I’m writing a personal essay about visiting houses and castles that have been turned into museums, and one of the buildings I discuss is Hemingway’s old house in Key West. The place is surrounded by Florida greenery; the air is humid; six-toed cats walk the property; and a urinal sits in the back yard, cleverly disguised as a fountain. Basically, it’s one of my favorite places in the world. It’s right up there with the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. And so I was delighted to come across Jamie Allen’s essay, “Incident at the Hemingway House,” in Oxford American. It’s hilarious and detail-packed, and it reaches beyond itself in asking how one’s life should be led in relation to rules and regulations. Below’s the opening, but you can read the rest on the Oxford American website:

Last summer, I took my two teenage kids down to Florida, to the Keys. When we checked in at the airport in Atlanta, an airline employee made an embarrassing breach of etiquette: eyeing the three of us, our broken little unit, she said, “Are we missing someone?” … As we walked to the gate, we came up with a plan in case anyone ever asked that stupid question again. First, I’d do my best to appear as though I’m about to cry. My daughter would say, “Momma got taken in the Rapture.” (She didn’t. We’re still good friends.) And my son would then explain our religious affiliations.