Recently I performed at Raconteurs, a live storytelling event that happens monthly here in Toronto. I’ve performed at Raconteurs before, and as many of you know, lots of other Spoken Word events around the world like The Moth, Spark London, GRTTWaK, and Pressgang. I feel like these events bridge a nice gap between writing and performance. I don’t like to act much, I prefer to be vulnerable on the page, rather than on the stage, but Spoken Word and Live Storytelling are a nice way to meld the two.
I told a story about trying to become the Canadian Amélie with a little help from the Bunz Trading Zone. It’s a crazy story of trying to connect with other people — complete strangers, really — and all the foibles and follies therein. You can watch it below! Enjoy!
In this new year, I have lots of things on my plate! So many upcoming publications, performances, and more! I can’t wait to share the news with you. Even though 2016 was a dumpster fire for everyone, I made some huge advances in my career and I’m so pleased with the direction in which everything is going. Small positive steps everyday lead to big things!
Also, I have a new adventure on the horizon! On Valentine’s Day, I head to Helsingborg, Sweden for the first time! I’ve never been (even though I lived in Europe for years and years), so when a housesitting opportunity arose, so I had to take it. After Sweden, I’ll be swinging through London, Brussels, and Amsterdam to visit my friends (and celebrate my birfday! What a crazy 3 weeks this is going to be….), so if you’re in Helsingborg and want to show this wee Canadian lass around, hit me up!
As always, don’t forget to check out Christine Estima dot CALM (har har) to read all of my published articles, watch my performances, and check out my media coverage.
Last year when I was living in Brussels, I was frequenting my absolute favourite flea market in the world Jeu de Balle, buying photographs and love letters and other trinkets. As usual, when the flea market is over, the vendors usually leave a whole trove of junk just lying on the cobblestone grounds that either they couldn’t sell, that broke, that was damaged, that got soaked from the rain, or that they just don’t want to transport back to their warehouses. The thing is, the street cleaners come in very quickly after the market is over to pick up all the trash and wash the square clean! So if you’re crafty, quick, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can get your hands on some amazing antique and vintage gems.
Seeing as how I’m an excellent scavenger (and I don’t like paying for things), I would always scour the cobbles (and in between the cobbles!), go through the piles of trash, kick over soaked boxes and rifle through all the discarded remains for whatever meant something to me. From my scavenges, I have procured monochrome photographs from the 1920s, gold-rimmed picture frames, and these two letters written in German in 1946.
As you can see from the very top picture, the stamps were ripped from the envelopes (probably because 1946 stamps are worth a lot!) but I was more interested in the contents of the letters!
Luckily, the internet loves to help! I tweeted out for help in translating them, and a wonderful follower of mine from Berlin, who wants to be referenced here as Resa Lamego, offered to help! She was able to translate the letters very quickly because her English is amazing, and even though she was busy travelling down to Heidelberg, she still did a fabulous job.
The letters mostly just contain mundane minutiae of these women’s lives from 1946, nothing mind-blowing or tragic or epic, but the language employed is quite nice!
Here’s an excerpt from the 1st letter (edited for content… really just the most interesting parts!)
Malmö, the 28-08-1946
My dear Mady,
Thank you so much for your lovely letter! I’m glad to hear you are in Switzerland. It is wonderful that they all who have been/ used to be in Germany gain such a trip. From the photo I can tell that the nature must be very beautiful. I hope you are completely recovered/healthy when you travel back home! Do you really believe you will be able to come to Sweden? I would be so happy if it was possible. Then you must come to Malmö. As before I got the children from (..)? Now we got the Karl-Jo-Haus-School back. Last year sick children from France and Austria were living there […] One always needs to be with the children, one needs to help them to eat, to play and to bathe. […] It is very hard to write in German and I make many mistakes. I hope you are able to read it? I have never been very good in German but maybe it is harder than usual because I was reading in English the whole winter long. I received my major and can now be a teacher of English. Half of my summer months this year I spent in an international school in Helsingor and there English was the conversational speech. Now my head is full of English words and phrases. So now I need to practice in this letter otherwise I will forget my German and that can’t be!
My dearest regards,
And here’s an excerpt from the 2nd letter, unedited because the whole thing was totally cool.
