It's impossible to imagine Ernest Hemingway eating at the 5 Spot, dipping deep-fried conch fritters into a small cup of key lime mustard and sipping mint green mojitos out of up glasses, though last week everyone, including two men groomed to look like Mr. Hemingway, played along.
The scene wasn't exactly fitting. Though many of his best scenes and stories took place in clean, well-lighted cafes, Hemingway, as a young man (age would have a funny, rotund effect on him), went about Paris "belly-empty, hollow-hungry," both because he felt those conditions made Cezanne's paintings "sharpened and clearer and more beautiful" and because Paris was Hemingway's "moveable feast" ("wherever you go for the rest of your life," he said famously about Paris, "it stays with you").
What stayed with us after last week's event (a Hemingway-themed benefit for Richard Hugo House, for which the 5 Spot restaurant unveiled a special Key West menu of items Hemingway purportedly ate while he lived there)—aside from the mojito's mint leaves that we could only dig out later with dental floss (surely such a vainglorious chauvinist never drank these things)—was the sense that if Hemingway were alive today, saw his imitators in action, and had that gun on him, he would take a lot more people out with him.
The evening's festivities began with the host declaring first that "Hemingway is one of the great writers that we produced"—so pat yourself on the back for that one—and then she went on to ask, "Does anyone here not know Hemingway?" (Of course, no one didn't.) "Has anyone not seen the Old Man From the Sea?" (And, of course, no one had, because nothing of that title, by Hemingway, exists.)
Two people read passages from Hemingway's autobiography, A Moveable Feast, though sadly, no one read from the chapter called "A Matter of Measurements," in which Hemingway examines Fitzgerald's package (which Zelda said was too small to make any woman happy) and then, on their way to the Louvre to measure themselves against the anatomies of sculptures, tells Fitzgerald, "It is not basically a question of the size in repose. It is the size that it becomes."
The writing contest—in which entrants were asked to write a 200-word story in Hemingway's manner—was basically a question of whether anyone had ever read Hemingway, which, aside from the winning entry by Wendy Joseph, didn't seem to be the case. To wit, one of the ostensible imitations included the phrase "cozy cotton sheets" and the sentence "Those buttermilk pancakes sure were yummy." With that, our feast nearly moved back out of us.