Tuesday, November 23, 2010



Many people still think of Ernest Hemingway in exaggerated terms. Fifty years after his death, he is the Lord Byron of the 20th century, a hyper-macho, rum-drinking, war-mongering, pistol-packing literary giant who married four times, had countless lovers and defined what it was and in many cases still is to be an American male. It is a comfortable and well-worn portrait and, in part, how I imagined him myself growing up as boy in Miami during the 60s and 70s. The larger-than-life image and exploits of the man were certainly more exciting than what you had with many other writers. He was outrageously real, (“too macho to be true” as my dad used to say) in an over-the-top, Quentin Tarantino kind of way. Of course, years later when I wrote Strange Tribe I discovered that Ernest was not at all the person who I thought he was and that perhaps he had more in common with my father, his transsexual youngest son, than with the fishermen, soldiers and bullfighters he was friends with. But even with this knowledge and the publication of my book old ideas die hard. Myths are immortal, I'm inclined to believe, and the exaggerated role that Ernest played in post World War II American culture had a great deal to do with how “Papa” was packaged by the nation's pulp magazines.

This is the fascinating thesis of Professor David M. Earle's recent book, All Man, Hemingway, 1950's Men's Magazine's, and the Masculine Persona (The Kent State University Press, 2009). Reading it, I have to say, answered many of the questions that I've always had about my grandfather and his fame. I knew that Ernest from the 1920's onward was very proactive in molding his image as a sportsman, hunter and connoisseur of wine, women and bulls. He was an ambitious writer, someone who actively sought fame and success. But what Earle does is to show us that not only was Ernest a competent manipulator of the nascent media industry in the US but that he was far from being adverse to publicity, especially from pulp magazines. Ernest started out as a pulp writer, wanted to earn a living writing for them, and while it is true, as most Hemingway aficionados know, that Hemingway submitted many of his short stories to the Saturday Evening Post (all of which were rejected), he was at the same time submitting these pieces to the pulps. Aiming high, but always having a back-up publication for your work, Earle explains, was a common characteristic of pulp writers in the post WWI period.

In Europe, Ernest's writing tackled themes that were decidedly more ambiguous than the stories he'd submitted to the pulp magazines. His portraits of male dysfunctionality and homosexuality such as A Sea Change and A Simple Inquiry are considered some of the best ever written in the English language. Yet, in spite of these works and the view that they provide of my grandfather's complex personality his image as a clear-cut man's man has continued to grow. To a large extent it was his own fault. As Earle shows in All Man, my grandfather “both fought and nurtured his image as a larger-than-life character. In 1930 he made Grosset and Dunlap destroy dust jackets that claimed he had joined the Arditi in the First World War; later he had his editor, Maxwell Perkins, send a letter to correct this information in Paramount studios' press about him for the upcoming A Farewell to Arms. Yet thirty years later these myths were still appearing in interviews and profiles of the author...the image that he put forward in interviews with his quips about meeting international whores and making love until age eighty-five were just as extreme – not so much masculine as a character of hyper-masculine proportions.” In All Man Ernest is just about everywhere in the in the 1950s. Gracing the covers of literally hundreds of magazines, from Focus, which voted him one of the sexiest men in America, to Show, which featured the Hungarian starlet Zsa Zsa Gabor and her list of the ten most “sexciting men” of 1957, Hemingway was hard to ignore. As Zsa Zsa put it “Hemingway's such an outdoor man! So different in every way from women...”.

What was ironic, for me at least, reading the book was to see how Ernest went from being a representative of the Lost Generation and its anti-militarist, anti-conformist themes to someone whose image was used by corporate America to help returning WWII war veterans conform to their roles as suburban husbands and fathers in a conservative, aggressively capitalist nation. Indeed, the alpha-male portrayals of Hemingway filled a cultural need, says Earle, to reaffirm the country's masculinity in an era of “deep-rooted crisis of gender”. Woman had changed during the war, taking on the jobs that their men used to do, and would never again be as submissive as they'd once been. Ernest's past as a wounded veteran and his glamorous lifestyle in Cuba fishing and womanizing could thus be used as a role model and a means of social control. His short stories of WWI soldiers dealing with shell-shock were enormously appealing to a whole new generation of veterans still struggling with their own nightmares, while the sexually ambiguity and relative strength of women in many of his earlier works was conveniently ignored. Ernest certainly hadn't given up writing about male dysfunctionality or his personal search for a more African sexuality “beyond all tribal law” (the Garden of Eden, was written during the 1950s), but he does seem to have understood that he could no longer find a market for the gender bending games of Garden.

