A Modest Fundraising Proposal
Sanctions are leaving the Russian economy in tatters, and poor Mr. Putin might find it difficult to fund his indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. Granted, it's quite clear that his only desire in life is to treat sovereign nations like spaces on a Milton Bradley board game [everyone: do not explain to Putin that holding Siam locks in the two bonus armies from Australia]. It's also very clear he does not care whether his people can enjoy international sporting events, or fly beyond their borders, or participate in the global economy in any way, or buy luxury goods like, you know, food. All the same, I suspect Mr. Putin might welcome the opportunity to bring some dollars and euros into his treasury; the ruble, after all, might be a couple weeks away from hey-children-make-some-paper-dolls territory. He also really, really, really wants to stick a Russian flag (and perhaps a giant banner of his face) into Kyiv. Unfortunately for Putin, having currency more valuable than used Kleenex and occupying Kyiv would seem to be diametrically opposed goals.
I have a modest proposal.
Putin needs to put himself in the octagonal cage for a pay-per-view MMA bout. Sure, he's 70, but he's a fearsome judo master, and we all know how impressive he looks while riding a horse shirtless (ladies, amiright?). He's just 5'6, and we'll have to cavity search him to ensure he's not trying to sneak in a deadly nerve agent, but Putin's got that crazy dictator willpower, and I'd even suggest a bureaucrat for his opponent: who better to fight than the Mayor of Kyiv? The winner gets all proceeds from PPV sales and control of Kyiv. How about it, Mr. Putin? Call off the cluster and vaccuum bombs; let all those unwillingly conscripted 19-year-olds go home to their mothers. Just fight the Mayor of Kyiv, and if you win, you win the money and the city. I would happily pay $1,000 U.S. dollars to watch the fight, and I'm sure others would, too.
Speaking of which, who is the Mayor of Kyiv, exactly? Let's see... Google... Wikipedia...
Oh. Oh yeah, that'll be fine.
Let's make that PPV buy-in $2,000.
Writer, in the early hours
The morning’s gray. The kettle whistles steam
into the dullness, stillness, piercing through
another winter dawn. Unshaken dreams
still cling to me, my sight and skin, like dew.
The pages hide unfound, unwritten, out
beyond my fingers’ reach. Uncertainly,
I try to catch a scent beside the doubt
I’ve woken with and this still-steeping tea.
But when all’s said and done, that’s what I’ve got:
a foggy dream, this doubt, a morning hope
to hold alongside tea. (That line is not
a real insight: I wrote another trope.)
Stop. Breathe and smell, and sip my morning tea—
my anchor, thing that’s real. Thing to taste, see.
Snow falls into the waves. By the thousands, flakes unify with the water while I sip coffee and watch, separated from the chill by my sweater, the fire I lit upon waking, the tall pane of glass that overlooks Keuka Lake.
I dream of winter because the lake is for summers. It’s not cheap at any time of year to rent a house on a shore: if you’re spending the money, you do it when you can kayak or swim or fish, or at least read a novel in the shade of a tree without the upstate January driving you indoors. My wife and I married within sight of our lake in July 2008; since then, her parents have rented a house on Keuka for a week every summer for us to gather. Those seven days are a highlight of the year because they exist outside of man-made time, without external demands or appointment calendars. There is food; there is love; there is the water. Two million years ago, glacial ice scraped out the valleys that would fill. Since then, the lake has been. Lakes invite being.
We have a couple kayaks and a canoe in our garage where we ought to park a car. Between May and October, I’ll hoist the boats atop our vehicles, lash them down and drive fifteen minutes to the public beach, solo or with the family. We admire the various lake houses as we paddle. Our favorites are not the new constructions, whose thousands of square feet dwarf the family cottages they replaced. We prefer the homes that have been here for at least the fifteen years we have, the old favorites.
“I wish we could live in that one,” my daughter said once as our canoe glided by.
“We could have owned a lake house,” I answered. “I started college as a business major on a finance track. Fund managers make a lot more money than teachers.”
“Why did you become a teacher?” she asked.
“People in finance told me to expect 80-hour work weeks, and I knew I wanted a family. A house on a lake is no good if you don’t have time to be with your family. And I wanted to teach,” I added. “I believe in it.”
My own father passed on lucrative promotions that would have uprooted us from our home and schools; he did, genuinely, attend every baseball game and concert. I understood then, as his son. I understand as a father now, and I hope my children will, too.
Regardless, I chose my path. As I told friends at the time I changed my major, I did not want to dedicate my life to earning more money for rich people—I wanted to teach; I wanted to have a family. These were the right choices. There are good days and bad days, but I do not pine for a road not taken. My hours are meaningful and good. The road ahead has unseen twists and turns, and there may be bridges out. Accidents. I feel optimistic, though, that I can continue to glance in the rearview mirror and see a life well-lived. Be a simple kind of man, Lynyrd Skynyrd sang. Be something you love and understand.
A teacher can live securely, not luxuriously. It is still possible my wife and I could someday retire to a lake house of our own through a combination of prudence and luck, but well-lived lives do not necessarily yield dollars. I am at peace with that truth. All the same, as my kayak cuts through Keuka’s waves, I dream sometimes of occupying one of those homes for decades rather than a rented week. I dream not just of summer but winter days, of that coffee and snow on the water. I dream of watching seasons pass over the water a morning at a time so I am part of the cycle of the lake. Of being there.
Ripped jeans and a sweatshirt,
tapping the cap of the pen,
she sits, stare and paper
vacant, and you wonder what’s
behind her eyes, what plans
or dreams, concentration or
boredom she channels into
the incessant flick of her
pen, purple, as it happens—and
upright now, in rapid, pressed
motion across the page with
ink flowing thick as she
leans over creation itself and
Dear Mr. Escritor,
It is, from a certain perspective, a privilege to observe the bloom of Amorphophallus titanium, and not only because of its size. Some specimens of the plant have grown an entire decade before they are capable of producing their massive bloom: once the flowers die, another decade might pass before they return. No bees attend to its pollination needs: rather, the flower attracts carrion beetles and flesh flies. According to Wikipedia, Amorphophallus titanium, (more commonly known as the corpse flower) draws these insects through a combination of chemicals: “dimethyl trisulfide (like limburger cheese), dimethyl disulfide (garlic), trimethylamine (rotting fish), isovaleric acid (sweaty socks), benzyl alcohol (sweet floral scent), phenol (like Chloraseptic), and indole (like feces).”
We will not be publishing your manuscript.