Continuing with the Ernest Hemingway exercise…
I don’t really have a fear of spiders. Not to say that I have a desire to cuddle up next to them and read them bedtime stories but they don’t make me scream like a girl. In my household, I am usually the one that ends up killing the eight-legged intruder and flushing him down the toilet.
Several years back, my sister was in a near fatal car accident. After having too much to drink and an argument with her boyfriend, she plowed her Chevy GEO into a parked Volvo while traveling at 70mph. I was a college senior at a small university in Ohio and spent any break from my studies making the trip back to Connecticut to see my sister, whose rehab was spent residing in the same room as the famed Central Park Jogger.
I had just finished directing the first and only mainstage production in the history of the university, Pippin, and brought the video for her to watch. She watched the video, through vacant eyes and with minimal reaction. Afterward, we got her back into bed and my father, still a smoker, went out for a nicotine fix while I attempted to make conversation with my sister. Since she had a tracheotomy, she was unable to speak. She was, however, able to write and made jokes about hawking loogies through her tracheotomy tube at people that pissed her off. We laughed. Then she drew a picture of a spider.
She asked where our father was.
Another picture of a spider.
I asked her why she was drawing pictures of spiders. And she told me she was drawing them so that I would go away.
She kept writing that word until there was no more room on the paper, onto the walnut veneer of the hospital tray table.
I will never think of spiders in the same way.
This post is not about my father. It is about one of America’s most notable literary figures – Ernest Hemingway. 53 years ago today, Ernest Miller Hemingway found his way to his gun cabinet and discharged one chamber of his double-barreled, 12 gauge shotgun and ended his magnificent career as a writer and, more importantly, shut the light out on an extraordinary life.
I am in the process of researching a musical based on this iconic figure. Believe me when I say the landscape of material is wide and deep. Finding the proper way to approach this intricate life is not easy. I do not envy the biographers and scholars the task they’ve had in documenting this complicated man and his body of work. I am fortunate to personally know one of the foremost authorities on the subject but I’m saving that “Phone A Friend” lifeline in my research for another time.
I’ve been reading a book by Arnold Samuelson, a writer-come-hobo who managed to find himself on Hemingway’s doorstep in 1934 and then subsequently found employment and tutelage under Papa himself. What started out as a few questions about writing ended up as a year on Pilar as a deckhand/night watchman and as a writing student of Papa’s.
In Samuelson’s memoirs, he recalls some advice he received from the Master: “Every day describe something you’ve seen so that the reader can see it and it becomes alive on paper. That’s the way Flaubert taught Maupassant to write. Describe anything—the car on the dock, a squall on the stream or a heavy sea. Then try to get the emotion.“
As a tribute to EH and as an attempt to transfer my daily observations into words, I intend to write every day about something I’ve seen, no matter trivial. So that the reader can see it and so that it will come alive.
The air is hot and moist as the impending storm threatens to alter everyone’s weekend plans. The steam from my shower still lingers in the air as I stand in my bra, not quite ready to cover my damp skin with my Old Man and the Sea t-shirt. I wipe the fog from the mirror and stare at the reflection. Pale white skin, tubes and wires navigating needle scars that permeate a gut that hangs ever-so-slightly over my waistline. I am reminded of the second false start to my fitness regimen and cannot decide whether or not to accept defeat or refuse it. The snarky voices of the cast of MTV’s Girl Code echo downstairs, imploring their audience to embrace their bodies and love themselves for who they are. I laugh. Not because it is funny but because it isn’t. No man in my life has ever told me that I am beautiful. Sure, I was likely told that I looked beautiful on my prom night or on my wedding day but being told that you look beautiful is different than being told you are beautiful. I’ve been call intelligent, talented, amazing even, but never beautiful. My mind wanders back to my reflection. I grow weary of my it and hurriedly cover myself, despite the thick air.