Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Culture | Fun in South Florida, Ernest Hemingway and Abercrombie & Fitch...

After a week-long  stay in New York City at the start June,
German TSOF Correspondent Sabrina then embarked upon an extended sun-golden tour
of the gorgeous Florida Keys! Among her many excursions, a visit to the home of renowned American
author Ernest Hemingway, a former patron of Abercrombie & Fitch...

         A GREAT BREADTH of fun and wonder heated up gloriously in shine during Sabrina's Summer 2015 trip Stateside! From the best in dining, shopping, and sporing events in the Big Apple and to all awe in destination Florida Keys, it was all about the best the great American East Coast has to offer up. Her travels paralleled with this month's high anticipation for the opening of the first American full-price Abercrombie & Fitch store in nearly a decade, and Sabrina's adventures concluded on the opening weekend of A&F Westfield Southgate in Sarasota, too, in South Florida, though she was in Key West!

A gorgeous tan and refreshed spirit, she's back in Germany golden and in mind of all the beauty and happiness experienced, now glorious memories! Check out select pics of her excursions in South Florida...

Martinis throughout travels, of course! And capturing a moment in flight...

Sailing and sunsets...

A house on the way...

Snapshots of visit to Hemingway House...

Some delicious grub...

"We are in Key West now; it is so beautiful here... It's the best place whole Florida! [And] I visited Hemingway House!" - Sabrina to C.E.R. Saturday, June 20

Addressed at 907 Whitehead Street, Hemingway House, today a museum formally named the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, was originally built in 1851 by local merchant and salvage wrecker Asa Tift; it was constructed out of limestone quarried from the land property itself and to withstand the volatile weather wrought by hurricanes. While having first visited Key West in 1928 and stayed for six weeks (with this wife's uncle, Augustus "Gus" Pfeiffer, having arranged for an all-new yellow Model A Ford to await them on arrival: "It was, at first, quite the snazziest thing in Key West," writes J.D. McCaltchy in C.E.R.'s American Writers At Home), Hemingway (b.July 21, 1899) and Pauline (b. July 22, 1895) - both born in the same month, and even celebrating a day apart - fell in love with the locale and environment: "Key West was seedy, and worse in the Depression years to come. The population was just ten thousand; there was a naval station and a lighthouse, but the days of prosperous wreckers and cigar factories were long over. Still, there was a charm that Hemingway immediately sensed in its lanes shaded with bougainvillea and oleander, its Bahamian shacks with their gabled tin roods and lacy gingerbread trim, its bars and coffee shops. The rented rooms on Simonton Street, and Hemingway went right to work on two manuscripts he'd brought with him. One was a long novel named Jimmy Breen, which he soon abandoned. The other was a promising short story which kept growing; four months later was the first draft of A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway found he could work well in Key West. Better yet, he made a new group of friends with the closet of them, Charlie Thompson, he'd fish constantly out on the green Gulf Stream for tarpon and marlin. And there were others - Joe Russel, who owned Hemingway's favorite hangout, Sloppy Joe's bar on Duval Street, and Eddie Sanders, Earl Adams, and Sully Sillivan. He liked what he called his 'Mob,' their company and their yarns. In his trained pullover, canvas walking shorts, and old tennis shoes, he fir in on the docks and at the speakeasies. He relished the raw conch salad made with Key lime and salt brine sauce; he drowned the rum and beer."

The Couple photographed in Paris, in 1927, a year before their first visit to Key West.
Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

After having birthed their son Paul in Kansas City, on June 28, 1928, and during visits to Europe, Ernest and Pauline would drop by Key West during the wintertime, and in 1930, the returned to Key West to take up residence: "[...] they found a house they wanted and for [US]$8,000 Uncle Gus made them a present of it. It needed work but Hemingway was delighted, 'This is a grand house,' he wrote to a painter friend. 'Do you remember it across from the lighthouse? One that looked like a pretty good Utrillo, somewhere between that and Miro's Farm.'"

