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Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

May 26, 2016

Susan Marg

A recent article from The Times, a British daily newspaper, deplores the state of the English garden. It seems that younger generations have never learned the joy of weeding and planting. Their gardens, if a patio or barbeque pit hasn’t replaced them, are neglected. A spokesperson for the Royal Horticultural Society is quite concerned about the situation, as well she should be.

Photo in public domain.

Photo in public domain.

English gardens have a long and illustrious tradition. Landscape gardens, designed to represent an idyllic pastoral environment, date back to the early eighteenth century. They incorporate rolling hills, green grass, possibly a lake, and a scattering of classic structures, such as bridges and sculpture.

Cottage gardens, hosting vegetables and herbs, as well as flowers and perhaps a beehive and some livestock, originated even earlier, dating from Elizabethan times. Over the centuries they became more decorative than practical, informal rather than structured, and populated the countryside. Roses tied to wooden trellises were a common sight. Honeysuckle added its sweet scent to the mix.

Why are English gardens dying out? One explanation is that renters, rather than owners, don’t invest in the property where they reside, and there are a lot of renters these days. Another explanation put forth in the article from The Times lays the blame squarely on baby boomers for their failure to teach their children, now in their twenties, thirties, and forties, to nurture nature. “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade,” wrote Rudyard Kipling.

Still, why blame baby boomers, if a drive in the country isn’t what it used to be? I maintain that each generation, shaped by the social, cultural, and political events that occur in its lifetime. is different from every other generation. We shouldn’t forget what made us who we are, but the past shouldn’t dictate who we become.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Write About Your Community

May 13, 2016

Susan Marg

A few years ago I worked with Marie Rudisill on her life history. If the name sounds familiar, Marie has a couple of claims to fame. She was the aunt of Truman Capote, and she helped raise him in Monroeville Alabama, whenever his mother dropped him off on her way to New Orleans. She is also known as “The Fruitcake Lady” from her appearances on The Tonight Show in Jay Leno.

Marie’s book is labeled a memoir, but it is also a personal story, a family tale, an account of all the places Marie laid down roots after she left home.

Photo by: Daniel Mennerich

Photo by: Daniel Mennerich

Wherever Marie lived, she found a community. During the 1930s, she lived in New York City to be near her older sister Lillie Mae and her nephew Truman. Of the Big Apple she comments, it “didn’t have one of anything. My goodness, no. There was not just one square, skyscraper, movie house, art museum, science museum, park, playground, hotel, restaurant, deli, diner, dance hall, concert venue, night club, racetrack, bowling alley, outdoor market, or department store, but lots of everything to suit just about everyone.”

Marie made her home in Greenwich Village, of which she writes, “Greenwich Village, in particular, was a real melting pot of Italians, Germans, Poles, Africans, and Jews. They were mostly of an older generation who had immigrated to American through Ellis Island, but they peacefully co-existed with the painters, writers, and intellectuals of the next generation. Into the mix were young, single, working professionals who were attracted by the neighborhood’s low rents and Bohemian lifestyle. In the summertime everyone gathered on the front stoop looking for a breeze to cool off, but there wasn’t much relief from the humidity, even after the sun had set. When the weather turned cold and nasty we took refuge in the tearoom and coffee shops.”

On a personal level, Marie notes, “The best thing about the Village was its friendly atmosphere, and it attracted lots of Southerners. With my pronounced Southern accent, as strong as it ever was, I had always felt like I stuck out. In the Village I fit right in.”

When she married, she moved with her husband to the Carolinas. Of Charlotte, she writes, “Another thing about Charlotte is that the people are so damn nice. They truly are…. Neighbors know each other and talk to each other… In Charlotte, when a new family moved into the neighborhood, we welcomed them with a fresh meringue pie. That custom is still true, unless we’re talking about Northerners who haven’t learned to mind their p’s and q’s. Them we’ll ice up. Southerners can be very clannish.”

Marie saves her bon mots for Florida, where she retired to be near her son. She never really appreciated the Sunshine State, and she writes, “It is not a Southern state, not to me. It has no history, no civility, no gentility. It’s all flip flops, short shorts, and hairy legs.”

What is community? One simple definition is that it’s a social unit that shares common values, resources, and preferences. Those in a community take risks together, and they benefit from taking those risks – together.

Community can be a part of a life or family history. It says something about where you lived and when you grew up. Why not write about it?

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Heartbreak Hotel Las Vegas

May 4, 2016

Susan Marg


Photo by: Susan Marg

I’m awash in nostalgia, thanks to my local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. First, it was an article on pay phones, which they called a “relics of a not-so-distant past.” Another article noted Elvis’ decline on the Vegas Strip.

When I was doing research for my book Las Vegas Weddings, I can assure you that Elvis impersonators or, if you prefer, tribute artists were everywhere. On one trip to the City of Lost Wages, my husband and I saw a different Elvis performing five nights in a row – downtown, on the Strip, headlining concerts, and doing stand up in casino lounges. They were all terrific. So, too, were the guys in the wedding chapels.

While the number of tribute artists in town has been constant over the last several years, there’s a lot of competition for fewer gigs. Elvis-themed shows aren’t pulling in the crowds. Viva Elvis, a Cirque du Soleil production, closed in 2012 after two years at the Aria. In comparison, Mystère, the original Cirque du Soleil production, is going strong at Treasure Island two decades after it first opened. “Graceland Presents: Elvis the Exhibition” closed less than a year into a ten-year contract.

It’s not clear what is causing the fallout in fandom. It’s possible that there was not enough Elvis and too many acrobats in the first show mentioned above, and a landlord/tenant dispute disrupted the later at the Westgate Las Vegas. By the way, Westgate was originally the International, where Elvis began his long-running comeback in 1969.

All is not lost, however, unless you’re a runner-up at the three-day Tribute Artist Contest at Sam’s Town on the Boulder Highway this July. Rooms are still available.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved