Traveling as Tourists and Talking with Hemingway

Having just returned from Scotland and England, and having watched tourists from all over the world, especially Asia,  traveling in packs and by bus, I was remembering (fondly) how all of us traveled in our time overseas on buses and trains packed with HCNs and more than a few chickens and goats for seatmates.

And than as my mind wandered, (which it does) and I thought….’What if Hemingway had been a PCV?’ and this daydream turned up….images3v9px58g

What if Hemingway had been a PCV doing small scale farming with the Kikuyu shortly after he was divorced from his third wife and not yet married to Miss Mary?

What if, Hemingway, who had lived in more places than there are Peace Corps countries of assignments and offended many more people even than John Coyne, was asked–in his real life–if the earth did move, there on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest south of Barco de Avila.

Ernest might chuckle over his infamous line and smile out from behind his full white beard, order another yellow Pernod from the waiter on the terrace of the Neapolitan, and say that in truth he had told the woman, (whose name he couldn’t recall, one too many Pernods, I presume) “not to move.”

But that line, he made quick to mention, was plagiarized by his good and true and dear friend, the lover of the Baroness von Blixen-Finecke, in a case of life-imitating-art-imitating life.

“Then,” he added, “leaning forward so I might have the full measure of his hairy barrel chest, “that graceful and provocative piece of language,” was filched by Kurt Luedtke who synthesized four books into one script for the film Out of Africa and re-edited so that Robert Redford might whisper to Meryl Streep, in the middle of the Okavango swamp, “don’t move.”

Which was a bit of a pisser, Papa went on explaining, “as my Daughter was being engulfed by African army ants at the time of the filming and those of us who have spent time south of the Ulanga River know what a bit of misery African army ants can be on anyone, regardless of how starry and romantic the African night might be.”

At that, Papa paused and sipped his yellowing drink and looked toward the Seine and watched for a moment tourists debarking the American Express One-Day-Tour-Of-Paris buses parked at the Rue de Pyramides, and then he said with a measure of pride and sadness, “That’s one damn thing I love about us RPCVs. We never take tourist buses.”

“And we only drink in clean, well-lighted place,” I chimed in, toasting Ernie with the last of my Ethiopian St. George beer.

“I’ll drink to that,” Hemingway answered, and he did, and that, my friends, were the final words ever spoken by Ernest Hemingway on the subject of good and true and beautiful Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

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