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Re: Great DDF One-Liners
A good deal is like a joke, if you don't understand it, the joke's on you, if you explain it it's DEAD!!

September 16, 2016, 12:40:33 AM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread
I mustve seen this pic every chanuka for the last 5 years...

It's an annual sale

December 22, 2016, 06:06:55 PM
Re: Next Vacation - Ideas
It looks so amazing! How experienced of a camper do we need to be?
You can rent a cabin, then you have a fridge and more comfort. It comes with a fire ring for cooking.
Check out KOA ( People are usually friendly and kids love it.

There is also an SPG hotel in Bangor, which is within driving distance to the park if you want to use points.

FYI I really wanted to go to Japan largely in part of your great TR but apparantly the summer is an awful time to visit. (We could have tried to work out our passport issue)
Go for it, you are better at finishing TRs than me.

March 31, 2017, 01:06:16 PM
Re: Viva La Revolución! Time-traveling to Cuba with Something Fishy, whYME, and CITH
Some important notes:

- As with the last segment, this one is split it into two parts, with the second half coming tomorrow.

- Due to the amount of pictures, let your browser fully load before you begin.

- All the pictures are by me, except where indicated otherwise.

[Something Fishy] After a good night's sleep, we were out and about before sunrise to watch Havana wake up.

We headed down Paseo de Marti, the main boulevard that runs from the Capitol and the National Theater to the ocean, and is bisected by a pedestrian walkway:

Turning into a side street, we came across a commentary on the revolution graffitied on a wall:

The sky beginning to brighten:

Early to rise:

Photo by whYME:

Setting up shop, under the ever-watchful eye of Fidel:

Photo by whYME:

In Cuba, does Dora teach kids English?

After a some side-street wanderings, we wanted to head to the Malecon to watch sunrise, but we had gotten disoriented. We were back on Paseo de Marti, but we couldn't figure out if we needed to turn right or left (even though the ocean was very near, the boulevard curved on both ends so we couldn't see very far). A pair of security guards were nearby, so we stepped over to them.

Me, pointing first in one direction, then in the other: "Malecon?"
Guard 1, completely clueless: "Malecon??"
Me: "Malecon!"
Guard 2, looking around hopelessly: "Malecon?"
Me: "Si, Malecon!"

Again, only stares. It's as if these two had never heard of the most famous place in their town, and which is literally three streets away from them.

CITH finally takes out his phone and writes it down for them.

Guard 1: "AH! MaleCON, not MALecon!! Malecon, there!"

Imagine you stop a cop in the middle of Seventh Avenue and ask him which way to Teems Square, but he has no clue what you mean because you didn't say Times Square. Yes, that's the level of genius displayed by these two nincompoops.

Five minutes later, we were at the Malecon MaleCON.

Morro Castle in the pre-dawn light:

First light over Vedado:

And on Old Havana:

Photo by whYME:

The tide was low, so we watched both human and animal getting breakfast.


Great white egrets:

Humans. Photo by whYME:

Good catch:

Having some Photoshop fun with early morning traffic:

Havana in a nutshell, photo by whYME:

I remember taking this picture for a specific reason, but for the life of me I can't recall just what that reason was. Let's just assume it was something really profound, and keep it at that :D:

A recently collapsed building:

This crane was just backing in to begin the cleanup. Between the Cyrillic on the boom and the Lada taxi passing by, the whole scene had a very Soviet feel:

Early morning cleanup:

Pretty building, way past its prime:

This guy clearly missed the memo that he should be howling at the moon, not the sunrise:

Not everything has an explanation, sorry. Sometime you just need to accept things in life, such as this farm tractor pulling a... circus? Persian carpet display? A something, though the city:

Sunrise over, we crossed the MaleCON and went back to wandering random alleys.

For some uncanny reason, everyone and everything to come through this alley seemed to match the color scheme perfectly:

Except for this guy, which clashed horribly and made my OCD flare up:

Now that it was properly morning, I had one goal: find a new belt. My pants were still slipping and sliding after last night's wardrobe malfunction on the Malecon, and it was driving me crazy. It wasn't long and we found a couple of stalls selling trinkets to tourists, and lo, one had some belts. It was definitely used and had seen better days, but it fit me and had a working buckle. What more can one ask for?

