Whole Lotta Hemingway (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the recent books by and about Ernest Hemingway that I have just read. Here are some random and somewhat salacious facts I learned about Ernest Hemingway.

1) Hemingway would have many friendships that would burn brightly for awhile before the inevitable falling out. From Les Hemingway, his youngest brother: “He loved everything up to a certain point, and then nothing was any good any more.”

2) He aged quickly. Pictures of him while he was in his 40s and 50s show a man who looks to be at least 10 to 20 years older.

3) He offered $250 to any man who could last three rounds with him in a boxing match. This he did on the island of Bimini in the 1930s and reportedly never had to pay out the $250.

4) Bimini would also be the place where he figured out how to boat a tuna.
“But no one had been able to boat a tuna—of any size—in those warm southern waters without first witnessing its mutilation by the sharks. No one had been able to boat one, that is, until Hemingway. The standard angling histories are agreed: he’s the first known angler to have ever gotten one in whole, clean, at Bimini.” – Paul Hendrickson, Hemingway’s Boat.

5) Hemingway would use a semi-automatic gun to shoot the sharks whenever they attempted to get at his tunas. That would make great, over-the-top television.

6) Hemingway’s life would make a great multi-year TV series. As a protagonist you would see him at turns caring, compassionate, informative, struggling, inspiring, then brutish, vile, and cruel, but never boring and always charismatic, even in his years of sad manic decline. You’d cheer him on at times and then cringe and curse him out at others.

7) And you would marvel and cringe at Ernest’s relationships with his sons, especially Gregory. Gregory was the most talented of the three in terms of physical and mental skills, being an excellent shot with a gun and ballplayer.

Gregory was Hemingway’s youngest son. His whole life Gregory would struggle with his sexual identity. When he was 21 when he wrote his father a letter in which he called him a “gin-soaked abusive monster” and judged, “When it’s all added up, papa it will be: he wrote a few good stories, had a novel and fresh approach to reality and he destroyed five persons—Hadley, Pauline, Marty [Gellhorn], Patrick, and possibly myself. Which do you think is the most important, your self-centered shit, the stories or the people?…If I ever meet you again and you start pulling the ruthless, illogical and destructive shit on me, I will beat your head into the ground and mix it with cement to make outhouses.”

Believe it or not, they did reconcile after that. Which was the pattern. Big blowout where horrible things were written or said, and then a reconciliation of some kind.

8) He was one of six children and he committed suicide. His father committed suicide. His sister Ursula committed suicide. His brother Les committed suicide. And the family suspected that older sister Marcelline committed suicide. So at least half the family died by suicide. Sad.


Whole Lotta Hemingway (Part 1)

Ernest Hemingway is one of the few writers I re-read, which is probably the highest compliment I can give a writer. Lately, I’ve read a few things about and by him all in one go, which has made me both more critical and sympathetic to him as a person and writer.

Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 by Paul Hendrickson. Hendrickson chronicles the life of Ernest Hemingway, centering it around his 38-foot boat Pilar which he purchased in the early 1930s and had until his death in 1961. None of Hemingway’s marriages lasted as long as his ownership of the boat. Unfortunately, this book is a jumbled mess. There is a lot of interesting detail about Hemingway and his exploits on the boat in the 1930s off the coast of Cuba and Bimini. But then the author skips most of the 1940s to resume Hemingway’s story with the publication of Across the River and Into the Trees and the damning reviews of the book, and then spends a lot of time talking about Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory (Gigi) Hemingway, and the many troubles he had coming to terms with his gender identity. Then the story returns to how the boat is sitting on the tennis court of Hemingway’s home in Cuba. As a biography, I wasn’t looking for something exhaustive or complete so much as cohesive.
Recommended Only for Serious Ernest Hemingway Fans.

Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, and was by all accounts is the one he treated with the most respect. Hemingway seemed to regret busting up his first marriage so that he could marry Pauline Pfeiffer, writing so eloquently an idealized account of his life with Hadley in his memoir A Moveable Feast. Diliberto’s exemplary biography of Hadley is rich and fascinating about a woman born in the Victorian Era who marries a man eight years younger, a man she loves and supports, a man who goes on to change American Literature with his prose style. She was no bumbling wall flower, as she has often been portrayed. She was an avid reader, hiker, fisherwoman, and skier. In fact, she was a better skier than her husband Ernest. She was also an accomplished pianist, but had little confidence in her abilities. After the divorce, Hemingway turned over his rights to the royalties from The Sun Also Rises to her. That’s something, eh?
Recommended for Artists and Muses.

