A cloudy morning

A sagging sky,
It’s so ugly, it’s beautiful.

I was happy once
Ah, to be young and in love…

A dreary wet morning,
Tea alone on a lounge chair

A thunderstorm last night
An open window, a thunderstrike

So loud, so near, so terrible!
That it’s beautiful

The windows left open
Rainwater gushes in.

Ah, to be young and in love…
O what beautiful dark days of youth.

I was happy once,
I was sad at once

This? What is this?
A sagging sky, so dark, so ugly,

That it’s beautiful?
This is nothing!

Lonely. I must write!
The End

Nje Mengjes me Re (Albanian)

Një qiell i varur,
Është aq i shëmtuar, sa është i bukur.

Një herë isha i lumtur
Ah, të jesh i ri dhe ne dashuri

Një mëngjes i zymtë i lagësht,
Pi caj jashte, i vetëm në një karrike të varur

Një stuhi mbrëmë
Një dritare e hapur, një bubullimë

Kaq me zë të lartë, kaq afër, kaq e tmerrshme!
Se është e bukur.

Dritaret u lanë të hapura
Uji i shiut derdhet brenda.

Ah, të jesh i ri dhe i dashuruar
Ditë të bukura të errëta.

Një herë isha i lumtur,
Dhe ne te njejten here i merzitur.

Kjo? Çfarë është kjo?
Një qiell i varur, aq i errët, aq i shëmtuar,

Sa eshte i bukur?
Kjo nuk është asgjë!

I vetmuar. Duhet të shkruaj!

Motivational Quotes 5/20/22

We are all characters in God’s play.

Courage is not eliminating fear. Courage is not letting fear eliminate hope. – Grace, child cancer patient

When we aren’t willing to take a risk, we never start in the first place. -Mallory Weggemann

Memory is the sign of life. If we did not have memories could we prove we had ever lived?

I remember, therefore I am.

The universe has a way of pairing up people who belong together.

Most people, you’ll never meet; do good unto those you are with.

The old days always are good, even if at the time, they were bad

Luck suits the person and the personality.

Luck goes after its own kind. The good adds itself onto the good. The bad adds itself upon the bad.

Albania: Brave Old World

Recently I’ve been rereading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This book was a high school favorite of mine for the reason that it discusses forced conformity and brainwashing, two things that I faced and that I think every young person is faced with to some degree from his peers and false friends. Here I am, all these years later, relating to this story now for the opposite reason; Now instead of being faced with brainwashing, in order to arrive at “stability,” I have essentially arrived at the perfect point of stability, and I didn’t have to sell my soul it! It just came about naturally. How? With age, of course! Time heals all wounds, and time cools all heads. The only problem is that the adult mind is too stable, and not exciting like the spirit of youth. Regardless, although life doesn’t have the thrills of youth, it does have more peace. Yet age brings physical health problems, which make this stage of life harder, but I can’t blame that on a conformist society that tries to brainwash its members.

Now let us move on to the Albania blog. Let us pose this question: Can one draw an analogy between the US and Albania, where the US represents the Brave New World and Albania represents the Indian reservation? Certainly we can. Here is the comparison. Like the Brave New World, the US is a more perfect society: quiet, clean, law-abiding, and orderly. By comparison Albania is more “savage”: messy, noisy, hectic, unpleasant, disorderly, and chaotic.

In the US, to quote Huxley, “there isn’t any need for a civilized man to bear anything that’s seriously unpleasant.” If true, this certainly draws people to come here. But by the same token, the US is a much less soulful country than Albania. Stability gets rid of soul. A messy country is full of soul.

“My dear friend, civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism,” says the Controller, dismissing the good qualities born of strife.

“But tears are necessary,” says the savage. You’ll get plenty of tears in Albania, if not literal, proverbial. Life there is more of a rollercoaster ride than the US. One has to endure a dizzy array of “flies and mosquitoes”; where it be open sewers, fellow passengers breathing down your neck in a city bus, or drivers who feel pedestrians get the right of way only if they earn it.

“Charming! But in civilized countries,” says the Controller…there aren’t any flies or mosquitoes to sting you. We got rid of them.” In America, everything is spic and span, or if not spic there is general standard: the busses are empty, the sewers are lidded, and pedestrians always get the right of way. But by the same token America somehow got rid of the pedestrians!

