Scooting Along

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix postcard came via the same source as yesterday’s – and I hope there will be more to come from this recent Felix El Dorado. I will report on that aspect when I know a bit more, but for now another interesting card.

This postcard appears to have been blackened by hand and probably traced from a master source. This is clear from looking closely at the brushy and uneven application of the ink and the ghost of a pencil line or two. The precise origin of this series (other than it appears to be British) is also a mystery and I have written about them before and own a few others. (The posts about the earlier drawn cards can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While at first it seemed somewhat improbably that postcards were being produced this way, consider the handmade origin of some of my treasured stuffed Felix toys. I once wrote a post on how many were produced by hand on the East End of London in a project to employ indigent women. (That post can be found here.) It helps to remember that postcards were the email of the early 20th century, mail delivery twice a day, and were used to make dates and for simple greetings and communications.

People here and in Britain must have kept well supplied to drop a note to this friend or that. Many of my cat photo postcards contain simple messages about having arrived safely at a location, missing family or reporting a visit with a friend or family. So while it still seems rather remarkable, this operation of hand production is the explanation I have settled on.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This card sports a Felix-y message, How I am coming in a fortnight’s time Ethel, PS not with a tail, Fred’ll keep that. It is addressed to Z. Honeysett, Woodview, Silverdale Road, Eastbourne. However, it is worth noting that there is no stamp or postmark, so perhaps this was included in a larger missive or package. The card has two pin holes from where it did time tacked up somewhere.

Meanwhile, Felix is zooming on his scooter which could fairly be said was one of his preferred methods of transportation. Here his tail is sort of ballast – that tail which fans of the cartoon know could come off and be used for many purposes. The tail is special indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. My version of the upright kitty toy I use as my avatar for this site.

Here in the pandemic period of the 21st century, I have adopted an image of Felix as my Zoom and social media avatar. He has graced my Instagram and Twitter accounts, although Pictorama has a sporty wind-up cat of less distinction which I did had not acquired when I started the blog. (Pleased to say that I am now happily in possession of this item and featured him above. He was given a post which can be read here.) I do not own the zippy version of Felix on a scooter that I use – it is a rather rarefied Italian (I think) variation that I have only seen for sale a few times and at unattainable prices. I have a somewhat non-functional version that charms me by sitting on the shelf nonetheless.

My somewhat broken down version of the scooter Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It should be noted, however, that the version that my avatar version wears has very zooty polka dot trousers and enjoys a spring for a tail. This does make him very desirable in my opinion and I find his off-model face rather charming as well. (I wonder what it says on his tummy?)

(Sadly) not in my collection.

When Zoom came into our lives abruptly in March of 2020 I replaced the generic “snowman” with Felix figuring I would give everyone a giggle. It did although some folks didn’t seem to know Felix or at least recognize him. Strangely you do become identified with your avatar quickly and it was almost surprising when someone new on a call would ask about him. (Having said that, I actually try to do at least part of my meetings, especially with colleagues, on camera to humanize the activity somewhat.)

After my Memorial Day fall my face was swollen and bruised and I decided to spare everyone and myself the sight of me on camera for a bit. During this time I received a request to change my avatar for a work related event where I had declined to go on camera and I switched to a photo taken a few years ago when I started my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I have yet to change it back again, although it is my plan because looking at this slightly earlier version of myself doesn’t suit my mindset after 15 months of working at home. Perhaps the little upright cat deserves some air time, although somehow the idea of zipping along as Felix has special appeal.

Felix and the Seashore

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I always like to say it is an especially wonderful day when one of these photo postcards finds its way home to the Pictorama collection! Long time readers know that my nascent collection of these photos inspired this blog as an activity while bed bound after foot surgery many years ago. I added toys from my collection and it grew like topsy from there. Still, nothing makes my pulse race like coming across one of these – by their very nature each is different of course. I am like a kid about these and I believe passionately that I should, quite simply, own all of them. (There are obviously many earlier posts about these. A couple can be seen here and here.) Woe be to the person who tries to get in my way!

That these cards exist at all is a sort of a miracle. On beaches across the United Kingdom and a handful of places in New Zealand and Australia, folks paid to pose with Felix dolls ranging from just large to that of a good size child. Somehow here in the United States, his place of origin, it never caught on and so it is the world of the internet that allowed me to amass my collection. They were however routinely saved as photo souvenirs. Most, like this one, were never mailed and remain more pristine as a result.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection
Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This particular card features these two women who are wonderfully fashionable. My internet friends, especially those in Britain who deal in vintage clothing, can probably date this pretty accurately from what they are wearing, but the late twenties or early thirties I would think. (Any thoughts wassailantiques.com?) I love that women would be dressed so nicely for a day of seaside enjoyment and it makes me think of boardwalks, cool drinks and salt air – cotton candy and saltwater taffy – and most of all my beach-y childhood. I always sort of like that in these photos people generally stomp around on the sand without worry for their shoes or clothes – men in suits, women in lovely cotton or linen dresses.

