The other day The Boston Globe published an op-ed by one of my favorite RPCV writers, Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80), about one of my favorite non-RPCV writers, Ernest Hemingway, and one of my favorite towns, Key West.
The op-ed was a must read for me but I couldn’t get it off the net, but then today it arrived in the mail, sent by a dear friend at Harvard. It came a day after Ernie’s 110 birthday, if anyone is still counting. Well, I am. Happy Birthday, Ernie!
Roland Merullo had gone to Key West for the first time in his life. (God, this guy can go to Micronesia twenty plus years ago and it takes him this long to get around to Key West!) Anyway… Roland and his family visits Whithead Avenue and Ernie’s and Paulne’s (Pfeiffer) big rambling house that was a tourist site even when Hemingway lived in Florida. Now, with Ernie long gone, it costs $12 to view the house and gardens, and Hemingway’s small second-floor studio over the garage. (I think I paid $4 back in the Sixties.)
The house looks as if Hemingway has just left home to go down to Duval Street and have a drink at Sloppy Joe’s. Not true. I had a literary agent back in the Sixties who as a young guy in the navy rented Hemingway’s studio (by then Hemingway had moved from Cuba to Ketchum, Idaho where he put a bullet in his head in 1961) so my agent (before he was an agent) helped Hemingway’s son clean out what furniture was left in the old place on Whitehead Avenue. Whatever the tourists are seeing in the house is used furniture from somewhere else. Ernie never sat in that chair or stood at that dresser (he wrote standing up) writing his books.
But if you go to Florida don’t miss Key West, or Hemingway’s home, or Sloppy Joe’s. Roland quotes a waitress saying, “I guess this isn’t the old Key West anymore.”
The truth is, it never was. But we still have Hemingway’s books, and we still have Roland Merullo, and Roland is still writing. Read his latest, The Italian Summer. Like Ernie, he has devoted his life to literature. And for those of us who love good prose, that wasn’t a bad career move.