Monday, November 16, 2009

Hemingway's Favorite CatHouse

Let's see a show of hands .... Has everyone read Hemingway? He's famous for a half dozen or so works plus short stories. Do you think THE OLD MAN & THE SEA was worthy of the Pulitzer Prize (1953) or the Nobel Prize (1954)? I count 'Papa' among my favorites, one notch below Steinbeck, so when I had the chance to visit his former home in Key West yesterday ... let's just say I was probably more stoked than I shoulda been. Thanks to Deb's pics, you can take a short tour.

 Here's Ernie's house. For all of its 'charm', & the hype that this was THE HOUSE, Hemingway didn't produce his best known work here. In fact, he was not a happy camper & was in the middle of a combative marital situation. The lame 'tour guide' (sloppy, I dress better when weeding the mulch beds) was less than enthusiastic & droned on about the marriage issue like a National Enquirer reporter. I abandoned the guide & went about my business apart from the group. Something smelled. I assumed it was the guide.

Hemingway had a separate writing annex. This is something all writers need. A separate building on one's property devoted entirely to writing, preferably overlooking a pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens. The dead animal heads mounted on the wall?  Wouldn't work for me - 'specially with their eyes staring accusingly at my desk.

I have a tough time believing that the typwriter in this picture is "THE" machine. Lame Tour Guide was doing his best to sell that bull... I mean bill of goods but get real. Hemingway lived in the Midwest, Paris, Canada, Spain, Cuba, yadda yadda yadda. There are probably at least 3 or 4 'museums' that have his original typewriter. On another note - That chair looks about as comfortable as an Iron Maiden. Maybe that explains his terse style. Mr. H was probably crampin' up & had to walk around every few minutes.

Had to include some pictures of Papa's bookcases. Naturally these are touted as being from his original collection. I suppose some of them could be, though there's no climate control so I wonder what the humidity does to these declared treasures. If you read about E.H. (beyond Wikipedia) you'll learn that the Cuban government actually confiscated his home in Cuba, including most of his personal belongings, several manuscripts, & a large "collection" of trophies and treasures. This occurred after his days in Key West, but before his final move to Idaho.

Guess I should attempt to sound writerly for a few sentences. (Clears throat) I prefer writing that's to the point as opposed to 'round about. Maybe that's why I like Hemingway. Most consider him a 'minimalist' - an easy conclusion to reach when taking into account his first employer's demands regarding the required (newspaper) writing style: "Use short sentences. Use short 1st paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative."  Or maybe his style really was dictated by that comfy lookin' chair. Like short sentences? Read The Old Man & The Sea.

Now here's where my tour came off the tracks. I was diggin' most of the 'Whoa! The MAN lived here' until I walked into the master bedroom. Cat on the bed. Wanna freak me out? Let me see an animal of any kind on furniture - 'specially a bed. SKEEVED OUT! (My cat has NEVER been on the bed. EVER.) And that's when I figured out why the song THAT SMELL by Lynerd Skynerd kept blaring through my brain. Betcha I'm the first to incorporate Skynerd with Hemingway in the same paragraph of a blog post.

Seems Hemingway had a thing for cats. Six toed felines. There are currently 44 of 'em on the premises, & they have the run of the place, which, for me, explained that pungent smell of a giant litter box. Cheap box fans are strategically placed in all the rooms, adding to the visual charm, because, as Mr. Apparent Woman Hater Tour Guide explained, witchy wife #2 (or was it 3?) replaced all of the ceiling fans with chandeliers & therefore, the house was always hot, much to Papa's annoyance & discomfort. All  of these cats are supposedly descendants of the original Hemingway pets, but I didn't count their toes to verify that claim. Ivestigative reporting ain't my thing. Above is a pic of one of the outside "cat" houses. Shshsh ... it's supposed to look like the main house. It confuses the cats.

The kitty graveyard. This kinda takes pet devotion to a whole new level. As a construction guy, all I could think of was - How many yards of concrete has been poured over the course of 60+ years for this oddball burial ground? Think about it. "X" number of cats reproducing & kickin' the bucket over the course of 7 decades. Wonder if Stephen King was inspired by this when he wrote Pet Sematary? Notice the names & dates of the recently departed?

