Thursday, February 23, 2012

Avocados For Breakfast

"Avocados for Breakfast" Art. Truth. Beauty.
It's a rare day when we are not asked for directions to the Hemingway House, located just around the corner. The path to Key West's number one tourist attraction is worn quite smooth.You would think the location of the town's most famous writer would be anything but a mystery, and yet, nearly every time I exit my home I am approached by people who ask in tentative tones, "Is this the way to the Hemingway House?"
   I was once hired to write a brochure for an English painter named Patricia Townsend who moonlighted as a tour guide at the Hemingway House. I invited her over for dinner, at which time I hoped to get to know her better.
    "Can you come at six?" I asked.
    "Yes, if the damned tourists don't keep me late asking ridiculous questions about the great Hemingway," she said scornfully.
    "What kinds of questions?" I asked.
    "Obnoxious ones. They want to know: 'Is this where he shot himself?' and 'Is this where he went to the bathroom?' They're disgusting! "
    "So we'll see you around six?" I asked.
    "Yes. All right. But tell me, what do you eat? No meat, I hope."
    "No," I assured her. "No meat. I'll fix pasta."
    "With tomato sauce?" she asked. (She pronounced it toe-maaa-toe.)
    "Yes, and lots of garlic," I said. "We love garlic. It discourages the mosquitoes."
    "Oh, I can't have garlic! It will carry on my breath when I give tours to the Hemingway fans," she said.
    "Fine. No garlic," I said.
    "You don't have any animals do you?" she asked.
    "No." I said.
    "Because I hate the way you Americans go on about your house pets. People go mad for those mangy Hemingway cats. They pick them up and kiss their little faces! I find it utterly appalling!"
     "No animals," I said. "But we do have a little boy. Do you like children?"
    "Ab-hooooooor them," she said, turning her head as if avoiding a bad smell.
Waiting for Hemingway.
    "Oh, I see. Well, perhaps we'd better postpone this visit until my son grows up and moves out," I said.
    In fact, I never did write that brochure. And Townsend, who'd hoped to find happiness and artistic success in Key West, was ultimately very disappointed. Her next move was to Indiana, and that's where she died.
The avocado tree next door.
   Townsend and her eccentric personality was much appreciated by my great friend, the late Richard Heyman, who owned the Gingerbread Square Gallery in those days. He was charmed by her painting, although, sadly, Richard's enthusiasm was not shared by people who bought art. Our wedding gift from Richard was a Townsend painting entitled "Avocados for Breakfast."
       The heavy bough of a particularly productive avocado tree hangs in our neighbor's yard. We imagine there was a time when Hemingway noshed on these beauties. Of course we do, too.
        At avocado time, which is now, we eat lots of avocados. We cut them in half. Remove the seed. Fill with oil and vinegar salad dressing. The Cubans make a salad with avocado chunks, onion slices, and oil and vinegar. Yum. And when we eat our avocados, we prop up Townsend's painting, which we love, on the table, before us. We display it in the kitchen, always, and in the 25 years it has been with us, I'm afraid it has suffered through more than a few splatters of one thing or another. Nonetheless, we feel it belongs in the kitchen.
     I'm sure Townsend would ab-hooooor that.


  1. So sorry to hear your avocado artist has passed to the great beyond. I would have loved to invite her to my house to hang out with all my cats and chickens!! If there is justice in heaven, she is surrounded by all my pets that went before me!! :):)

  2. Love fresh avocados from an actual tree! We put lemon and olive oil in the center... I can a couple in a row!

    1. *eat* a couple in a