“Where do you live?”
This is the common conversation starter when someone asks me where my flat is. I live in the infamous 8th district synonymous with stenches, petty crime, and the ugliest underground metro stop in the city. My answer to the question was usually responded to with shock, worry and I always respond saying I’m from Memphis, a city known for it’s crime.
I usually refer to my neighbourhood as “Blaha” after the metro stop Blaha Lujza Ter, named after the famous Hungarian actress/singer Lujza Blaha who was known as the “nation’s Nightingale” during her career in the mid-late 1800s. She’d probably turn over in her grave if she knew the metro stop she’s named after is where most drunk tourists and locals see the most homeless dicks on any given night.
Regardless, I think Blaha is probably the greatest place on the planet.
It’s where cheap meets filth meets cheaper beer and always runs into a British Stag party with the groom dressed as Donald Trump. Where else can the molly-fueled ravers from Larm, bros and club girls from Corvin Club, the cheap beer connoisseurs at Stifler bar, and your favorite random lost American tourist who lost her friends at Szimpla meet for a nightcap of shitty 500 forint (roughly $2) kebabs with meat that’ll surely turn your bad night worse or turn your good night into the best one, since you never know who you’ll meet at the local gyros stop at 4 AM. (the love story we all want)
I leave my Budapest flat and always run into the older severely obese Hungarian man who lives a floor above me, no matter the hour. He often has his massive belly out with his shirt just covering his chest and shoulders. The old man always greets me with a wave with his two black and white pups running around him with no leashes. Most of the windows in my courtyard are wide open. The picture-perfect place to step out for a smoke and hear every yell, scream, laugh, and orgasm that resonates like an echo in the mountains. My neighbour’s favourite movie is Jurassic Park 4, which regularly blares into the courtyard after him and his bows drink some beer. If I have to hear Chris Pratt save the day again, I may kill myself.
When I was going to university in Mississippi, I fell in love with the William Faulkner quote:
“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.”
Surely, he’s never been to the 8th district.
It’s a concrete jungle where expectations and dreams are lost, found, smoked, drunk, fucked, fondled, snorted, and likely forgotten for brand new ones next week. It’s where old and young collide, classic meets modern, east meets west and they flirt until one submits and an ego is raised or destroyed. A world where the past, present, and future come together for an orgy that has you losing or gaining your existential crisis in a crowd of English speakers with a thousand different accents. It’s where you introduce yourself a dozen times to the same dozen people because it’s so dark and you’re so drunk you forgot your manners.
It’s where it’s 6AM, you’re on the street and you see two strangers making out on your left and a nagymama (grandma) carrying her groceries to your right. It’s where prostitutes ask you “are you a winner, or are you sinner?” and you just don’t have an answer. It’s where you wait for the bus ride home after a long night that was like the one last week and you ask for another cigarette from another stranger because you’re too far gone. It’s the wild west of the east.
I’ve never felt unsafe at Blaja and I’m grateful for that. It’s a little ugly corner of the world but has a lot of heart.
I’ll walk home and still see people entering the clubs and bars up along Akacfa Street, the ground wet from piss, vomit, sauce from kebabs, and spilt Soproni. The McDonalds at Blaja was my North Star whose arches guide me to my tiny one bedroom flat that I call home.
Home is where the heart is and my heart is at Blaha.
Thanks for reading, friend. My name is Francis Nayan and I’m a copywriter from Memphis, Tennessee and currently living in Budapest Hungary.
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