This reporter never met Ernest Hemingway. The great man was long gone by the time I made it to his home south of Havana. There, on tiptoes, you could lean in through his office window and – quite literally – smell the shoe leather from his hunting boots, the ones he shed before standing barefoot on a dried animal skin when he wrote.
If you, like me, believe there’s never been a writer who could come close to matching is his bare metal, almost mythic, prose then you’ll want to be in Key West for this year’s Hemingway Days celebration. It’s set for July 17 – 22 in the town he fell in love with.
Hemingway Days is an admixture of the serious, and the cheeky. There’s the much-anticipated awards ceremony that caps the internationally-recognized Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, as well as a one-man play which probes the Nobel Prize winner’s life and what made the man tick. Brian Gordon Sinclair is the actor, and Deadly Ernest is the show.
Go out on the sea, where Papa reveled, and partake of marlin fishing. Then there’s a tongue-in-cheek version of the Running of the Bulls. The running is real. The bulls are not. Beats Pamplona for convenience, not to mention comfort.
The event that seems to attract the most media attention is a hairy one. Each year bearded hopefuls line up at Sloppy Joe’s for the Papa Hemingway Look-Alike competition. The watering hole was a Hemingway favorite. You can find it down on Duval Street, at #201.
If you love what this man gave us, Hemingway Days is a must.
Key West’s smallish airport is increasingly accessible. There’s nonstop propjet service from Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa. If you prefer larger conveyances, Delta offers full-size 737 pure jet service from Atlanta and AirTran flies full-size 737s out of Orlando to EYW.
Story by Jerry Chandler
(Image: Lee Coursey)