Collection of Pams-Pictorama.com

Part of one of those comfy beach chairs can be seen to one side and somehow they are perfectly designed for reading a book and napping. I always used to fall asleep at the beach, stretched out face down on a towel. Must have be the sound of the water and the warm sand. I always brought a book but usually didn’t read much. Can’t say the number of times I woke to find that I had parked myself too close to the water and suddenly the rising tide found its way to me and my possessions which were suddenly floating around me. The beach has always immediately relaxed me and I think my attachment to walking by the East River daily gives me a bit of that these days.

The East River on a recent morning.

This Felix is among the smaller, but not smallest of those who worked this beat. The women have gotten into the spirit of the photo, throwing their arms around his shoulders like an old friend. Felix has a natty bow and one leg off to the side gives him a sense of animation. He too is enjoying his role center stage.

The bobbed hair of these young women is another indicator of the years this image falls within. They feel very up to the moment for the fashion of the day, visibly pleased with the knowledge that they look good. The photographer has captured them nicely. With their ascending order of heads, they (along with Felix) form a good composition in the middle of the picture – Felix has one errant ear up which adds to his always roguish charm. The people in the background are all blurred, but they also add to the festive sense of the day in their different beach and swim garb. There are folks wading and swimming and it is a busy and glorious day. I think I would dearly love to join them.

Felix Trumps All

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As a devoted collector of Felix related objects I focus largely on the off-model, the unlicensed and often more singular, odd objects. These rarified bits often go for substantial money and as often as not I do not manage to acquire them. Sometimes fate allows one to fall into my hands and I put this one in that category.

Felix was popular with bridge players and I have seen other such interesting items related to the game, bid on and lost them previously. This Felix has a distinctly British look to him although he came to me from a US dealer. The design leads me to think he was made by Pixyland Kew (in the 1920’s they would have been Pixyland and Kew before they merged) as he has that look. As you can see, it appears they plunked this ready-made little fellow onto this base. (I wrote about my Felix Pixyland Kew figures once before and the history of that company. That post can be found here and another can be found here. Lastly, I have also done a post about the Felix Bridge tally card below which can be found here.)

From the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection and a December 2018 post also on Bridge!

I am not a Bridge player and it is frankly mysterious to me in all its facets. I gather that it was born out of the centuries old game of Whist which of course one reads about in early novels. Wikipedia tells me that the roots of that card game are in Italy and France. Bridge seems to have been a variation started by the British. (I feel like this country’s passion for it must have overtaken Britain’s at some point, but that is speculation.) Even Wikipedia’s simple description of the way it is played makes my head whirl. Kim says that the inmates of the asylum/rest home he worked at attempted to teach it to him. Their efforts did not take root, but Kim has a passing acquaintance with it as a result.

Another object made with a Pixyland Kew Felix. In the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I have never attempted to learn Bridge. I must confess that I am not a good game player in general, nor an especially able one when I am persuaded to try. I know I always had the wrong instincts in Monopoly as a kid and would try different, failing strategies such as purchasing as much of the affordable property as possible, or another time putting all my hopes on one Boardwalk or Park Place. I tried holding onto my cash and other times spending my money. It must be said that I would be surprised if I won a single game against my sister Loren over all those years of childhood. In some ways it amazes me that I have generally succeeded in life given the early indications of my lack of financial prowess playing Monopoly.

Pixyland Kew Felix from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Bridge does seem to have some fascinating accessories and Felix is among those. I will always have a soft spot for an enterprise with good stuff. In this way I have always had at least a passing interest in Bridge. In the twenties and thirties Felix was at the height of his popularity and Bridge may have been as well, so it isn’t surprising that these two came together in some interesting items. (A post about popular everyday items sporting Felix can be found here and a glorious Valentine drawing Kim devoted to it can be seen below and the post found here.)

My Felix Heaven, by Kim Deitch. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Working with a large number of reasonably affluent Manhattanites of a certain age over many years, I knew at least second hand, about how avidly Bridge is pursued. I heard of different clubs and associations, each with their own identity, and of course occasionally about the skill (or lack thereof) of individuals who were mutually known to us. Sadly I feel like that group has largely passed, leaving me wondering how Bridge is faring these days, even before the pandemic. The Covid shutdown must have meant a long interruption – although I gather it can and is played via Zoom and Facetime so maybe clubs moved online. I am sure the social aspect of it suffered however which seems to be an important factor for players.

Felix is in dubious shape, his head is no longer permanently affixed and his paint is chipped. He has mitten shaped hand-paws and he appears to lean on an orange brick wall of sorts. His Felix emblem is a fancy font and he has a jaunty look in general. There is a hole in his shoulder which indicates something is missing from there. His paper indicator (what these displays mean is very much beyond me) is entirely intact. He is pretty great overall in my estimation however. While I am somewhat concerned about his condition, I remind myself that Felix is retiring to a quiet shelf where his imperfections should not matter much. His message these days might be quasi-political one day and a heart for Valentine’s Day the next. Meanwhile he is the newest denizen of Pams-Pictorama and beloved new resident here at Deitch Studio.

Margaret Vandercook and the Ranch Girls

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For fans of my writing on series books of the early 20th century, I am back at it today with something to say about the first few books of this grand and lesser known series. Like the majority of the books about The Camp Fire Girls I have most enjoyed (my posts devoted to these books can be found here, here, here and here), this series was written by Margaret Vandercook, or aka Margaret Love Sanderson.

The only photo I can find of Vandercook.