Earle's All Man shows us the enormous shadow that Ernest cast over post-war America and at the same time gives us an idea of the intense pressure that he must have experienced living life in the fish bowl of celebrity culture and how this could have only compounded the depression and paranoia that he suffered from in his final years. It is an extremely well-written, and beautifully illustrated book and an important addition to Hemingway scholarship.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Revista Caras

For any readers who can speak Spanish, an interview of me done by Mauricio Hernandez just came out in Revista Caras (Mexico).

Here are the pages:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Norman, Ernest and Greg

Here's an article that will soon appear in the 2010 edition of the Norman Mailer Review.

 Norman, Ernest and Greg

While most scholars believe that the failure of George Plimpton’s plan to bring Norman Mailer and my grandfather together ended any possibility of a meeting, they may have been in close proximity to each other at least once. From what I’ve been told (and I admit that I can’t prove this), Norman did see my grandfather at a gathering in New York City, just after the publication of The Naked And The Dead, but it wasn’t much of a meeting. I don’t think they even said anything to each other. Or rather, Norman had the chance to approach Ernest but he didn’t. At the time, Mailer was the new sensation of American literature but Ernest was reigning champ in his category and he either pretended that Norman wasn’t there or was too busy dealing with all the other writers and journalists who invariably surrounded him at events of this sort. Without a doubt he knew who Norman Mailer was. Ernest knew who all the very good writers were. He was a voracious reader and liked to stay abreast of what was new and interesting in fiction.

Norman was young enough to be grandfather’s son. He was as old as my Uncle Jack, but in spite of the age difference between the two men he and Ernest had a lot in common. Both of them were war veterans and wrote hugely successful novels based upon their experiences. They were literary celebrities and were in the news as much for their excessive drinking, swearing and politics as they were for their stories. They loved women but never seemed to stay with any of them for too long, marrying many times (Norman 6 and Ernest 4), and they were both roundly criticized by feminists for their perceived “mysogynistic behavior”. They were passionate about boxing and wrote about it (or filmed it as Norman did with Mohammed Ali) and at times seemed to train as much as any pro boxer might, preparing for the ‘big fight’. They were also famous for hitting people who annoyed them (or butting heads).

Norman was more of a radical, politically speaking, than my grandfather was. The founder of the Village Voice was an acute observer of the 1960s, writing about the violence and the protests at the conventions in Miami and Chicago and the demonstrations in Washington against the Vietnam War.  Ernest, of course, supported the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War but he never let his leftist leanings get in the way of his visiting Spain in the 1950’s when the fascists were firmly in control of the country. Democracy was important to Ernest, but Corrida and the world of bullfighting and matadors were even more so.

Still, as a Hemingway, what comes to mind most when I think of Norman Mailer are not the many similarities with Ernest but his friendship with my father, Gregory Hemingway. When I was a boy I spent a year with my father and his wife Valerie in their two-bedroom apartment on East 87th street and what I remember most about that place, apart from the fact that it was very cramped with 5 kids and 2 adults, was this enormous mounted tuna head in the dining room. It was from a 750 lb tuna that my father had caught off the coast of Cape Cod. Being 9 years old I was, of course, full of questions about the fish and my father told me that it had taken him 7 hours to bring it in and he showed me a picture of the tuna that was almost as long as the boat itself. Needless to say, I was seriously impressed, but what he didn’t tell me, and what I found out from a good friend of my father’s years later, what that Norman had been with him that day out in the ocean. He was a witness to my father’s day-long battle with the monster tuna and I have to say that I envy him that. I wish that I could have been there myself to see my dad as happy as he looked standing next to the near record-breaking tuna on the dock in Provincetown. It was certainly one of the better days in my father’s often troubled life and Norman was there.

