I knew Hemingway’s friend!

31 Mar

Where Irv met Ernest

In the post below I casually mention Ernest Hemingway, almost as if I had known him. I didn’t, of course. But I did know someone he drank with.

The man’s name was Irv Lippe, and he was nothing at all like Hemingway. Irv was short, slight and polite. He was a diplomat – literally — posted to Cuba when Hemingway was living and writing there.

When Irv retired, he took a part-time job stateside with the newspaper where I worked. We spoke a lot and he told me of his days in Cuba. Irv loved martinis and it was not unusual for him to drink three at lunch.

On one of his first ventures into an island bar for lunch, he noticed Hemingway. He asked the fellow next to him if that indeed was the famous writing. The chap said, “It is. But don’t dare talk to him. He’ll bite your head off.”

Irv followed the advice. He did, however, observe the man and thought it odd that such a tough guy would order a daiquiri.

“At the time, a daiquiri was considered a lady’s drink,” Irv said. “I’m surprised he wasn’t laughed out of that bar.”

(Hemingway would go on to make the daiquiri famous, for both sexes.)

One day, while Irv downed a martini at the same place, Hemingway came in and sat next to him. Irv said nothing. This happened several times. Two mute drinkers. The day finally came when Hemingway gruffly turned toward Irv and said, “Do you have the time?”

Irv gave him the time but said nothing else.

The next day Papa again sat next to Irv and said something like, “Nice day for fishing.” Irv said that indeed it was.

Before long, the two were having full and fast conversations.

“We actually, I guess, became friends,” Irv told me.

I loved Irv and speaking with him was always a pleasure, but I didn’t believe this story. I figured anyone who spent more than two minutes in Cuba during those years would claim Hemingway as a friend.

As Irv and I grew closer, he invited me to his home for lunch. He took me into his office and on the wall was a 2 foot-by-3 foot photo of a smiling, bear-like man with his arms tight around Irv, almost lifting the little guy off the ground.

It was signed: “To my good friend Irv — Ernest”


2 Responses to “I knew Hemingway’s friend!”

  1. leslie scism March 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Nice short story! leslie


    • NotebookM March 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

      Leslie — Where is your one true sentence? It can be something like: “George W. Bush is hiding,” or “Christianity has failed civilization” or “Toothpaste is edible.”


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