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???