Zerky in Prague

Map of Czech Republic

July 10, 1967
From Prague:

Dear Zerky,

we crossed the Czech border this morning and reached Prague by late afternoon. There we managed to find a campground on the banks of the Moldau River, a few miles from Prague’s city center. Our campground has turned out to be a horrible place; no shade at all, badly overcrowded, tents and vehicles packed in so tightly we are beginning to feel like sardines in a can. Somehow we did managed to squeeze into our little Kamping Platzle, or camping space as we call them in the US. It was late afternoon, we were hot and tired, but had noticed a sign at the entrance, advertising hot showers, a major attraction when you’re not staying in hotels. The shower room was easy to find—all you have to do is look for the line. After half an hour it was my turn. Jubilantly, I stepped into the shower pit, turned on the water, and KA—WHAM!—the friggin water heater exploded. As a layer of soot settled onto my bare shoulders, one of the campground attendants rushed in to see what had happened. Even though he could not understand a word I was saying, my naked soot-covered body and the smoke billowing out of the heater told him my tragic tale. After admonishing me in Czech, he relit the heater and—KAA-WHAMMM!—an even bigger blast shook the building, nearly knocking him down. Looking bewildered, he muttered something in Czech and disappeared for good. I doubt he intended ever to go near that blankety blank heater again. So I put my dirty clothes back on my dirty back and went back to our dirty bus where I told JoAnne to forget about her shower. “You look like Al Jolson,” she told me, falling to the floor on one knee with her arms outspread and singing, “Mammy, Mammy, I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles, my Maaaam-a-haam-meee!”

—Excerpted from Letters to Zerky

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