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Hemingway Adventure

Key West, Florida (fourth day)

Key West, Florida, USA 
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Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureSomewhat reluctantly plugging myself back into the world of Key West’s best-loved son, I search out the Hemingway suite at La Concha Hotel, which, at six storeys high with a tower on top, looks big and bulky amongst the neat, low-rise streets around it. It was opened in 1926 in anticipation of a tourist boom. Instead the Depression came along, Key West stayed poor and La Concha was spared a rival.

It hasn’t changed much and probably should, certainly in the elevator department. A one-legged man with a hod of bricks could have got up to the sixth floor faster than the lift I’m in. Nor is there anything very special about the Hemingway Suite, except for its current occupant.

Kevin is a New York policeman who makes my obsession with Hemingway look like mild interest. He runs with the bulls at Pamplona, has taken the Hemingway Suite at the Sun Valley Lodge and says he once broke down in tears after clearing four feet of snow off Hemingway’s grave in Ketchum cemetery.

Though Kevin has a spiky red beard and looks more like my auntie than Ernest Hemingway, it doesn’t surprise me that he has entered the look-alike competition, nor that he is through to the finals. Spiritually, Kevin is clearly a contender, and if this were a be-alike competition he’d win horns down.

He’s a little uncomfortable about the Suite. A guest recently checked out complaining of hearing someone else in the room and waking up to feel an invisible pressure on the end of the bed. Another guest cut short a booking giving no reason at all. I should imagine that any manifestation of Ernest would be just what Kevin wanted, but for a New York cop he sounds remarkably squeamish about the other side and suggests we continue the conversation in somewhere resolutely corporeal, like Sloppy Joe’s. Sloppy’s is basically a watering hole. A great crowd of people, including one man wearing a Viking helmet, are clustered round every available inch of bar and table, shouting against the thudding rock music, dealing with beers or simply chewing away on some of the house specialities ­ ‘The Bun Also Rises’, ‘For Whom the Grill Tolls’ or a simple Ernie Burger, ‘a giant half-pound burger from the cattle ranches of Key West’.
 
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Key West, Florida (fourth day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Key West, Florida
  • Book page no: 146

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