Pumpkin Head

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Picking our very Halloween run of posts back up today, I share with you all a candy container which just turned up here at Pictorama. (May I just add that the very phrase vintage candy container thrills me?) He is an odd duck and a bit more fragile than I thought he would be. I have not yet found the best final spot for him in the new bookcase, among the black cat toys. I had planned for him to live with some of his Halloween brethren, but in addition to being fragile he rolls dangerously. Right now he is resting against one of my extremely off-model Felix toys, nestled safely into his side safely on a lower shelf.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Mr. Pumpkin has a few dents which can be forgiven considering his advanced age. He is marked simply on the bottom, German, and nothing else. (I don’t know how much they actually celebrate Halloween in Germany but there was a time when they were making some of the greatest Halloween items being sold in this country. Strange, right?)

Pumpkin Head appears to be paper mache, or a close relative, lined with cardboard. I can only imagine what a glorious thing it would be to show up for a Halloween party and find an army of these fellows, stuffed with candy on a decorated table! Or perhaps he was dropped into the candy packed pillowcase of some lucky child – who loved him so much he has survived the long march of time this far.

Side view, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

He is pretty friendly looking with just a touch of madness. I confess to a bit of intimidation by some pumpkin-headed figures. Even as an adult, I admit that they fill me with some unease – my idea of a horror film, being chased by mad pumpkin-headed figures, legs and arms seem to make all the difference to my psyche.

In addition to the well-documented ongoing black cat addiction, I went through a period of purchasing Halloween decorating books of the aughts and teens, originals and reproductions. As a result a brief examination of the Dennison’s decoration empire can be found in a 2015 post here. Founded as a maker of jewelry boxes in the 1840’s, Dennison’s was the first maker of crepe paper. They were the reigning king of holiday decorating for over 100 years, starting in 1897. Their Bogie Books fulfilled every curiosity I harbored about the details of early 20th century Halloween celebrations.

Original Bogie Book, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Even as a kid I was somewhat fascinated by Halloween of yore. I remember insisting on bobbing for apples at some Halloween party and I can only say it is perhaps a skill that one develops over time. (And clearly not one to revive in this Covid year of contagion.) Perhaps this was a regional thing and some of you readers were routinely bobbing away. My Halloweens were ones of unromantic plastic pumpkins and pillowcases for candy, uncomfortable masks of hard plastic that were purchases out of boxes and were hard to breathe in and even harder to see out of, especially in the dark – they always seemed to poke you in the eye a bit.

I am not sure if a renewed interest in Halloween items is speaking to me this year because of unexpected availability or perhaps fulfilling a different yen during this oddest of years. Maybe it is a desire to mark the changing season in a year of remarkably similar days. (My new mid-West supplier Miss Molly seems to be the reigning Queen of Halloween and has turned up a surfeit of items – she occasionally even sends me things to look at while she is in the parking lot of a flea market, somewhere in the environs of St. Louis. Seems like a glorious way to spend your weekends actually. I enjoy vicarious pleasure in her ventures.)

When I was a young adult I continued to carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns much as I had since I was a child, wielding the knife now however – and cleaning up the huge mess. The last time I did it was the first Halloween after Kim and I got together. What I remember best is that my cat Otto loved the smell of the pumpkin guts, rolled around in them and insisted on eating it. (Incidentally, canned pumpkin can help at cat clear hairballs out of their system. Just a kitty tip in passing.) Sadly, I did not have the foresight to document the Deitchien influenced creation.

Trick or treating in Manhattan is an odd ritual with the kids of our high rise building going door-to-door to apartments who have indicated that they are welcome. Local businesses also get into the spirit and hand out candy to the kiddies. This year, a sort of ham handed CDC recommended fashion, the building will forego and instead offer pre-filled bags to the offspring of the building. Regardless, we are on the countdown to Halloween ’20 however, and I have at least one more small Halloween treat up my sleeve to share next week.

The Long and the Short of It

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The folks in these photos are costumed, but it might be a bit of a stretch to say these are Halloween photos, nonetheless I offer them for your pre-Halloween delectation today.

These photos are 9.5″x 3.5″, a size I have never encountered before. They are printed on a heavy stock – it might be fair to say photo postcard paper, but since they were long glued into an album (black paper sticks to the backs) it is a bit hard to tell exactly what their original weight was. Quite simply, these appear to be a miniature version of the foot long or panorama photo. They are slightly solarized, the silver somehow working its way to the surface as they aged.

On the technical side I am unsure exactly what camera would have sported this film, although the desire to make panoramas goes back to daguerreotypes – starting with the fitting together of consecutive shots, something that continues into the wet plate era.

Kodak was evidently making a panorama camera back in 1898, but my guess is that this photo may have been made with a 1911 Kodak model sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. (I am not that smart about these this and some of these tidbits come from a larger article that can be found at A Brief History of Panoramic Photography.)