[whYME] One thing that was very different here than other tourist trinket markets I've been to, it seems the things here were actually locally made, not just the same junk imported from China.

Brightly colored necklaces. Photo by whYME:

Bracelets. Photo by whYME:

Nothing goes to waste in Cuba... Have some old cutlery? Make weird bracelets for the tourists!

Another stall sold hats, where I bought a classic Fidel cap, a Che beret, and a seriously ridiculous-looking fedora, and wore all three since I needed my hands to operate the camera (priorities!).

Photo by whYME:

[whYME] In a way this trip was very different from any other I'd been with Something Fishy. In all the other trips, with the primary focus being landscapes, we pretty much came back with pictures of the same things. Other than differences in composition and such, things were pretty similar. Here in Cuba was another story altogether, as there were many many times when we standing right next to each other but got completely different pictures of completely different subjects. 

For example, after Something Fishy bought his Fidel hat and was busy giving his old cap to a local...

...I got one of my favorite pictures of the trip, a kid sitting nearby and pondering life:

Some lovely colors:

Another crumbling interior:

"Mural CDR #8". CDR is the Cuban secret police, Comités de Defensa de la Revolución. This mural depicts the heros of the revolution: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos, along with the yacht Granma that brought the revolutionaries over from Mexico in 1956 to jump start the revolution:

Lovely colors and patinas on some buildings:

Photo by whYME:

A pharmacy:

Pineapples, anyone?

Back on Paseo de Marti, beautiful birds were up for sale:

Big changes are afoot, no doubt. A year earlier this would have been absolutely unthinkable:

We watched the traffic for a while:

Avocados for sale, photo by whYME:

Quite the random decal:

A local playground, in true Havana fashion, locked and deserted. Photo by whYME:

Photo by whYME:

After that it was off to a shop to stock up on more water, and back to the apartment for shachris and breakfast.

Duly fed and watered, we went back outside on a quest: find a taxi to take us to Vinales. As I've mentioned in the introduction, we were hoping to take a day trip to the beautiful Vinales Valley, around two hours from Havana. The plan was - hopefully - to arrive in the area a few hours before sunrise, shoot some astrophotography, sunrise, and early morning activity before heading back to Havana.

So the search was on for a driver who knew the way, was familiar with the valley, had an air-conditioned car (preferably a classic, of course), and was crazy enough to pick us up at 1 in the morning, all for a decent price. Shouldn't be too hard, eh?

We noticed a lovely-looking 1953 Dodge and hung around to take some pictures of it:

[Cat In The Hat] One of SF's many, yet unadvertised, talents is tripping over his own feet ;D. I managed to catch him in mid-air as he was getting up from shooting the back of the car:

As we were shooting, the car's owner walked over to shmooze and find out if we were looking for a taxi. Well whaddya know, we actually are:

"Si! To Vinales!"

Yes, of course, he knows Vinales. Let's go now!

In our terrible mixture of English and broken Spanish, we tried to impress on him that while we did want to go to Vinales, we want to leave at 1 AM, and we need to discuss a price first. After a lot of back and forth negotiations (which included getting into the car to test the air conditioning
[whYME] And that air condtioner was working great, it was like stepping into a freezer.), [Something Fishy] we had a deal: for 120 CUC, he'll pick us up at the apartment at 1 AM, drive and guide us in Vinales, and have us back home at 1 PM.

Or at least we thought that's what we arranged. We had no idea if we were all on the same page, and it wasn't helped by the fact that he clearly couldn't fathom why we'd want to go in the middle of the night.

So there we were, all standing around awkwardly, neither side being quite sure if they understood the other, when suddenly...

"?וואס טוט א איד און קובה"


This was last thing we expected to hear in Cuba, and with a flawless, hiemisha accent no less. We wheeled around to see an elderly Cuban, wearing a black yarmulka and a huge smile on his face.

