Friday, October 16, 2009

Yep. Nope. Ow. Ow.

I took a time out on the Key West review to read some -- which is always good for the brain that is retired -- and now I will finish Key West in one swoop.

David and I went to the Hemingway house. It's a beautiful two story house with a pretty secure brick wall around the perimeter. The top floor has a balcony that runs all the way around. On the top of the brick wall is a little barb wire -- I'm assuming that this is a security measure, and that Hemingway himself was not phobic of the locals.

Lots of men were standing around outside, sporting the Hemingway look, and trying to sell something .. one guy did sketches of Hemingway's house, another guy did tours, and a third guy who did look like he could impersonate Hemingway would let you take his picture for a dollar or a picture with you and him for two dollars. I'm not thinking this guy was a millionaire, but it might keep him in his cups at Sloppy Joe's, Hemingway's favorite bar.

We paid $12 to get in. Is it worth it? Totally.

The Hemingway house wreaks of historical preservation money. Newly painted, the whole house shined like a brand new shoe. The stark white walls contrasted with the verdant green of the porch, and the glass windows, wavy in that old way, shone with the reflection of the light.

The grounds were well-kept -- palm trees healthy, fronds and ferns green and clipped, and the 45 cats, some of them six-toed, appeared fat and sassy as they slithered around like snakes coming out of the flora and fauna to surprise you or sleeping on the tables, their "ignore you" button on high. Some of the cats were friendlier than others -- their names very appropriate -- Gertrude Stein, Groucho, Emily Dickinson, and Archibald Macleish to name a few.

We also saw a stone patio where the Hemingway cats have their own graveyard... and a pretty elaborate cage high rise that looked like it could hold twenty or thirty cats.

It takes full time person to care for them each day. David and I chatted with the woman as she cleaned a bowl.

Me: So, it takes you all day to fill the bowls and clean up after the cats?
Woman: Yep.
Me: Do people try to steal the cats?
Woman: Yep.
Me: Do you have to put the cats up at night?
Woman: Yep.
Me: Is it hard to catch them all?
Woman: Yep.
Me: Do they have special food?
Woman: Nope.
Me: Do you have a vet on staff?
Woman: Nope.
Me: Are the cats fixed?
Woman: Yep.

She was informative, wasn't she? Maybe it was my line of questioning. LOL

The Hemingway house was interesting -- from the writing studio to the modern bathrooms (for Hemingway's time) to the windows that rose from floor to ceiling in every room -- it was a historical house that I'm glad I visited. I could imagine Hemingway with all of those doors and windows open, and in the light that only Key West has -- so bright, so vivid, so different from other places, typing away at one of his novels. Hemingway lived in Key West only for 10 years, and then he moved West to meet his demise of choice.

I think I know why he left. That place is hot -- there were fans humming in every room, and the place was still stifling.

The other thing that we did was snorkel at the Zachary Taylor National Park. We packed some sandwiches that we bought at a New York style deli -- a great sandwich in fact, and we headed with our picnic and equipment to the park.

It sports a little rocky beach and a reef that attracts beautiful, colorful fish. For eight bucks, you can spend all day at the beach or touring the rather boring Fort Taylor. Fort Taylor was this ugly concrete battlement that managed to have little of interest: one historical sign, three or four sets of stairs, and a couple of huge hinges that must have supported some type of artillery. It was hard to get a feel for what it looked like -- that particular fort can be skipped if you're ever on tour of Key West.

Laura had bought us snorkel equipment, and the most hilarious part was us trying it on for size and comfort. The packaging for the equipment was made by the CIA -- it took us forever to cut though the plastic (as thick as a rhino's skin ) to get to the equipment. I eventually had to ask a park ranger to cut it with his knife.

David and I were lousy at the snorkeling. David is not much of a swimmer [as a kid he never had swimming lessons], and I could not get comfortable with the breathing apparatus. Just as I thought I had the hang of it, water would pour in from the tube, and I would come out of the water like a killer whale. David was laughing so hard, he cried. We all laughed. We looked like aliens as we tooled about in the water like three year olds in the kiddie pool.

The shore itself was like a torture walk. Rocks, shells, and very little sand, to walk down to the picnic area was to hear us each mutter and spew, "ouch, ow, yikes, ouch, ow, damn, ouch, ouch, ow, ow, ow." Once you got down there, we weren't scurrying back and forth to the picnic basket. I wore a pair of fins down the second time -- and my walk with those sent the rest into raucous laughter.

The water is clear there -- when I did get my head under I saw blue fish and yellow fish (so Dr. Seuss) and the underside of the ocean is an unusual thing -- Joe took off like Lloyd Bridges -- and several times we said, "Where's Joe" and we see his little snorkeling tube above the water like a toy submarine.

I told Laura and Joe and David that I wished I had practiced ahead of time in a pool.

They looked at me, as always.

Not sure I will ever snorkel again -- I looked too good.

I only finished this blog so that I could post the picture that Laura took of me. I promised her that I would not publish the one of hers -- and hers is funnier. If I did post it, she would kill me, and she usually makes good on her threats.

Would I go back to Key West?

Am I glad I went?

BTW: On the third night there, we finally found a fabulous restaurant called Seven Fish. The food was excellent, the service superb, and the other diners -- well, let's say -- they aren't the same people on Duval Street.

Muah. Thanks for reading.


  1. Thanks for honoring my request, even if you did it out of fear. Smart girl.

  2. We paid $12 to get in. Was it worth it. Totally.

    Spoken like a true teacher! I LMAO at the snorkeling picture! Girl I give you tons of kudos for posting it! And your convo with the cat lady, yeah you can really get them to talk, can't you ;)

    Thanks for sharing about the trip! I loved it. I have never been to Key West. Not sure if it will stay on the list!


  3. After seeing this photo of you, I believe my life is complete! How funny!

  4. That cat lady sounds a lot like some students I've had.

  5. i miss you GILLHAM!!


    Who's that there? It's zaid!

    I'm a professional blogger in dc i can't have lunch with you anyway mrs gillham!

    And chris, he's probably too busy getting ravished by sixteen asian girls at once.

    So there!


  7. actually, only 4 of them were asian :)

  8. 45 cats??? Holy Cow! (Holy Cat, rather)

    "Just as I thought I had the hang of it, water would pour in from the tube, and I would come out of the water like a killer whale." <--I LOL'ed for about 10 minutes! Oh how I miss you!

  9. I don't care where it was made or by whom, "underwater equipment" packages ALWAYS LIE!!! They NEVER keep the water out! Hmmph...

    Question: Seeing as how you have cats of your own and seem to love them, and despite the fact you're now retired and loving it, would you ever consider taking over Cat Lady's job? Imagine the answers you would've given instead, when asked those questions! Teehee!