Don’t drink the water.

My Russian teacher and I were marveling at the news during the last winter Olympics, that the next one would be in Sochi. It’s a resort at a fairly southerly latitude, for starters, and, well, it’s Russia. The country has galloped ahead on the usual emergent-economy trajectory, but an Olympic Games is a herculean task to mount, and this isn’t China.

Turns out we might have been on to something:

Some journalists arriving in Sochi are describing appalling conditions in the housing there, where only six of nine media hotels are ready for guests. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. One German photographer told the AP over the weekend that his hotel still had stray dogs and construction workers wandering in and out of rooms.

My favorite is this:

My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.”

That’s from Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune.

I wonder if any of us really realizes how much safer our so-called nanny state keeps us, by insisting on things like animal control and water purification. I remember when we were in Argentina a decade ago — hardly a third-world country — and coming across broken sidewalks, which may or may not be under repair. No orange cones, no caution tape, just whoopsie daisy, there’s an 8-inch drop.

We should let the market decide whether water is safe to splash on your face, don’t you think?

So. I was driving to Ann Arbor today, listening to Tom Jones’ version of “Sixteen Tons,” and it reminded me of something I read a while ago — that Jones is married to the same girl he chose back in the hometown, pre-famous days. A quick Google, and what do you know: They’ve been married since before I was born:

“We grew up together, come from the same place, have the same sense of humour. That has a lot to do with it. How do you walk away from somebody that you get along so well with? What’s the point?

“And we do still have a lot of laughs together. The first thing my wife asks me when I get home is: ‘Have you heard any good jokes lately?’”

It doesn’t exactly sound like passion — he admits to having had many infidelities and a long-term affair with Mary Wilson — but after all this time, more of a tea cozy of a marriage, warm and comforting and familiar. She looks like an ordinary girl from Wales who married a handsome boy and then found herself being swept up by his crazy career.

Remember: The only two people qualified to judge the quality of a marriage are the people in it.

Guess what we’re doing tonight? Waiting for snow. Yes! Snow! Quite a lot of it, too, although not as much as some. Then another deep freeze.

At least it’s a short month.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch |

41 responses to “Don’t drink the water.”

  1. Dexter said on February 5, 2014 at 3:12 am

    I was a long-time fan of the Chicago White Sox and over the years I found a free spot to park for games which was over a little ways west on 35th and south on Halsted. On Halsted we were walking along one day and Holy Shit! No warning, no tape across, nothing…and a deep hole where the sidewalk once was. We could not see the bottom; it was dark, it was deep. Obviously some scary sinkhole situation. Across the street a shoppe had an ad in the storefront: it was a giant toy rat, head in a giant rat trap, the spring kind. ” Special: Rat Traps On Sale.”

    Just south of Dearborn is Melvindale, Michigan. NBC Nightly News had a story about a speed skater’s family. The girl made the USA team this year after being an alternate last Olympics. The dad, mom, and brother want to go, but they could not afford it without borrowing the dough. Now, my friend Greg vacationed in Moscow last summer and while it wasn’t cheap, it didn’t break him financially. The Melvindale family told people the trip to Sochi was costing them forty grand. Their friends put it on Facebook and everybody began networking/begging and the money was raised. Forty thousand dollars. And the police are shooting stray dogs and construction work continues.

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  2. Dexter said on February 5, 2014 at 3:31 am

    Everybody here is computer literate: go to Sochi, get hacked instantly.

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  3. mark said on February 5, 2014 at 6:04 am

    The mess in Sochi is attributable to too little government involvement and control?

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  4. Jolene said on February 5, 2014 at 6:35 am

    Another charming feature of life in Sochi, apparently, is that your electronics will immediately be hacked. Richard Engel, of NBC News, had a computer guru set up two new computers with sham info, and, within hours, it had been hacked. Same thing happened to a cell phone. A real shame. One could get a cheap phone for keeping in touch with the members of one’s group, but seems like you’d want your games for downtime, apps for keeping up with the news, and such.

    A video from NBC on the topic:

    Related videos in the column on the right at the link above.