Now even in the age of the internet Ms. Vandercook is a bit of a cypher. Between 1912 and about 1924 she published several dozen books under her own name and the pen name above. (I can tell you she wrote the heck out of these books too.) The meagre biography that is available sites that she began writing professionally after the death of her husband, presumably to support herself and her son. Although there are some allusions to magazine work done after that time and a book of poetry published in the 1940’s, the internet provides no trail for what happened in the mid-1920’s that caused her to cease publication, at least under these names. I speculate that possibly she remarried and continued to publish work under that name is not attached to her. She lives until 1958 and given how prodigious her output was during the decade above it is hard to imagine that she ceased writing altogether. (I am unable to even find an obituary attached to her.)

For my money Vandercook is a very good writer and despite the fact that she was juggling a myriad of characters and storylines, every series and each book remains quite distinct. I have said in former blog posts (I have written about The Camp Fire Girls here, here and here) that it is a wonder she had time to eat or sleep when we consider how much she produced. I somehow imagine her spending mornings with the The Campfire Girls, lunch with The Ranch Girls, late afternoons with The Red Cross Girls and evenings with The Girl Scouts.

Merely because these are juveniles and series books they should not be dismissed lightly. I have come to realize that, at least for now, I am tracking her more as an author than I am following a series as such. And as beloved as my Judy Bolton books are, (I wrote about those here and here) these are in no way as formulaic. Working for a series of lesser publishers Vandercook may have had more freedom. There are indications that she plotted these way in advance and perhaps wrote them straight through, splicing them into volumes of the right length along the way, the storyline continuing with the turn of a page.

Margaret Vandercook has an odd habit of engaging you with a lead character for a few volumes and then utterly sidelining that character for one or more volumes. This allows her to explore and develop others more thoroughly. It is a bit jolting if you were really attached to that storyline though – you may not pick it back up for a volume or two.

As I turned my attention from The Camp Fire Girls to The Ranch Girls I expected to lose the sense of wonder and lore that had made The Camp Fire Girls novels so wonderful. They were filled with the ceremony, rites and values of the early days of that movement. To my happy surprise this series is infused instead with admiration for the women of the still young West – the frontier spirit and how it could be found in this subsequent generation.

Wyoming Dude Ranch of the same period.

This is best seen in volume two, The Ranch Girls’ Pot of Gold, when the main character, a young woman name Jack, is injured and lost. She struggles through a storm to find her way back to camp and there is a ringing passage about the plucky stuff today’s girls still have, much as the prior generation of westward bound women exemplified.

In the teens and early twenties the Western genre was of course a mainstay in literature and film. While much tamer then the days of its origin, it remained remote and the imagination seems like it was endlessly stoked by storytellers using it at this time. Tales of gold strikes, disputes over land and water rights and the hardship of the elements make up an almost endless backdrop of lives lived in a saddle and the “taming” of this part of the country. The myth of the west is endlessly embellished.

From The Ranch Girls at Rainbow Lodge.

The Ranch Girls embody these same themes and spirit with the addition of being three (and then four) young women left to fend for themselves on a ranch in Wyoming after the death of their father, their mother having been lost at a much earlier time – as evidenced by the fact that she is almost never mentioned. They live under the (somewhat) watchful eye of their guardian and ranch overseer, Jim, and ultimately a cousin who comes to live with them to the end of civilizing them. The adult supervision being benign enough to allow them to get into a fair amount of trouble and adventure.

It is interesting that only two are sisters, the third a cousin who has lived with them since since childhood, and then the adopted fourth. A wonky thing happens with their ages and somehow the youngest sister ages a few years and catches up to the others between volume one and two.

If The Camp Fire Girls allowed Vandercook to explore those rites and rituals, it also underscored a favorite theme of mine, the emergence of women during this period as they fought their way through the right to vote, but also the right to work, be educated and marry for something other than economic advantage. The Ranch Girls takes this theme and expands it even further. These somewhat untamed young women of the West are sort of noble examples of what girls growing up outside society can produce.

Rock Springs Wyoming, 1915. Wyomingtalesandtrails.com

Their broader and less hidebound perspective is shocking to many as they move through society in the East during a stint in boarding school. However when the series takes them to Europe, it is this easy going nature that almost makes them prey for bounders and fortune hunters. Their refreshing American West personas do make them great favorites among the more staid Europeans they meet along the way. (While many of these series books take girls from the East and first send them out West and then to Europe these obviously work in the reverse!)

Where from our 21st century perspective, a full hundred years later, this series is well meaning but misses the mark is the exploration of the relationship to Native Americans it undertakes. It is an underlying theme and storyline and I was frankly shocked by the racism that one main character, Olive, is the center of in the first few volumes. She is assumed to be half Native American and the prejudice that must have been very real for the day is portrayed as she is thought at best to be given a position as a maid.

Physics class at Carlyle school which sought to eradicate Indian culture.

While the Ranch Girls adopt Olive as one of their family, there is still the undeniable relief when in subsequent volumes she is discovered to be half Spanish instead, born of a wealthy father and European mother, both dead. Evidently the character was not going to be allowed to flourish unless she was white. Later in the series Vandercook is still working through resolving attitudes toward Native Americans with another character in the story. I believe that in reality she was very interested in making people recognize the culture of these native tribes and to respect them. However, given both the pressures of her publishers, the readers and being of her own time, by today’s standards it is ham handed at times and can still be painful to read. For me it is valuable reminder of the prevalence of such attitudes and useful to understand the attempts to change it which did not just happen with the stroke of a pen.

