P O S T E D B Y A L B E R T
I met the Countess Apraxina at a reception hosted by the Tolstoi Foundation and we hit it off instantly, partly because I was born to trade bons mots with European aristocracy. The Countess is an unusual woman. Her parents were in their nonage when the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, after being soaked in acid and burned, were disposed of down a mineshaft. These terrible events, recounted often by her father at the dinner table, made an indelible impression on the young Countess’s mind. “They’re what persuaded me to go into public relations,” the Countess confided to me after her sixth Champagne Martini.
Concerned about the number of nonprofit executive directors who are burning out and leaving their jobs, I asked the Countess if, in her professional opinion, there was something we could do to make charitable work more exciting, more appealing to people inside and outside the field. I just heard back from her today:
My Dearest Alyosha—
I have done research, and I think I can fix public image of nonprofits and foundations for little less than $40 million. I have attached budget. Naturally it excludes my per diem expenses.
I went to philanthropy conference. I saw people sitting in cold rooms, half dead from narcosis, drooling into laps. So few men! Women everywhere, wearing beiges, blacks, and tans … It was sad, very sad. Nonprofit conference the same, except with more young people wearing sensible shoes. Very dull, like when Uncle Sergei assailed me with entire history of Turkic peoples.
First, I want André to do your colors. Which reminds me, my dearest Alyosha, that our mutual friend Mark R. has shown me two photographs of you wearing the same orange shirt. Orange doesn’t suit you, my dearest, it’s vulgar, color for children and prostitutes, not distinguished grey-beard like you.
So yes, André will do your colors because you all dress like undertakers. And I will ask Tony Proscio to change way you speak. Have you noticed, little zaychik, that you bore paint off walls? “Convenings,” “learnings,” “empowerment”—what is this? Emigré that I am, I have little trouble reading Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I can’t understand one word of what you and your colleagues say. Such a shame!
For first publicity stunt, I think I will stage high speed car chase through lower Manhattan, with possibly some kind of brawl near Stock Exchange. I will ask Nikolai about this.
I know you are thinking, ‘Such a brilliant woman, this Countess. Truly there is no substitute for good breeding!’ Of course I agree with you completely.
The car chase is perfect, I think, because it will take people’s minds off your petty larcenies. To add little spice, I thought you might encourage nonprofit colleagues to trash hotel rooms when they attend dismal conferences. Perhaps small disagreements in boardrooms can escalate into shootouts between—what is word?—pistol-packing trustees. And is it at all possible to have one of your program officers arrested in Las Vegas for cheating at Roulette? Please let me know at your earliest convenience.
Your sector needs more excitement, Alyosha, more young people, more drama. Fortunately, I believe I can work with Steve Gunderson. Very handsome. I think for next conference I put him in cowboy boots and gold Speedos.
Remember, these are just sketches, Alyosha, try to see big picture …