Underground Hemingway

AN ADVENTURE IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN’S HEMINGWAY COUNTRY

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(A moose at the Mitchell Street Pub in Petoskey.)

WHILE we were on our honeymoon two weeks ago, one of our more fascinating experiences was an underground tour conducted by a young woman who may or may not exist in reality. (A ghost?)

We were at the City Tavern Grill in the quaint town of Petoskey, both of us sitting at the bar, in a saloon which young Hem himself used to frequent. I was at the exact spot– second from the end– which Hemingway was said to like.

We must’ve seemed easy marks. Out of nowhere, a woman approached us and asked if we’d like a tour of the saloon, including its underground tunnels.

“Sure,” we said.

The woman was dressed like someone from another time period– the 1920’s, perhaps– with a feather in her hair and wearing a delicate retro black dress. In build she was tiny, as if from that bygone era when people were smaller than today. Her waist could not have been more than 20 inches around– Scarlett O’Hara territory.

Beyond this, she spoke in a dramatic manner, as if on a Victorian stage. She batted her eyelashes like a silent movie actress. When she walked, she shimmied like a flapper from the pages of a Scott Fitzgerald story.

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The woman knew, somehow, by looking at us that we were Ernest Hemingway fans. She told us how often Hemingway frequented this spot– named The Annex in his time. The bar and its furnishings were the same. She showed us signed bills from Hemingway for food and drinks. The last one was from 1947.

This narrative was related in a secretive manner, as if she’d personally known the man.

Her name, she said, was Mary Ellen. She reminded us that in the time Ernest Hemingway first came here, Prohibition was in force. At any sign of police, observed through a peephole, booze and customers moved swiftly downstairs, to the basement.

Mary Ellen asked us cryptically if we’d like to visit the basement.

Without waiting for a response she turned and made her way down rickety stairs to the basement. We followed.

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The basement was gray and dimly lit. Bannisters, walls, shelves of liquor bottles– everything– was covered in dust. Layers of dust, in some cases. We looked at each other with our eyes, asking ourselves, “Can we trust this woman?”

In the way she spoke and was dressed, she could have indeed stepped through a time warp. Or, could she be instead an escapee from– ?

We didn’t continue that thought because we didn’t want to continue it. Instead we stumbled along after Mary Ellen, through lengthy depths.

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Mary Ellen showed us a number of blocked or partly-blocked tunnels, used both to smuggle bootleg liquor into the saloon, or out of it. One of the tunnels led to the nearby Perry Hotel, where we happened to be staying for the week.

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The smuggled booze came from the Al Capone gang. From his base in Chicago, Capone controlled all liquor going into resort towns which spread north along the Lake Michigan shoreline, including this one.

The lights began flickering.

“The lights are going out!” Mary Ellen said dramatically.

Her eyes seemed truly afraid. Perhaps the time allotted for the private tour was over, or someone above needed her. Or perhaps she was about to turn into a pumpkin, or vanish, or appear her real age, or something. We were, after all, only days from Halloween.

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We made it back up shaky wood stairs to the main floor, breathing, despite ourselves, a sigh of relief.

The tour was one of many highlights we encountered in the quaint town of Petoskey.

-K. and K.

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Our “Best of the Net” 2018 Nominations

Here are our Best of the Net nominations for 2018.

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They encompass work published online between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

(Best of the Net 2017 is here. The Sundress Publications website is here.)
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AS ALWAYS we had more good work than we were able to nominate. For fiction, we nominated two of our longer stories– both require some investment in reading. Both stories required an ample investment in imagination and work in writing. Both stories are excellent in very different ways. They exhibit the range available within a “Pop Lit” designation.

WE hope you read or re-read all of the nominated works.

We thank these writers and all the writers who’ve generously allowed us to publish their work.

Fiction:

“Churchgoing in New England” by Richard Greenhorn,
published 9/28/17.
“The Rottweiler” by Alex Bernstein,
published 1/12/18.

Non-Fiction:

“Hemingway” by Samuel Stevens,
published 7/28/17
“Cry Wolfe” by Robin Wyatt Dunn,
published 11/16/17.