"!נא? שלום עליכם"

It was like an angel had been sent from Heaven. Five seconds worth of translating from Yiddish to Spanish and the arrangements with the driver were concluded, and we sent him away to go take a long nap while we stayed to schmooze with our new friend, Lazer Shklar.

(I warned you about that hat ;D!)

He was born in Poland, where the Nazis murdered his entire family in the Holocaust. He came to Cuba as a refugee right after the war, all alone in the world, and had stayed on for the last 75 years. He would like to come to New York, but doesn't think it'll ever happen. He did ask for my address and phone number, just in case... He was as religious as possible under the circumstances, and was very upset about the state of the local Jewish community, which far from being religious, is mostly not even Jewish at all due to intermarriage.

He took out his wallet and showed us a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he carries everywhere, and which he says reminds him that he'll see his family once again when Moshiach comes.

On that sad note he bid us goodbye, shook hands once more, and slowly walked off.

May 02, 2017, 10:58:49 AM
Re: Viva La Revolución! Time-traveling to Cuba with Something Fishy, whYME, and CITH [Something Fishy] Ah, Cuba. The national Capitol, an arguably beautiful building, has been closed for years due to danger of collapse. The Gran Teatro, home of the National Theater and the world-famous Cuban Ballet, is in the same state. Both are set on the main boulevard in Havana, and are themselves surrounded by crumbling buildings.

The Capitol and its environs:

On one side of the street, the Gran Teatro on the left and fancy hotels on the right:

On the other side of the same street, this:

Photo by whYME:


The Capitolio itself:

Photo by whYME:

If the building seems familiar, you're right: the Capitolio is a near-perfect copy of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, but was purposely built twelve feet taller (not that they're bitter, or anything):

We hung around in front of the Capitol for a good while doing some people- and car-watching... Can't get enough of that here.

Photo by whYME:

Cool taxi:


"Kid Chocolate" ice cream:

Photo by whYME:

Chillin'. Photo by whYME:

Some more cool cars:

Selling drinks:

No idea how this got here:

The construction barrier around the Capitol was decorated with old film scenes. This "Brooklyn" one caught my eye:

Photo by CITH:

Photo by CITH:

Photo by CITH:

Photo by whYME:

Popcorn vendor:

Photo by CITH:

Photo by CITH:

We struck up a conversation with a truck driver and some pedicab owners:

Photo by CITH:

They were fascinated by my large shoes; they'd never seen something like this. We were actually attracting a small crowd, everyone wanting to take a picture:

Photo by whYME:

By and by we meandered over to the big taxi area. This is the place where those who own classic American cars in good condition all gather to give tourists a tour of the city (but as mentioned in an earlier segment, rather flag one down on the Malecon and you'd get a far better price).

(There will be lots of classic car pictures here. You have been warned )

Photo by whYME:

A stunning 1958 Edsel Pacer, one of the most beautiful cars ever produced:

Edsel interior:

1952 Chevy Special Deluxe. This car illustrates a very common fact about these cars: while the outside may be meticulously maintained, the interiors are usually an entirely different story - note the loose wires, the cobbled-on tachometer, the zip ties holding the steering column in place, and the beach chair and hat covering a large hole in the seat :D:

Photo by whYME:

Old Ford:

1958 DeSoto. This particular specimen is a mashup of two different models, the Sportsman and the Firesweep (my best guess is that it was a Sportsman originally). For good measure, the steering wheel was cannibalized off a Mercedes:

Photo by whYME:

The driver insisted on climbing in and posing for a picture:

Late-1950's Ford Fairlane:

Some cute Chevys:

Photo by whYME:

This guy seemed to be running the entire taxi operation:

Discussing something with the DeSoto Sportsman slash Firesweep slash Mercedes driver:

A statue of Jose Marti in the park next to all the cars. Photo by whYME:

Rat on dog. Don't ask:

Photo by whYME:

Having seen enough cars for the day (finally!), we made or way to our sunset location.