My dear Mady,
Thank you so much for your letter! From the date I can tell that it has been already over a month before I received your letter. I can’t really understand why. Time has passed so quickly. Now you probably are back in Belgium? If so, I send this to your home. Have you recovered dear Mady? Oh, I hope you are from the bottom of my heart!
So, Mady, you think I am chubby/big? Oh well, that is possible. I love to eat and maybe I do it too much. The photo was from summer and then I am always bigger because then I don’t have my work. So I think now it’s better. One doesn’t like to be big!
I got from your letter that you are glad to be back in Belgium. Here in Sweden we have a saying: Foreign countries are good, but home is always the best. And I believe that is very true. I haven’t been to foreign countries, you know, except Denmark and Norway and that for us aren’t really foreign countries. For the next summer I hope I will be allowed to travel to England. I am supposed to have English classes with children, you know and of course it should be very good for me to spend a few months in England. That way one learns the language much better.
Dear Mady, you say that maybe you will come back to Sweden. How happy I should be if that was possible. Will you come alone or with other people? Oh, it would be wonderful to meet you again. Please Mady, if you can, so come, come! I am telling you my dearest welcome!
And now, Mady, to a quick ‘hear-you-again’, I hope!
My dearest regards!
P.S. May I also send my regards to your family?
Oh Anna-Kerstin, you sweet Danish-living-English-teaching friend! How wonderful and sweet you were to your friend Mady! And such a shame that someone saw fit to discard your beautiful letters into a trash heap in Brussels. So glad I recovered them and saved them!
As I wrote about for VICE, the main reason why personal items like this end up on the fleas is because the owner passed away and their family just wanted to liquidate all the belongings. Why? They probably weren’t on very good terms.
So Mady, I hope you had a good life. Your surviving family is shit.
To the flea markets!!
I once blogged about my writing practice and process, and I feel this is a nice dovetail: my writing desk and space. We all need to carve out our own little nooks in this world, and this tiny corner is mine.
This where I do all my writing: all my short stories, all my blogging, and all my freelance articles are done here, including a little doodling and reading now and then. I decorated it like this because I think it reflects me and my personality best. Some people prefer really modern, sleek, office-y, stainless-steel-type designs, and others prefer a kind of non-descript, antiseptic look. But I wanted my space to be peppered with all of the things that inspired me, visually and spatially, and all the things that really mean something to me.
For example, these are my Lebanese grandparents making-out on their front porch in Montreal circa 1948. I typed out that Bukowski quote on my typewriter. All the picture frames were bought from London flea markets, but a few I found discarded on the sidewalk. Who throws out gorgeous picture frames?!
That photograph in the foreground of the two 1920s women pushing the pram: I have no idea who they are. I found them discarded on the flea market grounds in Brussels right before the sky opened up and an incredible tempest washed everything away. I feel like I saved them.
Those are Belgian telegrams, and also some French postcards ad German letters, which I bought from their respective flea markets. I typed out the quote at the bottom, and I found the image of the typewritten quote at the top online and then printed it out on photographic paper at a pharmacy in London.
I got the antique iron keys from a friend who bought them for me when I was living in Copenhagen. I typed out the Dumas quote, and it sits on a small blue photo album from the 1940s that I bought in Paris. The vase & saucer I got at a London flea market, and the typewriter ribbon tin I bought at the Brooklyn flea.
The pill bottles in the foreground I got at a flea here in Toronto. The red-cover books in the background are all travel guidebooks from the 1920s, 30s, & 40s. It’s so interesting to read about “where to find a public bathhouse in London,” or about how many Francs you can get for your Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings, and Sovereigns. There’s even a section on why French customs strictly prohibits British matches from entering the country, but you can bring your own cigarettes. Also, air travel was so new, that they don’t really mention it. They only mention taking the ferry from Dover to Calais! The guidebooks have fold-out maps and even photographs. Looking at Amsterdam then and comparing it to now is such a mind-fuck.
That’s a Bukowski quote.
I bought that cigar box from a flea market in Düsseldorf. I put all of the small monochrome photographs that I bought from flea markets around Europe in there. A note about the photographs: I don’t know the people. I am assuming they’ve all passed, seeing as how their personal family photo albums were for sale on flea markets. I buy them because they look so happy. I like their faces. Also, sometimes going through private photos reveals some interesting secrets, as I wrote in an essay for VICE recently … And if they’re not in the cigar box….