For me these volumes are rollicking good stories with a nod to the highs and lows of dime novels mixed with the loftier ideals of instilling new values in young women of the time. These books are asking them to take a new look at the world around them and to consider how the modern young woman might make a difference and change the world. These books helped, one story at a time.

Locket

Pam’s Pictorama Post: A watery sun is just emerging on this July 4 morning here in NYC. It isn’t a sun that has made up its mind for the day, but it is at least a relief from the downright cold and rain which commenced on Friday and peaked (hopefully) yesterday. If I was planning to picnic I would be guardedly optimistic about the outcome. I will definitely take hazy sun over none today, although my holiday plans are not more celebratory than a long walk along the river later.

Today is a jewelry combined with cat post and I am thinking about this locket which reached our shores from Great Britain earlier this week. I purchased it from Mia, aka @therubyfoxes on IG. I have written about Mia previously (that post can be found here and one about my other Instagram jewelry connections can be found here), and I had asked her about a pretty decorative chain which it turned out would require extra links on the back to make it sufficiently long enough to wear.

While that isn’t a huge project, until I return to visiting the office in midtown on a regular basis I don’t seem to be able to hook up with my jeweler in the Diamond District. They do not have a storefront and these last months have only come from Jersey at odd hours as well. They have had a set of pearls I had restrung back in March of 2020 which we continue to negotiate about. Anyway, I was sufficiently discouraged from the purchase.

However, a thought did scratch at the back of my brain. I had landed on Mia’s online shop recently (therubyfoxes.com) and taken note of an especially nice heavy, silver art deco locket which stayed on my mind. Her description listed it as sterling, Birmingham made circa 1879 via the hallmarks (maker’s initials MJG). Left to my own devices I would have pegged it for the teens here in the US, but what do I know? I can imagine one of my Camp Fire Girls wearing it – or perhaps their older sister?

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Mia points out that the Victorian design was deliberate and the symbols are ivy and belts. According to her listing the ivy is for friendship and connection while the belts represent eternity, loyalty, strength and protection. The idea that this was more of a locket of friendship than romance appealed to me in an odd way – and these days who doesn’t need strength and protection? Mia kindly included a chain to wear it on and the deal was done.

Lockets are interesting things as you consider what, if anything, you will put in them – that which you will then keep close to your heart. I think my younger self saw this as a bit of a responsibility actually, even intimidating. I was years away from meeting Kim still so he wasn’t an option at the time. (Meanwhile, I am also a bit obsessed with these sort of small silver containers to wear on a chain which could hold any interesting tiny thing. I once missed out on one that was Native American years ago much to my sorrow. I could still need one of those and Mia also has one of those in her shop. Hmmm.)

I have written a bit about how my taste in jewelry has shifted over the last year. I have surprisingly returned to an interest in vintage costume and everyday pieces of the kind that I collected through high school, college and early adulthood – although most seem to hail from Great Britain this time around. In recent years I had invested in fewer, more singular pieces, almost always gold rather than silver. I had a gorgeous bee ring made for my birthday a few years ago by a genius jeweler in Los Angeles, Gizelle Strohkendt, which I wore virtually daily until mid-March 2020.

I purchased my very favorite (lucky) horse ring from her years ago, which she made from an antique cameo. We have something else in the works now too. (Although I have known Gizelle from my in-person visits to Los Angeles over many years, she too can be found on IG under @murielchastanet_finejewelry or at the Westwood Village, LA shop of the same name. These beloved pieces I mention are definitely future posts jewelry friends!)

Muriel Chastenat, Gizelle’s mother and the eponymous founder of the shop now in the hands of Gizelle and her sister Charlotte, aka Charley. Shown here in an early photo of the shop (which still looks exactly like this) taken from an article celebrating Muriel, published at the time of her death.

Oddly the purchase of this locket represents a desire for one that goes way back to my early days here in New York City right after college. There was a rather excellent store on First Avenue, just blocks above the 59th Street Bridge, which carried some Art Deco furniture and odds and ends, as well as several cases of jewelry roughly from the same era which I focused my attention on. It was a mere block or two above my favorite antique toy store (an early post on that shop which ignited my antique toy collecting passion can be found here) and it was a habit to occasionally treat myself to a wander down from my home in the East 80’s and poke around in both.

I was chronically broke at the time and so there was definitely more looking with only a few purchases. However, I had noted a display of lockets behind the counter in the jewelry shop (can’t bring the name of the shop to mind at all sadly), and one day I wandered down to have a good look and see what the odds were of purchasing one.

Lovely little package arrived earlier this week. It was wrapped in a page from an old tome on London theater which caught my eye and I read.

However, what I found when I got to the counter were kittens instead! It turned out that she also rescued animals. Whereas her regular gig was fostering dogs, this litter of kittens had come her way and had been living in the basement of the shop where they were kept from over the enthused pups residing at home. They hailed from Brooklyn originally. Of course their adorableness frolicking around the shop also had got most of them adopted quickly.

