A Billion Reasons to End the Cuba Embargo

More on the Cold War over ending the Cold War with Cuba.

This from the Associated Press. Cuban officials held a videoconference last week with American tour operators, touting the benefits that could come to U.S. tour companies if the the U.S. would drop the trade embargo.

Their take: U.S. tourism companies are missing out on $1.1 billion a year in airline sales, travel agent fees and other services.

Not that Cuba has exactly been tourist-free without Americans. More than 2 million foreign tourists come to Cuba every year, the AP reports, mostly from Canada, Britain, Italy, Spain and France.

For the whole story, click here.

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Cuba Asks DC to let US Fisherman Attend Hemingway Tourney

Hemingway Cup

This comes from Escambray, a digital newspaper from Cuba:

In a press conference offered Tuesday by Commodore of the Cuban International Nautical Club Jose Miguel Díaz at the Hemingway Marina, he noted that the traditional event is dedicated to the American writer and stressed that Hemingway has become a symbol of fraternal relations between the American and Cuban people.

Diaz stressed that the fishing tournament seeks to promote friendship and develop bonds among fishing lovers.

He added that this year the event marks the 50 anniversary of the only encounter between Fidel Castro and Hemingway that took place in 1960, during the 11th tournament. On the occasion, a plaque in honor to the two personalities will be unveiled at the Marina.

Read the rest here.

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That’s a wrap!

OK, I officially declare the first chapter done! And since I have nothign else to say and the publishers haven’t started calling yet, I’ll add a quote, lest I forget it:

“Very few people ever really are alive and those that are never die, no matter if they are gone.”

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A Night at the Casino

The Casino then


The Casino now

I end the night at the Casino, probably the only bar in town Hemingway would still recognize. The Tram is a vacant lot now. The Alpine recently burned down. The Sawtooth Club has been remodeled in rustic Ketchum chic. The Ram and the Dudgen Room at Sun Valley have gone decidely upscale. The Casino is still a dimly-lit working man’s bar, with a cloud of cigarette smoke hanging over the pool tables.

Of course, it isn’t a casino anymore. Back in Hemingway’s day, gambling wasn’t exactly legal, but state authorities looked the other way. Gambling has been replaced by pinball and safari video games, which I figure Hemingway might still have enjoyed.

I take a seat at the bar and order gin and tonics.

“There’s no women,” the man on my left says.

He’s pretty much right. It’s mostly a male crowd. Even the dour-faced person in the black-and-white photo hanging beside the bar is a guy.

“That’s Dead Ted,” says the bartender. Ted Waring was the former owner in Hemingway’s day, and despite the inconvenience of death, the bartender says, “he still hangs around.”

This is the most eclectic bunch of characters I’ve seen in Ketchum. Construction grunts and young professionals both lean against the bar.

“We’re dying here,” the man on my right tells me. Chase Dawson moved here in 1989 to work and ski. He doesn’t ski much anymore, and for a while, he wasn’t working much either. After a wild ride in the boom times of the 1990s and the early 21st century, Ketchum’s real estate avalanche settled out. The millionaires and billionaires stopped buying. The builders stopped building.

“True story,” Dawson tells me. “We’re one of the richest counties in America. But the valley’s mainstay is workers: Anyone from building houses to mowing lawns.”

Dawson lost his job as an electrician. He went on unemployment briefly, then signed on as a construction worker remodeling a home for one of Ketchum’s wealthiest residents, Las Vegas hotel and casino tycoon Steve Wynn. He found himself working long hours ripping out perfectly good granite countertops, but who’s complaining? Dawson doesn’t join the chorus of locals complaining about the changes brought on little Ketchum by the real estate boom. It’s the bust he’s worried about.

Earl Holding, the Sinclair oil baron who owns Sun Valley, is an easy target for critics, who say he’s as much a dinosaur as the brontosaurus on the signs of his gas stations scattered across the West, and his resort – and their town – suffers as a result. “He’s our savior,” Dawson says. “If it wasn’t for Earl Holding, this town wouldn’t be here.”

“What would Hemingway say if he came back?” I ask.

“Where is my sleepy little town?” Dawson says, without a pause.

“Would he like it?”

The bartender hands me another gin and tonic – I’ve lost count – and nods. Neil Jessen manages to carry off wearing a Betty Boop Hawaiian print shirt. He’s an enthusiastic skier, a Sun Valley booster and the thwarted co-owner of the latest incarnation of the Alpine building before it caught fire. “It’s a great little town,” Jessen says. “Things change. Places change. It’s still a great little place.”

I walk back to my hotel room and savor the taste of winter on the night air. Crystal stars shine overhead. No one has taken those away from Hemingway’s Ketchum.

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Ready for Lausanne!

Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland

Wow! I woke up to great news this morning. I was just accepted to speak at the Hemingway Society’s conference in Lausanne, Switzerland this summer, June 25-July 3. The theme, “Hemingway’s Extreme Geographies,” seemed like a perfect fit, so I was really excited about the idea of presenting there.

Thanks again for your submission. We are very pleased with the quality of the abstracts and with the way the overall conference program is shaping up. We look forward to enjoying Alpine vistas and sailing on lac léman with you to the Castle of Chillon next summer!

Sounds wonderful to me!

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Why I’m Stalking Hemingway

walk in footstepsWhy am I in Idaho stalking the ghost of Ernest Hemingway? I’m asking myself the same question. I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t even bullfight. We’re hardly kindred souls, manly man Hemingway and scrawny man me.

I’ve found myself drawn to him, though, through place. Our taste in geographies is one thing we have in common. Some of the places in the world I have loved the most are places Hemingway was drawn to generations before. I studied in college in his beloved East Africa. I ended up living in the American West, where he finally settled, for much the same reason as I did. We both were drawn to that sense of wild still abiding in modern America. I traveled to Paris, Spain, Cuba, Key West and Ketchum, and fell in love with each one in my own time only to marvel at how much more spectacular they must have been in Hemingway’s day.

The place led me to the writer. Like me, he was trained as a journalist, and though my taste leads to slightly more flowery exposition, his taut prose helped define American writing, and taught me quite a bit, too. Hemingway was not a travel writer, penning narratives of his global adventures. He was a writing traveler who sought out the still wild places on earth and lived in them fully.

The writer led me to the man. He was a tragic puzzle. A Chablis-sipping great white hunter with a thing for housecats. He was either swashbuckling or shy, depending on to whom you talk, or more likely, both. He loved boxing and he loved Cezanne. At first, I thought we would have little in common if we sat down over Scotch. Hemingway, I figured, would write me off as another soft American who couldn’t handle a gun. His interests are so broad, though, it seems he could strike up a conversation with anyone. He was captivated by the vastness the world had to offer. Maybe that was a secret to his success as a novelist.

Here was man born in the waning days of the 19th century, an age of exploration giving way to machine modernity. He seemed ill-fit when the world turned into Technicolor. As a young author, his chums were Modernists, but he never squared with modernity. During the Great War, the Illinois-bred boy fled the Midwest to sink himself into the world. Today, even as America reigns as a superpower in what we are told is a flat world, our country seems more insular than ever. Hemingway transcended that. He became an American at home in the world at a time the borders were starting to melt.

The man led me to the myth. Hemingway killed himself before the Sixties were redefined by Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy or their ghosts; before the Beatles or Bob Dylan; before Vietnam and Woodstock became less place names than concepts. He lived and died before the culture rift and drift that still rips this country apart. There’s something in him we can all claim. He’s a fascist-fighting, communist-embracing, red-white-and-blue gun-toting patriot. A blood-sport nature lover.

I wondered if seeing the world through Hemingway’s eyes might give us a way to close our own war wounds and find a way for Americans to open themselves up to the world.

Over the years, my affinity grew as I found some of Hemingway’s struggles to be my own. Infidelity. Divorce. Depression. These were things we could talk about over that glass of Scotch.

So here I am in Ketchum, trying to solve a mystery of sorts. Hemingway has been dissected so many times, during his life and after. But no matter how much we know about him, it never quite seems to answer the question. Who was this man so full of life, who pulled not one but two triggers to end it all? What can he tell us about the world he never lived to see?

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Portrait of the Artist

Ernest Hemingway portrait by Yousuf Karsh

Celebrated portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh captured this iconic image of Ernest Hemingway at his home in Cuba in 1957.

This photo, captured by renowned portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, is one of the most iconic images of Ernest Hemingway. Karsh made the image at Hemingway’s home in Cuba in 1957. Like many photographers, his sharp eye allowed him to glimpse into the spirit of his subject. He writes eloquently about the man he discovered in his book Regarding Heroes.

“I expected to meet in the author a composite image of his creations. Instead, in 1957, at his home near Havana, I found a man of peculiar gentleness, the shyest of men I ever photographed. Therein, I imagine, lies the secret of his work. He has felt in his soul, with lonely anguish, the tragedy of our species, he’s expressed it in his writing, but for self-protection has built around himself a wall of silence and myth. … I discovered that he had a wonderful smile – alive, kindly, and full of understanding. But on developing my negatives, I liked best the portrait printed here. It is, I think, a true portrait, the face of a giant cruelly battered by life, but invincible.”

Battered, yes. Invincible, no.

What do you see in the photo? I see aging eyes that have seen the world. Their stoicism is slipping into sadness. A full face, a full beard, a man full of life. Maybe too full.

Mostly, I find myself wondering: What was Hemingway doing with a heavy rollneck sweater in Havana?

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