Courting Hemingway’s Ghost

Key West, Florida, ninety miles from Cuba, slight overcast, seventy-five degrees. I’m trying to get into Hemingway mode. Be concise. Straight forward. Where’s the bar?

The cats here have too many toes. The abundance of bars begins to make up for it, however. My goal is to achieve a connection with the ghost of the late writer and raconteur, Ernest Hemingway, aka “Papa” (he was not a fan of his first name). The plan is to wander among his old watering holes, avoid his polydactylic felines, and consume copious amounts of adult beverages.

Nobody told me about the roosters and chickens. Key West is loaded with ‘em. They compete with the pigeons, but the baby chicks are way cuter. And, I must say, the adult chicks I’ve seen wandering around are pretty darned cute, too. Sadly, for my male friends, they’re typically accompanied by hunky guys. But for sightseers, there’s someone for everyone!

According to Hemingway, one should “Never delay kissing a pretty girl or opening a bottle of whiskey.” If my lovely bride and the mini bottles we brought along count, I’m on pretty solid ground here. That said, I found it slightly confusing after hearing the above quote and then running into the Hemingway Rum Distillery. Could the man not make up his mind? Rum or whiskey? C’mon Papa, geez. But back to the distillery. Fine folk work there, and they offer a dandy tour. Alas, we were running slightly behind and couldn’t squeeze it in. Next trip, for sure. (As if we needed an excuse for a return trip!)

While pondering the whole rum vs. whiskey thing, I stumbled across a bit of local lore which settled the issue of Hemingway’s favorite adult beverage. It seems he started with a Daiquiri from El Florida and had various elements eliminated until what remained amounted to a double shot of rum and a twist of lime. (I haven’t tried one yet. I’m quite fond of all the stuff that got left out.)

But Papa’s grizzled old spirit surely pervades this place. Everyone we saw seemed happy, except for one overly excited adolescent who berated her poor mother at the top of her lungs. Sadly, the only muzzles we saw were designed for canines. (There’s a joke in there, somewhere, involving the “B” word, but I’ll leave that for readers to find.)

Another quote, allegedly from the man: “I drink to make other people more interesting.” Whoa. Head shake. Now I’m wondering if I want to spend any time with this jerk’s ghost. We’re walking; we’re walking. The restaurants are awesome here. We stopped at two, ate and drank at both. The Pina Coladas in Key West are to die for. If Hemingway eschewed them, then he was more idiot than savant.

Two more pieces of Hemingway advice caught my ear. Both make excellent sense and restored my temporary loss of faith in him. To wit: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” Keep in mind folks, that came from the man who, when asked for the key to his best work, told the interviewer he always worked standing up. Shortly thereafter, he laughed all the way to the bar.

Oh, and the other quote: “Don’t bother with churches, government buildings, or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in one of its bars.” Sadly, our boat departed right around sundown, so a night in a Key West bar wasn’t an option. Leastwise, not on this trip. So, now there’s a second good reason to come back!

Okay, I’m putting this to bed as there’s a Pina Colada calling my name, and if I can’t connect, I can always dial up a Manhattan.


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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14 Responses to Courting Hemingway’s Ghost

  1. Erika Passantino says:

    So that’s where you two have been hanging put, and we were sitting here, sobbing at the thought of this poor patient with a nose bloody from snivveling, ears clogged a d back aching!! Suffering from something akin to the stuff in China. Boy the stuff this guy can sell. Whatever you’ve been drinking, I want some. Better bring some to class next time, Erika, struggling writer

    Sent from my iPad


    • joshlangston says:

      A blog is a demanding thing. Especially if one is trying to maintain a weekly posting schedule. I missed last week, and not just because we’d jumped aboard a cruise ship. I’d failed to write a useable word the week before. I had… nada. Zip. Squat. And then we hit Key West, on deadline day no less. And suddenly, I had something to write about! I’m kinda diggin’ the whole travelogue thing, although my views and suggestions might be limited to adult pursuits. Who knows? [grin] Thanks for tuning in!

  2. Robert Daniel Mumford says:

    Oops, I shoulda warned you about the chickens!

  3. Bob Williamson says:

    Thanks Josh. I love these writer stories and especially the Hemingway ones. I saw a piece on Neflix the other night explaining – of all things – the exclamation point!! It seems that exclamation points always made their way into fine literature until Ernest concluded they were unmanly.

    I don’t know about you, but you won’t find any in my prose! (emails don’t count).

  4. Missed your blog last week… but a cruise and a day in Key West-I don’t blame you! I’ve been to the Keys once, but Key West, not long enough. Adolescent children accompanied me, so enough said. JM

  5. Go on the Internet and search “Key West Fantasy Fest.” Registrations for that must be made at least a year in advance.

  6. sonyabravermanaolcom says:

    I loved this piece! You should drink Pina Coladas more often.

  7. John LANGSTON says:

    Sounds like a fun trip. I hope the connection w Hemmingway gives you some new inspiration. 😎 Welcome back!

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

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