“You got rid of them. Yes that’s just like you,” says the Savage, “Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it.” By getting rid of the inconveniences, we reduce our own ability to cope/fight/and grow from difficulty. In Albania there are plenty of unpleasantries to fight and grow from. Yet, by the same token, life there is more uncomfortable.

“What you need is something with tears, for a change,” the Savage goes on, “Nothing costs enough here.” True, this makes us ask: Have we gone too far? Is America too quiet, too comfortable, too peaceful, too perfect? Yet, there are parts within America that are anything but “nice and clean.” i.e. the inner cities.

“I like the inconveniences,” says the savage, preferring an imperfect society, perhaps one like Albania.

“We don’t,” says the Controller, “We prefer to do things comfortably.” He prefers America.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” says the Savage. He wants to live life to the fullest.

The battle of the two societies mentioned above can also be framed as the battle of the society of peace versus the society of excitement. The Controller of the Brave New World prefers peace. The Savage of the Old World prefers excitement. America is the society of peace. Albania is the society of excitement. The society of peace is sophisticated and perfect. The society of excitement is unrefined. The epitome of peace, cleanliness and order, is the suburb, coveted by all well-to-do Americans as the ideal dwelling place. Meanwhile, the downtowns of cities are anything but peaceful, and this is why Americans, who crave peace and quiet, avoid them. Albanians crave noise! The culture is one where people covet living in the big city. The closer to the action the better. Tirana, Albania’s capital, is a buzzing beehive! I have been to Chicago, New York, Miami, and none of them are as energetic as Tirana. At the same time American architecture is massive and unmatched in size and scope by Albania or even Europe. Conversely, there are parts of Albania which are peaceful; villages. Unlike suburbs, they are very small, just a handful of houses, and are out not part of a city, but rather are out in the fields. They may have farmland nearby and even farm animals.

Motivational Quotes 12/10/21

The best version of yourself is the happy one.

You have no choice in choosing yourself, which is the most important choice you’ll ever make.

Somewhere deep inside there is a real me! -The Offspring

It doesn’t matter what the truth is; it only matters what we think the truth is!

Speak of anybody, and he will appear

Ignorance is bold. Knowledge is hesitant -popular

Opportunities find you when you are not ready; when you are, they are long past.

In life, we all go through the same things, just not at the same time.

Chance encounters must fit the bill of time and place; love can only find you when you’re already in heaven, hate can only find you when you’re already down and out.

To love the world is to be happy; he who loves the world and everything in it is found. He who hates it is lost.

Albania: the big news

It’s funny how two different people can perceive the same exact news in a completely different way. When my family received the big news that we were moving to America my brother cheered and jumped for joy. I, on the other hand, was indifferent. He was excited. I did not know what to think or what to feel or what this meant. Perhaps, I was too young to know or to have a clear reaction, yet my brother was not much older than I, and he had a definite reaction.

I wonder if something about my fate in America might have been foreseen in that reaction, or at least something about my character. Maybe I was not happy because I knew this was not necessarily good news. Maybe I foresaw hardship and difficulties. But can a kid of nine foresee the hardships of immigration? I did not reject the news deep down or outwardly. I did not have a deep negative premonition, which even kids can have. I was not necessarily unhappy, but I was not excited and certainly not exuberant. Looking back, I am inclined to believe I wanted to stay put. I had nothing against America, but I was “happy enough” in Albania. I had my school, my neighborhood, my grandparents. So why mess with a good thing?

            Truth be told, as I remember it, we as a family had a good life, though we were living in what was supposedly a bad country. Sure, by the late eighties goods and services were lacking. But society had some sense of harmony. People in Albania were nicer back in those days. I am not defending Communism categorically. There was a dark side: no freedom of speech, persecution, imprisonment, and economic subsistence. I am just sharing my experience. In my opinion, my life in Albania up until age 9 in 1992 was very good, as good as the life of any child. It could have been no better in America. Why go through all the trouble of moving… to the other side of the world! My brother meanwhile felt quite differently. He stopped going to school as soon as he heard the big news. I went to school to the last day! His impression of America was no greater than mine. We had both heard of the Chicago Bulls, Madonna’s songs, and Michael Jackson. And the rumors that America was the greatest land on Earth; we were bombarded by those. I suppose these things had an effect on my brother. I was not moved; not enough to move!

