Monday, June 06, 2005

Club Gulag

"Gulag" is a hot word these days. Conversation is abuzz with the term after Amnesty International tossed whatever credibility it had left into the toilet and contemptuously labeled the detainee facility in Guantanamo Bay as a "gulag." Skip over the idiocy of equating forced labor camps where untold millions were murdered by Soviet dictators with a military prison where guards are instructed no to say things that might offend their prisoners' feelings. After all, what is a Best Buy store if not a mini-Auschwitz? Both have stoves and people in uniforms.

I'll leave the intelligent discussion of this example of unchecked stupidity to those better qualified to control themselves and concentrate on more inane matters, such as this article appearing in The New York Times. (Where else?)

"My dream is to build a gulag," the mayor, Igor L. Shpektor, declared the other day in an outburst that stung like the bitter chill of late May in a place whose history is inseparable from the Soviet Union's notorious system of penal labor.

He meant a gulag for tourists. "Extreme tourism," he explained.

Then he spun an improbable vision of hard times and hard bunks, where tourists could eat turnip gruel and sleep in wooden barracks in a faux camp surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers, patrolled by soldiers and dogs.

"Americans can stay here," he went on. "We will give them a chance to escape. The guards will shoot them" - with paint balls, naturally, not bullets.

Oh. Thanks for clearing that last part up, Igor. But it sorts of takes some of the authenticity out of the vacation experience doesn't it? Makes it more like spending a weekend at the in-laws.

But the story got me thinking about vacations...bad vacations. Camping with whining kids in the rain and an hysterical wife cause there's snakes in the tent kind of bad vacations. Being on board a beautiful sailing yacht with three of your best friends and their three wives, two of whom learn to depsise each other within 20 minutes of leaving port...for a two week cruise. You get the idea.

What's your story?


Pile On® said...

I wonder if everything is all included or would one have to pay for whippings and drinks seperately?

Jehane said...

I'm sorry, I had a big con call. I guess KJ tried it and it didn't work out so well. I'll set it up on my blogger site after work and pass along the instructions:

Here's the FAQ on Haloscan trackbacks:

All you have to do is register with Haloscan here:

And they'll tell you how to do the rest. I've never done it before, so I can't be more specific, but if you have any trouble, let me know and I'll install it on my blogger site and let you know how I did it. It shouldn't take me very long, but you'll have to wait until after work.

Jehane said...

I left this at KJ's place too.

Ok, I got it working on my blogger site.

You can either give me a sign-in and I can edit your template for you, then you can just change your login after I'm finished so I can't access your blog once I'm done (that would be easiest) or I can type out some instructions and you can tell me where to send them. It's too involved for a comment.

Your choice.

I'm not 100% sure I won't lose your comments - I think that happened to Pile. I didn't separate out the comment function from the Trackback function. If you want me to do that it will take longer.

spd rdr said...

You' that...forme???

Jehane said...

I never said I was smart.

Unfortunately I have to be able to edit the HTML in your template directly and that requires login access - posting access won't cut it or I wouldn't have asked. Or, as I said, I can send instructions to an address of your choosing and you can do the editing yourself. Or I suppose if you're not comfortable with that, maybe you can paste the HTML into a Notepad document and send it to me and I can edit it and send it back and you can paste it over your template. That's a more conservative option that wouldn't involve granting me access and hopefully shouldn't be too error-prone, as long as you're careful save a copy of your template before pasting over it, so you can restore it. So that's another option.

I already set up an account for you but would have to change the USERID and didn't want to give them one of your email addresses without your permission, so I gave them mine.

Anyway, this is getting way too long and involved.

spd rdr said...

My hair hurts.
Maybe I'll go back to carrier pigeons.

portia said...

Mine too. No offense, Cass, but that was like a visit to the HTML Gulag:)

portia said...

OK, I'll bite:

Tortola, November 1998. After an unending stretch of billable hours, and too many missed couplings, we booked ourselves on a trip to the tiny unplugged-island of Tortola in the BVI. No TV, no internet--heck, no phones--no newspapers, just beach, bikinis, Ban de-Soleil and booze. We flew early one morning by puddle-jumper from Puerto Rico with nary a care, discarding our clothes, shoes and the faraway rumblings of Hurricane Mitch that was heading for Central America as the plane meandered its way to the brief yawn Tortola called a runway. That first afternoon on Tortola, we swam, snorkeled, took the ferry/delivery boat aptly named "Whenever" to the even tinier barefoot island of Jost Van Dyke: home to pirates, buried treasure and the famous Pusser's Painkillers We couldn't have asked for a more spectacular first day. We found our heaven. Our mistake: We thought heaven lasted more than a day. That night, the first fury of Mitch's punch arrived. Our romantic, beachfront cabana--on stilts in Long Neck Bay-- creaked, heaved and listed across the pounding waves through the night. It withstood the assault barely. The next morning, seasick and battered, we were evacuated--Thanks, Mon-- and moved to a cabin up in the hills, which coincidentally, came with a family of goats--yes Spd, goats--living and nee-hawing under the front porch. No matter...what's a few goats when we were no longer at the water's mercy. The downpour continued- without pause for did the goats. (Who knew they were so noisy?) Oh Lord, a goat to the rain Gods in excahnge for the beloved (dry) mystery piles on my desk. By the 4th day-- our serene sailing trip to the atolls cancelled--we evacuated ourselves because of the now flowing mud slides raging past our front door, ah... make that, windows, and moved to a hotel in town (sans the family of goats who weren't happy to see us leave with the stash of their new-found rum nectar.) There we stayed waiting for Mitch to move his god d*mn tail out to some other sea, watching the constant downpour, drinking, reading books, reading each other's books, drinking, reading each other's book backwards, drinking, waiting impatiently for the daily incoming fax from Puerto Rico with the day's weather forecast--remember there was no TV-- arguing, laughing, whining, drinking some more, playing strip poker--playing strip Scrabble, playin strip Monoploy-- until it became too treacherous for either of us to get totally naked because the mosquitos who had descended on the islands to feast on pasty New Yorkers were now the size of crickets and seemingly impervious to the bug repellant spray we took to wetting each other with hourly. By the 5th day, Mitch was still flapping his seemingly unflappable tail over the islands without pause, and we caved...we raised our mosquito nets in a sign of surrender and booked ourselves out of paradise, and into the casinos of the "very plugged in" San Juan, where for the next two days the sun still didn't shine but we didn't care...who needed the sun when we were on a winning streak at the crap table, and the mosquitos, well...the mosquitos weren't welcome in the casinos, nor were the goats. So much for our unplugged moment.

Maybe someday we'll get back there, maybe someday one day we'll sail to Anegada but not during Hurricane season...not unless one of brings some new board games.

spd rdr said...

Great write, kid.
It goes up on top.