This One Time In Russia

IMG_5516 All this talk of the Sochi Olympics has reminded me that, in fact, I have been to Russia. To Sochi! I used to travel tremendously for work. This was before I built/ran an indoor skatepark, when I owned one less house and supervised one less dog than I do today. I went there with a film crew making a movie about snowboarding. My job was to write about that.

The surprising thing was how non-cliche all the cliched parts were. People do shuffle about in large furry hats because it's deeply, authentically cold there. Vodka is preferred over beer, as it warms your throat and heart. The culture of bribery and corruption runs as deep as you can imagine—but also on the day-to-day surface. And it's all very, very Russian.

Now, this was way back in 2005, so I don't remember much. Just snippets really. How high the mountains were. How much we hiked, post-holing through the deepest snow. How hungry we got. How at dinnertime all we could ever smell anywhere was onions browning in pans. The bribes we paid. The cabbage-based food we ate. How obviously, tragically American we looked at all times, in all situations.

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This was way before Russia was the 2014 Olympic venue—and before a lot of other stuff, too. You have to come to your own conclusions. But me? I don't think I'm gonna watch the Games—not beamed from a country who's leadership would deem my sister's family at best illegal and at worst "a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse."