an American fish in & out of Estonian waters

Fish Story


Hooked by the neighborhood, its location, and its name, I bought my small place in Kalamaja about a dozen years ago. As someone who’s always loved to eat fresh fish, Kalamaja’s name also echoed that of the Santa Cruz restaurant – Riva Fish House – where I got my first real job cleaning and then cooking fish.

The first housewarming gift I received was a beautiful work of calligraphy – given to me by a Catholic-artist-friend – where the K for Kalamaja is illuminated with three fish. And so, my apartment soon became known as the Fish Apartment both for its location in Tallinn’s Fish House neighborhood as well as for the many fish-related objects which started accumulating within. As the word “apartment” often turned into a bit of a mouthful, the name of my home soon mutated into the much more London- and mouth-friendly Fish Flat.

One day, as I was sitting around looking at a Tallinn city map, it hit me: “Kalamaja looks exactly like a giant flatfish out of water!” Deciding that my adopted neighborhood needed its own imagined origin story (some fakelore), I set about to write the Legend of the Kalamaja Flatfish and its continuation. These new stories then needed an online home from which to swim out into the electronic ether. Seen from the perspective of my Fish Flat home, the name for my new blog became obvious: flatfish in honor of the Great Kalamaja Flatfish herself.

Everything soon started falling into place as I’ve always been fascinated with fish even before I set up my first aquarium at age eleven. While I’ll admit to being a Pisces, I’ve always felt that my connection to fish was much more fundamental than just through some astrological sign. If I were to choose my sacred animal, guardian spirit, or familiar, then the fish would surely be it. I always thought my choice for a totem was a little strange – until I visited the desert Pueblos of New Mexico and came across my first fish fetish. The rare fish fetish is used by those who prefer to keep themselves hidden or prefer to choose when they are seen by the rest of the world.

Years later, on a visit to Sápmi – a place most people still refer to as Lapland, I discovered that there were once Sami shaman – especially those whose people relied on the sea, rivers, and lakes rather than on reindeer as their primary form of sustenance – who chose the fish as their spirit animal. And so, I would like to choose the flatfish as the guide for my journey as well as my symbol for sharing.

At some point, it also dawned on me that I’ve been in the process of becoming something of a flatfish myself. Every night, I sleep on my stomach with my head twisted sideways to the right so that it appears that both my eyes are facing upwards – or at least outwards. After doing this for years, I’ve messed up my neck, shoulders, and left arm to the point where I’ve needed to seek treatment for fear of mutating entirely. On the up side of things, I like to think that this nightly head twist provides me with a different and somewhat quirky view of the world.

So, please join me as I explore my Fish House (Kalamaja) and check out the various Big Fish (Tallinn & Estonia) swimming in the surrounding waters as I search for Fish Food (good places to eat or find nourishment). Most of these explorations range between 500 and 2,00 words and so you should be able to read them in anywhere from 2 to 8 minutes. And then, whenever I might come across an interesting Gold Fish (a fish of fiction), I’ll also share it with you regardless of how short (or long) it might be. Or, if you should want to Go Fish instead, then you’ll be able to find some of my other fictional and non-fictional fish which have managed to swim way.

Don’t forget to subscribe down below and – Follow that Fish!


Image: Thanks to the multi-talented Anatoli Ljutjuk for bringing the Great Kalamaja Flatfish to life! If you would like your own postcard copy, you can pick one up at Labora‘s shop online or in Tallinn at Vene 18.

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