Posted by Ellen

In Havana, if they send you out to get the coffee for everybody, you bring a glass to the coffee shop and tell them how many shots to put in it.

Don't go early in the morning, however. This shop didn't open till nine.

We note that in this picture, Joe is wearing the shoes he got married in.

Posted by Ellen

By New World standards, Havana is an old city; in 2019, it will be five hundred years old. To mark the anniversary, some new artworks and bits of sprucing up are already under way.

This work by Alberto Matamoros is a tribute to the barbers and hairdressers of the world; its title, I'm told, translates to something like "Cast in a Single Cut." The small shiny scissors mounted on the big black one denote donations from individual hairdressers and salons to fund the project; names of the donors are listed at the site. Clearly, contributions are still being sought; if you're interested, write to proyectoartecorte@gmail.com.

Arte Corte, the sponsoring organization, is a public-private hybrid, so far as we can tell, which has a Facebook page and undertakes projects such as playgrounds and festivals. From the looks of it, funding mechanisms for these sorts of projects under Castro are much the same as in the U.S.

Posted by Ellen

Near Havana, in a boat made of styrofoam blocks.

Posted by Ellen

The bride was beautiful, the bridegroom was grinning to beat the band, and when it came to throwing a party, the Cubans seriously schooled us Anglos.

Our new daughter--in-law is Yusleidy Zanetti, who goes by Julie. The newlyweds are living in Havana, where Julie was born and raised and where she met Joe a few years back, when he spent a semester in Cuba with a University of Alabama study-abroad program.

Everybody asks whether they'll stay in Havana, where Joe is now part of a tiny expat community, or try to move to the states. But that's a question for the future.

In the moment, Julie and Joe spent two days getting married. The first day was spent in a judicial building, dealing with paperwork and lawyers and then finally sitting down with a judge.

Sadly, we confess to knowing no Spanish. The judge had a lot to say, including numerous questions, to all of which Joe and Julie answered sí. Joe is fluent in Spanish, and Julie knows some English, more than most Cubans. They told us that the judge warned Joe that the decision to marry might be the most serious decision of his life–Was he really prepared to take such a step? He said . Then she turned to Julie and asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?" She said .

They exchanged rings and were pronounced husband and wife. We all cheered and clapped and hugged, and that was that.

In the judge's chamber along with the newlyweds were Julie's mother and grandmother, Joe's parents and two of his brothers, one of his aunts, and two friends of the couple, their best man and matron of honor.

Joe's last two brothers and his best friend from Alabama made it to Havana the next day, just in time for the big wedding celebration, with the white dress and the cake, the wine and the beer, the music and disco lights and dancing and singing and more dancing and more dancing.

There was also, of course, the traditional ride in a 1956 Thunderbird, through town and along the Malecón, Havana's seaside promenade, amidst cheers and honking horns.

And after that, there was the afterparty, back at the house, more dancing and more dancing.

And two families are now growing together, across barriers of language and culture and crazy, crazy politics. Nothing in Cuba is easy; this wedding was a major logistical feat that went off flawlessly, thanks entirely to Julie's organizational genius. And she and her family couldn't have been more welcoming to all of us goofy gringos. 

Now that Joe is married to a Cuban citizen, he has the legal right to work there. Most jobs in Cuba pay about $30 or $40 a month. Life for the newlyweds will be very different from life in America.

The poverty is profound. But the streets are safe; there are no guns, no crime. No school shootings. Families are close. The flowers are bright even in February, blue and yellow birds sing in cages in people's yards, the cars are beautiful and there aren't too many of them–no traffic jams. The sun is warm, the sea is all around. And everybody can dance.

Posted by Ellen

Roses are red
Lichens are gray
Please watch what you stomp on
It’s Valentine's Day.

Posted by Ellen

You'll want to watch Olympic curling this week, if only to see the Norwegians' team uniforms., which also feature matching blazers for off-ice swagger. The pictures show recent uniforms; this year's Norwegian curling trousers have been revealed, but we won't show them here out of an abundance of spoiler caution.

Posted by Ellen

Back alley in the Mission District, San Francisco, 1936. If you're interested in the apartment advertised, they want $20 a month for rent.

Posted by Ellen

Three lights in the night create this image: firelight, starlight, and a glowing streak of human brilliance.

The human-powered light is the silvery streak at lower left, created by the photographer's brother, who was cycling along a mountain-bike trail in the high prairies of central Italy's Appenine Mountains. Either the cyclist wore a headlamp, or his bike was outfitted with a headlamp. The camera lens stayed open for almost half an hour–27 minutes–to preserve the track of the route.

The firelight near the lower right of the picture was from the village of Tornimparte, in the valley far below the hillsides we see here. The photo was taken in mid-August, on the night following the Feast of the Assumption, when bonfires mark the end of the summer harvest.

The starlight notably features the Milky Way, which the photographer said he'd never seen before. The reason he'd never seen it before might be visible in the part of the sky just over the horizon behind the village bonfires. The night sky looks pale back there, with fewer stars visible to the eye–perhaps because of distant light pollution emanating from the Roman metropolis about sixty miles to the northwest. 

If you click on the photo and study the enlarged version–yes, life is short, but go ahead, waste a few moments fussing with a pretty picture–you may be able to see that the stars are not pinpoints of light but short little line segments, almost like tiny bits of the bicycle's light trail. In this case, however, it's not the stars so much as the earth that's moving; 27 minutes is such a long exposure time that the earth spins through almost 2% of its daily rotation, leaving little streaks of starlight as the camera and the mountains and the bicycle all move through the night.

Posted by Ellen

Midnight in Salisbury, United Kingdom.  We don't want the world to be quite this way, but it is what it is.