… they’re hanging on my wall. From left to right, I bought him in Brussels, him in Copenhagen, and her in Paris.
That babe second-from-right is my Mum when she was 18. The rest, left to right, Brussels, Brussels, Berlin, and the child on the right is from Amsterdam.
These ladies are so old, they’re beginning to fade, but I love them all the more because they’re so bad-ass. On the left, I bought them in Paris and on the back it’s dated June 18, 1929. On the right, I bough her in Brussels, it’s dated August 18, 1922. She’s so fucking cool, I can’t even. I’m all out of evens.
Bought both from Brussels. Street scenes and street photography from the early 20th century are so amazing to me. I love the composition of the left photo! Right photo on the back is dated May 1942 and it says they just returned from shopping.
There’s my gorgeous bee-yooot. Read this for the story behind the provenance of this baby.
Some of the books that really moved me that are resting on my desk are All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
I feel like I become a different person when I sit down at this desk. Outside, I’m gregarious and silly and hungry and moving and yelling and dancing and what not… but here, I am something else.
I have a lot more upcoming publications yet-to-be-announced, but now you know where I was when I wrote them.
Remember to update your links and visit the new home of ChristineEstima.com!
By the time you read this, I will already be out gallivanting through New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, hunting Space Invaders, Banksys, Hanksys, Swoons, and many more of my favourite street artists. I am here for a month, housesitting in the Upper West Side. I end this year the way I began it: on my own terms, and travelling. I have never been more free.
And I win.
Enjoy some of my greatest goofy 2014 hits, in GIF form!
Rolling my eyes at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, leaving Germany for the last time.
Dancing on the streets of Bonn.
Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, built by… uh… Stalin.
The best Klezmer band in Brussels right outside my window!
(hit the volume button on the bottom right corner of the vid)
The Berlin eyes have it.
The ghosts in Shoreditch’s windows
Art imitates life imitates art.
Guns in Copenhagen are beating like hearts.
Brick Lane street art goes largely ignored. (It says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”)
Where’s the Space Invader?
I like to call this one, “Ew, I smell that, was that you?”
I like to call this one, “Oh is that really what you’re wearing? How… brave…”
I like to call this one, “Is that a bee or a fly?”
I like to call this one, “I just had a small stroke.”
How I talk to Cats (part 1), filmed whilst housesitting in London.
How I talk to Cats (part 2), filmed whilst housesitting in Copenhagen
How I talk to Cats (part 3), filmed whilst housesitting in Enkhuizen (the Netherlands)
Now let us go out of 2014 with a bang, just like we did in Paris…
Goodbye 2014. I hope I never see you again.
I had previously photographed what I thought were genuine Invaders in Amsterdam, but it turns out there is an Invader-imposter! I realized they were fake when I tried to flash them on the Flash Invaders app, and then some graff-friends confirmed they were bogus. So it took a lot of digging and searching, but I managed to find some of the few genuine ‘Vaders still poking about my beloved ‘Dam.
You know what really bothers me about this? I’ve been to Amsterdam six times now, and all of these ‘Vaders, I must have walked obliviously past them a gazillion times, they’re all on streets I frequent a lot. Normally I have a very keen eye for these types of things. How did I miss them?!
For example, this one was across from the English Bookshop that I go to often.
I must have sauntered past this one a bazillion times. It’s down below and on a pillar that doesn’t face the sidewalk, it’s on the edge of the street, so I probably missed it because had I walked on the street-side, I would have gotten hit by a car. I’ll let myself off the hook for this one.
This one was hard to get, it was on the other side of a bridge. I had to hang my camera-hand over the railing just to get the shot. Those are my knobby-knees in the background.
This was on the Blauwbrug, a bridge I have crossed a bazillion times. How could I have been so blind? DAMMIT ESTIMA.
Now onto Brussels. Seeing as how I lived in Brussels last year, I had already found so many ‘Vaders, but I didn’t realize how many I had missed! And what’s worse, a lot of the ‘Vaders I photographed last year were audaciously taken down, so I couldn’t flash them on the app! SACRILEGE! But at least there are still some gems to be found in my beautiful, belle Bruxelles. Behold!
I think this one is my favourite. It’s down below, it’s unblemished, it’s colourful, and I just love it.
