I'm in a dark smoky bar in Prague's Old Town. The room is packed with trendy Czech 20-somethings. All eyes are directed to the front of the room, to the makeshift "stage."
A gypsy woman is doing a contorted dance with what appears to be a massive boa constrictor. As folk music blares over the loudspeaker, she lies down on the floor, picks up the snake with her feet and curves her back in a 180-degree angle so the boa ends up somewhere near her head.
It's late at night, the Pilsner has been flowing steadily for four hours, and I am entranced by what I'm witnessing. At that hour everything is amazing.
My Czech friend leans over to me and half-shouts, "Steve, you have to work in Prague!" I'm inclined to agree.
The next day I wake up and think to myself, "I have to work in Prague."
So what am I going to do? I'm an unskilled expatriate whose Czech language ability is limited to dekuji (thank you) and na zdravi (cheers).
I glance down at the side of my unmade bed. Squashed between a pile of dirty underwear and a leaking shampoo bottle is a thin magazine.
I pick it up. Its name is Think and the enticing headline reads, "Sex, drugs & manuscripts." I open it up and flip through the pages.
The magazine's writing style is idiosyncratic to say the least.
One particularly memorable piece begins with the immortal phrase: "My goal was to go out and get drunk enough to ask my roommate if she would masturbate in front of me."
Not the sort of writing you'd find in Newsweek.
I notice an article on the exploits of an expat English teacher. When not getting drunk or stoned, he seems to spend the majority of his time lusting after his underage students.
He writes, "Bohumila [one of his students] is looking especially scrumptious today in a short black skirt and tight white top, her long legs on gorgeous display under her desk."
This teacher, who apparently cannot find legitimate employment at home in England, is a one-man wrecking crew moving through Eastern Europe. And writing about it. Under the approving eyes of Think Magazine.
Near the end of the article he gets a momentary fit of conscience and bemoans, "I promise myself that the next class will be planned properly, that I'll be punctual, that I won't be hungover, drunk, stoned, coming up or down, or simply tired. But I know that's bull----."
I set the magazine down and peer out the window. So that's the choice I'm faced with as an American seeking employment in Prague.
I can teach English and hang out with skirt-chasers and depraved pleasure-seekers. I can systematically corrupt the youth of the Czech Republic and blow all my money in seedy fly-by-day discos.
Or better yet, I could edit/write for Think, where I could help to lionize the antics of the degenerate few.
This is not a fair choice.
Where is my $70,000 per annum job offer? I thought my $120,000, four-year university investment was supposed to give me the freedom to pursue whatever postgraduate intellectual bend I desired.
Day after day I expectantly search the 'Prince' hoping that some unique and exciting opportunity will miraculously present itself. And without fail I am cruelly brought back to reality.
My dream job does not exist.
I will not find an ad reading, "Come to Prague. Work 15 hours/week on a 60 hours/week pay scale, freedom to pursue a project of your choice."
True, some have found their slacker nirvana through the pursuit of a postgraduate "fellowship." But that's not the same - there's a formal application process, a minimum required GPA and the need for a pre-determined year-long plan. It's not easy going outside of the box and striking on your own, even with that treasured degree from Princeton.
And so I take a final look at Think, toss it in the garbage can and grab another Pilsner.
- This article originally appeared in the Princetonian. Steven Feldstein, a columnist from Bloomington, Ind., is a politics major.