Generally panoramic photos were larger and made by either the lens moving or the camera and film rotating, but it seems that home panorama camera kits were mass produced, used roll film and the swing lens theory, but did not require a tripod. They made for smaller photos, topping out at around 12 inches. The negatives could be enlarged or contact printed. Given the information in these photos and the size I would guess their were contact printed. The edges of these photographs are a bit over-exposed and diffused which I am guessing either this particular camera or perhaps was prone to or that that process was likely to have.

Some of you might remember that there was a brief fad for disposable panoramic cameras, shortly before digital cameras (ultimately followed by the phone-photo) became the rage. They had a generally unsatisfying picture quality however, the dimensions somewhat shorter and wider than these. I was more a fan in theory than fact. (There was a more rarified 3-D disposable camera which I purchased, but sadly my photos were lost in the development return process so I cannot comment on the quality.) Somehow the panorama quality of my phone camera also disappoints and I use it rarely if at all.

Pams-Pictorama.com
Pams-Pictorama.com

If you look carefully at these pictures you can tell that the leafy surround of the stage is the same in both photos although the elaborate costumes and backdrops make me think these are entirely different productions. Both appear to be of a historical nature, but one has thrown in a number of angels, even two who “float” above the group, a technical triumph I am sure.

These pictures found their way to me from the mid-West (as many photos have recently) and there were a smattering of others, apparently from still other productions, that were sold at the same time. I was fascinated by the size which I had not encountered before.

Meanwhile, I would say that all evidence points to these kids really knowing how to put on a show. If I had to choose I think I would be partial to seeing the one with the angels doing their thing – although perhaps their special effect was only for this picture.

As an aside, a little known Pictorama fact is that I was an active participant in high school dramatics. Plays found me onstage and musicals behind the scenes as an assistant to the director. As such I can still recent lines from Harvey and know most of the lyrics to things like How Are Things in Glocca Morra? I’ve painted my share of scenery and assembled all sorts of costumes so I can appreciate the work that appears to have gone into these productions. (I am not much of a singer so Kim and the cats are blissfully spared my actual vocalizing of show tunes.)

For a number of years I have searched for the right panorama photo to find a home here at Deitch Studio. We have so little wall room that I have long held out for the right one, perhaps a wild west show, although of course something with cats would really be best. I am agnostic on size, although some are really quite huge. Most of what has come my way for purchase has been gala dinners for salesmen so I continue to wait for the right one to come along. I did post about a sort of faux panorama of cats, Kitty Sextette Singers, which can be found here which was assembled through a bit of photo negative magic.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Kim tells a good story about being in a panorama photo as a kid at an animator’s picnic with his folks – that or even one like it would be the real find. He also points out that with the roll film or rolling camera and film, a trickster who thought ahead could race from one end of the photo to the other and appear on both ends – a long forgotten joke of a bygone era.

Halloween in the Snow

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is another photo I have been holding onto in the run up to Halloween, purchased earlier this fall. Sadly there were several that ideally would have stayed together, but alas they went to high for me to achieve that goal. I liked this one best for its composition and our subject’s attitude.

Among the others were several similar shots and another in a group shot of five revelers standing in a line, four in similar homemade clown costumes and the fifth in a sort of Swiss maiden outfit. Another that I missed and would have been nice to have was nine folks, also all lined up at some sort of wooden balcony railing (eight of the nine were clown hat clones and presumably similar costumes from what we can see), appearing to be watching something, a parade most likely, together. These once again offered by Miss Molly, my mid-west maven of photos and things Halloween. Still, it is something that these all found loving homes even if it means they scattered across the country and perhaps even further.

The homemade costume was probably a relatively simple design – although I assure you beyond my capacity. As Pictorama readers might know, while I learned to sew buttons at some point, otherwise my sewing experience, via machine, is an endless tale of bobbins which were never the same for my acquaintance. I am old enough to have had Home Ec, perhaps among the last for whom it was required, before it was abolished or at least made optional. Meanwhile, I never met a sewing machine I didn’t manage to mangle with my ham handed ministrations. (I did better when it came to cooking.) As in many things my sister achieved substantially better than I did in this area and was pretty good, sewing some items she wore. She was also good at making bread – another area I have failed to achieve highly in, alas.

This photo is very jolly – showing off her nice costume out in the snow with her bit of attitude and eclat, a capsule of a time long gone by yet the homemade Halloween spirit which we can appreciate. She is justifiably proud of the handiwork on her costume. Whatever the accommodation she has made for her feet I cannot quite tell, although she has forgone snow boots. The other photos do not show evidence of snow and must have been before or after it had melted. I hope she had a nice day for when she was sporting it for a long time. (I hate to think of her suffering cold wet feet due to understandable costume related vanity.)

Although I cannot begin to remember most of my Halloween costumes from childhood and into adolescence (they sort of mostly mash together in my mind) I do know that while I had store bought costumes as a very young child (I did not come from a crafty DIY costume making type family at large), as soon as I was old enough to assemble my own I did with great joy. I can also say I still enjoy a good witch hat, worn at a saucy angle, not to mention a pair of cat ears which I have been known to wear to work on the appropriate occasion.

