Felix and Bonzo Dance the Charleston

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is one of those, Wowzers, I think I have to have it, but I am not really sure what it is purchases. The listing was fairly descriptive (although it referred to Bonzo as Bongo Dog which limited its search results and may have helped me acquire it) and there were photos, but somehow even I did not see the full glory of this item until I held it (albeit carefully) in my hands. Somehow I knew I really wanted it though. Sometimes you just know something is going to be great.

Luckily for me no one else had the vision for this rarity and with alacrity and delight I purchased it unchallenged. I confess that I thought the Felix was likely mislabeled and upon receipt I would decide that it was Ooloo, Bonzo’s more typical cat companion. However, there is no doubt that it is indeed Felix now that I see it.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection is likely the only place to find this great bit of oddness!

This intriguing little item is marked as German with a number, but no other information. It stands about six inches high and was sold to me by a US dealer in Delaware who seems to specialize in vases. This vase seems to me to be of a type that if I knew more about the ceramic output of the period I could guess the maker – it has a general familiarity about it. He did not supply any information however and my knowledge is very limited. As it is we will assume it must be from the pre-war Felix fiesta and Charleston craze of the early 1920’s.

I can only describe this item as raucously joyous! More like a two-step than evoking the Charleston (do couples actually embrace when dancing the Charleston?), but instead just the sheer weird exuberance of Felix and Bonzo locked endlessly in a spinning clinch, mouths agape awaiting posies, elicits a smile from me. I mean, does it get whackier than that in the best possible way? The only thing better would be to stick a bunch of tulips in each side, although it seems too fragile to actually house flowers. (To note, each is technically its own vase – the bases do not connect.)

Locked in a joyous embrace! Pams-Pictorama.com.

To my knowledge Felix and Bonzo each sport vases bearing their likeness and of various sizes and relative practicality. Felix’s image appears on a series of tiny toy vases most notably, while Bonzo seems more likely to be a three dimensional manifestation, debatably more usable and to loosely include small planters. I am not sure I can think of another full incarnation of Felix as a vase, but perhaps it has just eluded me. (Please do share if you know better!)

In general we are a bit terrified of owning fragile items here at Pictorama. The rough and tumble of daily life (with cats) at Deitch Studio can be best suited to soft toys and the otherwise less breakable. I do make exceptions however, but as a result this will need to live toward the back of a relatively high shelf.

And the ever-sleepy Bonzo – even while dancing. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For a catty place, Bonzo has made several appearances here starting all the way back in 2014 with a post that can be found here after I purchased a great small ceramic figure at a flea market. Subsequently some soft toys have made their way into the Pictorama collection and my affections, other Bonzo posts can be found here and here for starters. His cat friend Ooloo as a soft toy was a notable addition to the collection and a post about him can be found here. Ooloo fans, a small but mighty group, might get a thrill in an upcoming post – stay tuned friends.

Whoever decided to pair these two disparate but ruling king comic characters of the day (I don’t know that I can think of another crossover example of them together let alone clutching each other), certainly had a vision. In executing it, Felix by necessity I suppose, becomes a bit elongated and leggy, with an extra long tail, for ballest perhaps. Bonzo looks more like himself in a more typical state of Bonzo bliss, eyes closed. That dog spent a lot of time sleeping and dozing. (Dancing while dozing though might be a first even for Bonzo.) Felix looks like he was caught in an odd moment of liquid animation, caught in a twirl with his buddy Bonzo, forever presenting posies for Bonzo and Felix fans. Full in delightful I say!

Come Hither Cat Costume

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Sometimes a Pictorama picture post is just that and this postcard today is one of those. I spotted it on eBay and scooped it up. It came to me via a California based dealer, but there is something vaguely European about it in my mind. It is utterly without marking or writing on the back which is unusual – even primitive photo postcards usually have some sort of markings. It has crinkly cut edges which you rarely see on postcard stock and is more common in commercially printed photos I might think were a bit later.

While this was advertised as a Halloween photo I assess it to much more likely be a young woman dressed up for a play. I have spent some time wondering what she is holding in her hand that isn’t showing us her cat tail. (It is a nice tail and I always think that is a hard part on a cat costume. I might prefer the sort that stands out on its own though.) There is a chain with exaggerated links – maybe a costume watch chain? And there’s some sort of grassy bits hanging off her waist as well which just mystify me.

