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Hemingway Adventure

Key West, Florida (third day)

Key West, Florida, USA 
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907 Whitehead Street, seen from the lighthouse opposite.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureAt the side of the house, next to the gift shop, is a murky green swimming pool. Our guide indicates a penny coin, sealed in the limestone paving beside it, and tells the story of how Pauline had the pool built in 1937 for the then substantial sum of $20,000. When Hemingway heard the price he was so disgusted he said something to the effect that as she had spent everything but his last penny, she might as well have that too, whereupon he’d flung down the coin we see today.

There is no mention of the fact that Hemingway had been away two-timing her with Martha Gellhorn in Madrid and that the pool had been paid for, like so many other extras in Key West, by generous Uncle Gus. But then, this is the Ernest Hemingway House, not the Pauline Hemingway house.

Hot, and a little bit bothered by all this, I cross the road to Ernest’s Café for a large ‘smoothie’, a big, refreshing pick-you-up of crushed fruit and ice. The bearded and bespectacled face of the great man growls down at me from T-shirts which the management is not allowed to sell owing to a copyright dispute with the house across the road.

From what I’ve read about Hemingway, he was very demanding of his friends, expecting loyalty and constant availability. His omnipresence in Key West makes him almost impossible to avoid and I feel myself suffering a severe attack of Hemingway-induced claustrophobia ­ as if I might find some manifestation of him in my bedroom cupboard or sitting next to me at dinner.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Key West, Florida (third day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Key West, Florida
  • Book page no: 143

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