Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Papa Would Be Proud

Magnet # 297: Key West Scuba Diver

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Amy

I'm not sure if too many folks are going to be diving for treasure in Key West today. They'll probably all be up on the surface to join in the revelries at Hemingway Days, the annual festival held in honor of the area's most famous resident. The event kicks off today, will run until the 25th, and is scheduled to coincide with Ernest Hemingway's birthday on July 21. One of the most beloved activities is the look-alike contest, which has been held at Sloppy Joe's since 1981. The bar was frequented by Hemingway back when he lived there in the 1930s and he even helped contribute to the creation of its name. Quite a few of his doppelgangers will be on hand, some hoping to win this year, others who have won in the past. There are men who have entered the competition for years on end before finally winning, making for a friendly rivalry amongst some of the more than 100 contenders who compete each year. And the judges are all former winners of the contest, so they have all been through the process themselves. That really seems like a fun and totally unique event. Other Hemingway related activities will also be going on, such as a mock Running With the Bulls, an Arm Wrestling Contest, performances of a one-man play about the writer's life, a 3 day marlin fishing tournament, readings of his works, and an awards ceremony for a literary competition. Finally, there will be special ceremonies to commemorate Papa's 110 birthday this year. Sounds like Key West is going to be a pretty exciting place to be for the next few days.

I've never made it all the way down to Key West, so beloved by Hemingway, but I hope to someday. Even though I probably won't be able to attend for his annual celebration, I can still have a brush with the writer by visiting his home there, which has now been converted into a museum. It's located at the center of the island's Old Town and near a lighthouse. Hemingway lived there with his family from 1931 to 1939 and worked on some of his most beloved tales there, such as "A Farewell to Arms," "To Have and Have Not" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." His second wife's uncle bought it for the pair as a wedding present, and I suppose when they divorced in 1940, Hemingway didn't want to keep it as a reminder. He had four wives in all over his 61 years of life. His work was beloved by many and won him a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and a Nobel Prize in Literature. He had a plain, yet powerful style of prose and a vivid dialogue with a precise description of places and events that really drew his audience in. Since his time, many have either followed his example or intentionally avoided it. He made friends with other noteworthy writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. Hemingway also had a love of adventure that set him off traveling all over the world, setting up homes in Cuba, France, and Idaho. Bullfighting fascinated him, he loved fishing for marlins, and he even traveled to Kenya on a safari, suffering injuries in two plane accidents that would be with him the rest of his life. For about the last decade of his life, he was bedridden until he finally succumbed to what was likely a family illness and took his own life with a blow from his favorite shotgun to his head. His father had also committed suicide, as did his sister and brother, and his granddaughter, Margaux. It's believed the disease hemochromatosis, the inability to metabolize iron, which produces mental and physical deterioration, may be responsible for the five instances of suicide in four generations. And though Papa may be gone, his work remains and is still very beloved in his home of Key West. One of the most interesting details about the Ernest Hemingway House there is the abundance of cats. There are about 60 in all and some of them are polydactyls with six and seven toes. Some claim they are descendants of Hemingway's own cats, but there's not much evidence to back that up. But the urinal he obtained from Sloppy Joe's and converted into a fountain remains there, is authentic, and it's used by the many cats on the grounds. If you ever get a chance, stop by and see Papa's old stomping grounds. He lived a blessed and troubled life and his colorful personality and contributions to American literature ensure there will be Hemingway Days held in Key West for many years to come.

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