Papa, Mama and Me (Part one)

First a few definitions:

Papa = Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)

Mama = Virginia Swanberg, born 1923 (and ageless!)

Me = your blogger, Jan Swanberg   (age not disclosed)

Mama and I are writing this post from the San Francisco airport. Tomorrow, we are en route to Havana, Cuba, traveling as journalists ready to follow in Papa Hemingway’s Cuban footsteps.  (Hopefully Hurricane Matthew won't inhibit our traveling style.  We have ponchos and umbrellas and are ready for a wet week.)  Prior to this Cuba trip, Mama and I each took our own journey with Papa. Little did we know that each step was preparation for this Cuban visit.

Visiting Papa’s Florida Haunts:

In March 2013, Mama and I visited Papa’s favorite bars and his house in Key West Florida.


The “Papa look-alike” guide provided colorful commentary on our tour.


We saw some of the decendants of his 6-toed cats, including a grave markers where his famous-named cats are buried.

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The garden even included a fountain made out of a urinal from Papa’s favorite bar.


Mama and I posed at the monument for the closest point to Cuba, not knowing that we would end up in Cuba 3 ½ years later.


Learning About Papa’s Boat

In preparation for this trip and for our own mini-book group, Mama and I each read Hemingway’s Boat, by Paul Hendrickson. This 2011 award-winning biography presents the Pilar (the name of his boat that is preserved in Havana) as a metaphor for many of the writer’s struggles, successes, and personal failures. Fascinating!   We plan to see this boat in a few days.


Savoring Papa’s Ketchum History

Papa came to Ketchum, Idaho starting in 1939.  He purchased a house in the late ‘50s and considered Ketchum his final home. This summer, as part of the Ketchum, Idaho “Community Library LitWalk” on August 21, Ed and I heard Papa’s granddaughter, Mariel Hemingway, read from her books and speak about the difficulties living with the Hemingway name. She is beautiful, well spoken and beloved by the community. (In 2013 at the Sun Valley Film Festival, we heard her introduce her documentary about her family’s history of suicide and mental illness. Very moving.)

At the LitWalk, I entered a Hemingway raffle, and later found out that I’d won the grand prize! The prize included a tour of Papa’s Ketchum home (normally closed to the public), a dinner at Hemingway's table at Michel’s Christiana restaurant  and some other goodies.   Nice!

The tour of the Ketchum home was special, as we were hosted by our Librarian extraordinaire, Jenny Davidson, and the library’s director of Philanthropy, Carter Hedberg. We can’t post interior pictures because it is closed to the public, but the furniture and décor were classic mid-Century. The house was constructed to resemble the Sun Valley Lodge and has amazing views. It's currently owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by the Ketchum Community Library.


Ed and I enjoyed the dinner at Michel’s Christiana restaurant (and were glad it was not our last!) We sat at the Hemingway table, where Papa had his last meal, before returning home and committing suicide (in the foyer of the house we visited above.)


In Hemingway’s Boat, I learned that “Next to fishing, shooting was the supreme outdoor Hemingway manly value.”  So, this summer (to further channel my “inner Hemingway”), I tried  trout fishing for the first time, courtesy of our friends, Todd and Barbara.


And, I tried trap shooting (!) courtesy of a pass from my Library LitWalk winnings.

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Although I can see myself fishing in the future, I think I am “one and done” for the gun range.

In early September, Ed and I participated in the Community Library’s Hemingway Festival, where we enjoyed a guided walking tour of the Silver Creek preserve, where Hemingway loved to fish.  This picture of Papa and one of his sons was the featured at the Festival.


We visited the bridge at Silver Creek where this picture was taken.


We saw local Hemingway artifacts at the Sun Valley Museum of History, and heard a moving talk by Jed Gray, a local Ketchum resident who knew Papa.  As a child,  Jed learned to hunt and fish by Papa's side, as Papa was his parents' friend.  Jed told us that Papa would read "Old Man and the Sea" to him as a bedtime story. (!) And, Jed showed us how Papa taught him to drink wine from a boda bag. (It didn't matter that Jed was only 12 years old at the time!)


To come full circle, in late September, Ed and I visited the Nobel Prize museum in Stockholm, Sweden, where we  paid tribute to Papa and his 1952 Nobel Prize for Literature.


At the museum, you can buy bookends with his likeness or a Hemingway cookbook!



We feel honored to be able to travel in Papa's footsteps.  Now, Mama and I are headed for Havana. We're at SFO and will stay in Miami tonight.


Our next post will be from Cuba, Internet willing! Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Papa, Mama and Me (Part one)

  1. Hey guys...great post, you covered everything!! I thought of Cuba for last summer, decided against it for some reason. Thought of it for this Xmas...may or may not go. Good to see you're posting!


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