There was a tiny male tuxedo who immediately jumped from his counter perch into my arms, doing the hard sell complete with purrs and kisses, and a clear desire to come home with me. He had had a terrible eye infection he was recovering from and his runny eyes had probably been the deterrent to his speedy adoption. At the time I had a female tuxie named Otto Dix (yep, thought she was a boy) and I had been considering a second cat. Lockets entirely forgotten, I went home to think about this cat acquisition.

Pictorama readers probably don’t need to be told that I was back very soon after to see if the little fellow was still there. The woman told me he was promised to a man, but she felt better about sending him home with me. She lent me a carrier and Mr. Zippy came home with me that day. Silver lockets dismissed in favor of this new family acquisition. Sadly, the shop closed not long after, although I would see her occasionally selling furniture at the big antique shows on the westside Piers in subsequent years.

A polaroid of Zippy as a kitten, curled up in an envelope box.

Needless to say, the twenty years I enjoyed my much beloved Zippy emphatically eclipsed any possible jewelry purchase. However, when I saw this locket in Mia’s online shop my mind went back to the yen that took me to that shop decades ago. Furthermore, I suspect Mia will like this story as she too is an animal person and shares photos of her kitties (fluffy beautiful Enid and remarkable kitten Astrid) along with wildlife around her home in the stunning British countryside.

As I try to put together a vision of Post-pandemic Pam she is evidently sporting British finery (a lot of lucky horseshoe pins showing up) from more than 100 years ago – probably paired with a wardrobe of nice sneakers I am envisioning since I have realized that I am not inclined to consider anything else on my feet going forward. Not sure what will replace sweatpants, workout clothes and the two sundresses I have in rotation, but we’ll see. I intend to sport this find for my first in-person work events in August, sneakers and all.

Annual

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a remarkably wet start to the July 4 weekend here in Manhattan. The coffee is perking, Kim is reading a heavy tome (Thomas Wolfe) on the other side of this table, Cookie was last seen curled up in an odd small corner between a closet door and the entrance to the bathroom, and Blackie is snoozing on my desk chair, curled up with my black sweatshirt which has grown greatly tatty with use over the past 15 months at home.

This simple hoody was originally purchased with for the specific purpose of being a warm layer, easily washed, to protect me from the elements when coming home from the gym sweaty. While I have not employed it for that use in a very long time, it is frequently pulled on against the apartment chill of all seasons which, along with a much-worn pair of Addidas sweatpants, I will probably look back as the uniform of home pandemic wear. (I sport a looser sweatshirt – better for many layers – with my alma mater, Connecticut College emblazoned on it, when running. In fact I was wearing it when I fell a few weeks ago and was glad I had the presence of mind to change before going to the ER so that I didn’t need to cut it off to get around my heavily bandaged hand later in the day. I opine on the comfy sweatshirt as part of a post on running to be found here and of course my fall and subsequent broken fingers here and about my nascent running career here.)

Blackie blends into the sweatshirt, his white chest badge tucked under him and his glowing eyes shut. He is in danger of getting sat upon when perched here and we spent a lot of time this week fighting over this chair. He doesn’t trust my weekend defection to the other desk and computer.

My former stomping ground, the Metropolitan Museum, on a recent morning.

Rain or shine, in my fundraising life this holiday weekend has always marked the close of one fiscal year and the fresh start of a new one. Since taking on the role of head fundraiser the battle to meet an income budget has become paramount in my mind. At the Metropolitan Museum and during my many years there, it was also a busy time which combined tying up my own program income and in later years working through compensation, performance reviews and tracking the progress of the other fundraising programs, but the ultimately responsibility did not fall squarely on my shoulders as it does now – and the responsibility of the past two fiscal years has been, to say the least, substantial. (A post written upon leaving the Met after 30 years can be found here.)

So for me, this holiday is always about considering the prior year while starting to shrug it off in order to start over. Raising money is a sort of annual miracle which has to be built from the ground up every twelve months where we rise from the ashes of the prior year and build the new one. And although I always say it is at least as much science as art and of course good planning helps, I suspect it is a bit different than, let’s say the supply and demand of making and selling widgets. No one has to give money and fundraising is mercurial under the best of circumstances. And, as for many people and industries, the past 15 months of raising money for a shuttered performing arts organization have been extraordinary and stretched my creativity in ways I didn’t suspect I had. (Prior posts about my first year at this job and my pandemic work life can be found here and a recent one about contemplating the return to the office, here.)

Blackie is among the pets of the world who will need to adjust to no longer being a routine member of the staff.

In addition, like many managers I am facing a staff of folks who are trying to figure out how they will shake off the exhaustion of these long months at home and re-imagine the next phase of their professional careers. I think for many the difficulty of morphing back to the pre-pandemic world is so hard that instead they are deciding that instead they will open a new chapter somewhere else and start the story over. I can appreciate the inclination although I also believe that in the end you take your problems with you so you might as well face them where you are. Nevertheless, they are peeling off in record numbers and heading to graduate school, to support other causes, or to remain near family they have spent the last months with or caring for.

It isn’t just my staff obviously – we are reading about it constantly in the news, and I am also being asked to serve as reference for many of the colleagues I have remained in touch with over the years as they too shift and morph.