The other thing that I remember when I think of their friendship is the beautiful preface that Norman wrote for my father’s memoir “Papa”. The book was published in 1976 and whenever I come across a copy I ask myself just how well Norman knew Greg. “Papa”, in reality, says little about my father’s endless flirtation with cross-dressing or about what some scholars at the time were just beginning to discover about EMH’s not exactly 100% macho proclivities. Still, I have to believe that Norman as a great writer and artist was a perceptive man, too, and that something of my grandfather and father’s search for what Ernest defined as a “more African sensuality, beyond all tribal law” must have come to his attention. Would Norman have been intrigued by this dark side to the Hemingways, perhaps smiling and ultimately chalking it up as a clear case of ‘different strokes for different folks’? Or was it something that might have upset him, contrasting as it did with the usual image of Ernest? I’m sure that I’ll never know the answer to this question, but I can’t help but wonder.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New interview at the Hemingway Project

For any fans of my grandfather there is a new interview of me at The Hemingway Project where I answer questions about Ernest, my book and my family.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

BP Oil disaster stalls Gulf Loop Current

Recently when I was in Bimini I asked a few people if there had been any signs of the infamous BP tar balls that have been washing up on beaches throughout the Gulf. I was worried that Bimini, sooner or later, was due to get its unfair share of the toxic gobs due to its proximity to the Loop Current and to the Gulf Stream. Fortunately, I didn't see any, but one of the reasons for this might be the report from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (National Institute of Nuclear Physics) of Fascati Italy. According to Gianluigi Zangari, a theoretical physicist and complex and chaotic systems analyst at the Italian research center, the Gulf Loop Current, as of 28 July, has effectively stalled because of the BP oil disaster. According to Zangari this could have catastrophic ramifications on the planet's ecosystem as early as 2011, resulting in widespread droughts, floods and crop failures. The Loop Current is considered  one of the major "motors" of the Gulf Stream, which in turn is responsible for keeping a good part of New England and Western Europe temperate during the winter.  Zangari is now looking for evidence that the Loop Current is reestablishing itself.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A new start for Bimini

What a difference five years can make. In 2005 I flew to Bimini from Ft. Lauderdale on a Grumman Albatross and spent one of my nights on the island at the Compleat Angler hotel. Now, of course, the seaplanes are gone, as is the Compleat Angler. The fatal crash in December of 2005 put an end to the over 80 years of Chalk’s relatively accident free service, just as a fire, barely a month later, would destroy the historic inn. The NTSB investigation into the plane crash discovered that the airline had “failed to properly repair the fatigue cracks” in the Albatross’s fuselage while no one really knows how the blaze at the Compleat Angler started. Walking down King’s Highway (one of two roads on the island) you can still see the foundation and the concrete chimney of the hotel’s fireplace. Nothing has changed since then and as far as I know there are no plans to rebuild the inn, which had become a kind of unofficial museum for the island and a shrine to my grandfather with an autographed copy of one of his novels and many photographs of his fishing exploits.

 Chalk's Grumman Albatross landing in Bimini

For my father there was never any question about staying at the Compleat Angler so long as Helen Duncombe owned the hotel. She and her husband Henry had built the inn in 1935 and while other places might have had swimming pools, or marinas or fancy restaurants, nothing could compete with my father’s childhood memories. Whenever possible he took me to the same room where he and his father had slept. It was up on the second floor and had a view of the Blue Water Marina across the street. It was small by today’s standards, with two single beds and an ancient, wood burning stove in the center. The stove was there for heating, as it could get cold in the winter. When I was eight I remember asking my dad about the stove and he said that I should never touch it during a storm. Years back, when he was a year or two younger than I was then he’d been sitting on my bed and my grandfather was on the other side of the room near the door. There was thunder outside and heavy rain and my father had made the mistake of walking to the stove and touching it to see how hot it could get when a lightening bolt connected with the hotel and threw him back against the wall. It knocked him unconscious and he said that Ernest had picked him up and carried him out in to the rain to find a doctor. 

 The Compleat Angler before the blaze

My father also told me about the boxing matches that Ernest organized on the island. He was passionate about fighting and in 2005 I asked Yama Bahama (William H. Butler, Jr.), a native of Bimini and one of the greatest welterweight fighters of the 1950s, if it was true what they said about my grandfather, that he’s set up a ring where the seaplanes used to land and that young men would come from all over the Bahamas to knock him out, but that none of them ever did. Yama told me that while he had never seen Ernest fight his older brother had and that in his opinion Ernest always won for the simple reason that none of his challengers had any professional training. Many of them were big, really big, and incredibly strong but Ernest had technique and that made all the difference.

