Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 3, Arrival of the Fittest

*Authors note:  This is part 3 of 13, to better understand the content of the story it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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But there was no sensual rendezvous on the Key West Express.

My arrival was not greeted with fanfare or confetti. As we approached the Key West Bight I stood out on the bow of the fast moving ferry and watched as our destination grew larger. I recalled the excitement I felt the first time we came, how everything appeared fresh and new. Now buildings looked worn and tired. People moved about their dismal chores and looked at us like another load of dirty, unwashed immigrants had come to over run them. Even the sun hid behind a hazy frost of willowy sky ribbons.

I could hear music coming from Fisherman’s Wharf and see small craft tied to the docks. But I was in no mood for island theatrics and the mock celebratory atmosphere that greets you here 24 hours a day. I felt trapped in the Twilight Zone. I was the reluctant tourist. The community I would share my life with for the next few hours was inhabited by zombies who did not know that the party was over. All I wanted to do was make it to my room and count down the minutes before I plopped on the teeter totter that was the criminal justice system.

I disembarked and crossed the pavement aiming straight for Duval St. I walked down the boardwalks where the locals work at replenishing the prior nights stock, carrying my satchel casually across my shoulder. It was mid morning but already there were patrons scattered through the remains of the liquor establishments that clung to the water line like land barnacles. They sat there sharing their woes, conquests or dreams with anyone who would listen as if it were the first time.

Walking along I tried to remember why I was so excited to be here the time before. Everything looked dingy, solemn and hollow. Even though there were toursts milling around trying to blend into their surroundings, I was in a void, not wanting to be caught up in this trinket and souvenir Mecca.

Finally making it to Duval St. I turned up towards the territory I was most involved with. I briefly stopped in front of the Hogs Breath Saloon and thought about crossing the street but then moved on. My memories were of a happier time and I knew I could not recapture them there.

Then I approached Green St. and my mood lightened a bit. Sloppy Joe’s sat on the corner of Duval and Green and it was almost the feeling of a homecoming.

Captain Tony’s Saloon came up on my left. It is heralded as the Original Hemingway’s Sloppy Joe’s because it was the site that Joe Russell had started from back in the early 30’s, before he made his famous midnight move out across the street. It is the oldest licensed liquor establishment in the State of Florida.

428 Green St. has had quite the history. It had been an ice house in the 1880’s and doubled as the city morgue. It is even said that the City Mortician buried his daughter under what is now the floor that used to be part of the Silver Slipper dance hall. In fact, a tree grows through the roof there that was once the hanging tree for criminals and pirates. Some 75 people are thought to have hanged there and some of their corpses are buried along with the mortician’s daughter. There is even a grave marker imbedded in the floor. During the Spanish/American War, the building was used as a relay station to send news to the rest of the United States, containing messages like the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine. Many celebrities have frequented Captain Tony’s, including favorite son, Jimmy Buffett. Some of the mementoes include the bar stool Papa Hemingway is reputed to have sat on while sipping Teachers and trading lies with the locals. With it’s own clothing line and ghost tours during Fantasy Fest, Captain Tony’s is a world renown favorite. But my money says the spirits remain in Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

I didn’t have to walk all the way to Fleming St. I could have turned to reach Whitehead anywhere along Duval. But I recognized much of what I had earlier seen, including the head shop in which Keith had placed some of the copies of his book, Happy Crickets. That familiarity eased my forebodings even further and I began to feel a bit more fit in my surroundings. I realized I could not blame Key West for my miseries.

A Starbucks marked the turning point and as I rounded the corner I recalled that Hemingway had friends that lived somewhere on Fleming. I imagined Papa strolling down that very street after a satisfactory morning of writing in his studio above the carriage house. Perhaps he was on his way to pay a visit to those very friends, or maybe he was on his way to throw down some shots at “Josie’s” place. But there was always the distinct possibility that he was just basking in his celebrity and enjoying the popularity of his existence.

I reached Whitehead, crossed the street and continued a leisurely pace towards my “hotel.” As I reached the point of turning off the sidewalk and checking in, I paused and looked across the street at the Hemingway Estate. There were people lined up to gain entry, oblivious to my casual gaze. I wondered if I would get away with another visit without being detected. Six weeks ago I had been released from jail with the stipulation that I would never return to the property that had belonged to Key West’s most famous resident. But as I stood there I had a change of heart and faced the entry to my lodgings again. One reason was because of the agreement I had made with the management, the other was because I figured there were no more surprises left for me behind the wall that surrounded it.

But I had underestimated the influence of the shades of Hemingway. Walls could not contain it, nor protect me from it.

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One Response to “Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 3, Arrival of the Fittest”

  1. rumigirl Says:

    Hi there, I have read quite a few of your postings and your writing really touched me as well as all the broken-hearted videos – moby etc. Your poetry spoke to me in so many ways. I am just curious – where do you live? Do you have a personal way to contact you?

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