Whatever form post-pandemic work takes I would like to make sure I still spend time outside and in the park. I have really enjoyed that early morning time outside, in all weather, over the past year.

I was reading a response to a friend’s post on Instagram which addressed the overwhelming lassitude of returning the world and how she, as a busy professional had once balanced so many competing needs daily, now found herself exhausted just by making a grocery list. While the pressures of my job only increased over the last year and a half, it has all been performed from a command central here aloft in a high rise apartment on East 86th Street where I forced myself out the door just to get some exercise after the first six months were spent with virtually none.

Lobby of the Milwaukee Art Museum, taken on a break to visit a friend while on one of my last business trips shortly before the shutdown.

As we begin to plan for a rapidly approaching season of revived live music, events and related travel, I look askance at my now moth eaten wardrobe, assess the excess weight I am still in the process of losing, have endless discussions about what a return to the office will look like, and a pre-emptive exhaustion rolls over me. I try to exercise the weak muscle by making in-person appointments, first with friends and increasingly for work. Part of me is also trying to figure out the next chapter too – do I need to travel in the coming January? How many nights a week do I need to work? Which of the tools I was employing was actually working and which can I let go of? Does any of that matter now as we all rethink our world and try to form it in a new image?

On the other hand, I arrive on the shores of the new world with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for my capabilities. Damn, I am good at this and have achieved against the odds, albeit certainly not alone, but with the undeniable hard work and commitment of so many colleagues. Still, I will return to the world with a new sense of my own capabilities and resourcefulness, more confident than before with less of a tendency to be apologetic. As I relax over this wet holiday weekend and allow the sense of relief to roll over me briefly, goals finally met, year closed, I will relax with Kim and kitties, grab a (fake) hotdog, pour a drink and gently cultivate thoughts of the coming next chapter and what I chose to make of it.

The Wild West

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The world is slowly returning to its pre-pandemic axis, at least in some ways, and the sheer delight of seeing people we haven’t and even conducting business in person is a process of rediscovering a forgotten pleasure. Yesterday we had an early dinner with our friend Bill Kartalopoulos. It was so lovely to sit outside on a beautiful evening (and not because we had no choice but to be outside), and catch up with him in person after more than a year.

Bill took this photo of me and Kim while we were together yesterday.

Meanwhile, last week I had an afternoon to myself and headed over to the Upper Westside of Manhattan for drinks with a fundraising colleague of many decades. Karen and I have never worked at the same place, but we have been a part of professional groups together and loosely tracked each other through work and life changes, our careers running along an unusually close parallel, these folks help you along – sending prospective staffers your way when needed, assisting when you need to unknot thorny problems, and of course having a drink and a giggle over what is going on in your respective organizations or cheering you on when you are just frustrated and losing your perspective.

I was early to meet Karen and strolled east on 84th Street. These days of too much desk sitting in a small apartment has pushed me to add on a few blocks here and there of walking whenever I can. Scratching at the back of my brain was a shop I often walk by, but either it is closed or I haven’t had time to go in whenever I have found myself in front of it.

Plates so nice! I wish I had space to add one or two.

I have peered at its interesting windows, chock a block full of fascinating bits, frequently over the years. Recently, when late for a haircut, I had taken note of a wonderful array of jolly painted doorstops, mostly of flowers in the window. (One tempting cat doorstop, in the shop.) I will say, I am relieved to see that this establishment had made it through the pandemic – oh the frustration if it had disappeared and I had never darkened its door!

Oh those painted doorstops!

It turned out it was my lucky day and John Koch Antiques was open for business. (The link is here in case you wish to peruse a bit of online antique furniture buying.) It is happily the sort of place where you should expect to have to squeeze through stuffed aisles sideways in places. Furniture piled high, cabinets full of china and trinkets worthy of notice though. Just the sort of place to spend some happy time perusing and digging around. So little of this sort of thing left here in Manhattan!

John Koch himself was seated behind a desk, approximately right in the center of it all. He was carrying on an animated conversation with a customer about a museum reproduction of a Rodin’s The Kiss.

I had half an eye out for silverware – we need some in a not especially urgent way and I like to pick up old, odd silver pieces or bakelite handled ones. Meanwhile, I gave a look at a silver (plate? painted?) tourist cup of New York which appeared to feature Grants Tomb. (I was unable to see what else was featured.) However, when I wandered into the furtherest room I saw this towel rack, on the wall with companion piece. (Apologies that I cannot remember the subject matter of the other one, but whatever it was I found it less dynamic than this one I purchased.)

Perhaps it was my latest reading project, The Ranch Girls by Margaret Vandercook of Camp Fire Girls fame – clearly more to come on this series – however, thanks to Kim’s interest in the Western genre, we are in general a very cowboy friendly household. Mr. Koch didn’t miss a beat when I interrupted his conversation to inquire about it. He immediately named a price I found agreeable and shouted for a man, working nearby in the same room as the piece, to unscrew it from the wall. It was wrapped and in my hands in a few moments and I was only five minutes late to meet Karen.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Made of some sort of resin to resemble carved wood, this fellow is caught in an action pose on his rearing bronco. I like the little ranch on a hill behind him which gives the ‘scene’ a lot of dimension. I am a fan of the faux stone design at the bottom, as if he is perched on this ledge. Arguably, there is something odd about the turn of the cowboy’s foot, and the proportions between his figure and that of the horse are a bit off, but we can’t really blame the designer for cheating it a bit, he or she caught the spirit of the thing nicely. The textures of his chaps and coiled rope, the stony terrain and the definition of the horse give it texture.