I remember the exact moment that I decided I need to go and see Cuba: it was around 2010, and I came across a wonderful picture showing the Cuban Capitol at dusk, from a high vantage point, and the street in front lined with classic cars in all colors of the rainbow. It was as I was staring at that picture that I know that I must go and see that for myself.

So when after many years the trip to Cuba was a reality, I set out to find the vantage point whence that picture was taken, and figure out how to get up there myself. It took many weeks of searching and reading before I had the spot pinned down: Hotel Parque Central. The problem was that rooms here were north of $500 a night, let alone a room on one of the higher floors, which I'd need for this shOot. No way I am shelling that out.

But it didn't take long and I hit paydirt: Their rooftop bar should provide me with the vantage point I need. So long as we act like we belong, we should be able to get onto the roof without anyone asking any questions.

So this how we found ourselves now, sneaking into the rooftop pool and bar of the most expensive hotel in all of Cuba.

We marched into the hotel, and were hit with a literal wall of cold air, and a figurative wall of opulence. For all we know, we could be in the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Poor, crumbling, Cuba was on that side of the door; here is only luxury and comfort for politicians and rich westerners:

We took the elevators to the highest floor, and from there the stairs to the roof. We sat down at a table by the bar, where a smartly-dressed waited appeared instantly and took our orders - two beers and a coke. Needless to say, these were by far the most expensive drinks we had bought in Cuba, but it was absolutely worth it: we now belonged, officially.

CITH and his beer. Photo by whYME:

Fiddler on the roof. Photo by CITH:

And indeed, the view from the top was exceptional.

Parque Central (Central Park) below us, with the Capitolio and Gran Teatro to the right and the Museo de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) on the left:


Museo de Bellas Artes:

The sun setting over Old Havana:


Blue hour:

Car trouble down below. Photo by whYME:

Looking down into the open-air atrium from above. Photo by whYME:

...and through the skylight into the main lobby. Photo by whYME:

Once it got dark we headed back down and attempted something even more daunting: obtaining an internet card so we can contact the outside world for the first time in three days. Internet access is strictly for guests only, so it took a lot of sweet talking by whYME to get the agent to sell us a 10 CUC card. Eventually she gave in, but clearly stated that she can't guarantee that we would be able to log in, since we weren't guests.

Worth a shot (click for a larger version):

Lo and behold, out of our three phones, we were able to get two connected, and one was even able to make Whatsapp calls. We spent a few minutes in the lobby catching up with news back home, as well as reassuring our very worried wives that we have so far managed to evade arrest (little did we know what would happen that very night ...).

Heading back home, and stopping at a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop (seriously, check out that ceiling) for some cold drinks:

Interesting menu:

And so another day came to a close. We were off to bed early; at 1 o'clock Elvis and his 1953 Dodge are picking us up for a trip to Vinales.


May 03, 2017, 12:58:19 PM
Re: Viva La Revolución! Time-traveling to Cuba with Something Fishy, whYME, and CITH [Something Fishy] So we went to sleep at 11... and were up at 12:30. Grabbed our gear, some food, and went downstairs hoping against hope that Elvis is there for us.

Lo and behold, he was.

We packed into his '53 Dodge and were off. The camera gear in the trunk, whYME and CITH in the back, and me upfront because it supposedly has more room. Ha! I spent the rest of the trip scrunched up, with my knees hitting the stick shift whenever I moved .

In any case, the car was epic. Side-view mirrors? Seat belts? Meh, who needs those? But a color TV playing non-stop Salsa music videos, jerry-rigged into the dash, that we had. The seats were covered in plastic like your grandmother's old couch, but that was not an issue due to the ice-cold AC.

Until, of course, the AC died, and before long we were sitting in a pool of sweat. What now? We roll down the windows of course! Elvis pulls off to the side of the road, unloads half the trunk, and emerges with a pair of pliers in hand. Opening the passenger door, he sticks the pliers into a hole on the side and starts turning like mad. Slowly, agonizingly, the window begins to lower. The entire process is repeated on whYME's window, but on CITH's no amount of turning makes the glass budge a millimeter. Poor CITH is still sweaty to this day.