Poetry:

“Black Water” by Robert Beveridge,
published 10/16/17.
“Processed World” by Rus Khomutoff,
published 02/02/18.
“Starbucks Bars to Be Sung I” by Timmy Chong,
published 4/12/18.
“Jonesing” by Timmy Chong,
published 4/12/18.
“Tourist Trap” by Holly Day,
published 4/18/18.
“Losing Another One” by James Croal Jackson,
published 5/7/18.
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Happy Hemingway Day!

YEP, another year has shot by and we’re again back celebrating one of our favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway. Maybe we just like his Michigan connection, an excuse for us sneak up to Hemingway country in Petoskey and environs. Away from urban civilization as we know it.

WE were there this May, encountering a Hemingway statue–

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–and examining the pier in Harbor Springs where the boat from Chicago carrying the young Hemingway would dock–

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–or staying in the exact same hotel in Petoskey that young Ernest Hemingway boarded at–

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–drinking at taverns with trademark Hemingway atmosphere–

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–reading Hemingway novels–

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–then closing the day with a Petoskey Michigan sunset.

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New Hemingway-Fitzgerald Discovery?

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Is New Pop Lit about to make some literary history?

We had assumed someone else had written about this– maybe someone has– but it seems that in the answer to our Hemingway-Fitzgerald Trivia Question lies a different take on the relationship between those two giants of American letters. It’s important because the two talents stand today as THE largest personalities dominating the field of American letters– in particular, the novel and short story. Iconic figures.

The new take is this: Ernest Hemingway took some obvious shots at F. Scott Fitzgerald over the years. But what if Fitzgerald had been creating some snarky portrayals of Hemingway, in his fiction, first? This appears to be the case.

We’re readying an explanation of all this. . . .

#1 Seeds

Two American writers were so gigantic in standing and influence, even on the world stage, that they’re automatic #1 seeds. Both of them, in ways good or bad, helped define what it is to be American.

A.) Ernest Hemingway

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B.) Walt Whitman

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We’ll explain our choices this afternoon at New Pop Lit’s Interactive blog.

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We’re re-discussing the other two #1 seeds. May not announce those until the weekend. . . .

Report: New Pop Lit in 2016

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What were the year’s highlights for the literary project known as New Pop Lit?

Among them have to be the two big Lit Questions we asked writers and editors of all stripes, which received terrific feedback. The first Question was about the contemporary short story. Our second Lit Question was about Ernest Hemingway. You’ll find the answers we received in both cases to be stimulating reading.

The Hemingway question was part of our celebration of Hemingway Day 2016. Another part of that celebration was an excursion by New Pop Lit editors to classic Hemingway country in northern Michigan. If you’re a fan of Hem, or of American literature, or of writing period, our little search for the man and myth makes must reading.

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Another highlight for us was our appearance at the Troy Public Library, giving a presentation as part of NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month). (Much thanks to Erin Chapman for setting this up.)

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In-between we found time to feature an array of new fiction and poetry from Tom Ray (twice), Ron Singer, Ian Lahey, Scott Cannon (twice), Jess Mize (three times), Dave Petraglia, (our own) Kathleen M. Crane, Joshua Isard, John Grochalski, Anne Leigh Parrish, “Fishspit” (twice), James Guthrie, Ken O’Steen, Erin Knowles Chapman, Jeff Schroeck, Steve Slavin, Samuel Stevens, Andy Tu, A.N. Block, Alex Bernstein, Andrew Sacks, Bruce Dale Wise, Timmy Chong, David R. Gwyn, Yoav Fisher, Lori Cramer, and a featured book review by Andrea Gregovich, AND several interviews with writers, some of them linked at our “Hype” page at our main site. I’m sure I’ve missed a name or two. Thanks to all the talented people who made our literary project an artistic success.

Last but not least we started a new feature we call Fun Pop Poetry, which can be found at our Interactive blog, along with other cool things. We included there the very best pop poets in America, as well as some of our favorite writers. Please read all 23 pop poetry entries– you’ll find them entertaining.

We’re here to entertain you. (We sneak our artistic theories in the back door peripherally and subliminally.) We’ll be doing a lot more entertaining in 2017.

-K.W.