As I studied those I realized that it is more likely that these were props. Her worn flats seem appropriate to stage and perhaps some dancing. She stands in front of a backdrop which is either in a photography studio or perhaps a stage background.

For me its all about those perky cat ears. They fit nicely with her hair and they look perfectly natural there. As someone who owns a few pairs of cat ears (I’m assuming this doesn’t surprise my readers) perched on a hairband I assure you that some do fit better than others.

I will also say that for some reason on the occasions I have sported them that it displeased my cats in a remarkable way. It wasn’t that they were afraid when I put them on (turning me into a huge kitty?), but more like they were deeply disappointed in me. If cats could think that you were making a racist joke I think it is the look those cats gave me. I’ve never felt quite right about the ears ever since.

Oh Wow! It’s a Great Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Post Toy Post: Christmas has come very late to Pictorama, but well worth waiting for when it showed up this week in the form of this wonderful addition to the Felix farm here at Deitch Studio. (A special thank you shout to Kim in the role of my Santa!) For those of you who read my January fretting post yesterday, the arrival and unveiling of Felix has lightened the mood here considerably – despite efforts to perk coffee on the stupid electric burner this morning!

I found Felix while perusing photos of a toy show in England I deeply regretted not being in attendance at (insert brief fantasy about dropping everything and flying there to attend), when I saw him sitting on a crowded shelf in one shot. The seller is a rather celebrated toy dealer, Daniel Agnew, who I believe deals most deeply in teddy bears – my beloved stuffed Felix toys are something of a subset to teddys. I couldn’t swear I haven’t purchased something from him previously, but perhaps I am just familiar with seeing him and his wares over time. However, I certainly trusted buying from him this way and was able to engage over the toy exhibit page on Facebook.

While I recognized that this Felix fellow was a good addition to my collection, I couldn’t really see what a nice, large jolly fellow he was going to turn out to be; photos just did not do him justice! (Insert image of me hopping up and down!) I was thrilled as I took him out of the box. Dan had sent some photos pointing out some wear, tiny holes and loss and I was a bit concerned about him making the trip overseas. However, Mr. Agnew is an experienced packer extraordinaire as you can see from the unpacking photo below and Felix made it through just fine.

The unpacking process!

Daniel did not identify the maker and I am unsure. In looking at a Felix Christmas post past (which can be found here) from the waning days of 2016, I speculate on one of a somewhat similar design, also very large, which I semi-attribute to the East London toy company. (Our new friends has less articulated hands and feet however.) I am not at all sure I agree with that guesstimate for either of them now. In an exchange with Mr. A. we discussed the possibility that he is by a small unnamed maker which is a likely answer in trying to identify some of these – as per his message license was giving out liberally for those interested in making the toys. I will say that his nose, his most unusual feature, appears to be most like the nose on a giant Dean’s Mickey Mouse in my collection.

Felix in Pictorama collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

In addition to his interesting and noteworthy nose, he is of a sort of specific tripod design with a shorter body and longer legs and tail. He has nice big glass eyes and a friendly, genial expression as opposed to the good time Charley type above. His head and arms are stationary, not articulated. The tip of his tail has worn through and he has stitching patches in his neck and behind an arm where he could use a bit restuffing and stitching. (He has dribbled a bit of excelsior across Kim’s desk for his brief photo shoot. He’s perched on a small tub of white acrylic paint.) However, he is mighty fine at 100 years old – I have no hope of looking nearly as good at his age.

I am eyeing a spot next to the other Christmas Felix above, where he can live quietly, safe from prying kits, towering over the miniature Flat Iron building and watch over us from an imperious perch in bed at night.

January Madness

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast Saturday morning here in New York City and there is a light bit of snow blowing outside. This has put my deep desire for a late morning run in question and makes me vaguely peevish. Kim has misplaced several key drawings for his next story (five or so luscious large pencil pages) and is slowing spreading the latter part of an almost finished graphic novel across our one room apartment in search of them. The pages have not left the apartment so we know they are here. A thorough search of piles of original art is underway. A certain frantic undertone to the commencement of our weekend here at Deitch Studio.

