I read Hemingway in college. That was a few years ago. My husband has a degree in engineering. He sorta knew there was a writer by that name. Since we were headed to Key West, Ernest Hemingway’s old stomping grounds, I insisted we load The Old Man and the Sea onto our e-reader. I read during the long drive from Orlando to Key West.
“I had a pet rooster when I was a kid.”
The biker smiled, totally blowing his mean, scary biker facade. “I like roosters, too.”
My husband walked down the steps and interrupted our chicken admiration fest. “I like them fried.”
The biker’s whiskers bristled in alarm. His eyes may have teared up. “You can’t eat those chickens. They’re protected on Key West.”
No, really. Explore Key West History – chickens: http://bit.ly/MRysLn
And that was our introduction to quirky Key West.
My husband asked, “That’s it?”
I assured him the story was finished, and asked what he thought.
“Hmm. There’s no ending.”
“It’s literary fiction,” I told him.
His face had the same blank expression I’m sure mine must have when he explains some exotic engineering concept to me.
Thanks to our GPS, we found the Hemingway Home and Museum with no problems. Parking was another matter. We didn’t mind the walk down the narrow streets. There was something interesting to see at every turn, including a roadside coconut stand, more chickens and antique cars.
You can’t miss Hemingway Home. At a little booth in front of the steps, a woman collected a modest entry fee. I opted for the tour.
“Your sister would like it here,” was my husband’s first comment.
The moment I had been waiting for finally arrived. Our guide encouraged us to go one or two at a time up some questionable metal steps to peek into the second floor writing loft. Hemingway had converted the top of an old carriage house next to the main house for his writing "office." A tiny plexiglass alcove allowed us to see inside the room. I lingered as long as I could.
Yes, everywhere, the cats.
Our guide explained that Hemingway received the original cat as a gift from a sea captain. Six-toed cats supposedly brought good luck, and Hemingway was superstitious. He encouraged poly-dactyl cats to populate his home. They never left, even after he moved on to Cuba and a new wife.
What is it about Ernest Hemingway that draws so many people to his home? As I watched the next tour group going the rounds, I wondered how many had actually read Hemingway. Or even seen the movies based on his stories. Do they come out of admiration for a literary figure? Because it’s one of the obligatory Key West tour stops? To see the cats?
The tour guide told us that Hemingway was a dedicated writer, “going to work” every morning at seven and working until noon or later. As writers, it’s not his lifestyle we should imitate, or his tragic, self-inflicted death we should remember. Whatever his human failings, he was serious about his craft. That’s the impression I took away from visiting Hemingway Home. Dedication, hard work, and love for the art and craft of writing. Those are worthy attributes to emulate.
And the cats are adorable, too.
(To read our top ten best Florida moments, see my January 28 post.)