Vodka on Ice

“The trouble with this place,” United States Ambassador Holt Blankenship continued, adjusting his lapel microphone and looking into the camera, “is nothing that can’t be fixed with a wrecking ball, a good coat of paint, and a mandatory spay-and-neuter program for Cerberuses. Throw in the imprisonment of a few dozen leading mobsters, present company excepted, of course”—his audience, several hundred Rotarians who had gathered for lunch at the Seamen’s Palace of Culture for a luncheon of macaroni and pickled fish, stirred, perhaps chuckled appreciatively; it was difficult to tell watching the closed-circuit monitor from his embassy office suite, and Holt hurried on—“throw in the internal exile of a thousand-odd corrupt bureaucrats, the abolition of the Duma followed by a free and verifiable vote, transparency in budgeting, the creation of a functioning market economy, the overhaul of your banking system, and the will to do something about all those frozen dog deposits lying out there on the sidewalks and playgrounds all winter, and, hell, you’ve got the potential to create another Hong Kong here, only without the overcrowding. A little colder, maybe, but shoot, Helsinki’s cold.”

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