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.
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.