"By Key West standards, the Spanish colonial-style house is an imposing one, on a spacious lot, eventually enclosed, that is lushly planted with bamboo, banyan, weeping fig, dragon tree, poinciana, chenille, and many varieties of palm - Christmas, thatch, Washingtonia, greensago, and more. Verandas surround the exterior on both levels, and all the rooms have large windows giving onto the view. Pauline oversaw the refurbishing. The walls were replastered, the wiring and floors redone. Ceiling fans were replaced with chandeliers. The original outdoor kitchen was moved inside, its counters built extra high to accommodate Hemingway' when he wished to clean fish or cook. The upper floor of a large outbuilding behind the house, once a carriafe house and servants' quarters, was converted into a writer's studio, at first connected to the house by a catwalk. Pauline fashioned a comfortable working area for a writer, its walls lined with bookshelves over which were hung antelope heads and a tarpon. There is a reading chair and a round writing table. The chair pulled up to it once belonged to a Cuban cigar-maker. Hemingway's old Royal portable typewriter is on the table, though in truth he preferred to write in longhand and have someone else (often Pauline or his tounger sister Sunny, who later moved to Key West) type his manuscripts. Despite his travels and accidents and drinking binges, he was a disciplined artist, was at his desk at 8 every day and wrote all morning. A good day's work he described as 'a seven-pencil morning.' Some of Hemingway's very best work as written in this room. [...] Pauline was a fastidious woman. Exquisitely dressed and perfumed, she was often seen on the docks greeting Hemingway's fishing boat, the Pilar, after its days at sea, and embracing the grimy author. Her fine taste - she had been an editor at Paris Vogue and later began an interior decorating company in Key West - dominated the look of the house. [...] [But] Hemingway, with his bloated, alcoholic-smeared ego treated all his wives and most of his friends badly. [...] The older he got, the fewer friends he had, and the more hangers-on. One of the few constants in his life, however, was his home in Key West. He never sold it an continued to visit. Even after Pauline's death, he brought his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, to visit. In the two decades left him, he never again wrote so well as he had in Key West." - J.D. McClatchy, American Writers at Home (2004), pgs.107-11

The pool, which you can see in modern day in the image above captured by Sabrina, was "installed by Pauline at extravagant expense. Hemingway himself had planned it, but his work as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War [(1936-39)] kept him from overseeing its construction. It was said that their nude swimming parties so offended the neighborhood women that Hemingway had high brick walls built around the property."

Ernest and Pauline captured in an iconic fun moment at their home in the early-1930s.
Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

In early-1950, journalist Lillian Ross followed Hemingway - "who may well be the greatest living American novelist and short-story writer" - on a shopping visit to Abercrombie & Fitch, at Madison Avenue, on one of Hermingway's rare prolonged stays in New York City (which he'd come to be at on sparring occasions merely in passing to Europe or elsewhere):