I don’t have a smartphone, but this ‘Vader is actually a QR code that when scanned on your smartphone, reveals the locations of all the Brussels ‘Vaders. There once was 40. Now there’s only 24 left.
Again, must have walked by this one a bajillion times before I found it. FOR SHAME!
Last year I photographed many peeing ‘Vaders (Brussels has a thing about statues peeing… it’s a whole piss-thing). But I didn’t know about this one, it’s down a dead-end alley next to another one of Brussels’ pissing-commemorations… I mean, jeez.
A million times…
… and I never saw it.
I love this photograph.
The colours of the Belgian flag 🙂
This one has haunted me. I was in a car last year, someone else behind the wheel, and we sped past this one, and I tried to make a mental note of where it was, but I never found it again… until now.
And last but not least…
Yes you do.
Check out my Space Invader category for more of his work that I’ve photographed all around the world!
I’ve been on the road for three weeks now, and I’m so glad I decided to throw off the shackles of suspended animation and stationary living that were cutting into my skin (In short, paying rent is for suckers). I’ve been a backpacker for nine years now, and even though I have been to so many places, and learned a lot, I always seem to discover new places and learn new things. So far all the cities on this journey are places I have been to/lived in before (Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and soon Berlin), but it’s hard to be bored in these cities. I’ve forsaken flying, and have been taking the delightful European trains like a civilized person. I’ve been Couchsurfing and house-sitting, which has allowed me to make new friends, snuggle with some snuggle-pets, and take the time to really explore without feeling rushed. My days consist of drinking sweet lattes, writing in my journal while sneaking glances at the pretty bearded hipster dudebro behind the counter, walking around a European metropolis in the sunshine, taking photographs of provocative street art and urban art, indulging in Pain au Chocolat’s without a trace of guilt, going to flea markets, spending hours at enthralling museums, rocking out to Nils Frahm, and partaking in SO MUCH EUROVISION (I had no idea when I came to Copenhagen that I’d be here at the same time as the Eurovision Song Contest, but boy has it been fun! Go Conchita go).
A friend of mine recently sent me this message:
I am forced to agree.
Here are some highlights and urban art from my travels this past month.
In Brussels, of course my first stop was the Jeu de Balle flea market to spend hours upon hours rummaging through boxes to find some love letters. Remember this? Anyway, I found 10 love letters written between a husband and wife from 1956-8 in Brussels. He was a military doctor and so he was stationed away from home quite often. Look at that lipstick kiss in the letter! They totally got it bad for each other. I also found a letter written during WWII (it’s undated but I’m guessing from the letters’ contents that it’s from about 1944) written between cousins about how “les sales boches” (aka The Nazis) have invaded Belgium and the family misses their homeland. They are in exile in an area of France that was not occupied by the Nazis and 12 family members are living in a small flat. The cousin writes to the other cousin, begging him to join her, saying, “we will make space on the mattress for you.”
I love you, Jeu de Balle.
Jef Aerosol has an ongoing exhibit just around the corner from Jeu de Balle.
Of course no trip to Amsterdam is complete without going hunting for a few Laser 314‘s 🙂
I also spent a great deal of time at Amsterdam’s Resistance Museum, and then following a map to all of the important locations in the city during the Nazi occupation, including where Jews had to buy their Star of David armbands, the theatre converted for mass deportations, the Carlton hotel that a war plane smashed into, the bombs that dropped on a home on the Herengracht, the air-raid shelters, and more. Highly recommended if you’re into WWII history like me
This is Laser’s nod to 1984.
When you take the train from Hamburg to Copenhagen, the train (which is only 4 small carriages) goes ONTO THE FERRY. No one ever believes me when I tell them this.
Ah, Copenhagen. I was last here in 2006 (read my post from that time here, and this post has all my photographs from back then). If I’m being honest, my memory of my time here in 2006 is rather hazy, so I’m glad I’m spending a good chunk of time here.
This is wonderful. An underwater sculpture in one of the canals.
The boats have to be careful, otherwise their propellers will be destroyed.
Hans Christian Andersen’s grave!
I swear, Copenhagen is filled with so much antiquity, and so few people, that sometimes, you can walk down a street, preserved in detail for 200 years, and wonder if you’ve stepped through time, without the presence of cars and technology to distract you.
I’m still in Copenhagen, so this section is a work in progress. More photographs to come! I have SO MUCH STREET ART TO SHARE!