As an aside, Jazz at Lincoln Center is the first place I have worked where costumes were embraced by a swath of the staff for Halloween. (Just not a Met Museum thing.) I have a vivid memory of sitting in a meeting my first year with our Comptroller in gore strewn regalia much to my surprise. It is something I will miss this year, although I will keep my cat ears handy for a Zoom call or two on Friday.

I loved Halloween and we grew up in the right sort of neighborhood to be able to cover many houses on foot in the course of an early evening with neighborhood friends in a loosely age appropriate pack. It felt so exotic to walk the neighborhood on a chilly October night with your friends, knocking on the doors of houses you walked by constantly, but did not frequent. The candy was often kinds my somewhat limited experience had never allowed for – my introduction to things like wax lips and bottles of sugar liquid. A world of Mary Janes and fertile ground for tooth decay.

When younger, my sister and I were close enough in age that we went together of course, and then morphed into a neighborhood group that included both of us, before we drifted into our own groups over time. I don’t remember Loren being that enamored of Halloween now that I think of it – I believe she dispensed with it much earlier on than I did. I continued find excuses to dress up through college and even a bit beyond.

The last time I remember being in full Halloween regalia was probably the last Halloween I was still seeing my pre-Kim boyfriend. It was a huge gallery opening for a Robert Crumb exhibit. I was young enough still to be impressed that there was hot food served. I didn’t know Kim well at the time, but was surprised he wasn’t in attendance. (Looking back, my antenna already unconsciously tuned.) I was in a long black dress, black velvet opera coat and witch hat. I remember being very pleased at having a chance to wear the vintage velvet coat.

Fast forwarding, Halloween now falls immediately after our wedding anniversary (last week) and the anniversary of our first date – Veteran’s Day weekend. Therefore it has been somewhat supplanted by these bookends of dates of Deitch Studio/Pictorama importance. Today we have determined to make a mini-adventure via ferry (my new favored mode of transportation) and I am leaving off to go prepare for it. With any luck, more about that to come.

Postzegeltaal: Stamp Language

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While I purchased this because I was in a Halloween mood, it is an interesting way to have promoted a long ago and evidently foreign postal service. Perhaps ours in the US today could use such a boosting campaign? A witch and a toy black cat can do a lot for business, at least in my opinion.

This card, never mailed, is Dutch. The stamps featured on the card entice and call out to the viewer to: think of me, call me, give a shout, stay true to me, visit soon, shout soon, as well as I love you, I’m waiting for you, 1000 kisses. Oh the things you can say with a postcard – the possibilities are endless. (A reader tells me that the stamps indicate that the card is from 1957 or later.)

Why there was a need to promote postal service, as well as why they might have used a Halloween motif is somewhat beyond me, perhaps that information is just lost to the sands of time. However, she is a fine looking witch and the black cat toy she is shushing or sharing a secret with appears to be a very nice and fluffy looking one. His or her kitty head is appropriately cocked for listening to the witch.

I would say this nice toy is based on Steiff, but fluffier in the tail and overall design than Steiff, more appealing for my money. (For me there has always been something a bit lifeless about the series of Steiff black cats. Unlike their teddys which all seem to have a knowing gleam in their eye, the cats seem remarkably without character.) One bright cat eye gleams out at us. A great toy overall – I would snatch him up in a flash.

A quick Google search shows that not surprisingly Halloween is a relatively new Western influence for the Dutch. (The reader who wrote in agreed that Halloween has only started to gain traction in Holland in the last decade or so and therefore it is a bit hard to explain why the image.)

Perhaps as we consider an upcoming winter largely to be spent at home again, we might all think about who we might surprise and cheer up with a handwritten missive. I have perpetuated a long held affection for the handwritten word as a special way to remember someone or cheer them up. I send my mom cards for every holiday I can and have for many years and she looks forward to them in the mail. When I was younger and traveling I was an excellent correspondent and would at a minimum send postcards from almost any new locale.

On the receiving end, I can tell you that the mail became far more interesting once Kim became resident – Deitch Studio mail was quite different and far more interesting and exotic than my own. A prodigious letter writer himself, Kim received many – also interesting packages with books, videos (and later dvd’s) might show up unbidden. He continues a written correspondence with a clutch of people, although like me some handwritten relationships supplanted by email. My own correspondence has slowed mostly to the aforementioned cards to a small group of people – otherwise largely gone to email. However, it is a cheerful thing to find in the mailbox among the ads and bills. (Yes, I still largely pay bills by mail.)

However, it is no mystery that here at Pictorama we enjoy a great many lovely parcels coming in the door as I am constantly adding photos and items to the collections here. It is always a cause for joy when one shows in the mail, especially during these quiet days.

