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  • Writer's pictureJames

Living "Authentically" in Tirana's Blloku

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

We’re on our second flat in Tirana. It’s wretched and cheap, the “sink” for the kitchen is in a closet near the room with the stove and the refrigerator. The toilet, sink, and shower have no separation. A length of garden hose runs from the washing machine halfway to the shower drain in front of the toilet. Loose 70 year old tiles give way under footsteps, rocking with an oddly satisfying clinks. The couches are ancient and uncomfortable. This is Albanian communist sheik circa 1960. The shower sometimes has pressure, sometimes has a drizzle. This ridiculous decision came about based on trying to balance out our budget after spending a little too much on a top floor penthouse last week. The furniture is authentic communist era, pretty much everything aside from a few kitchen appliances, the AC and the mattress. It is decrepit and dingy, there are 20 coats of peeling paint on the ancient table outside attached to the balcony. Several lines are strung up with multicolored clothes clips shifting in the breeze. This is the cheapest place we’ve stayed. This is the worst, and somehow, it is the best. Authenticity is living as a people really do, or at least, really did. The sticks of poorly put together wooden chairs remind me of a country isolated from the world for nearly 50 years under a mad and brutal dictator by the name of Enver Hoxa.

My heart and soul drag my mind back to the dilapidated apartments and lofts of old Detroit I would while away my 20’s convalescing under heavy sedation from the pain of being alive. The locks and doorknobs painted over innumerable times. Ancient flooring of strong wood made of proud pre colonial oak still holding the ground up around us. Incandescent bulbs lighting a more natural hue than the cfl and led bulbs of today. Having a friend drop keys out of six story window after screaming my arrival from the street. Nothing is as it was, except in my mind, and just a bit, in this small Albanian communist apartment thousands of miles away.

The "Open Air" outdoor theater in Tirana's Grand Park

It’s October and it’s warmer than I’m used to. The air takes on a little chill late at night. Tirana holds the promise of a lovely autumn. Madness continually drifts up the four stories from the streets below, the cacophony of a city still picking itself up from days long gone by. Horns and yelling, screeching tires, music blaring into the wee hours of the morning. I’ve got cheap beer, music, something to write with and a beautiful girl that loves me in the next room. I’ve a long life lived, and hopefully a long life yet to live. I have my memories of magnificent days long ago waxing nostalgic into brilliant recollections of deluded sepia ecstasy, and so many more yet to make in this wild, mad world.

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