A Hemingway Synchro in Cuba

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.

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15 Responses to A Hemingway Synchro in Cuba

  1. Darren B says:

    Travel is a great eye-opener.
    I know that from traveling around my own country (Australia) , but when it comes to overseas traveling I’m just an armchair traveler without a passport.
    I’d much rather read posts like this one or read books like Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’ where I not only get to travel, but also time travel back to Hemingway’s Spain.
    You must have gotten that ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ feeling when you saw Hilary’s photo hanging in that Cuban bar and that small world feeling knowing that you were only a few degrees away from Ernest through Hilary in real life (even though he’s now passed).
    I watched the new ‘Ghostbusters’ film again the other day and saw Andy Garcia playing the mayor in that film and wondered when the film Hilary wrote with Andy playing Gregorio Fuentes was going to start shooting, but it seems to be only in development stage at the moment.
    I see Andy was born in Havana, Cuba.
    So, if Andy has personally met Hilary that puts you Trish within two degrees of separation from Andy as well.
    Looks like you guys had a fun time in Cuba.
    Maybe one day I’ll get a passport and do some traveling other than around Australia, but for now posts like this one will do me.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Hey Daz, good to hear from you! As usual, you make connections I didn’t! Like the two-degree thing. Andy has met Hilary… but I don’t think their film is in development yet. I think Andy is still looking for funding.

      Cuba really is like time traveling, everything is so old. The oldest street, Obispo, dates back to 1514 – built for shade! Get your passport when you’re done with Australia!

      • Darren B says:

        Actually, I may be wrong about the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ thing between Ernest and Hilary, as I just assumed they would have met sometime in real life.
        But looking up Hilary on Wikipedia I see that she was born the same year Ernest passed away, so they probably didn’t meet in this lifetime.
        At least you are still 2 degrees of separation from Andy.
        I also see that Hilary’s father passed away on the 13th of September, something we both have in common there.

        • Darren B says:

          Actually, I just realized that I met Jeff Lindsay (Hilary’s Husband) in Brisbane a few years ago at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, so that put’s me within 2 degrees of Hilary and 3 degrees of you Trish. 😉

          • Rob and Trish says:

            I hope Jeff made you laugh. He’s a true standup comedian. And yeah, those degrees of separation are diminishing rapidly!

            • Darren B says:

              Actually, he nearly made me cry, as he told the story of a murdered little girl he once knew in his book-talk.
              But it was a great talk he gave that day.
              I was there with my sons, who are big Dexter fans and my youngest wanted his book signed by Jeff…which Jeff did.
              I just went along for the ride, as I’m no Dexter fan.

  2. Laurence L. Zankowski says:


    Pablo Neruda, “il postino”, has to be right up there with “cinema paradiso” as one of my favorite foreign films.

    Yes, this has nothing to do with your cuba trip, but you mentioned neruda, and then writing screenplays ( in the correct formatting ) so off I went in another direction. Sorry.
    Staying with the “absolutely nothing to do with your Cuba experience” I digress into more non Cuba stuff.

    Side note,
    Netflix investment for content next year is going to be over 6 billion dollars, 70 original shows.

    The ticket sales take for hollywood was 11 billion plus last year. Disney and other execs in the studio / theater / film biz are shaken. This is the reality. Home viewers want great content and increasingly on their ( our ) terms. Screw commercials and let us bing on shows. This also has a huge sucking event, top talent in front and behind camera are asking and getting their quotes! Leaving , hard to say this politely, non disciplined talent to pick from. And can we finally stop with the Marvel /DC Comics movie machine.

    Citations for above info if needed I will post.

    BTW: this is me, I played the father in this short, heading to Taos this weekend to one of the festivals that showed this back in 2011. Was shown around the world in film
    Fests. Wild back story as how I came to act in this….


    Be well


  3. Aww, Lady Trish, you’re sweet! Wish I could have joined you guys, Mojito cheers all around !