Friday, February 7, 2014

Olympic Pins!

Welcome to Sochi Winter Olympics Games!

In honor of this international meeting place of many nations, we expect visitors to make friends here in athletic manner to befit the Games. 

One of the traditions: collect as many different STDs as possible in your stay! 

Sochi Trading Decals are exchanged with goodwill throughout Olympics between many people. Every stranger you meet on the ski-lift and in your lobby has potential for a new type of STD you can pick up. Just ask! They will be sure to engage in vigorous STD swap with you. One person’s STD is another person’s treasure! 

Our robust aim is for you to leave Sochi weighted down with such a variety of odd and colorful STDs that you will amaze your friends and wives back home! Maybe you can even generously provide taste of Sochi experience by sharing your STDs with loved ones so they too can have the joy. 

Your glamorous STDs will hopefully last a lifetime. Perhaps when you travel again you will meet the one who gave you your favorite most memorable STD and tell them to reminisce on the good times. 

Sochi Trading Decals are everywhere — you cannot escape them even if you try so just do it. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Welcome to Sochi!

Welcome to your world-class professional hotel room at the Hotel Matryoshka where our motto is “You will feel like you’re in a very different world inside a world inside a world.”

You will have already noticed some of our world-class professional features including locking doors for which you will be provided with a key as soon as they become available. Here in the “Brightest Spot On The Black Sea” you will find no need of the electric light after dark as your memories of famous Russian hospitality will light your way. We recommend to our guests that they conduct all of their personal business in their hotel room when the sun shines through the window because you will be able to see. For this reason we do not provide curtains at Hotel Matryoshka in order to let you see and be seen. If you would prefer to conduct your perfectly private business in the dark you may request one of our windowless rooms of which we have many for your perusal.

What traveler needs more than a bed at the end of a busy day admiring the local sights? Answer me that.

A word of advice for our foreign guests who require toilet facilities. Please make use of the bathrooms provided at the official Olympics venues which have been made available for tourists and famous athletes, but please also wait your turn with extreme patience as many tourists and athletes also require the facilities from many hotels. Toilet paper can be purchased from any of our convenient autobus stations at the airport.

At the world-class professional Hotel Matryoshka we pride ourselves on the full range of amenities offered to selected guests such as vodka vending machine in every hallway, blankets available upon request, legal cigarettes, fire extinguishers, and gentlemen’s entertainment (ask at front desk).

While in the semi-tropical winter paradise of Sochi we hope you will avail yourself of our highest-quality ice and snow not all of which is man-made all of the time. Please feel free to send your loved ones a wi-fi postcard that says “I wish you were here with me” on the World Wide Web. Yes! The computer is here at Sochi. Internet postcards can be mailed from some of our wi-fi towers which can be found on top of the mountains where you will find yourself.

Thank you for choosing Hotel Matryoshka we beg of you to come back again soon with all of your friends and their families next year and the year after that. No regrets can be found at our venue. All credit cards taken, cash also.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Everyman

Every Saturday I look forward to seven o’clock. Seven, EST, is midnight GMT, which means that the online editions of the Sunday papers become available. There’s only one thing I’m really interested in, however: the Observer Everyman cryptic crossword. That’s the one that appears in the weekend edition of the Guardian, and it’s sufficiently difficult enough to offer a prize for those who send in completed crosswords.

If you don’t know cryptic crosswords, they will make no sense to you. The answers aren’t straight-forward the way regular crossword answers are. That is, the question does not ask a question that produces an obvious answer. Cryptic crossword questions are a refined code whereby a puzzle has to be solved in order to produce, fragment by fragment, a word which is the answer. A good cryptic clue will not only indicate to the experienced solver what the answer should be, but explain how to get there. A good clue will look absolutely impossible while doing that.

If you’ve become familiar with a certain crossword over a certain number of years, you begin to understand the setter’s particular codewords. With the Everyman, for example, certain letters or combinations of letters can be indicated by words such as left (L), church (CH), or worker (ANT). Cryptic crosswords often contain anagrams and parts of clues spelled backwards and embedded in other words. The punctuation of cryptic clues can be entirely incidental. A good crossword takes days to complete, if you can complete it at all. A bad one can be solved in a single sitting.

Most of all, though, a good cryptic clue will provide a measure of reward when solved; like a drug, knowing you got it right and conquered what was, for a while seemingly inexplicable, gives you a mental high.

Before the internet, my parents, long divorced but still friends, and living on different continents, would engage in fierce competition to see who could complete the Everyman crossword first. Although my Dad might seem to have a head start being an early riser and more likely to snag a copy of the paper in Toronto when he went out for coffee than my mother, lying in in London — he was actually five hours behind, given the time zone difference. They would compare clues on the phone, and tease or goad the other into solving clues which had eluded them.

I too, love the Everyman crossword, and not just because my parents did it. I love it for the same reason they did, though: apparently it runs in my family to find the mental stimulation last thing at night soothing. Because I live in Pittsburgh, where getting hold of a physical copy of the Observer is next to impossible, my Dad used to scan his in and email it to me. Eventually, it became available online to download. Then, my parents and I would engage in a devilish triad of one-upmanship; when speaking to my Mom, she’d prod me to give up what I knew of my Dad’s progress and vice-versa. It was our bonding exercise.

My Dad's not with us anymore, but my Mom and I still go at it every week. We may be an ocean apart, but within the world of the crossword, we sit side-by-side.