The desk in question, being searched.

Meanwhile, Blackie is snoring softly behind me on a very large box which contains an air fryer. While I am a bit curious about air fryers I never would have purchased one (let alone such a large one) except we’ve been informed that a city mandated gas inspection, which commenced Friday, has our cooking gas turned off. It will take a minimum of 6-8 months, but many buildings report that it has taken up to two years or more. (Yes, you read that correctly – they are turning off our cooking gas for what could be years.)

The model chosen after reading the NYT Wirecutter and other reviews.

I have moments of thinking that maybe it would be worth getting involved in City policy long enough to eliminate this bit of idiocy which is based on an incident where someone tied out an illegal gas line with a garden hose and the building ultimately blew up. Manhattan, perhaps all five boroughs, are looking now to eliminate gas cooking. This is a concept that could ultimately roust me from my perch here in New York City – gas cooking is beloved to me.

Life without making soup seems dreadful so I purchased this as well. Let’s see how I do with these new toys.

So, for now and despite Blackie’s fondness for the aforementioned box, I will spend this weekend unpacking the air fryer and an Instant Pot. (I cannot live without soup. One of several recipes can be found here.) I will rearrange our tiny kitchen and somehow fit these new appliances in – some of my beloved larger pots and pans can live in the oven I guess. (An ode to a dying fry pan can be found here.) Of course the adventure of learning to cook with them remains – I suspect you will receive further details. We have a microwave as well which I have generally only used to heat leftovers, but will be pressed into service. I have tried to amass groceries for easy execution at first, baby steps.

Blackie in full possession of the air fryer box.

Maybe the toaster can live in our storage locker and give us back another 12 inches of counter space? Electrical outlets have become prized real estate overnight and we are grateful for a renovation which added one. Additionally, there are two electric burners which the building assigned to us as a stove top. I hear rumors that the power draw for them is huge and that they cannot be used in tandem with the other appliances. Note taken, but I think we can look forward to the odd days when we space on that and blow a fuse.

At work Covid is stealthily making its way through the office again. We talk about it less, but staff are sick with it or living with people who have it. Most of the rules and protocols have fallen away and we are left to our own devices, instructing people to stay home and test – five days clear? I think there is a sense that people will just get it and get it again and again, but we do need to think about the people for whom it can be dangerous for various reasons, or like me have someone in their life who is fragile physically.

A pot of soup from a former post.

Along those lines my mom was diagnosed with pneumonia last week, not surprising given her immobility. I have home tested for Covid, but will go out and get a PCR test in case I need to go back to New Jersey. I mentally add it to the list I am making for this weekend.

I have long thought that TS Eliot had it wrong – it is January not April which is the cruelest month. For me it has uneasy memories of illness commencing and death, truly the nadir of each year which then needs to be reincarnated annually. (Oddly I am a bit distrustful of August too.) There is a gentle but persistent, burgeoning insanity that is barely kept in check in the month of January.

However, the pages in question above have been located at last. Kim is now contentedly inking a page which was his intention when he discovered the pencils missing, so a calm has returned to the house. He has promised to bring me a cup of take out coffee from the diner so I don’t have to face the electric burner and coffee pot quite yet. Blackie has moved onto the bed making way for me to unpack the air fryer and at least for the moment the flurries have paused so maybe I will get my run in. January is half over, we’re turning the corner and soon February will dawn a bit brighter.

A bit of Deitch Studio effluvia that surfaced this week.

Dogging me!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As promised, the New Year parade of toys continues. Today’s is a lucky find post. I can’t even remember what I was looking for or at when this little fellow popped up on the bottom of my eBay screen and caught my eye. I was in bed, doing a casual weekend eBay scroll as is my wont, when I spied him. I showed him to Kim and we agreed that he was a purchase.

Despite repeatedly being labeled rare he is not especially and there was another more tatty one being offered even then – there are several now in a range of prices- should you decide you need to run out and purchase one, which of course I wholeheartedly support. (We can all have one for prices ranging from $30-$250.) However, I give some credit to the seller who, with a close up shot, sold me on him when frankly I would have usually just passed by since, as we know, I am officially a collector of cats and not dogs. However, he had a come hither look and bam! He was mine.

