on that island, listening to the cars rush by on the way to Bed, Bath and Beyond, the words on the tombstone (the last lines of The Great Gatsby) take on another meaning: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

My next trip is to the Walt Whitman Mall on Long Island. On the way, I'll stop for gas and Vitaminwater at the Walt Whitman rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike.
Margaret Foster is the editor of Preservation Online.



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