Leaving Havana:

According to Google, the ride from Havana to Vinales should take two and a half hours. Problem is of course that Google doesn't know that the transport in question is a jalopy from 1953, so we ended up put-putting along for over four hours each way.

But regardless of all this, the ride was a ton of fun. Elvis was fantastic and kept up a constant prattle. It wasn't long and we got seriously overtired and were attempting to sing along with the Salsa on the top of our lungs, to Elvis' great amusement.

So there we are, driving down the highway in the middle of absolutely nowhere, not a light or car to be seen for miles around, when Elvis lets loose an incredible collection of Spanish profanities. The weak beam of an ultra-cheap LED flashlight was shining in his face, and we could just make out the silhouette of a blacked-out police car on the shoulder.

Uh oh.

This is not good. Not good at all.

The officer orders Elvis out of the car and warns the three of us to remain inside. The two of them go off to the side, and ten minutes go by... Fifteen... Twenty... Every now and then Elvis comes in to rummage under his seat for a different document.

Elvis is now hauling our camera bags out of the trunk, one by one. Long minutes tick by, as the officer closely examines every item in our bags.

In the meantime us hapless Americans are left to ponder our fate all alone in the dark. Would they send us to Guantanamo? The gulag? Would we get to call our wives? I had promised mine to stay out of trouble!

And then all of a sudden Elvis climbs back in the car with a huge smile:

"Eh, only 20 CUC!"

And off we went.

Turns out that we were about to be hauled in for questioning, under charges of "suspicious activity". (I mean, three Americans and a local guide out in a place and time where tourists really have no business being, and loaded down with $10k worth of camera gear... is that suspicious?) Eventually Elvis realized that this is not going to end well, so he decided to finish this in the typical Cuban fashion: a nice little bribe. Apparently what amounts to a cop's full month's wages was enough to "prove our innocence" and convince the law that we were on the up and up ...

This little adventure meant that we were running even later than we had already been, but before long we found ourselves in Vinales.

"Vinales" itself is a broad term for the entire region. The Vinales Valley is a large and very rural area where lots of Cuba's famous tobacco is grown; everything around here is even more primitive than Havana. If the capital is stuck in the 1950's, Vinales is still in the 1800's. Also in Vinales are a collection of stunningly beautiful karst formations called mogotes, which are basically tall, steep hills rising right up from the valley floor. These hills and the area around them form Vinales National Park (Parque Nacional Viñales). And to top it all off, the local village is also called Vinales.

It was around an hour before sunrise and on the outskirts of the village, when we had a very bemused Elvis pull off the road and position his car very precisely in some bushes. He had a good laugh watching these crazy photographers pull out cameras, set up tripods, and use their headlamps to light up his car. He had never seen anything remotely like this...

[whYME] I don't think that's why he was laughing . I'm pretty sure he was laughing at me and CITH bumbling around still trying to figure out which way was up meanwhile Something Fishy had set up, taken his shot, packed up his gear and was all ready to move on to the next location .

Eventually we all managed to get our shots and were thrilled with the results.

Photo by Something Fishy:

[Something Fishy] Crossing the road to get a shot of the Milky Way rising over some of the mogotes:

I can't say I'm very happy with this picture, but some errant cows and the ever-closer sunrise meant that we couldn't spend as much time here as we would have liked.

A little bit further on we stopped yet again; the sky was really getting brighter now.

[whYME] To be clear, we stopped in middle of absolute nowhere. There was already enough light in the sky that we were able to make out that there was absolutely nothing around to take a picture of. With no foreground and no background and the sky seemingly too light for decent star shots, CITH and I were sure there was no shot to be had and didn't even even bother trying. Something Fishy, however, insisted that there was a shot to be had and set out prove us wrong.

It was about this time when I learnt never to question Something Fishy when he insists there's a shot to be had:

Photo by Something Fishy:

[Something Fishy] While setting up this shot a number of farmers passed, heading to the fields on horseback. We got some odd looks (from the farmers; the horses didn't seem to mind us).

