The Modern Armchair Tourist

Candice eetimesTravelogs, in print and film, have for over a century provided the armchair tourist opportunities to vicariously visit famous or out of the way places around the world.  But the internet, and especially Google Street View offer the opportunity to explore the world in greater detail and at one’s own choosing.  It has opened my eyes to insights I don’t think I would have had in any other way.

My husband and I both love old house architecture.  We both love “old house porn”, looking at online real estate listing of Victorian and Edwardian houses, sometimes in house envy, sometimes in bleak dismay at the run down condition or worse, the misguided “renovations” of previous owners.

Along with looking at the houses, I like looking at the gardens.  Some of these houses, like those in Portland, OR, have magnificent ones.  But, amazingly, some, especially those in the mid-west and south, have no gardens to speak of, just crab-grass and weeds.

Taking virtual ‘drives’ around old neighborhoods in various parts of the country, I’ve noticed that there are entire towns and counties that have that same run down look.  No gardens, not even flower pots on the porches.  Interestingly, these places seem to be those that are economically depressed and ‘blowing away’.  Just as I’ve used the sight of bars on the windows of urban houses as a sign of urban distress, the total lack of gardens in a town tell me that this town is failing.

Gardening is NOT expensive.  One can grow a lot of flowers from inexpensive seed or bulk bulbs.  One can grow roses from cuttings from neighbors.  There are entire books on how to landscape on the cheap.  Many of these gardenless towns clearly used to have lovely gardens and tree lined streets.  It isn’t just a matter of money.  No, it’s as if they have no pride of place, no plans for a better tomorrow.  These are places where anyone with any “get up and go… got up and left”; Places where every June, the best and brightest of the young people graduating from high school head off to college and never come back, leaving the less ambitious behind.

These are the places where we find the diseases of despair, alcoholism, meth, and opioid addiction.  The places where “Make America Great Again” actually has meaning, ’cause they used to be great places, but no more.

A lovely garden is a sign that the people who live there believe in a future.  The lack says the opposite.  Take a virtual tour of these towns… and see the death of hope.

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