Another good boy doggie in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

He is a Made in Japan tin toy (no company name beyond that, stamped on his tummy), and the consensus on his origin seems to place him around 1950. I was surprised by his size when he arrived (I thought he would be substantially bigger), but there is something extremely appealing about it.

Our pup is well designed. His ears are made of another material (a hard rubber perhaps?) and seem to be extremely vulnerable to loss, as does his tail which is made of the same material. Some versions have his (painted on) tongue sticking out, although mine does not. He sports a (painted on) collar, spots on his back and hind quarters and a gentle expression sunk in wrinkles. Oddly, his front legs are separate pieces which are welded on, but do not have a moving function. A solid state and smooth working key is permanently installed in his back.

Version not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

His trick, as you can see, is that when wound his tail spins around – a fairly straightforward motion. Further research shows that he originally had a shoe in his mouth! When I looked, sure enough there is a little hook in the corner of his mouth to hang it from. Ha! It does crack me up. (The concept and the motion is similar to another tin dog in my collection, shown above. A post can be found here complete with video motion. There is also another tin dog that coughs up tiny balls which can be found here. You see, we do have our dog days here at Deitch Studio.)

Our new fellow has a place of pride among the kitties (alongside a tin pigeon, some Donald Ducks and the aforementioned canines) on a shelf in the big bookcase of goodies. A tiny but very entertaining addition to the Pictorama and Deitch Studio family.

Felix Marches Forward

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As promised, the first of many toy posts of the New Year! This little fellow crossed my path in December on eBay and there was something about him which appealed. He’s a bit damaged in places, but who among us (especially those who are 98 years old) can say otherwise? Oddly he sold for not much money so he has come to reside at Pictorama.

His head looks like a standard issue model used for several other toys, but mostly the popular jointed doll of the time and it was probably easily acquired for this somewhat more rarified toy. His tail is cleverly made with a bit of black rope, frayed a bit at the end now with a tiny wire sticking out.

Unfortunately not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection, but with a remarkably similar head in better condition.

I don’t think I have seen this precise toy before, or at least not many times. He is a simple mechanism, but designed with a nice forward stride, Felix-y indeed. Somehow they really captured his bouncy running trot when you push the (nice yellow!) wooden handle up and down. Very satisfying. His arms swing with a certain determination. It imitates his cartoon motion well.

Shown here with thanks to Kim for his handy help!

There is most of a tag remaining on his back which had FELIX, a series of dates (1919, 1922 and 1924) followed by Pat Sullivan and patented June 23, 1925, although no maker’s mark as such. I am entertained somehow that there is a day on the patent – like a birthday.

Remains of a patent sticker.

One side of his face and his nose have suffered a lot of paint loss and the handle is very well worn. I must say though there’s something mesmerizing about watching him bounce up and down. I can imagine being very entertained with this as a small child, but can also assume it was a toy that took a bit of a beating. Yet he must have seemed a bit indestructible when he was newly handed over for play.

I thought he was a good choice for the first toy post of the New Year. He will help us remember to stride resolutely, but with a bounce, into the year ahead.

Home: Part Two

Home is a topic which is much on my mind these days. As Pictorama readers know I now spend part of each month in New Jersey, near where I grew up, with my mom helping out there now that she is in failing health.

I have always had a cat-like desire for routine and part of that is being nestled in the same place as much as possible, with my things around me for comfort. Even as a small child my mother would comment on my determination to make a space mine and settle into it.

Sunrise from the apartment in Manhattan.

As I have gotten older that also means Kim and the cats most of all – home is where the heart is after all. While I have enjoyed some of the work travel I have done, being uprooted from them and home has always been done a bit grudgingly.

Therefore, a new paradigm that pulls me out of my usual and sends me off to Jersey periodically has been a bit painful really. Although now over the past year I have pressed that into a sort of pattern as well it is somewhat less jarring. It is always hard for me to gather myself to leave on a Sunday night when I just want to stay curled up on my couch. I have my great indulgence which is the ride I take in each direction, comfort Aussie Shepard on my lap for pets, which allows me the luxury of travel on my own schedule.

Cookie when she helped me with the Christmas card recently.

