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Ernest Hemingway

Jan 15, 2014

He was known by many names: Papa, Champ, Hemmy, and Ernie to name a few. We carry the same daring spirit that the iconic Ernest Hemingway carried throughout his own life.

Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, yet never went to college. He drove an ambulance in WWI and became a renowned war correspondent during WWII, earning a Bronze Star for his bravery.

While on safari in Africa, Ernest survived not one, but TWO plane crashes within two days. One crash is bad luck, but two? That’s an omen!

How about 15 movies (including remakes) based on your work? Impressive.

During WWII, Hemingway outfitted his boat with machine guns and explosives and took it upon himself to patrol the Cuban coastline searching for German U-boats (although most of that time was spent playing poker, drinking rum, and throwing hand grenades at sharks).

At Madda Fella, we are most inspired by Ernie’s fishing expeditions on his boat, Pilar. Hemingway purchased the 38-footer for $7,495 and modified it with a live well and a flying bridge. He used the heck out of that boat, fishing from Cuba, to the Keys, to Bimini in the Bahamas. In fact, he was the first person to land a giant tuna unmutilated; he often used a Thompson sub-machine gun to shoot sharks that tried to mangle his catch. In 1935, Ernest won EVERY fishing tournament in the Key West/Havana/Bimini triangle. Given the equipment at that time, it’s amazing that he was able to bring in those massive billfish and tuna. Heck, we break into a deep sweat using modern gear!

Hemingway was quite the pugilist, hosting boxing matches in the backyard of his Key West home. Some might have considered him the town stud. When his favorite watering hole was relocating, he and some buddies lifted one of the urinals—the old, heavy porcelain kind that went all the way to the floor—and carried it back through the streets for permanent use in his backyard. His wife was not too fond of that. Can’t blame her for not wanting a urinal in the backyard! Wonder if that was the first sign of marital unrest?

He also enjoyed the occasional adult beverage (to say the least): dry martinis, mojitos and daiquiris. We prefer a cold, cold beer on a hot, hot day, and would also go for the well-made mojito over the daiquiri. But that depends on the day, our mood, and whether or not the fish are biting.

Hemingway liked to “grab the bull by the horns,” so to speak, as he was fascinated with bullfighting and the Running of the Bulls after traveling to Spain.

He also had an affinity for six-toed cats which we don’t quite understand; we’re dog people.

Ernest made friends around the globe. The small and bespectacled James Joyce was a drinking buddy who would pick bar fights and then hide behind Hemingway. Standing at six feet tall with a burly chest, Hemmy was a force to be reckoned with.

Hemingway once said, “If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.”

He loved a good time and had favorite bars all over the world. We are proud to say we’ve been to many of them and toasted in his honor. Here are a few of his favorites:

  • Sloppy Joe’s, Key West – Classic, damn good old-fashioned fun. Depending on the time of day (and who is on stage), this is great place for drinking and people watching. Ernest moved his drinking entourage here after some issues developed with the original Sloppy Joe’s.
  • Captain Tony’s, Key West – The original Sloppy Joe’s (before it moved down the block). Honestly, this place gives us the creeps—kinda dark, ladies’ bras stapled all around, a little mysterious, almost as if someone is buried in there. Appropriately enough, the building started out as the city morgue. It’s a classic dive.
  • La Bodequita del Medio, Havana – Don’t ask us how we know, but we do. Little bit of a dive (oops…traditional) bar near the Cathedral in Old Havana. If you wander through, be warned: it’s a bit small. Great atmosphere and food, this is the place to enjoy a classic Cuban mojito and cigar. Seriously, THIS is the place for mojitos, the birthplace of the mojito, and where our hero went for his.
  • La Floridita, Havana – Again, don’t ask. Established almost 200 years ago, the place is a little touristy these days, but still a classic. They’ve even roped off Hemingway’s bar stool and tossed up a statue.  (Hey, nothing like having your own bar stool!) The atmosphere is fine, but it does get a heavy tourist footprint. This is where our antecedent drank his daiquiris.
  • Dingo Bar, Paris – No longer a bar, this was a Parisian classic that stayed open 24/7. Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others frequented this watering hole often.
  • Harry’s New York Bar, Paris – Over a hundred years old, and through several owners this place hosted many famous Americans visiting Paris, particularly during prohibition. Hemingway’s favorite drink was a very dry, bone-cold martini with Spanish olives. Head here for a bit of history and get inspired to write that next great novel!

Ernest was just a few weeks shy of his 62nd birthday when we lost him. He embodied the spirit of Madda Fella and our tagline,  “All In.”

Get inspired. Here are a few of his words:

“When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.”
“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”
“You know what makes a good loser? Practice.”
“Every day above earth is a good day.”
“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
“I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.” (We love this one — do what it takes to get it right.)
“Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
“Never confuse movement with action.”
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

To all of our friends—old, new and those we’ve yet to meet—embrace each moment with a sense of spirit, adventure and wonder. Thank you for joining us on life’s journey. 

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