I experienced a lot of synchros in Cuba, but two were really stunning. This one happened in La Floridita, a bar in Old Habana.
On our second day in the city, a Friday, we headed into Old Town and walked for miles. I finally sighted La Floridita, the bar Hemingway made famous, and we all agreed to go in and have a drink and pay homage to Hemingway. At this point, our group had grown by one. Megan’s former roommate, Nick, had joined us for the weekend. So the head count was: The Macs – Rob, Meg, me – Watts, Erin, Jessie and Nick, which brought us up to 7.
La Floridita was crowded, people everywhere, all the tables and bar stools filled, a band tuning up near the door. We made our way toward the closest space – which was behind some bar stools to the left of the band.
In a corner of this area stood a huge bronze statue of Hemingway. No doubt from this classic profile pose who it is. The Europeans and Canadians in the bar kept moving past us to take selfies with Papa.
Here’s Rob with Hem.
Here’s a long shot of the wall – and Megan and a couple of her friends.
We ordered our drinks from a a bartender who wore a red vest just as they’d done in Hemingway’s day. Mojitos and beer.
As I sipped at my bar and took in the atmosphere, I remembered it wasn’t just Hemingway who visited the Floridita. British novelist Graham Greene (Our Man in Havana), Chilean author Pablo Neruda (Google him) and American essayist John Dos Pasos had also frequented this bar.
But it was Hemingway who was celebrated, a twenty-year expat who wrote numerous novels while living here, including his Nobel winner, The Old Man and the Sea. He was Castro’s favorite yanqui!
I looked at the photos on the wall above and around Hemingway and nearly swallowed my tongue. There, to the left of his photos with Castro, was a photo of my Gemini buddy, Hilary Hemingway, Papa’s niece, daughter of Hemingway’s brother. She and her family had visited Cuban 13 years earlier, when she was writing a script with Andy Garcia on Hem’s last days in Cuba. Someone had photographed her and hung the picture on the wall.
I texted Hilary but it didn’t go through, so I pointed out her photo to everyone in our group. It was particularly meaningful because several years earlier, Hilary and I collaborated on a script based on my novel Ghost Key. It made it into the semi finals of one of the major screenwriting contests, Final Draft. The important thing is that Hilary taught me how to write a screenplay.
It’s strange, I think, to be related to a famous person, especially someone like Hemingway, but she fulfills her part with grace and dignity, even in a bar in Habana Vieja. There she is in that pic, the blonde, composed Hemingway.