Prague Zombie

I’ve been writing a weekly column for the Washington Square News this semester. It’s been met with, shall we say, mixed reviews. Be that as it may, I have to say that I’m pretty fond of the one that ran yesterday. So, enjoy below the full, red-blooded uncut version of the article (but do, of course, head on over to WSN and see the published version for yourself):

NYU Prague director Jiri Pehe is kind of a political rock star. He’s worked closely with literary dreamboat and premier Czech president Vaclav Havel, lent his knowing hand to Radio Free Europe, and had the gall, the sheer, explosive libertine chutzpah to flee communist Czechoslovakia in 1981 and settle in the United States. His mug is all over Google, and for those particularly tickled by the democratic ins and outs of this former Soviet annex, Mr. Pehe is probably a household name. Scope his nearly 300-word list of accomplishments on NYU Prague’s staff bios page and you’ll see for yourself that he’s, well, a pretty important sort of fellow.

Recently, he scribed an email in response to a grave mystery that with each passing day bubbles ever closer to its boiling point, and it starts with a line that would perhaps bring a tear to those few, proud Czech dissidents who signed Charter 77 years ago to oppose communist “normalization.”

“It has been brought to my attention again,” writes Mr. Pehe, “that food items are being stolen from rooms, kitchens and refrigerators in the Machova dorm.”

Surely, this numbers high among the darkest hours Jiri Pehe would face in this, the country he fought for and loved.

The letter goes on. Machova RAs are asked to be more “vigilant” and increase their night patrols. Red notices have been plastered all over our hallways, saying things to the effect of, “lock yourself in your room or you will – you WILL – have your granola stolen, and then you will die.” And the kicker, the rotting cherry on top, is that the NYU Prague administration has actually found this to be such a tremendous problem (no doubt because of what I’m sure are innumerable complaints) that the Czech police have actually been made aware of this problem. Should the thief be caught, they will be put in front of a tribunal and then, ultimately, to death. (Also, they face immediate expulsion from NYU Prague and will get their rumps bruised further back in New York.)

Yeah, this is pretty cringe-worthy.

The saga of Machova’s missing food items has lumbered on since the final days of September. It’s attained near mythic levels in these halls, and to my knowledge, no suspect has been detained. With mere days left in the semester, I can only conclude that the bandit will remain at large, possibly to return to the United States to continue his or her reign of produce-pilfering terror. Maybe there was something to the concept of secret police, after all.

Who could it be? An assortment of faceless stoned, drunk partygoers returning from a night out with a serious case of the munchies who just happen to open the fridge and think, “hey, dude, MILK,” helping themselves while the victim sleeps peacefully unaware mere doors down, only to awake hours later in a cold sweat, realizing, crap, that they hadn’t initialed their foodstuffs in Sharpie? That’s, you know, possible. I might feel a bit of sympathy for the stunk-ass narfer who gets caught redhanded, icy doggy-bagged goulash dripping from their quivering lips, should this be the case.

Otherwise, guys, I’m mostly just embarrassed. We aren’t worthy, Mr. Pehe. We just aren’t.

A note: according to a Machova RA, the fall 09 batch of NYU students is the most destructive of the past seven years. Yahoo! High five, guys.


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