I started reading Hemingway in college, but not for any class assignment. Hemingway was just a part of my collective literary interest at that time, in with the likes of Fitzgerald, Twain, and John Steinbeck. It still is some of my favourite work.
But I never learned much of who Hemingway was. I only knew For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.So I went to where he lived for thirty years, and tried to experience Ernest Hemingway’s Key West.
The writer reminds my of two of my uncles. One is a great bear of a man, similar in statue to E.H., and the other one has a bigger than life man’s man type personality. I can see them both sitting on a fishing boat with the writer, swapping stories of the sea while knocking back whiskey.
I walked through his home, up the staircase past first editions of his work and other writers of the time. I held my breath in marvel of the craftsmanship put into his furniture. Wondered about his meeting he had with Picasso in Europe, and what the conversation entailed that ended up with Picasso giving him some of his artwork.
Walking down Duval street, taking my time letting the quirky atmosphere here absorb into my skin, swallow me, devour the negativity inside. I visit his local watering hole, and the culture inside goes down smooth. I feel born again, almost new.
In 1847 Key West had their worst hurricane on record. The storm up rooted all the graves in the city’s current cemetery. As a result the new cemetery has all the graves above ground. Crypts and mausoleums litter the landscape. There are devout cultural sections to be found, such as : Jewish, Cuban, Catholic, and African. One unique aspect of this place is the sense of humor the locals had with the inscriptions on their headstones.
So you may be asking yourself, isn’t Key West a sun drenched tropical paradise? And if so, you went there just to hang with a dead writer and a cemetery?