For the past year, I had seen the same scenes as everybody else. I saw poor grandma get up at six to wait in line for our daily bread, literally. I saw the trees in our neighborhood being chopped for firewood; wonderful olive trees mind you. I saw  I saw our school vandalized, broken windows and clipped hanging lamps. I saw the common power and water outages. I saw a mad swarm of people board a cargo ship and set sail for Italy. I saw a wild gypsy woman rob a poor teacher of her foreign aid box in front our school in broad daylight. But did these things alarm me? No, not at all. Did they alarm my brother? No, not at all. It was not the miserable conditions he wanted to escape. It was the wonderful picture of America he wanted to become a part of. Hey, can I blame him. The way America is shown on TV, who doesn’t want to move here! Yet, I instinctively was not excited to be leaving my home, the only home I had ever known; this must mean something about my character, I suppose. My unsure, unenthusiastic reaction proves to me that even at such a young age, only nine, I was an Albanian at heart. Certainly, of the two of us I am the more Albanian spirited. Bro makes fun of me for being so, “Come on, are you still writing on Albania? Enough man!”

I do not regret immigrating to America. America has been good to my family. That is not to say life has been easy here. Far from it; life has been hard. Yet, I am wise enough to know that immigration comes with a heavy price. You don’t fit in at school; foreignness is a stain on your biography, to use a communist phrase. Serious bullying, less friends to pick from, and even the friends who do accept you, you do not fit in with. Your parents are demoted in their careers and money is tight for the first years. Dad eventually picked himself up, and carved out an academic career, but he had to work far from home for fifteen years. However, who’s to say life would have been easier in Albania? Life is hard everywhere on Earth. Though I am reminded of a saying from Lassie: “Face up to trouble boy! The trouble you run away from is nothing compared to the trouble into.” Aren’t all immigrants people would don’t face up to trouble? Aren’t they all runaways? Don’t they all run into trouble that is much worse than the trouble they left behind? I cannot answer these questions. But I have been in hard situations before where flight is the only way to survive. Perhaps this is the thinking of the immigrant: Flight is the only means of survival.

Photo: the actual apartment building I grew up in. Wow!

Albania: The Readjustment Period

Hello friends, here I sit in my room all these years later. It is now a long time since my trip to Albania in 2014. And yet, believe it or not I have found an old journal with some of my thoughts fresh after that trip that reveal what frame of mind I was in after I got back.

5 3 2014

Back in America. You know there’s no place like home; not America, just your life, your apartment, your bed, your TV, your coffee shops, your room, your car. The life of a guest is no match for your own home.

I was happy to be back and enjoyed many advantages, or creature comforts, as this entry shows.

If you will recall I ended series one by saying, my boring old life in America no longer felt bleak, for now I knew this: America was home. It had a happy ending for every good story must end happily. But that is not the full story. Now that we continue, I can reveal to you although readjusting to the States was easier than after my visit to Albania in 2012, it was still hard. Let me share with you another old journal entry.


What a horrible day. Motivation zero. Exhausted. Miss Albania. Depressed. Why did I come back here? I don’t know what to do with my life. The only happiness I had was going to Albania. Now I’ve lost that, I’ve got nothing to shoot for. I have no purpose, nor any goals, no luck. I am stuck!

As this entry shows readjusting back home was no easy feat. We could argue life is not easy anywhere, but this readjustment period was especially hard.

Moreover, I did suffer some lingering aftereffects of the trip. I was, how to put it, culturally confused. One symptom I felt was a rude coldness. This negative feeling, I know I picked up in Albania, for it was not the normal me. I do remember a few instances where it came to play. Once I went to the gym and I gave this unfriendly vibe to this one girl, with whom I had previously been on warms terms with. We worked out near each other. We knew each other. Well, when she saw me, that I no longer cared for our warm neighborly relations, I read on her face, she was put off by it. I admit I had a bad attitude and I did not even want to improve it. We cannot easily alter our behavior even when we see it go bad. This also happened once or twice in public places where I gave off the same cold vibe. And I must blame Albania! I’m sorry to say, but I felt that the culture there, particularly in the big city, was cold and unfriendly. So, Albania gave me affected me negatively, but I overcame this influence gradually.