I keep a suitcase lightly packed, but mostly I have clothing, toiletries and running apparel there. Like me, my laptop has to be disconnected on one end and reinstalled on the other. On the other side of the trip is mom’s little Cape Cod house, a bedroom for me which the cats there only cede to me with great reluctance. I gave everyone a peek at Peaches in last week’s post which can be found here.

To be frank, mom’s cats are not enamored of me as a group. Beau, an enormous pitch black cat, allows me to pet him, but mom’s other rescues are skittish and generally not for petting which is disappointing. (I recently wrote about Stormy, cat of mystery, here.) I miss Cookie and Blackie’s affection when I am gone.

Milty and Peaches enjoying the open door last summer.

My morning routine there is to have coffee with mom very early, 5:30 or 6:00, before heading out for a run if weather permits. I schedule myself this way because early morning is the best time with her as she starts the day. I make a large pot of coffee in a percolator identical to the one in New York and which all of mom’s caretakers is now enamored. Mom can no longer drink it, but appreciates the smell as it perks. I make a good pot of coffee.

Wooded running path in Monmouth County.

I generally keep my run to around 4-5 miles in New Jersey. I run more slowly there – lots to look at and also I jog slowly over many types of terrain. Although the majority of my run is through a sort of sidewalk suburban heaven, through neighborhoods and sports fields, I also run through a heavily wooded area, over wood chip paths, over tree roots and past the occasional deer. People nod and say hello in New Jersey, unlike in Manhattan where you never much do that, but dogs here are more likely to lunge for me than jaded city pups. I see endless bunnies and chipmunks abound, cats watch me from porches and dogs bark at me from behind fences and windows. There’s even a rooster on my route although I have not heard him in awhile.

While stretching outside upon my return I take an inventory of the outside of the house and anything that seems amiss or needs attention. It is remarkable to me that one day you can look at the front steps and realize that the railing needs paint and is starting to fall apart at the bottom, that gutters need attention or the driveway has a sag. Recently I realized that there was a huge air leak under the front door despite a storm door in place.

Mom’s house in the snow.

Mom’s is a track house built in the 1950’s – identical ones probably dotted the neighborhood at the time although her prime location near three schools, endless sports fields and small shopping area, has converted most of the lots to considerably larger homes. Her house, originally quite small, had an addition of a main bedroom, bath and an area bumped out to enlarge the kitchen. It now has four bedrooms, two in the dormer upstairs, and three and a half bathrooms. As it nears its seventh decade I can see that maintaining it is difficult, but more attainable than the houses of more than a hundred years that appeal to me aesthetically.

As an apartment dweller for my entire adult life, the actual reality of home ownership has been a rude awakening as I take over some of the responsibilities for mom’s house. Mike the yard guy, the rat exterminator, David who paints, Fitzroy who does odd jobs, Larry who helps with the computer – mom holds the reins still on all of it but slowly I am starting to engage.

Upstairs room where I work.

I am generally there on workdays so my return home is usually followed by a quick breakfast and then to my “office” upstairs in one of those bedrooms. I try to have a proper lunch time when I am with mom (my friend Suzanne often picks me up and we hit a great restaurant called Tavalo’s for the best sandwiches I know) and I attempt to end my day no later than 6:00 at least for meetings. During times of duress, the same friend will offer up a glass of Prosecco with cheese and crackers at the end of the day, bringing it upstairs if I don’t surface.

It amazes me that our apartment in Manhattan is so much quieter than mom’s house. While there is a roster of caregivers coming and going throughout the day and night, it is more the folks tending to the house’s needs and a litany of visiting docs which makes the small house feel like Grand Central station at rush hour. (I have written previously about mom and her caregivers in a post that can be found here.)

And then, before I know it, time to pack back up and head home to Deitch Studio. Much like at the beginning of my trip, there is a tug to stay here too, the gravitational pull of staying where I am, but now at home in both places.

Home: Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Looks like I am bringing this year in with another pair of personal posts – for those of you who are in it for the toys and the photos (and even a new soup recipe there is great interest in), I promise a backlog of those in the beginning of the New Year.

