Your Man in Havana 5. Yo Papa

Your Man in Havana 5. Yo Papa

It starts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 15 years ago. I am still talking  to my sister who lives there. I  am the only one on the boat not sea sick or asleep. I have  marlin on the line. I pull. I pull harder. Mano a pesce. Half an hour later I am still pulling. I am finished. The boys take over and pull in the beast. In the cockpit there he is grinning, Hemingway,Papa ,that all you got boy, I write  stories about losers like you.

 

The next year it was Kenya. Here the animals we were photographing he had killed with his bare  hands and I knew it. This time he didn’t laugh just shook his head and put up his finger and thumb.

In the last two years  I have spent many weeks in Paris. There is ‘nt a bar that Ernie hasn’t been to. Made famous, made literate, made where its at. A few years ago I spent a day in Venice. Guess who had been there first.

One of my special subjects is the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. A month rarely goes by without me paying  homage to “their eyes  were open and they could see no other way” memorial in nearby Bishops Park. But who has been there first, ringing that bell. who was there. Oh yes he was. Big time.

Bullfighting , who does not love this perfectly politically incorrect sport? And who  has made the subject his own. Any man who loves life knows that at some point if they live long enough,too long, they must commit suicide. It takes courage. Hemingway had talent, he had courage. So women loved him but he found them difficult, who doesn’t?

Which brings us on to Hanava. Outside the band of  brothers-most of whom Fidel has got rid of- who toppled Bastita, Cuba is short of heroes and saints. So Hemingway is celebrated. Every bar he drank in, every hotel room he slept in, every condom he used as far as I know is kept, just as if he is coming back, his house is a museum. Maybe  even the pissoirs where he let it flow  have blue plaques.

Of course many do not know that he once came to Putney. He waltzed into the Winchester House Club as happy and flushed as a London estate agent. Yo Earnest, stop there I cried. You are shit , you were mean to Martha, your books dated and  stop stalking me. We started to arm wrestle. We rolled in the  nude in front the Winchester’s almost authentic gas fired log fire. We rolled out onto the lawn. Homoerotic? Grow up, whats the choice? Over the wall and into the furious Thames we plunged.

He cried You havent lost it amigo,as I playfully scooped a goose turd into his face I replied, neither have you.

He looked at his watch. Got to fly. He was never one for long term relationships. WE staggered out of the Thames like two cross channel swimmers. The  Boat Race crowds cheering. Adios amigo, goodbye my old friend. And he was gone. No doubt we will meet again. He and Fidel shaking hands in 1959 is now  on my wall.

Your Man in Havana is now home ,

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One Response to Your Man in Havana 5. Yo Papa

  1. Julian Canny says:

    Hugh
    I made the mistake of re-reading Over the River and into the Trees the other day.
    Julian

    How the mighty have fallen. I haven’t read Hemmingway since I was young and impressionable, but he sure doesn’t stack up half a century later. Admittedly this is just one novel and I presume not one of his best, but still…
    I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character so loathsome as the Colonel. First we witness his appalling condescension to his driver scouting for ducks in the marshes of the Tagliamento. Next stop is Venice where he is not only adored and indulged by an inner-circle of confidantes around the Gritti Palace and Harry’s Bar but also by the sturdy Gondoliers who ferry his war-ravaged hulk back and forth across the Grand Canal. What they see in this self-satisfied blowhard remains a mystery. Did Hemmingway intend to create such a repellent figure, or does the Colonel represent the grizzled machismo that the author aspired to himself? We all know that Ernest pioneered the short sentence, but even the words he chooses are alphabetically starved: the constant repetition of nice, rough, kind, bad seems to encompass the breadth of his emotional landscape.
    Then we meet Renata the beautiful 19-year old Contessa who, surprise surprise is hopelessly in love with him. We spend the evening with them as they move from the Gritti to Harrys and back again. Along the way he dazzles the enrapt teenager with enigmatic snippets of battlefield wisdom interlaced with references to great literature and Venetian art. As the evening progresses he consumes numerous martinis, two bottles of champagne and four bottles of Valpolicella and yet somehow manages to slip nimbly back into the gondola for the ride home.
    And this is where it gets really creepy – The50-year and his infant lover getting down to it under the blanket. This is Rolf Harris territory. His insistence of calling her ‘daughter’ adds another incestuous layer to the proceedings. Then the crowning moment, and possibly the clunkiest metaphor yet invented: “He kissed her and searched for the island, finding it and losing it and then finding it for good.” I trust he was operating digitally; anything more strenuous would have had then both in the canal.

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