Another strange idea I picked up there was walking. I always walked around Tirana, and rode the bus too. So I thought I’ll bring that culture here. One day I decided to walk to my local coffee shop. It took me 30 minutes! Gimme a break! Nobody walks in the suburbs. Distances are way too long. What was I thinking! I was the only one on the sidewalk. Another time I deliberately parked my car far away, not in the lot but in a neighborhood alley, and walked 15 minutes to Starbucks. Again, what was I thinking? Was I trying to reinvent the wheel? Then when my wits returned, I realized something that I probably had known all along, that walking in the US is futile, and gave it up altogether. It is true what they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Likewise, when in the US, never walk!

I did go back to my local coffee shop here where the elegant brunette worked. But no, I never asked her out. I was resigned to my fate as a luckless loner. She always avoided my glance, even though she knew I liked her. There was no breaking through to this girl. Unless she was working the cash register, she would never look at you. But she was cute.

It was not an easy time to be alive. But eventually I did readjust to America. Most of all I felt that whatever problems I had were not caused by living in America. They were just caused by my particular life, the unique challenges that I faced at that time.

Albania: Series II introduction

Friends, here I am. It is now Summer 2021, I have recently completed series I of my blog Curiosities from Albania. What a fun time I had. I did not realize it would be so much fun. I was hesitant to begin but once I got going I got thirsty to learn more and more about my country, to write more and more about it, and to share my experience there on my last trip. Recalling those memories connected me to my roots, to my relatives, and it was a very worthy affair. It gave meaning to my days.

But now I would like to begin a new series; on Albania, of course. However I have a problem. I don’t have any additional trips to Albania that I can write about. My final trip there was in 2014. Typically I visit every four years. My next trip ought to have come in 2018. However owing to poor health I have been unable to travel. I’ve been struck down in my prime! Chronic fatigue syndrome. Not only does it prevent me from visiting Albania, if affects me in my daily life. Yet despite aches, pains, and debilitating fatigue, my spirit soars when I think of Albania! Just like eagles of Scanderbeg which mark the center of my world!

I wish I was half as strong as Scanderbeg. He was known for prodigious physical strength and a great military mind. I don’t know when or if I will improve enough for travel. I may never set foot in Albania again for as long as I live. It doesn’t bother me. I have come to terms with it. But this means this new series will be primarily historical and memorial, since I have no fresh experiences to write about.

Although I have not been able to visit my dear country, Albania, I find nevertheless that in writing about it I get closer to it. I think people have an innate desire to learn about their home; they are fundamentally attracted to their roots, some of us more than others. I am one of those people who is indeed very drawn to home, to the place of his birth. I have an older brother who doesn’t much care about Albania. He is the opposite of me. He is happy here in the US, doing his job, raising his family, and never thinks of his roots. But I am one of those people who roots deeply, as they say. So with that being said, I look forward to a new blog series on Albania. I look forward to learning more and more about my homeland, and to sharing it with you here.

Motivational Quotes 8/7/20

It is always a writer’s duty to make the world better -Ben Johnson

desire not more than what is meant for you

You can never enjoy pleasure because it’s always accompanied by pressure

Excessive good luck is not a gift but a loan to be exacted for in the end with excessive interest

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words, the way we treat one another, really do matter

Common sense is the basis of genius*

everything is impossible until we see a success*

It is the lot of some to be poor, and this is my lot, for which I have no remorse about. -A

Philip Randolph

True wealth is to know not the value of riches

A happy ending is so but temporarily;  soon enough the struggle resumes and takes on new form


Albania: The Bus Ride

I was now to go south to a village near Gjirokastra. My grandpa took me to the bus station. By the way, I feel weird saying my grandpa, as if I was 3. I was 30! Anyhow, I took a seat, the sole person in the minibus. As I was sitting,  I saw grandpa chatting up the driver and his assistant, as if to make sure I’d be in good hands, and it occurred to me what a charismatic old gentleman grandpa is. He was full of good humor and cheer, dressed in suit and tie, and even a hat, as if he were going to some fancy downtown office, not to a pot-holed bus lot full of dirty rainwater. Anyway, Grandpa stepped outside, a few people came in, and I waved good bye to him out the window.

