The Associated Press reports that a Russian billionaire is coming to the rescue of a state park in Sonoma County affected by budget cuts. Viktor Vekselberg, head of Russian-based Renova Group, signed an agreement last Tuesday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to provide "substantial financial support" to keep Fort Ross open. Fort Ross was the site of a Russian settlement in the 19th century. The foregoing is all true.
(FADE IN. AN IMAGINARY BUT ENTIRELY PLAUSIBLE SCENE IN THE STATE CAPITOL.)
OLIGARCH (shuffling through state financial reports. Please supply with thick Russian accent): "Oy! These numbers look terrible. How'd you ever get in such straits?"
GOVERNOR (with stubborn Austrian accent): "Too much spedding. Not eduff rebennu."
OLIGARCH: "What you need, baby, is some free enterprise! Ever heard of that?"
GOVERNOR (exercising supreme restraint): "I think I'm fabbiliar wittit…Wot d'you s'chest?"
OLIGARCH: "A complete takeover by the private sector. Run this place like a business!" (He pounds his fist on the table for Pan-Slavic emphasis.)
GOVERNOR (joyful): "Oh, bry-vittle-zation! My fontest treem!" (He dabs away tears with his handkerchief.)
OLIGARCH: "I'll give you $30 billion for the whole shooting match."
GOVERNOR: "For the entire state park system? Led be dink about that for a middit."
OLIGARCH: "Not just the parks, tovarich. The state. You know, Hollywood. Golden Gate bridge. Bikini girls in Orange County. All the casinos in Lake Tahoe…"
GOVERNOR: "Those are in Ne-badda, my friend, ur, my droog."
OLIGARCH: "Damn! We'll have to buy that too."
GOVERNOR: "While we're drawing up the papers for the sale, pleeds tell me, just out of koodiosity, what you blan to do with Califowddia?"
OLIGARCH: "To run it oligarch way! Take out all cash and buy villa in south of France!"
GOVERNOR: "Not to upset the provebbial epple cart, bodd… there is no katch. The katch is in a kronch."
OLIGARCH: (in disbelief) "No cash?"
GOVERNOR shakes his head sadly.
OLIGARCH: (scarching his chin in deep thought.) "Well, we just have big sell off! Everybody love California! Now they can own!"
GOVERNOR (rallying) "That's right, privatize it!"
OLIGARCH: "Now you whistle Dixie! Yosemite Valley, complete with Capitan and Half Dome, yours for $500 million. For free, we throw in kit fox and bear!"
GOVERNOR (joining in) "That's right! Sell the ports of Long Beach and Oakland to the Chinese for $200 million!"
OLIGARCH: "Ah, you learn quickly! All the growing lands in San Joaquin Valley! Snow-covered Sierras! Perfect for home building! All yours for $100 million. We throw in Bakersfield and Fresno for free. These cities are easily converted to migrant farmworker housing. We pass the savings on to you, the buyer!"
GOVERNOR (caught up in the enthusiasm) "Buy the state capitol – the dome is covered in real California gold! – for $5 million, and we'll throw in the Governor's Mansion, as well. Great for parties!"
OLIGARCH: "And we'll throw in the Arnold Schwarzeneggar car collection too!"
GOVERNOR (aghast): "Not my Hubbers!"
OLIGARCH: "Yes, the Hummers too."
GOVERNOR (breaking down): "In that case, I guess there's nutting leff for bee…"
OLIGARCH: "Not true, Tovarich, no true! You are celebrity! Action hero! You can be greeter."
GOVERNOR (Astonished): "Greeter….?
OLIGARCH: "Sure, repeat after me. ‘Welcome to Sebastopol South! Formerly known as California. Hope you en-choy your stay!'"
GOVERNOR (indignant): "But I'm not doing any pictures!"
OLIGARCH: "Oh no, not for free! There is value in such things. Make big sign: Take picture with former California governor Arnold Schwartzeneggar, famous state budget tamer! Five bucks."
-Morris "Chekov" Newman