Nicely some of the folks I buy from frequently these days, largely my new Instagram sellers, pack their photos with extra care, enclosed in waxy envelopes with a note or a sticker, frequently adding a few random old photos they have around or a note. Miss Molly tends to use whatever is at hand for her homemade packing and sometimes I laugh at what old boxes and papers she has employed to ensure a solid package.

I have purchased two items from a woman who sells jewelry and clothing, predominantly from the teens and twenties. She’s British and lives in the countryside there and is largely known to me as Wassail Antiques although I gather she is also Rachel.

Wassail Antiques, aka Rachel, takes stunning photos of her items and seeds equally beautiful ones of the British countryside surroundings of her home as a backdrop to them. Looking at them always cheers me and takes me out of myself and the four close walls of Deitch Studio at least for a moment. She is evidently a professional photographer – taking pictures of musicians in the time before the shutdown. Her packages arrive wrapped in layers like splendid little gifts, an old photo and a note thrown in. They are an event to open, beyond the appealing items within.

A partially opened package from @WassailAntiques

At some point I may take more time to share those items – oddly both are silver rings. This is somewhat notable to me. In the before time I liked to wear rings and wore gold ones on a variety of fingers daily – my lucky horse cameo, a huge bee ring made for me by a jeweler friend on the west coast for a recent birthday. However, for a variety of reasons (finger swelling and apathy among them) I have generally not been wearing rings during our time of captivity and have actually rarely put on any jewelry.

The ring from within!

These rings remind me a bit of ones I might have purchased when I was younger – appealing colored stones set in sliver with Deco designs. They cheer and please me in a quiet way. I have worn them out for my limited forays into the world and even just around the apartment to cheer a dull day.

This week I gather myself and put on an inexpensive flowered fall dress, purchased for upcoming Zoom events such as panels or teaching gigs in the coming weeks. I was headed to get my hair cut for the first time since February (I was not one of the folks who had the foresight to do it before the shutdown) and I thought my hair dresser of 20 years, David Smith, would appreciate seeing me in something other than sweatpants and I wondered if I still knew how to get properly dressed.

I pulled my now shoulder length hair into a braid (I haven’t been able to wear it that way since I was about 25), pulled on an ancient leather jacket and my old straw hat. I put on the rings and even applied a bit of make up before heading over to the west side. As I went to enter the basement staircase to Smith and Morgan, a young man paused and with a grin looked at me and told me he loved my dress. I thanked him profusely for the compliment, we exchanged a few more words of mutual appreciation and then we beamed at each other for a moment before continuing on our way, basking in a brief moment of connection and the sheer enjoyment of being outside on a gorgeous fall day here in New York City.

Wrestling: June 25, 1906

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I needed a giggle and this card provided it for me so I purchased it – and I hope it does as much for you, Pictorama reader. As we can see from the front, this card was sent on June 25, 1906. It appears to be Compliments of RJH. What we know from the back of the card is that it was postmarked from Cleveland, Ohio at 12M and arrived in Brooklyn on June 26. It is neatly addressed, Miss Emma Lampe, 2680 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

While I for one immediately assume that RJH is the fellow with his buddy tossed over his shoulder looking out at us, I guess it could also be the guy held aloft, also looking at us. Of course, it could be the third fellow or anyone for that matter.

I don’t know what we want to make of the fact that the card was purchased from the Midwest, near its place of origin – making me wonder if Emma and RJH eventually got together, she went out there or returned to there, and she brought the card with her. Perhaps that is reading a lot into it however. So now, on the next leg of its journey more than hundred year journey, it has come to rest a borough away from its original Brooklyn destination. Kim has done a good job scanning this card. In person it it actually is a bit hard to see – the surface has silvered and reflects the light.

With all due respect to RJH it is a goofy (albeit perhaps also charming) way to woo Emma Lampe. Meanwhile, their 1906 state of the art gym clothes fascinate me – the layers! Sort of black stockings as the bottom layer, then the white trousers, all topped off by shorts. No wonder they are outside. Like the swimming clothes of the period – how could they maneuver in all of that? Each seems to have a strap across their chest, even the fellow looking on – perhaps better informed readers can tell me what that does for you when wrestling. The ground does not look especially soft so I hope the guy on his shoulder doesn’t get dumped unceremoniously there.

Kim is feeding me tidbits of wrestling lore as I write this – he knows quite a bit about wrestling, which may seem a tad strange, but is true. It is one of those facts about Kim that I have known for quite awhile now, but surprised me upon discovery. He just told me there was a time when someone could have had another person in a headlock for an hour. Oy, that sounds bad for everyone involved. (Kim’s interest in wrestling came and went long before we got together so it is neither a particular interest of mine, nor one I am knowledgeable about by association. I know nothing about it.)

Meanwhile, Kim is commenting that wrestling seems to have evolved into some sort of strange entertainment over time – part athletic feat, part theater. Actually very Deitchian now that I think about it. There are some Deitch drawings about wrestling out in the world (I believe they were made for friend and collector Glenn Bray and can probably be found in the book about his collection), but no Deitch stories about wrestling. Hmm, maybe we’ll have to get him to see about that one of these days.