So overall, the visit to Hemingway's home was underwhelming while the smell of cat pee was, let me look up the antonym for that ... ah.... here it is .... ugh!!! Would I visit again? Maybe. If I had a respirator.

The Keys, in general, won't make the top 10 list of my favorite places visited, but, I picked up some cool stuff that might come in handy - some day. I'm thinkin' my next post will be about UGLY CHICKS. Key West is overrun with 'em.

Uh... What did you think I meant???


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I definitely need help; not all your pics are visible to me. What is that about? Weird, eh? I asked for help with this and other problems, but as soon as I mentioned I live an hour away, nobody was interested in driving out here.

Glad you got to see the house tho. I'd have been psyched.

JaxPop said...

Joylene - I may have been editing so it might have done the disappearing act or something. The formatting on Blogger is tough when you're including lots of pictures. Cuts off words w/o hyphenating etc. Makes ya look illiterate. Not good for a writer's blog.

I was psyched about Hemingway's house - it was a cool adventure. I panned it a little 'cause the guide was such a grubby little dork & the cat "aroma" was annoying. Still glad I got to visit.

Speaking of driving - It wasn't a well-planned trip. Delray to St Augustine (Friday PM) back to Delray (Saturday AM) then south to Key West & back to Delray (all on Sunday). That's almost 1000 miles of driving, while, in between, taking care of chores @ home & checking out the sights in a 48 hour period. Even the bank put a "hold" one of my cards because of the ground being covered in that timeframe. They thought it looked suspicious. Only a NUT would travel like that. Right? Hah! It Was Way Too Much!!! I ain't gettin' any younger.

Carol J. Garvin said...

The pictures all show up for me and it's interesting to see Hemingway history "up close and personal", although all those cats (and their odour) would put me off, too.

If we're ever that famous (I should be so lucky) I wonder what people will say of the houses we've lived in and the offices we've occupied. They'll probably never know that my favourite writing spots are on the couch or out on the deck, and they'll be manufacturing stories about our pristine desks. Hah!!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

the pics look interesting. I can just imagine the cat smell. lol. We have 4 cats again. All strays. I'm no Hemmingway tho, but I'm working on it. He'd have frozen his butt off here.

JaxPop said...

Carol - I can picture it. They will convert my house to a museum. Demolish all of the neighbors homes for parking. The masses will pay 50 bucks a head for the guided tour. There will be markers noting the dates when certain orange trees were planted. Nubber the cat will be stuffed & gently placed on the laundry room windowsill. The writing room will feature the great literature created by my blogging friends. Visitors will raise their hands & question the reason behind 3 distinctly different writing chairs. The tour guide will explain the back troubles going nto great detail about L4 & L5....

Joylene - We've got Hemingway beat by a mile. For starters - he's dead, we're not. I liked his books but his titles were a bit overdone. "Farewell To Arms" - I mean, that sounds like the story of a farm equipment tragedy to me. But hey, what do I know. 44 six toed cats - That's 1056 toes & a whole lotta you know what.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The pics showed up. Yay.

Aren't you back from holidays yet? Wow, it must be agony. Poor dear.

Stephen O'Reilly said...

Good stuff. I particularly agree with the comment "Hemingway had a separate writing annex. This is something all writers need." We can dream, can't we? Someday...
I, too, have visited Hemingway's home in Key West. Jacked after reading "Indian Camp," I was looking forward to it. The cats kinda freaked me out.

Kathryn Neff Perry said...

Dave, I'm just now reading this! Great pictures and I loved all your funny comments. The cat smell would have made me leave---so I'm glad it was a virtual tour---all I can smell at the moment is an apple cinnamon candle! Thanks!

JaxPop said...

Stephen - Thanks for visiting. I was going to build an "annex" behind the house - decided to wait 'til the economy improves, if I'm not overtaken with old age....

Katt - I know you're a pet lover, I'm more of a 'pet liker', better when the pet is owned by someone other than me. Honestly, I've got the whole OCD thing goin' on, & dog & cat hair makes my eyes itch & water - meaning our cat Nubber has limits on where he can hang out. He's a good old boy (16) & will no doubt live another 20 years just to spite me.

Kathryn Neff Perry said...

I don't care if you are a "pet liker" I still love ya! :D