"[...] I asked him if he wanted to stop first at his optician’s. He said no. I mentioned the coat. He shrugged. Mrs. Hemingway had suggested that he look for a coat at Abercrombie & Fitch, so I mentioned Abercrombie & Fitch. He shrugged again and lumbered slowly over to a taxi, and we started down Fifth Avenue in the afternoon traffic.[ [...] By the time we reached Abercrombie’s, Hemingway was moody again. He got out of the taxi reluctantly and reluctantly entered the store. I asked him whether he wanted to look at a coat first or something else. 'Coat,' he said unhappily. In the elevator, Hemingway looked even bigger and bulkier than he had before, and his face had the expression of a man who is being forcibly subjected to the worst kind of misery. A middle-aged woman standing next to him stared at his scraggly white beard with obvious alarm and disapproval. 'Good Christ!' Hemingway said suddenly, in the silence of the elevator, and the middle-aged woman looked down at her feet. The doors opened at our floor, and we got out and headed for a rack of topcoats. A tall, dapper clerk approached us, and Hemingway shoved his hands into his pants pockets and crouched forward. 'I think I still have credit in this joint,' he said to the clerk. [...] 'How about this one, sir, with a removable lining, sir?' the clerk said. This one had a belt. Hemingway tried it on, studied himself in the mirror, and then raised his arms as though he were aiming a rifle. 'You going to use it for shooting, sir?' the clerk asked. Hemingway grunted, and said he would take the coat. He gave the clerk his name, and the clerk snapped his fingers. 'Of course!' he said. 'There was something—' Hemingway looked embarrassed and said to send the coat to him at the Sherry-Netherland, and then said he’d like to look at a belt. [...] The second clerk took a tape measure from his pocket, saying he thought Hemingway was a size 44 or 46. 'Wanta bet?' Hemingway asked. He took the clerk’s hand and punched himself in the stomach with it. 'Gee, he’s got a hard tummy,' the belt clerk said. He measured Hemingway’s waistline. 'Thirty-eight!' he reported. 'Small waist for your size. What do you do—a lot of exercise?' Hemingway hunched his shoulders, feinted, laughed, and looked happy for the first time since we’d left the hotel. He punched himself in the stomach with his own fist. 'Where you going—to Spain again?' the belt clerk asked. 'To Italy,' Hemingway said, and punched himself in the stomach again. After Hemingway had decided on a brown calf belt, the clerk asked him whether he wanted a money belt. He said no—he kept his money in a checkbook. [... After running into a fellow friend] The big man and Hemingway embraced and pounded each other on the back for quite some time. It was Winston Guest. Mr. Guest told us he was going upstairs to pick up a gun and proposed that we come along. Hemingway asked what kind of gun, and Guest said a ten-gauge magnum. 'Beautiful gun,' Hemingway said, taking his bedroom slippers from the clerk and stuffing them into his pocket. [... And after more shopping] Their arms around each other, they went out to the street. I said that I had to leave, and Hemingway told me to be sure to come over to the hotel early the next morning so that I could go with him and Patrick, to the Metropolitan Museum. As I walked off, I heard Guest say, 'God, Papa, I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve ever done.' 'Nor, oddly enough, am I,' said Hemingway. I looked around. They were punching each other in the stomach and laughing raucously [outside of Abercrombie & Fitch]." - Excerpt from How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?, Lillian Ross, The New Yorker, May  13, 1950

At that time in history, Abercrombie & Fitch had held to its great renown before the beginning of decline by the late-1950s and on. You can read the entirety of Lillian Ross' recount of time spent with Hemingway at A&F Madison Avenue (here)!

Furthermore, the timing of Sabrina's visit to South Florida and Hemingway House, falling in same timeframe as the opening of A&F Westfield Southgate, is very incidental by fate: Abercrombie & Fitch had first opened in South Florida, time after Hemingway's made-legendary A&F Madison Avenue visit, in the late-1950s with a winter-only store, in Sarasota, for well-to-do vacationers who'd flocked from northern cold. Abercrombie reopened there in the modern era as our Correspondent and A&F Girl Sabrina happened, on opening weekend, into home of the region's famed figure who'd once been one of the greats who'd shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch and from that original time. The coincidence was too great.

On July 2, 1961, Hemingway committed suicide. He had been diagnosed with hemochromatosis earlier that year, and it is a disease resulting in the the failure of the body to metabolize iron and having one succumb to degeneration mentally and physically; it is believed his father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway (who was ironically a physician), may have had it: siblings Ursula and Leicester would also commit suicide. The disease had taken hold in combination with (and of which it may have furthered) his complicated nature and vices and later paranoia. For years after his death, it was thought that perhaps the gun he had used to shoot himself was one which he had purchased at Abercrombie & Fitch, but that has been cast as doubtful by the 2010s.

Ernest Hemingways legacy lives forever on in part of his corpus of work having become one of the greatest contributions to literature in the 20th century. And he loved his Key West home which remains open, in the sun he once enjoyed, for the visitor to experience what was and lives on...

A big thank you to our gorgeous Sabrina for providing us fun and related snapshots, from her trip, for this most serendipitous post!