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Hemingway Adventure

Havana, Cuba (sixth day)

Havana, Cuba 
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Hemingway holds court at the Floridita with Mary on his left. He liked to run the show even if Spencer Tracy was next to him.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureThe notes I made yesterday seem to stop in mid-afternoon, after three failed attempts to spell the word ‘intoxicating’. The phone rings. Louder than usual, I swear. It’s my producer, Martha. We have secured an interview with Gregorio Fuentes, Hemingway’s 101-year-old skipper of the Pilar. He lives at Cojímar a few miles along the coast, and can see us at eleven thirty.

Wash and shave and reach for the towel. It’s been wound in the shape of a swan. Take a while to undo it.

My head is a bit sore - inside rather than outside - and before setting off for Cojímar, I cross the street to find something to soothe it at Johnson’s, a venerable chemist’s shop whose scantily laden shelves and old wooden galleries stretch off into the depths of a cool and mercifully dark interior. I explain my malady to one of the staff who disappears into the gloom leaving me to contemplate a display-case full of dusty condom packets.

There is a passage in Islands in the Stream in which Thomas Hudson, after several too many at the Floridita, struggles to find a Seconal capsule with which to head off a hangover. (He knocks it off his bedside table and it’s eventually found by his cat.) It sounds so like an autobiographical detail that I ask the lady who brings back my preparation if Hemingway ever came in here on his merry way up the street from hotel to bar. There is some mirth as this is translated and they nod and giggle and tell me he always used to come in here for his PPG 5. Thinking I have a scoop, I write this information down with laborious care. This only seems to increase their amusement, and it’s not until later in the day that I learn that PPG 5 has only been on the market for five years, and though its primary purpose is to reduce cholesterol it’s been found to have distinctly Viagran side effects. All of which would have suited Papa admirably. If only he’d been alive.
Havana, Cuba 
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Johnson Drugstore.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Havana, Cuba (sixth day)
  • Country/sea: Cuba
  • Place: Havana
  • Book page no: 215

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