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Havana smoker 2

When I spotted this man sitting on the edge of a fountain in Havana, smoking his cigar down to the point where I couldn’t believe that neither his fingers nor his lips were catching fire, I immediately thought of the lines from the 1964 Roger Miller classic:

“I smoke old stogies I have found,

Short, but not too big around.

I’m a man of means by no means,

King of the Road.”

Now this man is probably not a vagrant and he probably bought the cigar from which he was getting his money’s worth, but the words to the song wouldn’t leave my head.  Speaking of “King of the Road,” I certainly stayed in at least one  “8 x 12, 4-bit room” of the sort that Roger sang about during my stay in Cuba.  Actually, the rooms Roger stayed in, in America during the early 60’s were probably nicer, if not bigger.  They probably had windows and stuff…  Fortunately, I spend almost no time in a motel room when I’m traveling other than to sleep, shower and change clothes, so I survived admirably.

One last comment about the song…I grew up singing that song, and for many years I sang it with the following mondegreen:  “8 x 12, 4-bed room.”  It made perfect sense to me as a kid that the poor guy singing the song was so down-and-out that when he was finally able to spring for a motel room, it had four beds in it and he had to share it with three other people.

Now you’re probably wondering how they could fit four beds into an 8′ x 12′ room.  Easy:  bunk beds!  Remember, we’re using kid-logic here…

When I was older I learned that two bits equals a quarter, and therefore Roger was paying $0.50 for his 8′ x 12′ room back in 1964.  Which was quite a steal, considering he really got the entire room to himself.  I can see why he felt like the “King of the Road!”



  1. Excellent blog and photo. Wonderful my country to take pictures, it is like a photographer’s heaven. I do the same when I visit, camera with me all the time…you never know when a picture like this appears.

    • Hello Roberto and/or Yelena,

      Thank you for your kind comments. Cuba is indeed a photographers Mecca; I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store. I was up shooting from well before dawn to well after dark virtually every day I was there.

      Toronto is quite a change from Cuba! I visited Toronto briefly back in ’90, but I don’t recall being anywhere near as intrigued with it as with Havana. What part of Cuba are you from?

      I would love to see some of YOUR images of Cuba–do you ever post them online?

      Thanks again,
      RPRT Photo

  2. wow!!!!
    so beautiful!

    • Grazie, Vento! 🙂

      I just read some more beautiful poems on your blog. You’re amazing!

      RPRT Photo

  3. In Cuba, it is natural to stick with colour images, just because there is so much colour to display. In this case. the choice of B&W helps focus on the face. Good decision.

    I wish that I had had more time to get really close to the locals during our visit, but our tour was a bit too ‘high speed’ for that.

    • Thanks Dave. 🙂

      This image didn’t have much color in it to begin with, as the man has dark skin and hair, and his shirt, bag and shell necklace were white. I was fooling around with desaturating it (there were some distracting greens and burgundies in the background) when I realized it really wanted to be a B&W image. My only regret is that in the B&W version the cigar is less conspicuous than in the color image. There’s no hint of smoke b/c he’s drawing on it. In the color version, the light grey ash stands out much better against his darker lips and fingers.

      Most likely the vast majority of my Cuba images will remain color ones, but there are a few “character studies” like this that I’ll definitely try both ways to see which I like better.

      My travel group was all photographers, so of course shooting was our #1 priority. Which made for a simultaneously delightful and exhausting trip.

      Would you consider going back to Cuba someday, or is it a “been there, done that, got the (Che) t-shirt” kind of thing?

      RPRT Photo

  4. Very cool thoughts and memories! I still remember that song so well. I remember hearing it when it first came out. It was quite a hit.

    • Hey Brinnmar,

      Thanks for your comments. I remember singing the song as a little kid, before I knew what the heck a “stogie” was!

      It’s interesting to see all the different people who’ve covered it. Besides Roger Miller’s, I like the Johnny Cash version. Hard to take Dean Martin’s cover seriously… 😉

      RPRT Photo

  5. Love the picture as well as your commentary… nicely done.

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