It was now time to head to our sunrise spot. I had done a ton of research and found the perfect spot, except for one detail: I had absolutely no idea where said spot was. Information was so scarce at the time we went, that there was literally nothing online about this other than some isolated pictures. My usual scouting tools were useless in this case; with nearly nothing to go on, and satellite maps of the area being very low-resolution, all I was able to figure out was a general direction.

But no worries! We had Elvis. I described what I was looking for, and he claimed he knew where it is. He led us through a maze of tiny, twisting roads for nearly half an hour before stopping... at a resturaunt.

"We're here!", he exclaimed cheerily.

Um... are we? There was nothing to see except for the slightly run-down restaurant and some trees. Where was the grand landscape I had ordered?

Meekly, we followed him around to the back of the building, onto a deck and into a little outdoor sitting area.

And... Boom! Unbelievably, this was the exact spot I had been looking for! I couldn't believe my eyes, and Elvis couldn't have been more smug. This guy was worth every penny .

We were up on the edge of a hill, and the entire valley was spread out in front of us. Fields, mogotes, palm forests, little farmhouses. Nothing stirring; only the first rays of the sun beginning to break through the morning mist.

Photo by whYME:

Photo by whYME:

CITH and whYME shooting:

Group shot with Elvis:

Call the Cuban patent office! Here's how to weatherproof outdoor lighting:

What a lovely setting for a meal:

Once the sun was fully up we left the restaurant and headed back to watch the village wake up.

Our car waiting for us:

Red-legged thrush:

On the road into town, farmers off to work:

Huge grass chicken coop:

Photo by CITH:

A typical road scene: some random chickens, a stray dog, and an old man cutting grass with a scythe:

Seriously terrifying chicken:

The family out for a morning stroll:

Off to market. Photo by whYME:

2-ox power engine:

First view of town:

Some really pretty-looking houses:

Quiet moment:

Main street traffic:

All of the above pictures were taken out the window of the car while driving. Elvis, our ever-loyal guide, was making sure to point out every good photography subject: namely, girls. "Pretty girl over there! Take nice picture! No, no, no! Why you take picture of old horse, look other side! Girl!" After a while he realized that we weren't going to listen to him, so he resorted instead to shaking his head sadly and mumbling under his breath, "And they take picture of old horse!" every now and then.

Before long we had crossed through the entire village and were heading back into the fields. Suddenly... a police car on the side of the road. The officer gets out and motions us to pull over.

You have got to be kidding me.

Once again, cursing like a sailor, Elvis steps outside. This time however, he was back in two minutes later and laughing out loud. Turns out the cop had run out of gas, and wanted to know if we were able to spare some for him to siphon off. Being that our car ran on diesel and the police car on gasoline, it was a no-go from the start and so we were off the hook.

More than anything this little episode brought home how impoverished this little corner of the world is. The government here has so little money that police officers have to literally beg passersby for gas. And of course the officer had no radio nor cell phone... Simply unbelievable.

Between the village and the national park:

Welcome sign for the national park:

The park's visitor center :

(Excuse the terrible GoPro quality...)

A farmer and his "tractor" (or in CITH's immortal words, "pulling oxen through the nose on a sled with no wheels"):

Photo by whYME:

It was about now that Elvis declared that we have to check our fuel supply, and can we please help him unload the trunk? While this question didn't quite make an ounce of sense to us, we nevertheless humored him.

With the trunk empty, Elvis rolls back the carpet, produces a dipstick, and sticks it into a hole in the floor. "Quarto centimeters? Perfecto! Enough till Habana".

So that's a fuel gauge, Cuba style.

Elvis. Photo by CITH:

Stopping in a lovely section of the national park among the mogotes:

Photo by whYME:

Much of the mogotes are hollow, riddled with caves and caverns. Sometimes there would be these huge openings on the side of one, taking all sorts of fantastic shapes.

