Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

Ernest Hemingway
Death in the Afternoon

On Sunday, July 8, I attended a presentation at the Hemingway Museum by Chicago Tauromachy, a collection of bullfighting aficionados and Latin culture enthusiasts, which includes local residents as diverse as Linda Tibensky, the Oak Park Republican Committeeman, and Carol Dudzik, the former longtime principal at Lincoln School.

Carol’s husband, John, a retired banker (and much more rabid liberal than I), has run with the bulls in Pamplona no less than 32 times and lived to tell about it.

In fact, he and Carol told about it during a presentation about the annual Fiesta San Fermin (Fer-MEEN) in Pamplona, July 6-14, which came to America’s attention through Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. Thanks to the Internet, the Dudziks were able to show broadcasts of the first three days of bull-running this year down the narrow streets of Pamplona. Tibensky, meanwhile, peppered the presentation with readings from The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway’s testimonial to bullfighting (and his only non-fiction book).

Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.

Then we all ran with the bull (conversationally speaking) down Oak Park Avenue for a lovely, late-afternoon reception at Maya del Sol.

All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.

Hemingway’s death occurred 51 years ago, and, though he served as his own matador, his legacy lives on. The local Hemingway Foundation has labored hard and long to keep that legacy alive and properly honored.

There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.

Every year about this time, I lament the lack of local appreciation for the Hemingway legacy and call for a mass conversion. He was a powerful writer whom most of us haven’t touched since high school, long before we could really appreciate him. Periodically, I also renew my call for an annual fiesta to celebrate this true-story teller and life celebrator. The purpose is to praise him, though sometimes it seems the rest of the village just wants him buried.

Scoville Park, aka the village fairgrounds, offers an ideal setting for a Hemingway celebration, as evidenced by the party the Park District of Oak Park threw for themselves last Sunday to mark their centennial. An annual Hemingway birthday party (Fiesta San Er-NEE?) is a natural. The library, with its plaza directly abutting the park on the west, offers additional festival “grounds,” as does Ontario Street when closed off the way it was this past Sunday. The Arts Center, which houses the Hemingway Museum, is situated kitty corner from the northeast corner of Scoville Park. The fully restored Hemingway Birth Home lies two blocks directly north of the park.

Winberie’s, on the south side of Lake Street, and Hemmingway’s Bistro, just to the north, could offer Hemingway-inspired dishes (Maybe the bistro could be talked into subtracting the extra “m” for one day). Several other nearby restaurants — including Maya del Sol, Fuego Loco, Papaspiros, Klay Oven and Flat Top Grill — are good sports and would likely embrace the theme.

The Lake Theatre might show films based on Hemingway’s books. The Avenue and DTOP business associations could hold summer sidewalk sales (as they are this weekend). Scholars can give talks at the library. The Scoville Park stage would host flamenco dancers and Spanish guitarists, the inevitable Ernie look-alike contest, and, of course, periodic dramatic readings from his books (by local thespians).

This would have to be a collaborative effort by the Hemingway Foundation, the Visit Oak Park tourism bureau, the Historical Society, the Park District of Oak Park, the Oak Park Area Arts Council, the Wright Preservation Trust, Oak Park Village Hall, the Harrison Street Arts District, the aforementioned business associations, the Book Table, OPRF High School, our local theater groups (Circle, Festival, Open Door), and the Oak Park Public Library, among others. Wednesday Journal, no doubt, would help publicize the event.

A festival is not only an opportunity to express our pride that someone of Hemingway’s exalted cultural status was born and raised here, it’s also a chance to educate those (among them too many Oak Parkers) who don’t know very much about him.

This year Ernie’s birthday falls on a Saturday, an unfortunate missed opportunity, but next year it’s a Sunday. In five years, it will fall on a Friday, the following year Saturday, and in 2019 Ernie’s 120th birthday lands on a Sunday. Time enough to plan ahead.

The Hemingway Foundation has cut itself loose from the ball and chain of the Boyhood Home, so it can perhaps afford to dream again. Obviously, they don’t have much money, which is why a lot of other groups need to get involved. This should be a highlight on the city of Chicago’s annual tourism calendar. We’re a straight shot out from the lakefront via the CTA and Metra.

Call it “A Moveable Fiesta.”

Call it anything, but let’s celebrate this legacy.

The great artist, when he comes, uses everything that has been discovered or known about his art up to that point … and then the great artist goes beyond what has been done or known and makes something of his own.

Join the discussion on social media!