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The Florida Keys: Christ of the Deep, Hemingway and sunset weddings

It was one of those rare vacations that just happened, one we hadn’t expected. Our older daughter, Michele, and her family invited us to Key Largo, Fla., where they had rented a place with a pontoon boat on a canal that connects with the bay. We gratefully accepted her invitation.
We saw Jesus on Tuesday. His statue, “Christ of the Deep,” stands in about 25 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean, about six miles from the Key Largo shore. It weighs about 400 pounds, but the concrete base to which it is attached weighs close to 20,000 pounds.
Under an azure sky, we joined snorkelers from five other boats, flipping about facedown in our fins and face masks, marveling at the statue and the colorful coral reef and fish that surround it. The scene was impressive: Jesus with his head and arms raised toward the surface in a pose of peace.
Frankly, though, I’d rather look for Jesus on dry land, in the lives of people who do kind things for others seemingly for no reason at all. 

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Key Largo would be a great place for a wedding, especially if you like beautiful sunsets more than the confines of a church. And may I recommend my favorite place: Snook’s Bayside — don’t you love the name? — where the sun kisses the Earth goodnight as lovers kiss the beginning of their hopeful lives in marital bliss.

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If you travel the Keys southwest about 100 miles, as we did, you may visit the Key West home where author Ernest Hemingway endured nine of his 12 years of marital bliss with one of his four wives, Pauline. And then there were 44 cats. Hemingway obviously was a great writer but also a tortured soul, suffering from bipolar disorder and a penchant for trading wives on a whim.
The 44 cats would have been a problem for me. But, for Hemingway, they must have brought comfort — the cats and wonderful fishing all around — because it was in Key West where the Nobel Prize winner was most motivated and productive as a writer.
Descendants of those legendary six-toed cats, by the way, are still hanging around. When our guide rattled a package of cat treats, a couple of them sauntered up to her feet and nibbled at the morsels she offered, when they felt like it. There came Harry S Truman and Duke Ellington, unenthusiastic but available. Audrey Hepburn remained asleep under a bench.
I left with a Hemingway book of fishing stories. If I’m not inspired to catch more fish, at least I might be inspired to be a better writer.
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You also may visit President Truman’s winter White House in Key West. He was one of my favorite presidents. He didn’t put up with any manure.

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The Florida Keys are great for visiting. It’s been fun. But we must go home. We’re out of mosquito repellent again.

Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.