They Don’t Make Men Like They Used To

Sometimes I wish I were living in a novel, but it’s fun to dream about it.

Having a passionate, tumultuous affair with a real artist, both a gentleman and rough around the edges. He’d be a real man who’s seen and done things that most men have never and probably won’t ever do. He’d drink the hardest alcohol, fight a good fight, then be able to meet me at the Ritz Paris for martinis.

But those guys are dead if they ever existed, and that’s unfair if you ask me.

This was what I realized this morning, as I flipped through my copy of “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, with the plans to read it yet again this weekend.

Hemingway was as close as you could get to that kind of man, a man who others wouldn’t dare trifle with.

He was always looking for a fight, but he had a tender romantic side as he believed his first marriage would last forever. And a complicated side who would go on to marry three times after that.

He was a hunter, he traveled to exotic places and could construct a sentence that’s equal parts beautiful and brutally honest, like being punched in the gut. He went to war and survived. He was friends with the best of the American literary world in the 1920s Paris, where all the ex-pats went to write and read and expose themselves to the upper echelon of culture in a city that surpassed most.

He embodied a fullness, at least through his work, you’d want to eat up if you could. Not by the spoonful, but by digging your hands right into the meat of it, devouring it whole with little regard to manners and grace. He was the one who liberated the Ritz Paris from the Germans in WWII, a place that was introduced to him by F. Scott Fitzgerald. According to legend, at the end of the fight, he ran up a tab of 51 martinis.