 Ernest boxing in Bimini, 1936

“He used his head,” said Yama, “and while he’d sometimes get beat up pretty bad he knew a thing or two about fighting, see? And those guys never had a chance.”

The Bimini Big Game Club is right across the road from where I spoke with Yama.  Like a lot of things on the island it had seen its better days. In 2008 it shut down due to the economic crisis and its effect on tourism. But the fact that it’s now reopened can definitely be seen as a turning point for Bimini. After an extended period of mala suerte, starting with the Chalk’s crash and continuing with the destruction of the Compleat Angler, its new owners are optimistic about the future. It’s now a “Guy Harvey Outpost”, the first in a series of resorts that will mix Caribbean pleasures with Mr. Harvey’s renowned passion for Blue Marlins, the sea, research and conservation. I have to say that I was impressed by what I saw there last July. The hotel looks great, the food is excellent and the staff very friendly and helpful. With any luck at all the reopening of the Big Game and its marina will put Bimini back on the tourism and big game fishing map where it belongs and that other good things for the island will follow.

 The Bimini Big Game Club marina at dawn

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brylcreem Man

Here's a short story of mine that was published in the Spring 2010 edition of Saw Palm, the Florida Literature and Art journal of the University of South Florida.

 Miami Sunrise

Brylcreem Man

When he looked at himself in the mirror his long, black, wiry hair was as it had been the night before, disheveled and with a sheen that could have been mistaken for Brylcreem. His eyesight had never been that good and when he found his glasses he noticed the white roots and made a mental note to pick up a box of hair color. His girlfriend was still in bed and if he could find a pharmacy that was open he’d have everything done before she got up, but he was tired and feeling stressed and went for a walk on the beach instead.

What he really needed was a vacation and not just a break from the city. Flying down to Miami and staying at the hotel where he and his mother had always stayed when she was alive helped, but it couldn’t make up for the lack of sleep nor the state of his career. Mentiroso was now a has-been in the world of avant-garde theater. He had come to a dead end, and for the past six months he’d been forced to pay his bills either in cash or with his girlfriend’s credit card. Times were bad but this lack of work was something that he had never experienced before. It was positively plebian, lower class and demeaning, and he wondered how much longer he would have to hand deliver the $2,000 of his monthly rent in crisp $100 dollar bills.

“Was any of this my fault?” he asked himself rhetorically as he stepped out of the elevator and walked towards the pool and the beach beyond it. Could he be blamed for stating the truth about that hotel in Rome? Should he have said nothing of the raw sewage smell from the toilet?

“Was that my fucking fault?!” he said out loud as he brushed past a Guatemalan maid and a Venezuelan pool cleaner. He hadn’t planned on broadcasting the filth of his lodgings to the rest of Italy but how was he supposed to know that one of the journalists that he’d spoken to would actually print what he had to say?

That was where he’d screwed himself. The paper published his “defamatory statements” and the next thing he knew the hotel was suing him. “Mentiroso dice che la sua stanza fa schifo” (Mentiroso says that his room sucks) was the title that the newspaper ran and it was more than enough. He had a reputation for trash talk and over the years he’d made many enemies on both sides of the Atlantic, but in spite of everything his talent (which was real) had always protected him. He’d been sued before, but this time it was different. After the stock market crash people weren’t as forgiving as they used to be. If in the past a judge might have seen him as a kind of clown and let him off with a slap on the wrist, tolerance was now a rare commodity and you had to be careful.  For the hotel owners he was an easy mark and the lawyer’s fees and the fine wiped out the million in stocks and gold that he’d saved.

When he opened the gate to the beach he took his shoes off so that he could feel the sand on his feet. In New England there was a foot of snow on the ground but here it never got cold. His mother liked to compare it to the town in southern Italy where she’d been raised. “Feel how fine the sand is,” she would say, “and look at the clear blue of the water and you’ll know what it was like for me when I was your age.” The water, of course, was still blue but it had never revealed much to him about his mother’s upbringing. She had serious issues with the truth and could invent the most outrageous stories. When he was a boy she would often tell him that his father was a black American G.I. who she’d met after the war and that that was the reason for his kinky hair, or that the Mentirosos were Italian nobility but that they’d lost everything during the Fascist years. None of it was true, or perhaps all of it was, who could really say? When someone was lying to you twenty-four hours a day any ideas they might have about reality were sketchy at best. He understood that it was wrong but what could he do? She was his mother and while he tried to resist her, in the end he accepted her behavior as his own, even though officially he still disagreed with the lies.

