Boy, did you see the mini-travelogue about Russia before the Olympic opening ceremony Friday? It was awesome, majestic and a totally different view than the recent stories about bad plumbing and shabby accommodations in Sochi.
I have a third perspective and it's a question that lingers based on my own experiences there and those of Russian friends. The question is simply, why does a historic nation, like Russia, with all its scientific, academic and artistic accomplishments, have such a difficult time with the simple things in life? Joe Adamov, a Russian broadcaster with years on radio Moscow, visited me once in Phoenix and went to Biltmore Fashion Park to buy a necktie.
He came out of the shop perplexed, saying, "There were dozens of choices of ties in there, and only one clerk. In Russia, we'd have a dozen salespeople, but just one tie." He once told me that Americans complain if it takes a house painter more than a day to finish the whole job. In Moscow, they wait three months for 10 painters to do an apartment badly.
Even with a czar like Putin, life doesn't operate easily. Subways are like art galleries, but I couldn't find a cab. I was told to just flag down a car -- one would stop -- but I shouldn't take it if it was the Russian mafia. What?
Churchill called Russia an enigma wrapped in a mystery. True. But we must never forget how good the vodka is!
I'm Pat McMahon.