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Tag: construction

Struggling to survive in Sochi

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Surely by now you’ve heard about all the inconveniences visiting journalists from the west are facing in Sochi — a town that in its rush to get ready for the Olympics didn’t quite get ready for the Olympics.

As a member of that breed, or at least a former journalist, I can’t help but have empathy for their plight.

They have an important job to do, and how can we expect them to do it when they are facing obstacles like hotel rooms with no Internet,  fallen drapery rods, faulty doorknobs, or tap water so discolored one journalist reported she had to resort to washing her face with Evian?

Life can be so cruel sometimes.

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Sochi’s shortcomings are being blasted all over the Internet — by journalists, by Tweeters, and by tweeting journalists.

Arriving early, and finding the amenities weren’t all they could be, journalists got the ball rolling, bellyaching about conditions and posting their complaints and photos online. Olympics guests picked up the ball, voicing their discontent; and even a few athletes — though they’re less likely than journalists to whine, or so we’d hope — have broadcast the problems they’ve encountered, including one who was forced to punch his way out of the hotel room bathroom he was locked in.

Others arrived to find that their rooms, despite being reserved and paid for, weren’t ready, or weren’t even there, forcing them to wait, bunk with someone else, or seek shelter elsewhere.

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Fortunately, no journalists (to our knowledge) were forced to sleep in stairwells or alleyways.

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Others tweeting their discontent have complained of unappealing food, and menus whose Russian to English translations are sometimes laughably off the mark, which leads us to worry whether journalists are getting the all-important nourishment they need to do their jobs.

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I’m sure there will be much inspiration ahead in the 2014 Olympics, and perhaps even a few things to love about them. For the first few days though, it has been an embarrassment — for Sochi, for Russia, for Putin, and for all those journalists who came across as spoiled Westerners, partly because they are spoiled Westerners, partly because they have the modern-day need to self-broadcast every little bump in the road they encounter.

While most reporters are there to cover the sporting side of it all, and while many have been preoccupied by their lack of creature comforts, some have gotten around to writing about what we think is probably the most shameful Olympic-related story of all. In case you haven’t yet gotten our drift, it’s what the city is doing to stray dogs.

The city of Sochi has hired a pest control company to rid the streets of dogs, another piece in its failed plan to look good for the Olympics. Capturing and killing strays, as if that’s not bad enough, seems all the more cruel when you consider that many of the dogs are homeless because of all the new construction for the Olympics, some of which sent dog-owning families into apartments where dogs aren’t allowed.

Sochi promised it wouldn’t conduct the cull, then it did. The extermination was well underway by the time the media caught on, but eventually it was reported by, among others, the Boston Globe, Radio Free Europe, and, eventually, the New York Times. It took awhile, but the public outrage is, appropriately enough, snowballing now.

When that happens, the silly and tired old question always pops up, “Does the world care more about dogs than it does humans?” That was pretty much the headline on an op-ed piece in The Guardian about Sochi’s strays this week — silly because  it implies people can’t care, get outraged and fight for both species.

But, to answer it only for myself , yes, I sometimes care more about dogs than humans, depending on the circumstances, depending on the dogs, and the humans, and depending on the hardships at issue. Yes, I care more about a dog being exterminated for no good reason than I do about a TV reporter who has temporarily lost his or her access to hair conditioner.

The inconveniences reporters, guests and athletes might face in Sochi aren’t enough to cast a pall over the entire Olympics.

What’s happening to the dogs is.

(Photos: A dog checks out a trash can across from the Olympic stadium / Twitter; a dog drinks from an icy puddle outside of Sochi / Reuters; dogs and volunteers at a makeshift shelter / The New York Times; dogs napping on the street / Twitter; a starving street dog in Sochi / Getty Images/iStockphoto )

Why drinking and bricklaying don’t mix

We don’t see either Jesus or the Virgin Mary in this — and nobody else does, either.

While strolling in downtown Winston-Salem, Ace and I came across this seeming testament to how not to lay bricks.

It’s the side of what’s known as the Pepper Building. Whatever adjoined it was torn down,  revealing this strange patchwork of bricks and mortar that apparently dates back to its construction.

We can only think of three possible explanations:

1. A bit too much bricklayer partying the night before.

2. Somebody didn’t want to haul the extra bricks back to the truck.

3. The Pepper Building sneezed.

95 for 95: More songs for the road

Since I decided nearly three months ago to get on the road again — that I was going mobile — I’ve reached a few conclusions: Life is a highway. Every day is a winding road. And, though I may not be a highway star, or king of the road, I have been runnin’ down a dream, and I think, just maybe, I can see paradise by the dashboard light.

