At Bar Monserrate in Havana, the daiquiris are half price. Why? “Hemingway Never Drank Here.” No Hemingway tourists allowed. Now, that’s my kind of bar.
Cuba’s where where Ernest Hemingway lived and worked from 1939 to 1960. It’s where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Islands in the Stream (the book, not the song by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton).
I love A Moveable Feast. In his memoir, Hem tears down everyone he ever met (the more famous, the more scathing the attack) while offering a heartbreaking assessment of the joys and eventual breakdown of his marriage to Hadley, with whom he lived in Paris in the 1920s.
Hadley is possibly the greatest name ever. If you know of a better name, feel free to let me know.
Now, I had always wanted to visit Hem’s home at Finca Vigía. Call it a bucket list sort of thing. I had also wanted to visit visit El Floridita, Bodeguita del Medio, and a hundred other of Hem’s favorite watering holes. See, I’m a fan of Ernest Hemingway. And a fan of watering holes. (Stop calling them bars and pubs and start calling them watering holes. It’ll change your life, I swear it.)
A few years back when I was in Havana with my friend LuAnne, I even tried to get up to room 511 in Ambos Mundos, a hotel on the edge of Plaza de Armas. Hem wrote in that room up until he moved to the Finca. But when I was in Havana, room 511 was closed to the public.
I took it as a sign. Tourists, tourists everywhere. Signposts outside this bar and that. Hemingway made the daiquiri famous here. Hemingway made the mojito famous there. Let’s just say the man liked his cocktails.
I realized that somewhere along the way I has lost track of what I was doing. I wondered why I was following taking Hem trail through the city. I asked myself what I was getting out of walking where Hem walked, sitting where Hem sat, and drinking where (and what) Hem drank. Inspiration? Vicarious genius? Ticks off the checklist of the most touristy, borderline literary things to do in Havana?
Possibly some or all of the above. I’m still muddling it over. I’m an eternal debater. It’s fun being me.
Hemingway Never Drank Here
There in Havana, LuAnne and I came across Monserrate Bar. Outside was a sign that said the daiquiris were half price because “Hemingway Never Drank Here.” Think about it. Think about the humor of finding the one place in Havana that Hemingway had never been. Think about how they reveled in the complete absence of Hem’s presence and influence. Think about how they turned a negative on its head and made it a reason to pause and ponder.
We went in and got a drink. To be fair, it wasn’t the best watering hole I’ve ever been to. Not even close. But the daiquiris were half-price, and the place lacked all pretension. And, man, did they nail their marketing.
The lesson: When everyone else veers right, veer left.
Something for you to pause over and ponder: Why fit in when you were born to stand out?
Next time you’re in Havana, go where Hemingway never went: Monserrate No. 401, La Habana Vieja, Havana Cuba.
Keep on Keeping On
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