Mooning Again

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It has been a long time since I bought what I call a moon photo. When I first started collecting I looked at them endlessly, purchasing a few along the line. One is pinned up in my office – that place I used to go to daily and have barely laid eyes on for the past seven months. I realized the other day that I missed seeing the toys, photos and sheets of early music adorned with cat imagery that I surrounded myself with there. I retrieved a few things on a trip in recently, but am thinking I may need to rescue a few others on my next trip. (This very special box made by Kim resides on my desk there and I think it needs to come home to my now home office desk on the next trip. I wrote about it once here,)

A Deitchian decorated one-of-a-kind box

Years ago I saw a wonderful accumulation of moon photos, all framed together – each one top notch. It was at an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. A quick search on their website shows some really great ones (you can find them here), but it was the great eye that had put them together in a frame a certain way that appealed to me. Some things seem to be better when you amass good examples of them together for display. If I had the space I would consider investing the time in creating a nice moon photo grouping like that. Instead I have my wall of people posing with Felix-es I guess. (The photo below from an April 2018 post which can be found here.)

Images from Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

When I first considered taking up photography (both the collecting and the taking) it was the idea of the sort of joy that people seem to bring to posing for photos like this that interested me. It is the same with folks posing with Felix – they get a big smile on their face just by being there. It remains one of my goals in life to find a moon set and get my photo taken in it. I briefly wondered about building our own moon photo set, but there are some things a studio apartment really cannot accommodate, no matter how creative you get.

An early entry into my collecting was featured in a short post at the very beginning of this blog. It is below and 2014 post can be found here. It is a nifty variation – a full moon and it seems like a professional postcard that was produced en mass rather than the sort of individual snapshot. Still, for me, all moon photos are of interest. They can run into a lot of money and if seriously collecting them you would be forced to pay up for the most part. Therefore, given my other weaknesses, I am a somewhat desultory collector of moon photos.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Today’s photo interested me in particular because one of the participants is holding a small animal – I am guessing dog although one could make the argument for cat. The man in the dark suit is holding it in a grip my father used to call cat prison – holding the kitties, with both of this large hands, in this no nonsense sort of hold – usually when they were within reach and doing something somewhat undesirable. It was not cat-escapable. When ultimately released the cat would shoot forward like a feline missile. Annoyed at the interruption of its wrongdoings and the temporary containment and limitations imposed on its inalienable freedom.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It seems to me that dogs don’t seem to require this sort of strong arming for photos under most circumstances – they usually get with the program pretty quickly and pose with the family. Either way I have an extra soft spot for folks who bring along the family pet for such photos.

That roguish fellow with pet notwithstanding, our photo participant posers are a fairly serious looking group. Two out of three women are smiling – the woman in the middle isn’t and I don’t know why because she has the best spot, smack in the middle, white stocking legs, ankles crossed, hanging right over the edge of the moon. The photographer had a good eye for this set up and composition. It is a bit faded, one imagines that the developer used was probably well into its long day of use.

The set is a slightly less imaginative one than some and sadly the moon face is largely cut off from view – I always like to see those variations and here we just see the tip of the nose. (The photographer loses points for that. He or she also loses a few points for the distinct shadows behind the people which kill the illusion to some degree, although it does give us a better sense of the construction of the set.) The clouds are a tad lumpy, but there are stars which I tend to approve of in my moon sets. The card, like most of this kind, was never mailed and there are no notations on the back.

I leave you today with a snapshot of the Felix photo wall – there are a few additions pending and soon it will march over the ajoining top of the kitchen door and ultimately wander down the other side. (There is another, smaller annex of Felix photos, tintypes, in the hall near our bathroom.) Small apartment or not, I always say there’s always room for one more Felix photo.

Pams-Pictorama.com

Abroad

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a short personal post – a report from my mother’s house in New Jersey. As I write this, for the first time since early March, I am spending the night somewhere other than our studio apartment in Manhattan. As Pictorama readers know, and like so many of us, I have spent the last seven months exclusively in our apartment.

This morning I went to a basement office of a medical center on East 65th Street and took a rapid Covid test. I felt I should in advance of seeing my mother; it was negative and made me sneeze. After returning home for a quick lunch and to pick up my bags I went to 35th Street where I caught a ferry and arrived for a visit with my mom, the first since February.

It was also my inaugural trip on this ferry – I tried taking it once a decade ago and it didn’t show up which sort of soured me on it. It is about twice as expensive as the train, but much faster. However, as the train seemed to have more germ potential than sitting outside on the water on this glorious October today I made my way to the FDR and the 35th Street.

As with everything these days, the capacity of ferries is lower and done on a first come, first serve basis so I arrived early. There was a huge line, but it turned out to be for the popular route that runs up and down the east side, to Queens and Brooklyn.

Chateau Woof, a dog friendly pub and coffee shop in Astoria near the ferry landing.
Heading home on the ferry near the 90th Street dock in September.

