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Abundant Blessings, Ernest Hemingway & A Table for Fourteen, Please Thumbnail

Abundant Blessings, Ernest Hemingway & A Table for Fourteen, Please


“But, he thought, I keep them with precision.  Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

As we embark upon a new journey into 2022, I would like to wish you all a very happy New Year. I would also like to share a story that unfolded before us during Christmas week. A series of events that not only rekindled my spirit but the spirits of those around me; family, friends and strangers alike. The heart of the story takes place in Key West, FL, where we planned to celebrate Christmas with our dear friends the Kowalskis and the McCalls. The trip for 14 had been carefully planned over many months as we enjoyed regular dinners together during the pandemic. The flights, accommodations, reservations and excursions were all in place and then…Omicron reared its ugly head.  

Having landed in Key West on Christmas Eve, I felt mildly unsettled. My mind quickly raced to every Christmas Eve I had ever known; the spirit of Christmas, the lifelong family memories, and my mother’s legendary Christmas Eve dinners. As we settled into our accommodations and made our way out for the evening, it became clear to me that those seeds of my soul were still there, only as passengers now, they were cherished ghosts of Christmas past that will forever be carried with me, with us.  As we strolled down Caroline Street, we were swept into a scene unlike any other Christmas Eve the group had ever known. Please pardon the pun but, we were quickly swept “Off The Hook.” As we made our way into the aptly named restaurant, we were immediately greeted by jovial strangers armed with season’s tidings, goodwill towards all men and women, and shots of Fireball. Pat McCall was our fearless, friendly leader of that moment and he immediately had us engaged in spirited conversation and making plans to attend an Auburn football game in the fall of ’22.  

Following a truly remarkable meal, we were making our way back to our resort shuttle when we stumbled upon another party awaiting Santa's arrival. A scene of happy revelers of all ages were taking in the clear, balmy evening as the band rolled through a raucous version of Iko, Iko. Following our brief diversion, the shuttle arrived. Once aboard, we engaged all our fellow riders in a rollicking version of the 12 Days of Christmas! It seems that the ghosts of Christmas present enjoy a party.


“Maybe I’ll have the luck to bring the forward half in. I should have some luck. No, he said. You violated your luck when you went too far outside”

No trip to Key West would be complete without a fishing excursion and fish we did. The eight men in our group chartered two boats and set out for a latitude changing day on the high seas. Not only was it great fishing and great camaraderie but it was a day to learn from true experts in their craft. Our respective captains and first mates were a joy to spend the day with and the stories were from another time. Spending eight hours with complete strangers may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I think I speak for the group when I say I was sorry for the day to end. About an hour into our excursion, I asked our guide, Jerry, to tell us his greatest fishing tale. Now, Jerry was an amazing fisherman and had years of knowledge, skill and stories to be shared. While he tended to six lines at a time, he also spun a tale of catching a 681-pound marlin off Cuba in a multi-day tournament as a crew member for a very wealthy businessman. The story went on for hours as he recounted the food, the booze, and the local Cuban club scene of 30 years ago. The way he moved about the boat and never missed a beat from a fishing perspective while keeping us all engaged, pulling fish and laughing uncontrollably was an absolute marvel, one that none of us will soon forget. The funniest part of the whole thing was that he never actually described the catching of the damn marlin! Suffice it to say that we indulged in an abundance of cero mackerel, mutton & yellowtail snapper and black grouper that evening and the following day. The catch was so plentiful that we shared as much as we could with adjacent tables and with the local hungry.

Later in the week we made the pilgrimage to the Hemingway Home and Ernest's favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joe’s. The ability to step back in time and walk in the footsteps of this American icon was another highlight for many of us. His Key West home has been maintained in a pristine state since 1939 and Sloppy Joe’s with its open air and happy vibes was a magnet for all including a pair of love-struck, dancing newlyweds we met along the way.


“I must not think nonsense, he thought. Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her? I would take some though in any form and pay what they asked. I wish I could see the glow from the lights, he thought. I wish too many things. But that is the thing I wish for now. “

Getting beyond the proverbial four walls was a true gift of the season for our family and dear friends. After a cancer battle with my daughter Megan, followed by two years of COVID, it was the celestial nudge and absolute reminder of how truly blessed we all are. It was a reminder that life can and often does change in very unpredictable ways. It was also a reminder that we all need a plan and need to be deliberate and thoughtful in how we create that plan. A professional planner can bring a great deal of certainty to what lies ahead in life and can help mitigate life’s risks for those things that are less certain. A planner can provide the expertise, precision and the resources, much like the old man brought to his great battle with the marlin. Like so many things in life, planning takes work, trusted partnership and a little bit of luck. Luck, as we know, is where opportunity meets preparation. So, let’s get prepared in 2022.  

Works cited: Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952.

Written by: Rob Armstrong

Photo credit: Jerry

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