When he was seventeen he either left her, or was kicked out of the house. There were two versions of this coming of age, but the one which most people recognize as true, and which was posted on his Wikipedia site, said that his mother had been living with two Mexican brothers near the border in Arizona and that her lovers had convinced her to give him the boot. Many saw this as the inspiration for one of his more scandalous and critically acclaimed pieces “Non scopare quei uomini Mama! (Don’t fuck those men, Mother)” This seminal work finishes tragically for the protagonist who is not only spurned by his mother, but also killed and barbecued by a group of famished Chicanos.

Moving to New York he financed his studies and living expenses selling LSD and pimping himself to wealthy lawyers and stockbrokers. It was a period that he looked back upon with a certain nostalgia and he could talk enthusiastically for hours about all the writers and musicians he knew or the time when he and a group of friends had hitchhiked up to Woodstock to see the concert.

He had lived through a lot and to be honest he thought that there wasn’t much that he hadn’t experienced that was worth knowing. He was a great artist and had been a part of the golden age in avant-garde theater of the 1980s and 90s.  Of course, now that all of that had come to an inglorious end he realized that he needed to quickly write a book (and secure a movie deal) about his life. For this reason he was in near constant contact with his agent.

With a book, but especially with a movie deal, he wouldn’t have to worry about the unpaid bills that had kept him awake at night or the consistently bad reviews that his latest works had garnered or even sticking with his girlfriend. Daniela was pretty, and gifted in a commercial/pop/soap-opera kind of way, but he absolutely needed to avoid becoming any more dependent upon her than he already was. Just last night when they were eating at one of his favorite steak houses near the beach she’d asked him again if he really loved her and when he said that he did she upped the ante with “Well, don’t you think it’s time then that we got married?”

“What?!” he managed to blurt out as he almost choked on an exquisite piece of aged New York sirloin.

“Don’t you think it’s time?” she repeated with a knowing smile on her lips that he would have found attractive on any other woman but that on her filled him with a sense of panic and dread.

“I think there’s time for everything,” he told her after he’d swallowed his meat, “but we’ve only been together, for what?, three years? Why rush it? I love you and you love me and we’re fairly clear on that and there really isn’t any reason that I can see to over-emphasize this issue.”

“Then you don’t love me?”

“Not at all.” He said (which was the truth).


“I mean that we shouldn’t jump into to this.”

“But I want to jump in, Gianni, and I want you to jump in with me.” And he knew that he was not going to get out of this one easily and in fact just about everything he said to her that night as they ate was not what she wanted to hear. It was as if his genius for spin and molding the truth of anything to his needs had abandoned him and all he could do was state, in as many different ways, that fundamentally he wasn’t all that fond of Daniela. Of course, he didn’t say that, but he wasn’t telling her what he knew she wanted to hear and this inability to lie troubled him. He wasn’t sure but he suspected that the combined stress of his financial and artistic situations was inhibiting his manipulative gifts and that if he didn’t find some kind of relief there was no telling where it might lead.

Fortunately, not all was wrong with his world. America had a new president and everything about the man was inspirational and led him to believe that change was indeed possible. An Afro-American in the White House had altered the political and social landscape of his country and he felt a special kinship to this politician in part because of his mother’s tale of his black, G.I. dad and in part because of the baby boy he’d secretly fathered with a woman from Harlem. In many ways, he’d come full circle and had, before anyone else knew about Obama, created his own personalized version of the man; a “mini-me” who embodied the best of the U.S. (racially speaking) and who, like his father, would some day see the necessity of alien relocation and language integrity.

“And if he doesn’t want to throw the Spics into the sea then he’s no son of mine.” He reminded himself as he skipped a flat rock into the Gulf Stream.

The illegals were a pestilence on the land. This was obvious to him. They were a diseased and unsanitary army that needed a good kicking in the butt. Having sucked greedily and for years at the nation’s vital juices they were sapping America of its strength and will to survive. Of course, as a patriot, and an artist, he knew what he had to do. He was way ahead of the curve and was just waiting for the movie deal to gel and take its final form.

“But shouldn’t he be calling me instead of me always having to call him?” he wondered. The man had an apartment in Manhattan but he was never there. In fact, Mentiroso couldn’t remember the last time that the two of them were physically together. They kept in touch text messaging and with quick conversations that the agent managed to squeeze in on his way to see other clients in LA or London.

The phone rang and rang and Mentiroso grew impatient. He paced back and forth with his Blackberry in the sand. The sun was coming up over the horizon and the sky in the distance had shades of lavender and light blue. There were three container ships steaming towards the port and seagulls kept watch atop the concrete pilings of a pier.

“Where the fuck is he?” said Mentiroso. “15% of everything I make goes to this clown and so, goddamnit, when I call he’s suppose to pick up the fracking phone.” But there was no answer. He obviously wasn’t on the agent’s list of priority clients.

A few hours later when he was sitting by himself at the hotel bar his agent finally acknowledged his existence with a short text message that read: “Gianni, no film deals with Warner/Universal. Try Disney?? Baci, Bernie.”

It certainly wasn’t what he wanted to hear but he had to admit that there were reasons.  Not only was his agent incompetent, the studios were even worse. He felt surrounded by a sea of philistines and degenerates. No one could understand his art. It was beyond them. They were like ants, tiny little insignificant specs of societal sewage and frankly he had had enough of trying to educate them, of getting them to the point where they could see what he had always known.

“To hell with them,” he said as he downed his fourth shot of Grappa and ordered another. The bar had TVs set up in every corner and looking at the one in front of him there was a pudgy, balding journalist who in a deep, booming sort of voice was asking America again how much longer it could afford to support the illegal aliens in its midst.

“Damn right!” said Mentiroso. There were a few other people in the bar, but no one seemed to pay him any attention. The journalist was commenting on the latest I.C.E raid in Ohio. Immigration officers had surrounded a textile factory, shutting it down and arresting anyone who couldn’t prove their US citizenship. The operation was massive and well planned, targeting the thriving Latino community that for the most part worked in the factory.

As news of the raid spread throughout the community panicky parents rushed to pull their children out of the local school and hide them from the government agents. The journalist noted with a mix of solemnity and badly cloaked glee that over 200 illegal aliens had been apprehended and were at this very moment being processed for deportation.

“This,” he assured his audience, “is what I would call a good example of how our tax money should be spent and how it rarely ever is. A fresh start for America.”

“Indeed!” said Mentiroso as the bartender brought him his fifth round. He was pissed off at his agent and his mother, tired and somewhat disgusted with his girlfriend but more than anything else he felt positively sick at the thought of what the illegals were doing to America. He wanted them out and was ready to take whatever action was needed. After five shots of Grappa he was furious and had come to the conclusion that they were at the root of everything that was destroying his career. The journalist was right, better to deal with the problem before it got out of hand.

“Gimme a drink!” he said and the bartender handed him another shot. The pudgy-faced man was wrapping up his philippic and reminding Mentiroso that enforcing the law of the land was nothing to be ashamed of.

“I get plenty of emails accusing me of being anti-immigrant,” said the journalist, “but nothing could be further from the truth. All I want is for the laws of this great country of ours to be respected! And I ask you, is that too much to expect? Have we given up on the idea of America, on the idea of a land where Freedom, Justice and Liberty for all still mean something? I say not. The constitution still holds and anyone, and I mean women and children included, who enter this country illegally have to and will be forcefully removed, if necessary!”

“That’s the way you do it!” agreed Mentiroso. The shear stress of having to deal with these illegals was killing America’s mojo. It prevented the country from spinning its image abroad. It had conquered a world with its vision of wealth and individualism. It was sexy and cinematographic and casting his gaze about the bar he wondered if anyone else was as enthusiastic as he was about the immigration raid. There was a businessman near the entrance who was talking to a client on his cell phone, a couple in the corner holding hands and a group of young Cubans who pretended not to see him when he looked their way.

Not in a mood to be ignored he suddenly stood up and shouted in their direction “Tu puta madre (your mother’s a whore)!” He didn’t really speak Spanish but he knew enough to know that this was a bad insult.

“You talking to me, old man?” one of Cubans asked.

“Yeah, I’m talking to you!”

“Sit down, viejo, y cállate (shut up).”

