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At-Risk Teens

They need to do some yachting.

Paul was doing his taxes, filling out forms on a computer. He is boring company lately. I need to find another place to sleep.

“How is it?” I asked, looking up from his copy of The Story of the Eye.

“Could be worse. Ah!” He put out his tongue and furrowed his eyebrows. “I put down last year's estimated against this year's estimated. But I only paid estimated once, I think. Which costs me...argh. You see that stack of papers?” It was 5 full feet high, in three stacked boxes, and many-colored. “I have to go through that.”

“Did you put your $300 George Bush tax refund in there, too?”

“Crap. I forgot that. I wonder if I have to pay on it.” He clicked something, then turned to me. “You know, that thing totally stimulated the economy. George Bush was completely right. I hope we have more tax cuts that stimulate the economy even more, really soon.”

“That's a lot of stimulation. I don't know if the economy could take it.”

“I would like to see the economy overstimulated, right about now.”

“I was thinking, when I get my earned income credit, unless they take it away because I'm such a lucky ducky, I'm going to buy a book. Or maybe a drink.”

“Round-the-world sailing trip?”

“Or I could climb a mountain, or open a bakery. Or anything. I've been thinking about this. All I have to do, if I want to do flagrant, self-indulgent things, is involve at-risk teens.”

Paul looked at me like an uncomprehending mule. I went on, “Like yachting to Australia. It's something that would normally seem like an irresponsible rich-man's holiday. But if you get a bunch of kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn, it's an enlightened journey of self-discovery. Who cares whether it's what they need? It teaches them self reliance. 'But I want to go to college!'”

“Shut up and hoist the sail, Hector!” said Paul.

“Exactly. Remember that incredible cretin who built the smart yacht?”

“The Hyperion! By James Clark! It ran on money.”

“Yeah. Just millions of dollars for a toy for a spoiled pretentious jackass competing with Bill Gates, right? But if you somehow had involved at-risk kids, had them building the boat, or steering it, or just used them as fuel, it would be okay.”

“I had lunch at the New York Yacht Club a few months ago,” said Paul.

“How was that?”

“Kind of cool. Suit and tie thing. It's right by the Harvard Club, which tells you. They had all these toy boats upstairs. I had crab cakes.” He thought for a moment. “I can't really knock rich people who like to sail. I would love to sail. If I was rich I'd invite some at-risk kids over, we'd get in my sailboat, and I'd go out under the Brooklyn Bridge. My grandfather, he bought this model of--this is terrible, I can't remember the name of the boat, but a famous old sailboat, the Edmund F. Scott or whatever, and it had a full rigging, it was gorgeous, all burnished wood. My grandmother still has it.”

“Did your grandfather work with at-risk youth?”

“Obviously he worked with model youth,” said Paul. “And with me. I was pretty at-risk, I think.”

“Can't win them all,” I said. “I'm sure he tried.”

.  .  .  .  .  

This piece was sponsored by Dean Kuwata, who helps Ftrain more than anyone. When my transformation training is complete, I will take the form of a 35-inch-tall six-legged elephant and walk three steps before Dean Kuwata at all times, spraying rose petals through my trunk, so that his path may be beautifully scented. (Also sponsored by Dean: The Wanderer & Personal.)


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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