Meanwhile, a fact I don’t think I ever shared with Pictorama readers is that home renovation television is near and dear to my heart. I began watching it before the pandemic, finding it comforting to see on the hotel televisions in various locations. During Covid however I began to watch it at more devotedly. At the height of the pandemic, working frenzied endless days and nights from our one room apartment, it was a source of comfort and one of the few escapes from a beleaguered day-to-day of Zoom meetings and ambulance sirens here in New York City.

View from Deitch Studio which is our window onto the world.

I enjoyed the soothing transformation of unloved homes into cozy interiors to house new families. I especially liked the cottages to be found in the south. Low entry points for purchase are like catnip to those of us paying a premium for our tiny foothold in Manhattan and two bedroom would be a luxury indeed. I am a sucker for a cute little houses built in the teens or twenties and would fantasize about owning one, while knowing I have no interest in moving to Texas or Mississippi.

Over time I realized that I don’t necessarily especially like the renovations which become repetitive. I would often think I would have kept more of the original charm of the home intact – the incessant knocking down of walls is odd to me. (Do I want everyone to see my untidy kitchen all of the time?) Although watching those shows has meant that when I have on occasion needed to make renovation decisions in our apartment (see the post for the great kitchen renovation of 2019 here) or my mom’s house, I pretty much know what is out there and what I like – and therefore of course what I do not.

Our renovated kitchen in fall of 2019.

However, my passion is touring the old houses while people “decide” which house they will purchase. I like those house tours – seeing worn, but well-loved homes that have sheltered many lives and families over decades, as many as a hundred years or more, of habitation. There is something about that continuity that I find very comforting even with them a bit down at the heels and in need of new attention.

During and after! Anasty bit of home renovation we did during the pandemic. The process of installing a wall of bookcases.
Kim doing some settling into those (now beloved and toy filled) bookshelves.

While I have an appreciation for those shows where homes that were completely trashed are rescued, sometimes requiring taking them down to the studs, I prefer houses with longer history with hopes that it will be maintained. My favored channel morphed into some versions with houses dating up to hundreds of years back, and although I didn’t need to see the renovation (sensitive although it always is); I want the history and occasionally seeing the guts of the house – stone basements and foundations, odd wells, fascinating attics with many angles, and strange back stairwells. One wildly enthusiastic young couple just shows you three very inexpensive, beautiful old houses in different parts of the country for sale and points out the wonderful features of each, a porch, a gorgeous stairwell, built-in craftsman sideboards and the like. That is stripping down the home show to its core for me.

510 East 85th Street was my home for many years before Deitch Studio.

Oddly somehow watching several years of these shows has slowly cured me of the itch to own an old home. While I do love to see them, digesting everything that can go wrong with a house that is a hundred years old, let alone more, has had a sobering effect on me to the extent I consider home ownership.

My practical side has overtaken the romance and I know that I am not quite up to that challenge should it present itself – which is unlikely. As I start to help my mom care for her home I am learning a lot about the reality of home ownership and tomorrow’s post will tackle that, for those of you who are game and willing to indulge me, as we ring in the New Year.

And for those of you who made it to the end of the post, I will also share that the photo at the top of the post is the house I grew up in, as it was when we sold it in 2016.

Festive!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Just a quick note and a ho, ho, ho to you all. It was a quiet start to the day here in New Jersey. I decided to give myself a break from running today after my efforts yesterday when it was only 8 degrees out.

Nonetheless I was up early and putting the coffee on. My coffee has become a great favorite among mom’s caregivers – I perk a mean pot and am well set up for it down here with a pot identical to mine at home. I wish you could smell it.

Laurel and Hardy this morning.

Kim is on his way – traveling with my dog friends Cash and Penny. He is coming for the down and I will head back to New York with him tonight. As a result I am starting to gather all my bits which are spread over mom’s house after four days here.

Keeping an eye out for Hobo. So very cold we’d like to make sure our stray cat friend has a good meal. He stopped by the day before yesterday for a meal and inhaled three cans.

Hobo noshing earlier this week.

Yesterday found a friend’s wife just returning from the hospital so we packed up a whole lot of Christmas dinner (mom had ordered enough for an army – really!) for them to have food for a few days. He is so kind to my mom that it was a great pleasure to do something for them.

Mom has CNN blaring as always, although I have Laurel and Hardy on the television in the bedroom for some holiday relief. Holiday reports are coming in from friends all over which is nice to hear. Eileen, cold in Vermont, Eden and Jeanie warmer in California.