Or is that a Waffle House?

We’ve discussed songs and the road before, and how they intertwine. Now NPR has come up with a road mix of its own — in celebration of Interstate 95 and the beginning of a $1.4 billion construction project that will fill in it’s missing link.

The nation’s most traveled Interstate, I-95 stretches nearly 2,000 miles from the top of Maine to the southern tip of Florida — but there’s a hole in it. It disappears for a few miles near the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, forcing travelers to divert onto other roads.

Now, the missing 12 miles is finally going to be built, prompting NPR’s Weekend Edition‘s to produce “I-95: The Road Most Traveled,” a series exploring the social, cultural, economic and environmental impact of the I-95 highway renovation project.

As part of that, Philadelphia’s WXPN — as part of putting together its 885 Ultimate Road Trip Songs Countdown — has put together a mix of 95 classic road songs in honor of the Interstate. The mix is available via the NPR Music iPhone app (just select “Streams” at the top of the “Rock/Pop/Folk” channel).

A few days from now, Ace and I — lacking both iPhone and app, but with our own collection of road music — will be hitting I-95, northbound, to head back for a visit to Baltimore, where we hope to rest up and contemplate the next leg of our journey, and the pros and cons of continuing it.

The cons include being weary of motel rooms, and short on funds. The pros include the people we’ve met and the places we’ve seen, and that, even if we do sometimes wake up not being sure what town we’re in, we get to spend virtually all of our time together.

Which is good, because, as you might know, we’ve got a thing that’s called radar love.

Overlooked: Scenic but deadly Glen Canyon

It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.

Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.

The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.

And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.

As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.

The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.

Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.

Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.

Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.

It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.

But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.

Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.

Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.

He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.

Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.

No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.” 

It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.

“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.

On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.

Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)

Locust Point dog park group meets tonight

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If you’re wondering when the Locust Point Dog Park is finally going to become a reality, there’s a chance to find out the latest tonight at a meeting tonight of dog park supporters.

It starts at 7 p.m. at City Limits, 1700 E. Fort Ave.

The dog park committee will be discussing plans for the Locust Point Festival (Saturday, September 26) and sharing the latest information from the city about when the park will open.

Original projections called for the dog area at Latrobe Park to open this summer.

The project was initially being handled by the citizens group, but the city offered to take it over and make it the first city-funded dog park. Since then, construction has begun, but judging from my drive-bys, hasn’t progressed too speedily. While the city is paying for construction, the citizen’s group will be responsible for maintenance.

Miami-Dade: a dozen dog parks and growing

Everything, of course, is relative, but, compared to almost any other major city, it’s clear Baltimore — with one small dog park and another on the way– has a severe dearth of dog parks.

Today’s case in point: Miami-Dade County.

For a while, there were only three — Flamingo Park and a pair of parks in Coconut Grove. But in just the past few years, more fenced areas for dogs have popped up in Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and Hialeah, bringing the number of dog parks in cities around Miami-Dade to more than a dozen, the Miami Herald notes.

In Palmetto Bay, after a push by residents, the village responded in 2007, converting the almost three-acre Perrine Wayside Park into a dogs-only zone. The park has a walking path, waste bag stations, pet water fountains and dog washing stations. Dogs can frolic alongside the ducks in the middle of the park’s picturesque lake.

Aventura residents got their own dog park last summer. And Sunny Isles Beach opened “The Bone Zone” at Sen. Gwen Margolis Park last May. Homestead has a “bark park” under construction and Doral is also considering creating a dog park.

Miami Beach, meanwhile, has four do parks and is considering a fifth at the newly renovated South Pointe Park. The city is also weighing whether to create a dog beach.

Numbers like that are enough to make a dog owner in Baltimore — which has one small dog park in the city, another in the county — drool.

It makes you wonder what Miami-Dade has that we don’t — other than more sunshine and money — whether it’s a matter of the people pushing harder, or having fewer bureaucratic obstacles thrown in front of them. Why do some cities spawn dog parks like bunnies, while others move at a tortoise’s pace?

Your thoughts are appreciated.

(Photo: Perrine Wayside Park, a three-acre dog park in Palmetto Bay, Florida, from dogparkmiami.com)