"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?