Friday, July 01, 2011

Key West Revisited

Thought I'd post a little something here about my recent week spent in Key West, during which time I edited my new book during the day and played music at night. It was wonderful in this regard. As long as I have this opportunity, my Key West weeks will double as writing sabbaticals.

But I do want to mention the literary significance of Key West, namely, the well-documented fact that Ernest Hemingway lived on the island for a short time during one of the most prolific periods of his life. The Hemingway House is a tourist attraction, and I did make the trek on foot to the house, and I did take the tour, and I did buy a souvenir coffee mug. Now, I did all of these things during my first trip to Key West (sans the coffee mug), and I have to report that the Hemingway mystique was much more potent that first time around. I think I know why.

Simply put, I grew up as a writer in New Orleans, the same city as a literary idol of mine, Anne Rice, also lived. I'd pass her house on a regular basis in the Garden District of New Orleans, the mansion sitting behind the gates on the corner of First and Chestnut, the residence the model for the Mayfair house in Anne Rice's own The Witching Hour. I even had the privilege of being inside two of her other properties, one being her house on Third and St. Charles during the Bacchus parade back in 1997. I remember walking around the house saying, "This is what words on paper built." I actually imagined the walls themselves being made of pieced-together manuscript pages. It was something to aspire to, an atmosphere that even now I try to reproduce in my own home. I dream often of being in her house, roaming the halls in search of her writing space, just to have a look.

I can't say the same for the Hemingway House in Key West, and to be fair, I'm going to assume that the main reason has to do with the fact that it is not a very well-kept place. Window fans circulate what little air there is in there, and aside from evidence of a bedroom and a kitchen and a bathroom, the house doesn't really look lived in. It looks like what it was, and that was a place for Hemingway to entertain and then eventually crash while on his never-ending benders in Key West. He does have a "writing studio" in a separate small building that the tour guide said was once connected by a walkway straight from his bedroom, but even that looked stifling and uninspiring. But the six-toed cats that roam the property were ... well ... there were six-toed cats that roamed the property.

Therefore, Key West for me is just as I had mentioned earlier, and that is a place that I have the luxury of going to twice a year (for now) and spending a week inside of my writer's mind. I saw very little of the island aside from certain streets that were essential for me to roam in order to survive. Unfortunately, Key West represents everything that I no longer am as a man two years sober, yet I will move confidently into the midst of this beautiful part of the United States and take from it what I can. Thank you, Key West!