Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Exit Hemingway's Ill-Fated Paradise: Back to My Own

All things truly wicked start from innocence. 

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. 

An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.

                                                                                                   Ernest Hemingway

                  In honor of Hemingway and his fools (and mine), I have a drink at the new bar in the Key West Airport.                      

They weren't fools, really. Except for some of them. Most of them were just tourists down in Key West to have some fun, to see the sights, to get tropical and feel romantic and free for a while. Key West is a good place to do that if you have some cash to throw around. If you don't it's still a good place to that that if you don't mind hanging out dirty and sweaty on street corners wearing strange clothes and stranger hats

My time in Hemingway's ghastly, tourist-infested hangouts were over, at least until August. With the wind blowing stink and the tarpon in a torpor, we gave up on fishing and went into Key West to wander the gaudy streets, play some pool, and have a couple of cold ones.

We also made a short visit to Hemingway's old house. I used to go here when I was a radio news journalist in Key West thirty years ago. As a member of the press corps, I would get an a invitation that went something like this:  Mr. Tennessee Williams requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Garden Party at the Home of Mr. Ernest Hemingway, etc, etc.

So, I put on my Key West formal attire (flowered shirt, shorts --clean ones) and hopped on my motorcycle (Honda Nighthawk 650) and skittered my way down through the traffic to Whitehead Street. The parties were at night and the old house and grounds were always lit up with torches and there were drinks aplenty and food, too. It felt magical because of the darkness and the thick, dank foliage, and the lights and the tropical air and smells and the nice breeze off the ocean that came in through the trees. We could wander around as we pleased and it pleased me to imagine Hemingway himself standing around in a sweat-stained guyabara with a drink in his hand. At that time, Tennessee Williams was still alive (as I remember it, he choked to death on a medicine bottle cap in New York City while I was working in Key West) and I saw him once at the theater that bears his name. He was staggering and very carefully negotiating the stairs to the upper seats. I wanted to reach out and grab him to keep him from falling backwards. Drunks, fools, and genius--there's that fine line.

A descendant of one of Hemingways's six-toed cats adorns the stairway to the second floor. It all still looks lived in and homey.

Curiosity and nostalgia sated, we went to the airport and had a drink before I got on a small, twin-engine Cessna for the short flight to Ft. Meyers and connecting flights home. Was fun, then, to sit up on the right seat next to the (very) young pilot and keep and eye on things. What was even better, was getting home here to my own small paradise on the Eastern Shore where there are good, clean, well-lighted bars, and no tourists and my boats and the Bay and the Ocean on the other side.

I flew right seat from Key West to Ft. Meyers. These were my controls just in case the pilot had a heart attack or food poisoning or something, and I had to land the plane and be a hero, like in the movies or in Walter Mitty's imagination. Except this pilot was not about to have a heart attack.

When I was a kid, like this guy, I tried my hand at flying, too. Hard to imagine, now. He was all business; a real professional. Impressive.

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