The eating has commenced (biscuits! First round) and a second pot of coffee perking in advance of Kim’s arrival. mom’s cats are sleeping off their first meal of the day although not sure Stormy has braved the fray.

Christmas cat breakfast.

So Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us here at Pictorama and Deitch Studio.

Christmas Eve

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As my schedule would have it, I find myself here in New Jersey with mom on these days leading up to Christmas this year. While I miss being home with Kim and kitties just before Christmas it is an unusual treat to be in NJ and spend these days with mom and in the area I grew up in.

Red Bank decorated for the holiday on a wet morning yesterday.

It is very cold here – as it is across the country today. I decided I would hazard a run with some layers (down vest under my sweatshirt) and I will say I didn’t see many of my brethren today – not even the dog walkers were out between the holiday and the cold. The winds of last night were hard on outdoor holiday decorations – many were flattened or visiting the neighbors. And in fact it was the wind that made me cut my run short today. I forgot that my iphone hates the cold and it ran through all its charge – last winter I was in the habit of keeping it tucked in an inside pocket to avoid this.

Yesterday morning, by contrast, it was a humid 59 degrees and I stripped down for my run into neighboring Red Bank. While these were not the streets I lived on when I was young, I drove constantly through these areas and I wrote recently about my teenage and early adult years in this downtown area. Still, I am surrounded by memories as I jog through this area, decorated now for the holiday.

Sincere Santa in a neighbor’s yard.

I found this photo above here at the house. It was Christmas 1969 and my sister Loren and I are shown among Christmas morning toys. (She is the older one in braids.) The enormous black and white bear was one of her gifts, I believe Loren had that bear into adulthood. I remember him in her room. No idea when he departed.

The bear came from FAO Schwartz – that epic purveyor of toys. The reason for his presence in our lives is no longer remembered now. I asked mom. She tells a funny story about having asked an actor bachelor friend to “pick it up” for her. Ha! Evidently he didn’t enjoy being a mule for a larger than life bear. His name was Al Viola and I am not sure he ever forgave mom and dad. Mom says that a few years later he gave up his dreams of acting in New York and returned to his native Texas, fiance in tow. She didn’t take root in Texas however, although the story as mom knows it seems to end there.

Me and my dog Squeaky.

We are shown in a house in Englewood, New Jersey which we grew out of not long after this photo was taken. The huge stone fireplace was a focal feature and I remember it well. I also remember the bedroom I shared with Loren which had a corner of casement windows, something I have aspired to ever since. It was a tiny two story with just our bedroom, my parent’s room and a bathroom between upstairs. Other than the fireplace, a screened porch and a beautiful rock garden in the backyard were the memorable features. Also, we were across the street from a park which seemed enormous to me as a small child.

If I felt slighted by no mutually commanding stuffed animal I don’t remember, and I don’t remember what I did received that Christmas. There may be another photo, in color of that Christmas, of us in color and I am hugging my dog Squeaky so maybe that is where he made his debut although my memory is he was given to me another way.

Local decorations on my run yesterday.

Christmas and my birthday are days that remind me most of my sister Loren. She liked to get the day started early and as kids she was always climbing on me to wake up before dawn so we could go get our parents up. Loren kept the practice up in adulthood and if we weren’t together she’d call me at an obscenely early hour. I can’t wake early on Christmas or February 11 without thinking of her.

But this year I keep mom company. Her litany of caregivers are here and come and go. We are a fairly well oiled machine at this point. Mom, as is her habit, ordered enough food for an army which I just spent a half an hour fitting into the fridge – there is an art to this. There will be plenty to eat tonight, tomorrow and to take home tomorrow night. Cats are running around madly – they are comfortable enough with me now to chase each other madly through my bedroom all night long. (They are heavy footed for small cats and sound like miniature elephants – the occasional thunking throw down.)

Peaches, small but heavy footed feline.

So, layered up against the drafts of the house, wind whistling around the corners of the house, I watch television with mom and Elaine who is taking the holiday shift and with us throughout now – how nice that she is willing to make that sacrifice. A hibiscus tree has been decorated with battery operated lights to make them twinkle at night. The cats are napping and right now that sounds like a good idea.