Angry face. Photo by whYME:

Elvis then took us to see the world-famous Mural de la Prehistoria, or Mural of Prehistory. This enormous monstrosity is painted on the side of Mogote Pita and is over 200k square feet in size. Rumor has it that Fidel himself dictated to the artist exactly which scenes should be painted.

It is difficult to describe it any better than Lonely Planet did, who've condensed their review into a single succinct sentence:

The huge snail, dinosaurs, sea monsters and humans on the cliff symbolize the theory of evolution and are either impressively psychedelic or monumentally horrific, depending on your viewpoint.

Photo by whYME:

These guys aren't having a very good day, I'm afraid:

On the outskirts of Vinales we came across a propaganda billboard. There are no advertisements in Cuba to be seen; any and all space is reserved for promoting the revolution.

This particular sign points to a memorial for the first revolutionary militia, comprised of local peasants (Malagones). The top half features Fidel's immortal (and nonsensical) words: "If you triumph, there were militias in Cuba".

Whatever it was he was smoking at the time, I'd sure like some.

And with the Glorious Leader's words ringing in our ears, we left Vinales behind and began the long trek back to Havana.

Tons of people loading into a truck, heading to work in the tobacco fields:

Hauling tobacco:

Another propaganda poster: "The Revolution is the Daughter of Culture and Ideas":

"With your permission, it will be easy!" Photo by whYME:

Aaaand then we were back in Havana. We stopped at Elvis' house for a moment so he could pick up something or other, and for us to stretch our legs.

A curious neighbor:

Photo by whYME:


I'm not sure I want to know exactly what's happening here - looks like a nurse sitting against the column, while the guy in the background is doing something to his leg while surrounded by a bunch of bug-spray canisters:

Driving back to our apartment:

Yep, Havana has a Chinatown. Go figure. We had wanted to visit it but hadn't had time; it wasn't until I looked over the GoPro footage after getting home when I realized that we had in fact driven right through it. We were simply too tired at the time to notice, having been up for nearly two days now:

Nearly home - there's the Capitolio on the right and the government cigar factory on the left (past the turquoise building):

Elvis dropped us off at the front door, where we said our goodbyes and made up for him to pick us up tomorrow at 6 AM for the ride to the airport.

We were bone tired, but there's no rest for the weary: we wanted to get to the cigar shop before it closes, so we couldn't take a nap just yet.

The official government cigar factory and shop was just down the block, so we walked over. We figured we'll pay their inflated prices instead of buying on the black market for two reasons: supposedly these street cigars are of lesser quality, and we wanted an official receipt for US customs.

The store was dark, cool, and inviting, and sold both cigars and alcohol.

Famous Cuban rum:

Only $950 a bottle? Meh:

$1700 or bust:

The average Cuban makes $18.66 a month, so it only takes about eight years of work to be able to buy this bottle. Memesh a bargain!

My cigar haul:

The US customs allowance was $100 worth per person at the time. Considering that I don't smoke (to be honest these fancy cigars stink just as bad as regular cigarettes in my opinion), I didn't feel the need to buy more and figure out a way to smuggle them in.

My total however came out to slightly more than $100, so the clerk happily took my money and wrote me a "kosher" receipt.

Cigar store ledger. Photo by whYME:

Back outside we ran into a guy who apparently follows the DD main site deals  :

If I was attracting attention yesterday with my shoes, that was nothing to what was happening today. Wherever we went in Havana people were calling out "Fidel and Che!" and running over to take a cellphone picture with us. Turns out that me in my Fidel cap, whYME in his Che beret, and with our height and beards looked pretty darn close to the real thing and the locals were getting a kick out of it.

Of course, this was tons of fun for us and we had a great time interacting with lots of different people. And we didn't even charge them a CUC for the picture, how very magnanimous of us.

More patina:

Stopping into the saddest electronic store I have ever seen:


Yet another crumbling building:

Having finished our shopping, we then returned home to prepare for the rest of our afternoon.  Alex had offered insisted that he just had to give us a tour of the Morro Castle (and of course take us to someone who would sell us cheap, "authentic" cigars). We had finally relented and agreed to do his tour that afternoon. There was just one slight problem: having barely slept in three days we were utterly exhausted. We sat down on the couch and began to discuss whether to go or stand him up. Turns out it was quite an easy decision; apparently when you sit on a couch after not sleeping for a few days you don't stay awake very long .

