Since this is the one-hundredth post for the Modern Manuscript, I have been saving up for something extra special. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Key West for a family destination wedding. Nestled amidst the tropical plants, colorful bungalows, and tranquil white sand beaches with their russet and mauve sunsets, it is easy to see how one could muster the inspiration to write a great American novel, or two!
While it became evident early on in my trip that I would never be able to live in a tropical clime, what with my Irish tendency for horrific sunburns and general inability to survive in the heat, Key West was nonetheless a lovely place to visit for a few days.
Hemingway’s house is situated just outside the hustle and bustle of Duval street, Key West’s main drag. Ensconced by crumbling red brick walls and a wreath of tropical fauna, Hemingway’s House is an aging two-story white stucco number with a light dusting of pale green shutters.
Like Hemingway, the house is large but simple, without the heavy ornamentation and woodworking seen in the neighboring manors of Key West’s historical elite. Take, for instance, the stately Cosgrove house, with its beautiful latticework and carefully carved windows and paneling. It’s a far more luxurious building.
The inside of Hemingway’s House is equally sparse, appointed with only a few key furnishings. A bed with a beautiful hand-carved gate for a headboard. An artfully upholstered sofa set. Even Hemingway’s writing desk is simple and unobtrusive–more table than grand bureau. Only a typewriter and the lack of a second chair cues you in that this is a famed writer’s studio rather than an afternoon parlor.
While the tour and seeing the house was all very exciting, my favorite part of the visit was the polydactyl cats. Always a bit superstitious, Hemingway was fond of these many-toed felines, who were said to bring good luck. By the end of his stay at Key West, he had bought and bred a small army of furry lucky charms. Even today, there are about fifty cats at Hemingway’s House.
Hemingway’s furry friends pretty much have the run of the place. They sit on the beds, chairs, and desks. They even have their own liter box condominium in the backyard. I secretly plotted taking one home as a souvenir, but it turns out that the cats are very well-guarded and documented, with a vet who pays house calls once a week! Plot foiled.
I finished up my Hemingway sightseeing with a visit to his favorite local watering hole–Sloppy Joe’s bar. Still as rip-roaring and down-to-earth as when Hemingway spent his nights there, Sloppy Joe’s bar is a riot of sound and color late into the night.
Key West was a very fun place to visit. If you do get a chance to go yourself, be sure to check out the Cat Man at the Mallory Square Sunset festival to see his house cats jump through hoops of fire!