It is my assumption that it was made to hang on a kitchen wall where hand towels and pot holders could be kept handy. (Let me know if you know otherwise!) My thought is to hang it away from the stove in case it is inclined to melt a bit, nor do I want it to get gooped up with grease. If I thought it was necessary ongoing I might designate it for holding our masks by the front door of the apartment, but we are very much hoping that our mask wearing will soon be a distant memory of a time gratefully gone-bye.

Felix Summer in the City

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo comes from the Midwest (it found its way to me via @missmollystlantiques who discovered her) and hails from the earlier decades of the 20th Century. I tried to date this photo by the Felix toy which is a Yes/No Felix but couldn’t find anything definite. (However, I am pleased to say I have one of these little fellows and I have written about the acquisition of him for a birthday gift back in 2017 and that post can be found here.) I am going to put this photo at the late 1930’s, but I am open to the opinions and interpretations of you all as well.

Yes/No Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The other toy is maddeningly hard to see. I think it is a monkey, a step up from a rag doll, but with very long arms and sporting a little uniform of sorts.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The age of the girl in the photo eludes me as well – dressed a bit childishly, how old or young is she? Of course I myself often pose with my beloved toys so I cast no aspersions if she is a bit older. Her gingham sunsuit and pigtails trimmed with ribbons seem young on her, but that could also just be by today’s fashion. One sandeled foot sporting a striped sock is barely visible. Although it could just be a wall of a building it feels like a rooftop to me, something about it says roof to me. A hot summer day at midday.

There is nothing written on the photo and the back is clean – it was not ripped from an album. I like the border of dots around the edge. That sort of border and the later scalloped edges were nice touches. A photo feels more like a finished product even without a frame with those added bits.

Kim and a reluctant Cookie.

Her toy-pride has earned the photo a place in my collection. The impulse to pose with your toys is almost as strong as scooping up your kitty for a pic.

*************

As an aside, for those Pictorama followers who know I recently broke two fingers, I am pleased to report that I was set free from my (somewhat hateful, hard plastic) splint yesterday by the good Dr. Mir, who also said I don’t need to see him for a month. (The post about my mishap on Memorial Day can be read here.) I am not allowed to run for three more weeks, but I suspect I will start gentle workouts on the other parts of my body this week, under the careful eye of the every vigilant Harris Cowan, my trainer. Physical therapy continues – three times a day at home and twice weekly at the facility on 87th Street.

I am actually typing this post, albeit slowly, with both hands. The word Felix is a tough reach for my ring finger, but I am pleased in general to see the wounded fingers respond to being put through their paces!

The better side of my newly freed hand!

Silver

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is Father’s Day and I had intended to ignore that fact as it just makes me sad since losing my Dad. (Some favorite posts about Dad can be found here and here.) However, this morning I saw a post on Instagram for a silver ring that caught my eye, offered by dealer in Australia who I follow (@madamebrocante), mostly for eye candy as her pieces are quite dear and generally more than I will spend on the internet where you can’t try things on – the best way to decide you must purchase jewelry. Nonetheless, a ring caught my eye as one that would go well with this cuff which has been a favorite of mine for decades.

Elliott Butler starting on a cross country trip by motorcycle.

Turns out the ring was a vintage one from the silver company of George Jensen, a Danish silversmith (1866-1935) whose designs my father loved with all of it. My father had a great eye and decided taste running toward Brutalist and modernist design in jewelry. He vastly preferred silver to gold and other than a good watch I cannot think of a piece of jewelry he gave me that wasn’t silver. (He loved silver in all things though and would buy sterling anything with impunity, wherever he found it. As a result silver services piled up in the house too over time.) He was not partial to gem stones liked his silver largely unadorned. (Meanwhile, I’m not sure who considers ring buying while recovering from broken fingers. I can hear my father saying, Well, that’s what you get for exercising!) His taste was consistently clean and simple lines in all things – from Shaker furniture to suits.

An example of Jensen’s Melon ring, not (yet) in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I have a small clutch of silver jewelry by the designer Art Smith pieces Dad bought Mom (a post about those can be found here), but my mother was never much on jewelry and doesn’t wear so much as a watch or wedding ring. (Weirdly I have ended up with a pile of wedding bands – grandmother’s, mom’s and unidentified.) Loren, my sister, had jewelry taste which ran very much to the traditional (gold, pearls, precious stones) and so when my father developed an interest in Native American contemporary silver jewelry I was the natural recipient.

Necklace by Art Smith

Among several pieces and most beloved is this silver cuff. I myself wear a lot of gold and this had been put away for awhile when I rediscovered it about five years ago. It is remarkably comfortable despite being hefty. My father used to purchase such pieces from a small gallery/shop neat Grand Central in a high rise with a public atrium and stores. The Whitney Museum had a space there for years. I wear this cuff very frequently – or at last did pre-pandemic, dressing for work.