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  5. Jolene said on February 5, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Whoops! Column on the left at the link above.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 5, 2014 at 7:16 am

    Putin, the libertarian.

    Or, incompetent shirtless thug. Of the sort we have down the block from the juvenile court offices even in February. Putin is just a little behind in his tats.

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  7. beb said on February 5, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Brown water from the tap? We (Detroit) shut down places where the water is even a little cloudy. My wife was reading off some of this reporting to me last night and I could not believe it. We’re sending our kids into this place? Who knew we’d have to air-lift food and water into the Olympic Village!

    I heard that three star hotels were charging $700 a night so $40,000 for two weeks sounds about right.

    Alex Pareene suggested, in regards to the Superbowl that the NFL just built a Superbowl stadium somewhere, build it exactly to their specs, build all the celebration facilities and forget about rotating the Superbowl among existing stadiums. After touting all the advantages to a permanent location he went on to suggest that the Olympics do that as well. Souci is a good argument for a permanent location.

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  8. brian stouder said on February 5, 2014 at 8:35 am

    big Snow, here now!


    It almost makes me miss the icy lumpy fuck that it completely buried.

    My mom always loved Tom Jones (and indeed, ‘it’s not unusual’, etc)

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  9. brian stouder said on February 5, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Beb – I betcha the NFL will never, ever, ever even consider a permanent Super Bowl venue.

    Because then, their popular-socialism-we-won’t-call-‘socialism’ taxpayer money pump would lose its prime.

    Why did Indianapolis* build a new-new football stadium/palace when the “Old” one was still fairly new? Because then, getting a Super Bowl was possible…and it happened!

    *and by “Indianapolis”, I mean every tax payer in Indiana

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  10. nancy said on February 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Isn’t the Rose Bowl a single-event venue? Who else plays there?

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  11. brian stouder said on February 5, 2014 at 9:06 am

    One last comment, and I’ll stop.

    Today’s headline made me think Nance had a meaty article about what’s happening in West Virginia right now – sort of our own Sochi-on-the-Allegheny-Mountains

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  12. Julie Robinson said on February 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Doesn’t UCLA play at the Rose Bowl Stadium?

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  13. Scout said on February 5, 2014 at 9:25 am

    What did they expect when they decided to hold the Olympics during Mercury Retrograde? 😉

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  14. Connie said on February 5, 2014 at 9:39 am

    The Rose Bowl hosts huge flea markets many weekends. No idea if they are in the bowl or the parking lots.

    Our snow didn’t get going until around 7 a.m. but it is blizzard like conditions and accumulating fast. Snow is drifting across the lot and sidewalks at work

    I stopped to pick up my dry cleaning and slipped in the parking lot, ended up down on one knee with the other leg out behind me. I finally had to ask for help from some guy walking by, who kindly helped me up. The whole thing made me feel stupid, not a great start to my day.

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  15. Peter said on February 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Julie is absolute correct – the Rose Bowl is the home venue for UCLA.

    I know a lot of Pasadena has turned into a pit, but when you visit the Craftsman houses (like Greene and Greene’s Gamble House) up in the hills, you look down over the Rose Bowl, and wow, what a site.

    The real cost vs. benefits of hosting an Olympics has been public knowledge for some time; except for Barcelona and Seoul, which spent a LOT of their money on road, rail, and infrastructure improvements, you’d be hard pressed to think of a place that benefitted from the Olympics. How’d Sarajevo do after the Olympics? At least they had better hotels before, during, and now probably after, the event.

    I could make a snarky comment about Rio, but I think that the stadia and improvements that won’t get don in time for the World Cup should be up and running by 2016.

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  16. Suzanne said on February 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

    From what I remember, Indianapolis actually LOST money on the Super Bowl, but everyone considered a success, nonetheless. I’ve lost interest in the Olympics. I look at Bruce Jenner and see where it gets you in the end.

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  17. Kath said on February 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Too bad Grigory Potemkin was not available to assist with the Olympic Village construction.

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  18. brian stouder said on February 5, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Connie – ugh!

    I know (and intensely dislike) that bottomless feeling, when you first realize events have left your control.

