Monthly Archives: July 2016

Empty nest, full belly

Don’t trifle with this little chef

The velvet hand of patriotism

Splendid Folks

The Old Man and the perfectly preserved Sea-side home

Evidence of Ernest Hemingway’s demons remains scratched into his bathroom walls and, for a moment, I had to look away.

A journalist, then novelist, whose honest exploration of the human psyche (most often his own) earned him both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize, Hemingway courted specific details for his characters.

I like details too, so I turned back and observed.

Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, still looks as though its celebrated resident might lumber through its perfectly preserved rooms. His typewriter rests, waist high on a book shelf, with easy access to a pacing author.

Trophies from his big game hunts decorate the living room walls. American magazines from 1959 still fill the rack. Though empty now, his swimming pool looks as inviting as it did back in 1957 when Ava Gardner reportedly swam naked in it. Up and down the walls on either side of his bathroom scale, Hemingway’s meticulously recorded weight, scribbled there with various pens, still hints at a troubled mind.

Hemingway wrote both For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea while living at the house, before a crippling bout of writer’s block stole his words.

“Can you imagine a writer with his talent unable to write a single word?” asked the docent who gave us a tour.

Back-to-back plane crashes left both Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary Walsh Hemingway seriously injured though not, as had been widely reported in 1954, deceased. He spent some time at Finca Vigia locked in his bedroom, recovering from injuries, drinking Mojitos and reading his own obituaries.

Reconstructed with care, Finca Vigia offers a telling look into one of America’s most talented and troubled authors.

Hemingway bedroom

Hemingway’s bedroom, including the typewriter he kept on his bookshelf, remains exactly as he had left it.

Hemingway headline

The headline on this newspaper reads “Heminway, wife killed in crash”. I’m not sure which would have been more insulting to him — the premature announcement of his demise, or the misspelling of his famous last name.

Hemingway's bathroom

I took a quick glance at the bathroom and had to turn away…

Hemingway's scale

I thought the meticulously kept hand-written weight notations on either side of his scale hinted at a sad obsessive compulsive tendency and I wondered how pleased he’d be for the whole world to see.


He didn’t invent them, but Hemingway did love a Mojito and we sipped one or two during our time in Cuba as well. Cuba still loves Papa Hemingway and so many bars and restaurants in and around Havana claim to have served him that our guide joked that it would be difficult to find one that didn’t make that claim. When Hemingway died, the fishermen in Cojimar, a nearby village, wanted to pay tribute to him, but they had no money. So, they collected small pieces of brass from their boat propellers and anchors and melted them down to create a bust.

The librarian and Hemingway's library

I snapped our own library media specialist, Kathy, in front of Hemingway’s well-maintained, 9,000 volume library.

Hemingway's boat

Hemingway’s boat, the Pilar, rests in a place of honor above his unused tennis court. On the left you can see grave markers for four of his beloved dogs. I found it interesting that the passionate big game hunter shared his home with 57 cats and six dogs.

Hemingway's pool

You could easily imagine Papa Hemingway cooling off in this immaculately maintained swimming pool. (Had there been water, I’d have jumped in myself. Cuba in July is hot!)

Hemingway house

Hemingway’s home now looks very similar to…

Hemingway's dining room

…Hemingway’s home in 1957. This is the exact same table, game trophies, and dinnerware you see in the dining area above. The picture is shot from the opposite angle as the one above.

A good Cuban cigar

The best baseball pitcher you’ve never seen

Cuba — A people to people cultural exchange

A Few Quiet Moments– A post by Molly

Sr. Anne Arthur: Faith by Works– A post by Molly

“I didn’t ask them, I told them.” Sister Anne Arthur Klinker said firmly.Even her parents could not shake her steadfast resolve to join a convent during her junior year of high school. As a  school sister of Notre Dame, Sister Anne Arthur’s religious calling would take her across the United States and Nigeria.

When my English teacher assigned us to interview someone who we wanted to know more about for our final project, I immediately thought of Sister Anne Arthur. She had already given a wonderful speech about gender equality in religion for my gender equality club earlier in the year and I saw her most weekends at church, but I knew I had so much more to learn about her.

She invited me up to her apartment in Richmond Terrace, where she’s a cherished resident. One Thanksgiving a service group was supposed to provide a turkey dinner for some of the residents, but never showed up, so sister invited everyone up to her kitchen and cooked up frozen pizzas and anything else she pulled out of her refrigerator. She told me she often has fifteen other sisters over for dinner. Given the size of her apartment, I assumed those were pretty cozy gatherings.

We began by discussing her calling into religious life and her time in Nigeria. She started off working at a few different schools in the north of the country, but was transferred south to be the administrator of a brand new school. Over the three years she worked at the school, the student body grew exponentially, and she plans on returning sometime soon to see how it is running at full capacity.

Given her many achievements throughout her career, when I asked her what her proudest moment of being a sister was, I assumed I get some story from a classroom, a church, or a mission.  Instead, I got a story from an air port terminal.  While stranded in O’Hare overnight, Sister Anne Arthur met a woman with two babies.  The poor mother’s flight to California had been cancelled and she did not have enough formula or diapers to last through the night.  Sensing the woman’s distress, Sister called up a former student of hers from the Chicago area to pick up the woman and drive her to a store where she could replenish her supplies.  Without the veil and traditional garb, Sister looked like anyone else.  However, when explained her plan to the young woman, the woman had only one question: “Are you a nun?”

Even though she’s retired, Sister still lives each day for other people. You can sense her kindness and holiness just being around her. She lets her actions, rather than her clothing, speak for her.

Anne Arthur

This was sister’s first, and probably only, selfie. Though I won’t pretend to be too much more experienced.