The Caffeine Also Rises

This is blogging. This is the true blogging, el blogando verdadero, con afición, the kind a man wants if he is a man. The kind that Jake and Lady Brett might have done, if they’d had wi-fi hotspots in the Montparnasse.

What brings this on is that I am writing standing up, Hemingway-style, at the counter in a cafe. But there is nothing romantic about this, which the old man would appreciate. Sort of. This isn’t his kind of cafe. It’s not a cafe he could ever have dreamed of. It’s a Starbucks in the middle of a Barnes and Noble (sorry, Rhett, but I’m out of town today, and there’s no Happy Bookseller here). About the one good and true thing that can be said in favor of being in this place at this time is that there is basically no chance of running into Gertrude Stein here. Or Alice, either.

I’m standing because there are no electrical outlets near the tables, just here at the counter. And trying to sit on one of these high stools and type kills my shoulders. No, it’s not my wound from the Great War, just middle age.

So that puts me in mind of Papa. No, excuse me: I once had lunch with Mary Welsh Hemingway (wife number four) at a hotel down by the river (the Mississippi, not the Seine). It was 1976. She drank a Bloody Mary; I had one of those crisp, cold Dutch beers in the green bottle. It was good, and it did not mount to the head as those things sometimes do. We were standing in line at the buffet when I started to ask her something about "your husband," and I stopped myself to say, "It seems silly to keep saying ‘your husband’ as though he had no name. Is it, uh, is it OK if I just call him ‘Papa‘?"

No, she said. That was just for family.

Good for her.

Anyway, this line of thought got started partly because of the writing-standing-up thing, and partly because I’m standing under that mural they have around the cafe area in Barnes & Nobles, with all the famous writers sitting in a real cafe looking intellectual and bohemian, and Hemingway is up there with Joyce and Faulkner and Neruda and …

Well actually, no, he isn’t. I’ve stepped away and walked around the area three times now, probably drawing stares at such odd, peripatetic behavior, and he’s not up there. But he is on the one on Harbison, isn’t he? I remember it because it bugged me that they showed him smoking a pipe. At least, I think they did. I’m not in a position to check. Anyway, I’ve never seen a photograph of Hemingway smoking a pipe. Not the kind of thing he would do. I’ve got a certain stereotype of pipe smokers in my head, and he doesn’t fit it. Of course, I could be wrong about him.

I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it does. I’m going to walk around again to see for sure if he’s up there…

Nope.

You know, the coffee here is a lot stronger than I expected. She warned me that it was really hot and really full (too full for me to stir in my six packets of Sugar in the Raw without spilling), but she didn’t say it was this strong. It’s enough to make a man start babbling about nothing. Nada y nada y pues nada.

We are all a lost generation.

Who said that? Oh, no — she is here…

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