I had made my first trip on this route earlier this fall when visiting one of my staff in Queens. I made the offer that I would travel to see each of my direct reports at a location of their choice – outside, socially distanced, but near them. Two accepted the offer and the first thoughtfully planned drinks at a pub near the ferry in Astoria, just a few minutes from the 90th Street stop at the north end of Carl Schurz Park, near my apartment. It was a quick and lovely ride and inspired me to consider the longer ride to Highlands yesterday.

Folks lining up to get on the Astoria line ferry.

Suffice it to say that signage is very poor at the ferry terminal at 35th Street and no staff who were forthcoming with information. After wandering around and asking many people waiting in numerous lines, I found the one that was headed for New Jersey and parked myself in it. (As someone who has literally travel from Tibet to Patagonia you would think a ferry trip to New Jersey wouldn’t have required much thought on my part, but it actually did, at least this first time and not to mention being out of practice!)

Although the water had looked calm, it was very choppy getting onto the ferry – in retrospect this must have been the water traffic with the high speed boats coming and going because once we pulled it it was the most lovely day to be on the water you could imagine.

It made me realize how little I have actually been outside since we went into the initial lock down in March. I mean of course I am out, shopping or even just taking a walk, but living in New York City you usually spend a large portion of your life on the street – commuting to work, going out to meet people at offices, restaurants or for drinks. We are on trains, running errands, picking up lunch around the corner. Now there are weeks I only go out a few times if very busy with work. It was exhilarating to be not just outside but on the river, speeding by the landmarks of southern Manhattan. I couldn’t resist taking photos.

Quickly enough though, the landmarks became familiar on the other side – a small lighthouse, the buildings on the north end of Sandy Hook and eventually the beach at Highlands, remembered as seen from the shore growing up here – and even trips that were made by boat there many years ago now. Live music was playing just beyond where I could also see it. Kids were playing in the water and people were out, sprawled in the sun. It was like traveling back in time. Just seeing the beach and the water satisfied a craving I hadn’t really recognized.

Landing in Highlands, NJ

In addition to seeing my mom, I am here for an outdoor event with the septet made up of Wynton Marsalis and other members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. They are playing at the restaurant at Monmouth Park racetrack, The Blu Grotto. This is part of an outdoor mini-tour up the east coast, a drive-in located in Pennsylvania, then up to Yarmouth, Vermont and New Hampshire, ending in a week in Chautauqua, New York. This in a effort to be able to play together and fulfill the urge of our audiences to hear live jazz during this long hiatus while our hall and others remain dark indefinitely. They will be tested, masked and distanced during this time. It is onerous, but they are glad to be able to play again.

Morning at Mom’s.

I am looking forward to seeing them and hearing them in person later today. I travel home, on the ferry, tomorrow. Perhaps doubling up on the ferry and taking a second one to 90th Street to get home. Meanwhile, I am going to grab another cup of coffee and visit with my mom, cousin and cats here in Fair Haven.

More Change

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a quick post – I am on my way to New Jersey soon – seeing my mother for the first time since February and the virus outbreak. Maybe I will post tomorrow about this weekend and what it is like to travel beyond the subway for the first time. I am heading off for a rapid test in a little bit, some extra insurance before going to see her as she is in a vulnerable category for the virus.

I am experimenting with taking a ferry instead of the train. Luckily the weather has turned and today is a sunny and beautiful looking fall day. I will put extra layers on and see if I still have good sea legs – the East River, which I can see from my window as I write, is looking quite calm today. Some Pictorama readers know that I grew up by the seashore, near the ocean but on a river that flowed directly into it a short distance from our house. More recently I have been on small cruise ships and river boats on trips for members of the Metropolitan Museum when I worked there. It is always a small shock to my system though, to be on the water and the sense one gets from being in any boat.

Leaving from East 35th Street, it will take about the same time as the train, over an hour, and leave me in Highlands, approximately the same distance from my mom’s house as the train station. Highlands, and its kissin’ cousin neighbor, Atlantic Highlands, were the stomping grounds of my high school and early college summers – a dollar movie theater for second run films, lobster rolls and clam sandwiches at outdoor stands at the water’s edge. It lives large in my memory of that time.

However before I head off to the adventures of the day, I will offer this small item, purchased recently – a change purse, advertised as Felix, but in my opinion (sample size of one as a colleague of mine says), Norakuro, the Japanese Felix – my name for him. His black and red, patent leather face, winking at us, would be a prize under any circumstances, but as it happens I have an alternative version (googlie rolling eyes instead of winking ones, more worn) which I offered up in a post back in June of 2018. (That post can be found here and other posts about Norakuro can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com, two treasured coin purses.

For me the winking-blinking eyes give him a roguish charm and the idea of putting a few hoarded precious coins in him (it could only hold a very few really), further tucking him into a tiny purse or pocket brings me zooming back to being a very little girl. I would have really thought myself hot stuff! Seeing them together delights my collector’s sensibility and somehow adds to their appeal. And yes, given the opportunity, I would indeed purchase further variations – bring ’em on!