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1907-1922, Volume 1. “The desire to get to the man behind the work can be sometimes overwhelming. I always go back to the letters.” – Patrick Hemingway in Hemingway’s Boat. Luckily for us, it will now be possible for anyone to go back to all of the letters. Ernest Hemingway’s complete letters will be released one volume at a time. This first volume offers us a look at Hemingway before his literary writing career; a young man who canoed on the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers, spent summers up in Michigan with his family at their cottage, worked his butt off for the Kansas City Star, joined the Red Cross and served in Italy where he was wounded (getting hit with over 200 shell fragments), returned to the United States unsure of what to do, met and married Hadley Richardson, and at the urging of Sherwood Anderson moved to France, where he and Hadley met Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and many others. As they are letters, sometimes the reading can be quite tedious, filled with so many banalities. Also, keep in mind that Hemingway harbored a number of prejudices against Jews and blacks. Hemingway signs off many of his letters as “Stein” or Hemingstein” because he thought it was funny to make his name Jewish. Later he would complain that he was getting “kiked” out of money for expenses incurred for his journalism in Europe by his editor. Ugh.
Recommended Only for Really Serious Ernest Hemingway Fans.


10 Things I’d Like to Say to My Teenage Self

I thought about writing this post after reading “10 Things I’d Like to Say to My Teenage Self” on my friend’s blog Hiding in the Bathroom. If you’ve never heard of the blog, go over there and give it a read. It’s a wonderful blog written by two people, one of whom is a good friend of mine.

Then a second post with this theme was written by the other half of the blogging team over there, and I thought, okay, I need to get moving on writing my own similar post. Maybe you even can call this the start of a meme.

So here goes. These are the ten things I would tell my teenage self.

10) Axl Rose is not as cool as you think he is.

9) Your parents are right: your attitude is for shit. When you change it, your life will start to change for the better.

8) You are never going to be able to grow a credible amount of facial hair. There is a consolation to this, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.

7) Girls who are interested in guys usually like to take the time to get to know you. So feel free to talk about yourself, but not too much. Girls will like you even more if you ask questions about them, listen, and then ask follow-up questions.

6) Sometimes, you really do have to say, “Fuck it!” consequences be damned. This applies to many situations. (Note: “Fuck off!” is NOT the same thing, you hothead.)

5) Contrary to how you feel, you are not, nor will you ever be, indestructible.

4) “Try it, you might like it,” is pretty solid advice not just for food but for most everything (except drugs).

3) You have the right instinct to get the hell out of your hometown. The world is an enormous place, and there is far more to learn and see than you can imagine. But do not be surprised if you find yourself harboring strong affections for certain aspects of the place of your youth, despite hating many others.

2) I won’t bore you with some trite advice about failure.

1) Life is not a sprint. Nor is it a marathon. Nor is it a game of any kind. Games have sharply defined rules and boundaries. Life has neither of those. As such, there are no sports metaphors adequate to the task of neatly summing up the vastness and intensity of all the possibilities, challenges, triumphs, and consequences of life. Besides, you don’t play or practice life, you live it.

When a Father Shoots His Daughter’s Computer…

The video below of a North Carolina father which culminates in him shooting his daughter’s computer full of holes with a .45 caliber pistol has gone viral. Along the way it’s sparked two divergent reactions: those cheering him on for sticking it to his ungrateful daughter and those appalled at his bad behavior and violence toward the computer.


A few days ago, this is what I wrote in the comments on a friend’s Facebook posting of the video:

Daughter lashes out at father by posting a rant about him on the internet. Father retaliates by shooting her computer, filming it, and putting it up on the Internet. Looks like two people in dire need of attention; like father, like daughter. They deserve each other.

Apparently, the man’s home was visited by both the police and Child Protection Services and everything is okay now. In a follow-up to the original post about the video, the man wrote that it was one of the worst days of his life and that things are now better between him and his daughter. I’m glad that things are better for him and his daughter.

Meanwhile, people are still arguing about whether he’s a good or bad father.

I don’t really care about that. What I care about is where this is all going next.

There really is only one logical direction for a family with members so hell-bent on getting their points across to each other that they post their rants and videos on the Internet for everyone to see: Reality Television.

When people with talents as diverse as Self-Promotion, being a Human Clown Car, Crab Fishing, Ice Road Truck Driving, or Being a Crazy Pageant Mom, surely there is place in Reality TV Land for the likes of The Hot-Tempered Family Members Who Know How to Make a Spectacle of Themselves.

They could even change their last name to “Carolina” and call the show, “The Carolinas.” Week in and week out they can show us all how parenting and back-talking and loving get done in the Carolinas. Or they could call themselves “The Shooters” and take turns blowing off steam by using guns to shoot each others’ personal items (TVs, computers, hair dryers, furniture, appliances, etc.).

Don’t tell me an enterprising producer hasn’t already been in contact with the family. Because when a father shoots his daughter’s computer, it makes for great television.

My Obligatory Middle-Aged Exercise Blog Post

Typical of many middle-aged men, I decided to start exercising after many years of not exercising…for health and fun. So over a year and half ago, my wife and I purchased a monthly membership to the local YMCA and I started swimming laps three mornings a week. My wife takes yoga classes and our kids have taken part in a few programs, too.