We woke after a couple of hours nice and rested. By this time it was dark outside, so we had dinner and began packing up our stuff for the flight out tomorrow.

After a bit we went out again for a short walk, to get one last good look at this wonderful place.

A pedicab waiting for customers:

Photo by CITH:

Photo by CITH:

We got a beer at the same pizza shop we had stopped by the night before, where the guys got a kick out of something on CITH's phone:

We also paid our respects to what is likely the saddest burger in the universe. Photo by whYME:

On the way back home we bumped into a bunch of drunk Irish tourists, who were apparently incredibly happy to meet us. One of them grabbed whYME and began singing some Irish ballad or something, and before we knew it they were singing and dancing, trying their darnedest to get us to dance along .

So there were are at 1:00 in the morning, on a dark and bustling (even at this hour) Havana street, singing and dancing with a bunch of drunk Irish guys. Suffice it to say it was quite the weird ending to our trip .

Unfortunately for you, I had to trim the real juicy parts of that video out .

Eventually we broke free and off it was, for one final sweaty night sleeping on the floor of a crumbling Havana building.

July 13, 2017, 01:58:46 AM
Re: iPhone 8/iPhone X

iphone 7 8(ate) 9

A joke is like a frog...

When you dissect it, it dies.

Get it? Just like a frog dies when you dissect it, so does a joke when you explain it. Basically, the frog is used as an analogy, to help people understand that jokes shouldn't be explained, because the joke will die, or more specifically, become unfunny. So, just like when a frog dies when you dissect it, so does a joke when you dissect, or explain it.

(source: reddit)

September 13, 2017, 07:48:37 AM
Re: Prison

I cannot even fathom what you have been and are currently going through. I hope one day you will recover completely and stay strong. I hope your family forgets this parsha entirely and it will feel like someone else’s story.

I wish you the same to you and your family.

December 11, 2017, 08:53:50 PM
Re: Prison
You sure you want to leave that there? It's pretty identifying. I'm not saying because of the case - just that often people don't want to be explicitly identified on forums at all.
Instead of applauding her for her bravery, we get this. Anonymity is over-rated in these forums.

December 12, 2017, 08:43:16 AM
Re: Prison
Wow. Unreal thread. I started reading this saga last night around 11. Stayed up till 3:30am. When my phone died I knew it was time to stop. I just finished it all. @hvaces42 my heart and soul go to you and your family.
My husband recently got indictited and took a plea. It was a bs charge and a bs case. First they charged him with 15 or so charges. All misdemeanors but 1. All of them were compete bs. This was a year ago and he just finished fulfilling his deal (no jail time Bh). From start to now (we’re not finished yet. Court still holding onto his passport) this has been so incredibly traumatic for him. He lost a lot of weight, started smoking heavily, stopped working, stayed up all night and slept all day, took a complete 180 in the yiddishkeit dept (for the ‘better’. He now davens all the time. Goes to rabbis, lights candles...). His mental health deteriorated. He became very paranoid. Stopped talking on the phone. Eventually swapped his iPhone for a flip phone cuz the govt is listening. He (like you) developed a deep hatred and mistrust for anything to do with govt. cops are pigs. Judges are animals. Prosecutors are the devil.
What he did was white collar. Complete and utter victimless. He made maybe a total of $400 on this whole thing. Maybe. And now we’re out 25k in lawyer fees and he may never go back to what he was.

I cannot even fathom what you have been and are currently going through since you actually did the prison thing. I hope one day you will recover completely and stay strong. I hope your family forgets this parsha entirely and it will feel like someone else’s story.
Thank you for sharing and bringing awareness and chizuk to those of us that have never experienced anything like it
Wow. And bravo for being so open about it.
I hope he finds a way to return to his former self.

December 12, 2017, 10:38:47 AM