    It is very good to hear that you’re not injured, in any case…and you’re certainly not stupid! (indeed, if anything, you’re a dedicated professional who braved the abysmal weather event we’re having, and reported for duty)

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  19. Julie Robinson said on February 5, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Kath for the win!

    Reaching back to last night, here’s how I made the ketchup (or should it be catsup?): 15 oz can of tomato sauce, 6 oz can of tomato paste, 1/3 c water, 1/2 c cider vinegar, 1/4 c honey, 1/2 t onion powder and 1/4 t garlic powder. I used organic tomato sauce and paste from Costo; it’s really high quality with great flavor. All the other ingredients are approximate, I didn’t really measure but chucked them in until the flavor and consistency seemed right.

    No corn sweeteners, preservatives or thickeners. Our son has been making it but he was at work so I decided to experiment. He’s also been making barbecue sauce and salad dressing since he’s eating paleo/primal and wants to avoid chemicals and the like.

    BTW, the first batch was made with balsamic vinegar and smelled and tasted nasty, so it went down the drain. Not sure why, unless the vinegar had gone off.

    A friend suggested making it with green chilies, to which I say, more power to you. I’m not a spicy person, I’m a sweet person.

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  20. LAMary said on February 5, 2014 at 10:26 am

    A great burger place here makes their own catsup in two flavors: regular and chipotle. I like the regular one because you can really taste the cider vinegar. I think they might be putting in some cider as well because you can really taste apple. They make the best fries around. Dunk the fries in that catsup and life is good.

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  21. alex said on February 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Folks, last night I learned from a friend about a legally married gay couple in our town who have been separated since Christmas by U.S. Customs, Daniel and Justin. Daniel went home to visit family in Canada and now they’re not letting him back into the U.S.

    This Sunday they’re having a benefit fund-raiser at the Brass Rail to help with legal expenses, etc. You can also donate to the cause online. Here’s a link that tells their story (scroll down to January 17 and click to read more):

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  22. MichaelG said on February 5, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Mary, what burger place is that?

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  23. Jolene said on February 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Alex, what is the rationale for prohibiting Daniel from coming back to the U.S.? Have your friends asked for help from Sen. Donnelly or the State Department?

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  24. Pam (the sister) said on February 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    I had some peeps from work who went to Russia a few years back. They were escorting their daughters on a choir thing. Wouldn’t let them go with their ‘rents. I asked “how was it?” The wife said, “basically, the whole country’s a dump.”

    I think France should have insisted that Gerard Depardieux go live there when he became a Russian citizen in order to avoid French taxes. Then he would have seen what France is spending all that money on.

    It snowed/iced 9″ last night. It took us 2 hours to shovel the driveway (and it’s not that big). There was wet snow with a layer of ice over it. That stuff was heavy! Ask Bill why the snow blower NEVER works. I’m getting one at an auction this summer, really.

    You would love channel 10 weather reporting. Every time it snows one of their remote reporters shows us the consistency of the snow by picking some of it off the road or sidewalk. If there’s ice, they break off a chunk to show us how thick it is.

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  25. LAMary said on February 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    It’s the Oinkster, Michael. In Eagle Rock. Same guy has now opened a pizza place in Highland Park and I understand it’s great.

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  26. Dexter said on February 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    The Rose Bowl game was played as usual, then this year a week later the NCAA Championship game was played there at the Rose Bowl. I was there many years ago in the summertime just to gawk at the empty place…could not get close enough to peer down into the bowl, just the street level angle, which is just looking at a facade.

    After saying there would be no media frenzy due to the heroin dealers who sold PSH the fatal dose, the narcos tracked down the Ace of Spades packets pushers easily and staged a huge raid on Mott Street and busted everyone in the place. Now, NYC is safe from drugs! Hooray. 🙁

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  27. alex said on February 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Jolene, I don’t know them personally or what efforts they have undertaken so far, but it’s a local angle that’s being completely missed by the local media in their coverage of the gay marriage debate in this state, which is pretty intense at the moment as our gerrymandered GOP legislature is attempting to force a public referendum on it this November. The state constitution would be amended to deny gay couples or any other unmarried couples legal recognition of any sort and could potentially upend a lot of contracts that have been executed by couples in order to protect their interests.