Enjoy Norakuro and wish me luck on my travel adventures. More to come from the road.

Specs

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card is one of my recent purchases. When all is said and done about this time one of things that I think I will remember is how I started purchasing things on Instagram. I had never even thought about it before, let’s say, April or so. I have always loved Instagram – my feed devoted to seeing what a handful of folks I follow are doing and of course, many cats – rolling, playing, posing. I don’t have interest in famous folks and I don’t want to know much about the sad state of the world while I am on Instagram – it is largely escapism for me. I realize that other folks have been buying on it for ages, just never occurred to me that I would find interesting old stuff there.

However, in checking out a new follower of mine, I realized she sells old photos and antiques, from there I realized another follower sells vintage photos, a third sells jewelry and other bits (some clothing, pin trays and the like), from the early years of the 20th century from her home in the British Countryside. (@MissMollyAntiques, @spakeasachildvintage or aka WheretheWillowsGrow, and @Wassail_Antiques respectively.) Over time you chat a bit and now I realize that one is a musician (as is her husband), selling out a space in an antiques mall she used to have, another is photographer of musicians, that work largely gone – a theme here. (I received something from her the other day and it was wrapped so lovely – like a gift!) The new economy evolves.

I’m sure other office supplies will find their way into this box over time.

Anyway, this bit of cat advertising turned up recently and I snatched it, along with a cute little box that was made to sell spools of thread which now houses binder clips on my desk.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today we boast this proper Victorian Mrs. Kitty who is both sporting and advertising eye glasses – fine steel specs according to the back of the card. These were available with Blue and Bronzed Colored Frames…Filled and Sterling Silver Filled Noses. Strangely the actual advertising on the back was printed and with only a rough approximation of the cat outline and therefore words are cut off in places. However, we can also make out that you could have beautiful styles of lorgnettes in shell and (probably?) celluloid.

Casually executed advertising copy on the back of the card.

She is wearing a locket in the fashion I opined on in a recent photo post, she models an out-sized hat in the style of the day, and of course she is bespectacled. (The photo locket post was the recent one which can be found here.)

As it happens, I was shopping for eyeglass frames yesterday so I pulled this card out of the pile from the recent haul. During quarantine the rimless frame glass I have worn for several years began to loosen, started sitting crooked on my face, and I began to fear that they would truly come a cropper while the world was closed down. I do have a spare pair, but they are behind one prescription – the lenses for my eyeglasses are very expensive and those frames aging, therefore right now these glasses and a pair of sunglasses are the only current ones I have. (Some of you might remember my sad tale of woe concerning losing these eyeglasses during a trip for work to California. It can be found here. You would think I would have learned my lesson!)

My specs – not so different from Kitty’s. Hard to see the smashed bit here, right side.

One of my very first forays into the post-quarantine world was to the East Village, to have these frames tightened. When they started this delicate manuever the guy on duty warned me about the possibility of the lenses breaking – tighten at your own risk. They managed to do it successfully but, alas, I noticed the other day that they are starting to shatter near where the screws are, so back downtown we went to begin the cycle of purchasing frames and updating prescriptions.

I purchase my eyeglasses from a shop in the East Village, Anthony Aiden Opticians, which came highly recommended by someone, cannot remember who now, on the basis of the execution of the lens measuring and fitting to be especially thoughtfully done. Having once, a long time ago, strayed and purchased a pair of glasses with my graduated prescription elsewhere I learned my lesson and never tried that again. Yes, you pay a premium for quality, but seeing is important and we are talking about something you wear on your face everyday. (Zoom presents its own challenges for the eye glass dependent. I have trouble finding a viewing range where I can both read notes and see participants. I could be wrong but it doesn’t seem worth adjusting my prescription for although I will ask the eye doc when I see him.)

Yesterday I discovered that Anthony Aiden Opticians had made it through the quarantine period by doing individual appointments, something to remember for the future although I think I would have been loathe to take the trip on the subway at the time.

Photo of their establishment pulled off Google.

It is a small store, just east of St. Mark’s Place. When we arrived they were too crowded and asked us to return in a bit. We complied by having lunch, somewhat precariously perched at a table outside of the B&H Dairy (where a stern but friendly woman with an Eastern European accent oversaw the delivery and consumption of our food), and wandered back after.

B&H from the inside, back in the days of indoor dining.

Trying on eyeglass frames with a mask on was interesting of course. Once I had a few finalists for Kim to help choose from, I unmasked. They also measured my eyes without a mask – their request. I believe the gentleman who waited on me was the owner – Mr. Aiden himself? I purchased gray plastic and metal frames. My long buying and prescription history was on file and I was able to order lenses for my sunglasses as well.