“Stuff it, spics!” said Mentiroso and at that point even the businessman put down his phone. This was Miami after all and everyone in that room was Latino. The bartender came around to where Mentiroso was standing and calmly told him that it was time to take a deep breath and then leave. It was the sensible thing to do and in retrospect not only would it have saved him a lot of grief but his two front teeth as well.  Instead, taking aim for the first time in his life, he threw his shot glass at the Cuban, hitting him squarely in the face. The reaction of the victim was immediate and soon he and his friends were pummeling Mentiroso. They were enraged and Mentiroso didn’t do anything to lessen their anger continuing as he did to insult their mothers, their girlfriends and whoever else he could think of. The more they beat him, in fact, the more he spewed out his stream of venom and race-hatred. His face had turned puffy and blue under their blows, his glasses were shattered, but he didn’t care. He was finally fighting the good fight, sacrificing himself for his art and his country on the altar of his many lies.

The bartender tried to pull him out but the Cubans wouldn’t stop. They wanted him dead, but before he passed out he reminded his assailants of one last thing: “I’m in charge,’ he said, “and that’s the truth.”

John Hemingway                                                            Copyright 2010, John Hemingway

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Art from Tucson

Without a doubt, one of the best things about traveling is the people you meet along the way. Last March when I was in Tucson I had the enormous good fortune of running into Chris Andrews. Chris is an extraordinary artist who moved to the Southwest soon after he finished art school in Michigan in 1974. My first impact with one of his works was a mural he'd painted of a lush tropical landscape in Son's Bakery Café. Son, the owner of the café, is from Vietnam and Chris wanted to do something that reminded him of home.

And this is where I sat, right below the Cockadoo and the deep green of his Asian forest.
But in my opinion the best of his work is seen in his depictions of desert landscape and native American spirituality. One of the more striking works is "The Last Laugh". I love the color of the flowers, the mountain range and the sunset that frame the death of this Indian chief.

Another amazing work is his "Raven Wants The Moon". I've looked at it so many times that now whenever I see a Raven here in Montreal I can't help but think of the desert and Tucson and the significance of this singular painting.

Two other favorites of mine are "Medicine Hat" and "The Talking Stick"

But, of course, there are many places where you can admire Chris' work out in the open in Tucson. To the right of this cathedral, for example, there is a band stand decorated with thousands of flowers. Chris did the flowers.

The cathedral

The bandstand

 A close-up of the flowers

I think that anyone in Tucson or anyone planning on going there in the near future should check out Chris' work. You won't be disappointed.

Chris can be reached at: chrisandrews2@cox.net

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Strange Tribe at the Tucson Festival of Books

For anyone in the Tucson area, I'll be speaking about Strange Tribe this morning at 10 am in the University of Arizona bookstore, at the Tucson Festival of Books. The Festival is being held this weekend with over 400 different authors from the USA and abroad.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

John Hemingway at The Windy City Story Slam

Windy City Story Slam

Here’s a heads-up for anyone in the Chicago area. I’ll be speaking and doing a book signing at the Hemingway House in Oak Park on Thursday the 25th and on the 26th I’ve been invited to take part in the Windy City Story Slam. It’ll be my first time at the Hemingway House and after this I’ll have seen all of his homes except for the Finca Vigía outside of Havana (which for a US citizen like myself is just a tad more difficult to visit). Eventually, however, I’m sure that I’ll make it to Cuba, too. The government down there, in collaboration with the American  Finca Vigía Foundation, has been doing a lot of important work in saving my grandfather’s island hideaway from the ravages of Cuba’s humidity, termites and tropical storms.

Chance encounters are everything in life and if I hadn’t met Bill Hillmann in a bar during the Fiesta of Pamplona last year I probably wouldn’t be speaking in Chicago at the end of this month. Bill, unlike my grandfather, actually runs with the bulls during San Fermin. Ernest was very good at popularizing and reporting on what he saw during his visits to Spain but he was smart enough to steer clear of the Toro Bravos, the fighting bulls that race through the streets of Pamplona. Having already had his brush with death on the Italian front during the First World War when he was hit by an Austrian shell, he probably didn’t feel the need to risk it all again and again as runners like my friend Bill do every year during the Fiesta. Bill, a talented writer in his own right, is a native of Chicago, and I think it only fitting that I should be invited by him to his home town to speak and to reconnect with a city that perhaps more than any other created the man whose works have influenced generations of writers. If a sense of place is, as they say, at the core of any great author, then what could be more important than the town where Ernest was born and raised?