Why swimming? Because it’s something I know how to do and I enjoy it. I love the feel of the water around my body. I also swam in high school. But I stopped swimming during my junior year for two reasons: 1) It was clear I was never going to break the minute mark in the 100 freestyle, leaving me to finish last or close to last in every race, 2) I joined the Debate Team and it turned out this Argumentative Bastard was a much better debater than swimmer.

I had been thinking about running for some time and after reading Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall, I decided that I should add running to my list of activities…for fun and health. I had done some running before, years ago when I was boxing. You can’t box without running. Running builds up your endurance, improves your footwork, and gives you more power in your punches. Back then I couldn’t run very far without a brace on my left knee, so that is how I ran.

More than 10 years later I decided to take up running and find out of course, that if you need something like a brace to run, you probably shouldn’t be running. So I bought a cheap pair of shoes and started slow and short. This worked for a few months. My left knee was fine. Then I got a slight pull in one of my groin muscles. It didn’t hurt while running. I didn’t even notice anything until two days after my most recent run, when I got in the pool and attempted to do the breast stroke, which requires a frog-kick. And that’s when I felt the “OMG please don’t move me!” pain in my groin. So I stopped that stroke and finished the rest of the my swim.

I went home, iced my groin regularly for a few days and stopped running for a month or so. Pain tends to take the fun out and undermine the health part of doing something for fun and health.

I tried to work running back into my routine slowly, by mixing it with walking. Meanwhile, I did what any over-educated wannabe athlete would do: I went to the library and checked out books on how to run.

The first was Running for Mortals by John “The Penguin” Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield. This is a very informative book, meant to take away all the fear of running away from people. I didn’t have this fear.

The authors are, rightfully, big proponents of cross-training. But cycling is their most recommended. And they think you should buy a hybrid bike. And you’ll need gear to go with that, too (after of course spending hundreds of dollars on shoes, shorts, pants, tops, gloves, and so on)…So hundreds and hundreds of dollars later…As if everyone will follow their program and next thing you know you’ll be driving to Florida to participate in a triathlon. As if everyone who decides to run can afford to travel the country or world taking part in marathons, triathlons, and eco-challenges. I realize this is all meant to be part of the positive encouragement tone that the book takes. Which is very good in and of itself. But what is discouraging is the idea that it’s not true that running is a low-cost sport.

Also, every question relating even remotely to injury is answered with “see a sports physician.” As if, in this day and age of not so affordable and readily-available health care, we can also have a doctor (in addition to our primary care physician, if we have one) who specifically treats our sports-related aches and pains.

For once, I’d like to see The Cheapass Guide to Running.

That said, Running for Mortals is an excellent guide to getting started as a runner. The book covers all aspects of running from warming up, cooling down, extending your runs slowly (using the walk/run method), stretching, injury prevention, gear, and strength-training. It also includes some different training plans in the back of book for working your way up to 5k and 10k runs.

One thing that’s lacking in Running for Mortals is a detailed look at form. With any athletic endeavor, form is one of the most important things. You can have all the strength and conditioning necessary for performing the activity, but if your form is incorrect you will be setting yourself up for injury.

So I picked up Natural Running by Danny Abshire (with Brian Metzler). Abshire is big proponent of minimalist shoes and using barefoot running as a training technique to maintain good form. This book is a detailed account of the mechanics involved in running. He goes over the various muscle groups that are used while running, his experiences helping runners adjust their form to get over injuries, proper technique, exercises and drills, and (like any running book it seems) a guide for transitioning to a more natural running style.

Barefoot running enthusiasts seem the harshest critics of Abshire, faulting him for NOT being a full-on Barefoot Running Enthusiast. While Abshire says that the mechanics of barefoot running are best because it’s what our human bodies are designed for, he acknowledges the reality of American and European infrastructure with concrete sidewalks and debris-filled streets. So while he recommends training barefoot on grass or cushioned tracks, he recommends minimalist footwear, with a low heel-to-toe height ratio, for running everyday.

(It is true that Abshire recently started and runs a company called Newton shoes that makes and sells minimalist running shoes. He does not push his product in the book. Rather he draws on three decades of experience as a runner and as a consultant to professional runners for much of the information in his book.)

One of things I found helpful was how he explained why it is difficult to maintain good form while running with traditional running shoes (highly-padded heel). The high heel makes it difficult to land mid-foot. When running, I found myself almost shuffling in my $35 Avia’s, struggling against the shoe’s “desire” to make me heel-strike. Heel-striking is the source of most injuries and problems with pronation.

Since before the Christmas Holiday I’ve tried to get back to running a few days a week, with mixed results. I even bought a new pair of shoes (New Balance MT20s on sale from Zappo’s; they feel great). I’d run pain free, but then a few hours later the soreness in my groin would return. It wasn’t constant and it only occurred when I moved my leg a certain way. So I’m going to stop running for the next month and then try again.

I’ll still be hitting the water early in the morning three times a week. One negative about swimming: despite using anti-chlorine shampoo, I’m getting highlights in my hair.