I have an appointment with my eye doc in about ten days and now am just babying my glasses along until I can have the prescription called in and lenses ordered. Hopefully I can be back in business, fully eyeglass-ed up within a month, all ready for whatever fall and winter brings.

Flea Market Finds

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: After seeing flea market finds from folks in other parts of the country on Instagram, I got to thinking about the Chelsea Flea Market. It had closed last December, but then I had heard a rumor that it was taken over by someone else so I went online to investigate. Sure enough, although originally scheduled to open in April the re-opening had been delayed due to Covid, but it would be opening in a few weeks, in September. I marked my calendar and last weekend, perhaps week two of its reincarnation, Kim and I wandered over.

Like many New Yorkers, my relationship to this market is as long as my residence here in Manhattan. In the years before I lived here I frequented one on Canal Street which I was very sorry to see disappear, and another small one on Broadway, both on the edges of Soho. (Imagine! Flea markets in Soho – needless to say both gobbled by the rising real estate and gentrification of that area. I wonder if, now that evidently no one wants to live here in a post-pandemic world, we will see flea markets crop up, once again, on lots that would have otherwise gone to over-priced luxury apartments? One can only hope that it will be a byproduct of our unusual time.)

However, it was the Chelsea Flea Market that held the record for ongoing weekend visits over decades. More things purchased at the garage there, which used to boast two floors of vendors, than I can possibly remember – although a few stand out in my mind, like my black cat ash try stand which I happen to be looking at right now. I didn’t really mean to buy it, but the seller made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – and now, many years later, I am so glad!

Old photo of Blackie and the black cat ashtray stand

The Chelsea Flea Market was a constant weekend companion and occupation through several relationships prior to meeting Kim, in fact a sort of an acid test for men I was dating – I mean, there was no long term hope for a relationship that didn’t embrace the flea market, right? With Kim the flea market became a weekend rotation every six weeks or so throughout the spring, summer and fall. The insatiable desire for property to build on nibbled away at the edges and it went from a high I remember of about six scattered locations, to the just the garage (which closed) and the now current (lone) spot on 25th Street, off Sixth Avenue.

In these weeks and months while Manhattan tries to find its footing again, figuring out what the city will look like now on the other side of closing down back in mid-March, we keep our expectations pretty low as things try to start up again. The current incarnation of the market is about two thirds of the lot devoted to sellers, in a vaguely socially distanced way, and the other third given over to a few food trucks and tables. Someone reminds you have your mask up as you enter the lot. (This lightly gated approach reminds me that one of the lots went through a phase which lead to a lot of peering in and seeing if it was worth paying the vigorish to enter or not.)

Sadly, the large indoor market that houses my favorite toy store, The Antique Toy Shop – New York, is closed. His website says he hopes to return at the end of December. I remain hopeful of its return.

At first I thought the sellers were all new merchandise (mask anyone?) of little interest to me, but a slow stroll around revealed tables boasting boxes of photos, vintage clothing, jewelry, and finally even some old books of interest. The table where we purchased this really sort of special photo, glued into its period self-frame of embossed cardboard, also boasted a bookcase of interesting young adult fiction from the early 20th century.

I quickly picked up the volumes below: The Outdoor Girls at Wild Rose Lodge, Larkspur, and Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures. (Ongoing Pictorama readers are aware of my fondness for juvenalia of the early part of the last century. You can read some of those posts about everything from the adventures of The Automobile Girls, and Grace Harlowe to Honey Bunch can be found here, and here, not to mention Judy Bolton, Girl Detective, which can be found here.) I will be sure to report back if any of these volumes reveals a new vein of reading interest.

While waiting for the seller to finish with some other customers Kim and I found the photo. The embossed frame seems the perfect setting for this timeless photo of a family in front of this extraordinary thatch roofed building. It is a pretty huge building really, with large windows which appear to have shelves behind them. A chimney belies a fireplace within, but while I thought this was a home at first I am unsure as I look more closely. The enormous double doors don’t seem residential somehow – was it a store? There is a neat path leading up to the front door and around the side.

Detail of the cardboard framed photo.

The family looks prosperous, mom in a long black dress which could have been found in parts of this country (and Europe) from 1900 through the 1920’s. Both the man and the boy are in suits – the boy is sporting a shiny bicycle though, which appears to be a full adult size and probably a bit big for him. Something slightly illegible is inked on the back – something and John. Could be Linda and John. Kim and I cannot fully decipher it.

Sadly it is missing a corner and there is a split in the lower right side, but none of that takes away from the overall effect and beauty of it. When I was able to speak to the seller she apologized for the delay. The books were five dollars apiece and much to my surprise and delight, she threw the photo in with the group. I packed it carefully between the books in a bag I keep with me. (Remember when the end of plastic bags in New York was big news at the beginning of March?)

Feeling quite chuffed, Kim and I strolled back to Broadway in the autumnal sun and alighted atop of some highboy tables at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant where we consumed spicy shrimp sandwiches. The sun was out and the Flat Iron Building within view. Thank you New York! Our day was a good one.