The driver was a man with a comically shaped head and his assistant was a lean older man who reminded me of Regis Philbin, though he was not funny like Regis, but rather funny in a sleazy way. The minibus got going, and the driver was exceedingly distracted by everything to the side of the road. He would look for any reason whatever to stop the bus; the most bizarre stop that came to pass was a vegetable stand by the side of the roadway. Can you imagine a professional driver in America stopping a bus full of passengers so that he can, on his own whim, get out and purchase the likes of lettuce and green onions! Absurd. But that is exactly what he did, and us passengers were just sitting there, our journey made slightly longer by the distractions of this buffoon and his sleazy companion. OK, so then the  journey picked up some momentum, for an hour or so, but the driver’s absurd desire to stop was ever present; the pretext being to pick up more passengers, but the real reason I suspect was that he was lazy and always looking for an excuse to not do his job!

Anyhow, we passed a few hours and finally took a scheduled break at a roadside restaurant and shoppe. I walked out, as it’s nice to have a break and stretch, picked up a water and returned on the bus. The bus was nearly empty but there was this nice teenage girl sitting behind me, and so I thought to ask her if she knew whether we were near so-and-so a village. She was of that area and told me were approaching it. Although  I said nothing more, I could tell we were both friends, in a way, and I enjoyed chatting with her simply because she had that youthful charm that I cannot find in adults. Though beyond her, I caught the eye of a shady character in the back who gave me a dirty look simply for speaking…

All the passengers boarded and we were now at full capacity. Yet just as he had done all along, the buffoon kept up his unquenchable thirst for breaking for every single passenger on the road. He picked up one and he picked up another, and yet another, and then a fourth. And where was he putting them? There were no seats open. They were all standing in the aisle! But even that wasn’t enough for him. He had to congest the isle! Only then would his absurd desire find satiety. As the aisle was clogged with standing passengers from the back to the front, the idiot stops yet again. This was too much, and a young man from the back of the bus spoke up: “Where ya gonna stuff ‘em, oh master?” Certainly the voice betrayed sarcasm, concern and incredulity.

When my turn to depart the came, a young fellow near me who was travelling with his  girlfriend turned his head and winked as if to say goodbye. Yet soon enough this warm jest was marred by the crazy driver who suddenly turned his eyes to me in the mirror and made a sharp, hurried gesture as if he couldn’t wait to be rid of me and had been wanting to do so from the moment I got on. The whole way, not once had he looked at me even though his eyes went everywhere. I was rushed off in an unfriendly hurry, though it is true my seat was coveted by long standing passengers. I walked by the side of the bus to pick up my suitcase aware that the young girl’s eyes were on my face. I wish I could have looked happy for her, so as to leave a good impression. Unfortunately, I could not as I was too fatigued.

photo credit: Powers to Travel

Christ versus the establishment

Posted:Fri, 17 Oct 2014 on an old blog of mine
Today we who are Christians love Jesus and worship him and accept him at his word that he is and was the son of God. But did you know that when Christ was alive he was hated? Of course!  The establishment hated Jesus. Who is the establishment? The establishment was 1. the Roman Empire and 2. the Judaic religion. And both of these establishments hated Jesus because he challenged them and he questioned them. And if you read any words of Christ in the Bible you will find out that he was a tough guy, would not appease others and would not be appeased. He preached love God and thy neighbor as yourself, but he was not modest.  He spoke as a leader and he put himself on a high pedestal. So no, Jesus was not humble. He was bold.
Here is a prayer of Jesus:
I gave them your word; the godless world hated them because of it, because they didn’t join the world’s ways, just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them against the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. (John 17:14-16, MSG)
Clearly a man of conviction, and dangerous to the establishment, the Romans felt threatened so they crucified Jesus. The Jews likewise never liked or believed him. But hey, Jesus was clearly very good at what he did, because the proof is in the pudding: there are 2 to 3 billion followers of Christ today.