Stream of Smogginess

Bits and pieces from a walk downtown yesterday. 

Dragodan Steps are becoming a “Folly.” The pedestrian hand wave works on drivers here, thank goodness. Green man doesn’t necessarily mean safe crossing though. Cleo’s has gluwein! Massive conical tree-shaped ornaments are apparently a New Year’s thing rather than Christmas. They are decorated by enormous and tacky golden bows and shiny red balls. Even Vita milk has a decorative archway. Most people are wearing various shades of black coats and pants, then very dark gray, an occasional red. I stick out in my green one. Nene Tereza trees are coated in strands of lights. Beautiful women everywhere. Roasted chestnuts smell good. A small boy beats a drum and sings traditional Albanian music, hoping for a coin. A rocking, mumbling beggar does the same. 

The glass shop doesn’t have my order, but in ten minutes I have a circle glass top for our antique drum regardless. The man missing a tooth has practiced hands, and the glass crackles and parts with pressure from his calloused thumbs.  He polishes the sharp edges with sandpaper and Emory cloth, and I have for what I sought. 

There is a skate park on my way back, I’ve never seen it used. The Assembly building looks like a modern art piece, it’s shiny exterior broken and smashed in places by paint cans that protesters threw, and which exploded, painting their points of impact with an angry red penumbra. Police check the vehicles and people entering the grounds. 

The prefab Christmas Market stands at Skenderbaugh Square are being disassembled and loaded on a truck. It is a stark contrast to the austere statue of Skenderbeg and the strikers’ tent. 

Even more beautiful women. Some children, bundled against the cold, run and play on the boulevard. The stands at the other end of the walkway remain, some of them open and selling wares or food. The little panhandling girl in the hijab is there, a regular fixture. A cross-looking man without a full stand has a few sparse items for sale at a table. Other vendors with tables have books. A group of jovial men stand around a barrel-shaped table with drinks and warm food. “Happy Holidays From Pristina” is emblazoned on some cards. I start back. 

Cars are parked on the sidewalk, so I have to walk in the street, compounding the difficulty for other cars to drive. The taxi drivers at the stand on Fehmi Agani rattle in conversation, and so do their diesel engines. A passing delivery scooter holds a helmeted driver and a helmetless passenger who takes a drag on a cigarette.  A woman catching up to me from behind speaks loudly into her mobile in a language I don’t recognize, interspersed with some English phrases. 

The rotisserie chicken place has birds aplenty, and they are tempting, but I have Turkey Thai soup from Thanksgiving. The steps test me, but I master them, navigating around the crumbling ones, pulling myself up with the tarnished and rusty railing.  I slowly ascend past the soupy smog.

The scalloped cobbles of Dragodan remind me of Europe proper. The unrepaired cracks in the road remind me that I’m here.