    Donnelley’s a blue dog who seldom sticks his neck out for anything, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to give constituents in such circumstances the brush-off. He only tepidly endorsed marriage equality after he began receiving national media attention for the fact that he was one of the last two holdouts in the Democratic party. He and Joe Manchin both squander their political capital on trying to placate bellicose right-wingers who aren’t going to vote for them anyway.

    The venue for this fund-raiser has kind of an interesting story behind it. I remembered it as one of those old wino dive bars where you’d be likely to see human teeth and blood on the filthy floor on any given morning at opening time. At some point, a much younger and hipper clientele began frequenting and the Rail has become a vibrant and popular night spot.

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  28. brian stouder said on February 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    40+ years ago, I had a friend whose dad was the owner of that place (possibly it is still in the Hoy family?).

    They used to hang out at Lake Gage

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  29. Deborah said on February 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    When I was in high school some our football games were played in the Orange Bowl stadium. It was a rickety old place even before they built another stadium.

    Peter, My sister- in-law lives in Pasadena not far from the Green and Green place (the one used in Back to the Future) so that’s the way I think all of Pasadena looks, are you saying there’s a bad part of town?

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  30. MichaelG said on February 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks, Mary.

    The other day somebody was looking for a bagel recipe. This was in the Bee today:

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  31. Jolene said on February 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    One more piece on Philip Seymour Hoffman, this one by David Carr, a very good NYT writer who has also struggled with addiction.

    Carr has a memoir that’s supposed to be very good, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Anyone read it?

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  32. Heather said on February 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks for that link, Jolene. I still can’t believe it about PSH. So very sad. But I agree–can’t condemn him. It’s an illness we don’t completely understand.

    I actually met David Carr years ago when he was an editor at Washington City Paper, which the Chicago Reader also owned at the time. I never got to know him well, but he was held in the greatest respect.

    Well, it finally stopped snowing here in Chicago. I didn’t think it was going to be so bad, but the travel times this morning were terrible–the reporter on WGN said they were the worst travel times she’d seen in years. I’m working from home, but a coworker drove to our office in the suburbs from Chicago–took him 2.5 hours.

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  33. Deborah said on February 5, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Great article on PSH, Jolene. By the way how is your health? Haven’t heard for a long while, unless I missed something.

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  34. Jolene said on February 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I’m doing find, Deborah. Have finished treatment, so now it’s just surveillance–follow-up visits every three months to make sure there is no recurrence.

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  35. LAMary said on February 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Pasadena has a little bit of everything. There are all the lovely old houses and lovely newer houses but there are also not so lovely older houses in the rougher parts of town. Overall it’s not that bad.

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  36. brian stouder said on February 5, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    can’t condemn him. It’s an illness we don’t completely understand.

    Agreed – it is not for me to condemn him, or any other soul who falls into such a mindlessly self-destructive addiction.

    It looks to me like he consciously decided to kill himself – or else why buy so much of that stuff?

    Still – a person who destroys himself and leaves everyone else alone qualifies for more sympathy than condemnation

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  37. Sue said on February 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Do we know anyone that we can nominate? Anyone at all?

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  38. Sherri said on February 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    There’s no question sports are over-rated in our society, but it’s also true that nothing but sports could ever unite a community in quite the same way. The Seahawks victory parade was today, and 700,000 people descended on Seattle to watch. That’s 10% of the entire population of the state of Washington.

    (On Super Bowl Sunday, as well as for the NFC Championship game, I’d say over half the members of my church were wearing some form of Seahawks related garb, even 70 year old women. One of those older women prayed for “wisdom for the refs” during the prayers of the people.)

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  39. Sherri said on February 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Oh, and and the high today was 32 degrees, though the sun was out.

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  40. Jolene said on February 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Have seen pictures from the parade and crowd scenes posted by a FB friend, Sherri. Looked like everyone was having a great time.

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  41. Sherri said on February 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Yeah, I think they did. There were evidently even more people trying to get there, but the crowd exceeded the capacity of all means of transportation into the city: roads, trains, light-rail, buses, ferries. Geography makes transportation challenging in Seattle.

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