When I started wearing the cuff again – after my mother had given me the Art Smith pieces – I decided to research the marks. It was made by an award winning artisan named Johnny Mike Begay. I cannot find a lot of information other than examples of his work. He was Navajo and died in 1976 which means my father purchased this more than a decade after Mr. Begay died. The design is one that he made many variations on – other bracelets, belt buckles and rings. I have long had my eye out for a ring, but haven’t found the right one yet. Although I pair it with some luscious turquoise rings and earrings what I want is something which, like the Jensen ring, speaks more to the simplicity of the design which is what appealed to my father.

The Jensen ring is a beauty and the craftsmanship and design are undeniably wonderful. Madame Brocante informed me that it was designed by Regitze Overgaard, maybe in the 1980’s, for George Jensen and is known as the Melon ring. Madame B’s example is way too small for my hands as it turns out – the ones available all run small – do Danes have tiny hands? Examples are available on the internet and it is tempting if the right size can be found. There would be no adjusting this design.

Regardless of whether or not I purchase one it gave me the pleasure of starting Father’s Day with a particularly fond memory of Dad I might not have had today otherwise. He would have loved that ring.

Progress

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My friend Eden gave me the tag line to this blog, All Pam, All the Time and I liked it because many of my readers, especially at first, found me through Kim and it seemed fair warning that, although you will get some Kim, Pictorama is a heaping serving of me. Some days are more me than others and this is one of those unabashedly me days.

In a quiet way, this week lurched forward significantly and was sort of a landmark week. To start, it was made public that Jazz at Lincoln Center was one of 286 recipients of extraordinary and unsolicited donations from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist ex-wife of Amazon titan, Jeff Bezos. (As one colleague said, I feel so much better about all the money I spent with Amazon over the pandemic.) It is a gift that will have a profound effect on the organization and as a career fundraiser it was a once in a lifetime gift to experience. Truly it is a testament to the hard work of Wynton Marsalis, especially his tireless work over the last year plus, as we struggled not only to survive but to be present for people who needed music and community during this time.

However, much like when Kim has a new book to promote, psychologically I had moved on once it was done (there is always more money to raise and we are still closing this year) which for me happened a few weeks ago, and I was drawn back into it with the public announcement, which lead to announcements to Board and staff.

On the walk over to Summer Stage Thursday. Cedar Hill, Central Park.

The other events of this week included my first hair cut in a year. Although I had gone last summer, the timing and location are bad for me working from home. However, my newly broken fingers have required first Kim’s help and then my own awkward efforts to put it up and I realized it was time. (I wrote about my longstanding decision not to dye my premature – at first anyway – gray hair in a recent post here.) It was nice to catch up with David who co-owns the salon and has cut my hair since our wedding back in 2000.

Unlike last summer’s cut (short, short because I didn’t know when I would come back) somehow this one transformed me back to a semblance of my pre-pandemic self. The pounds I have dropped (still some left to go, but many gone) probably help in that regard and the recent purchase of a sundress which I was sporting contributed to the overall effect.

Summer Stage opening in Central Park on Thursday.

The timing was good because shortly after I headed over to Central Park where the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was opening Summer Stage. Many of my colleagues from across the organization had booked tickets and it became an impromptu reunion – complete with hugging and elbow bumps for those not ready to hug. (There’s a lot of hugging in jazz.) The outdoors meant everyone was pretty comfortable being without a mask, eating and drinking. I can’t say the year melted away, but it was like salve on a wound.

As the sun was setting in the west and the orchestra struck up the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue I looked around and realized that coincidence had it that I was seated with many folks I sit backstage with during countless concerts in the hall and elsewhere. I stretched out in my chair and watched the sparrows ready for the evening, a few bats. My eyes welled with the sheer pleasure. The weather and the night were perfection. It was the first time I felt like maybe we really are back.

Friday dawned with a trip to Dr. Mir (hand surgeon – my Memorial Day hand exploits can be found in a post here) and my first session of hand physical therapy was later in the afternoon. I admit to being squeamish about pain and I can’t say I was without some trepidation. My hand is healing, more or less on schedule it seems though. With a little luck I may be allowed to take the splint off at home in another week – maybe even be cleared to run and work out a bit by the end of the month.

Seeing my hand without the splint really for the first time was a bit discouraging. It remains black and blue (quite green actually) in the extreme, still swollen in places. Being allowed to wash it was a huge relief however and that made up for the discomfort of it making its debut, splintless for examination and therapy. There isn’t much to say except that therapy is slow and hurts – almost by definition. I am a chicken about pain frankly, but a realist so I am focusing hard on making each movement count as I remind my fingers that they know how to bend. How could they have forgotten in a few short weeks?

Tucked into a tiny space on 87th near Lex. Hand rehab doesn’t take up much space.

By the end of forty minutes with the therapist we could see some, small improvement. I was reminded that my original purpose in taking up running (at least in part) was to tackle something different and hard during a time when my waking hours seemed to be confined to a desk chair in our one room apartment, working. While hand therapy will not get me outside, nor help me lose weight, it is unintentionally providing me with a new challenge to meet.

So I end the week with some renewed optimism about our impending nascent return to the office part-time next month. I think I am starting to shake off my Covid cocoon and if not the old Pam, at least the latest model of her,