Cat of the Sea?

20170129-00002-copy

French card, collection Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Some photos are purchased for their sheer value of the bizarre and these fall into that category. These were purchased together on eBay recently from the same seller, but separate listings. It is somewhat noteworthy and interesting that they were addressed to different people, although both were mailed from different places in Canada – one from Ontario on August 3 PM, 1908 and the other from Quebec on July 29, 1909. I have asked Kim to scan the backs as well because they are so hard to decode. Clearly the Ontario one is addressed to someone in the hospital in Syracuse, NY. The message says something about seeing the person soon. The other is very light and appears to just say Adieu but the address has faded to obscurity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the front of both the same message in French which roughly translated seems to say, It is the sea Michel – which I assume is sort of like into the soup Michel? My (very) limited ability to read music gives me a vague idea of the tunefulness of this – upbeat. Allow me to pause and make it clear that I do not approve of even the comical placing of cats in pots – while I do not condone this, you see it often in comical cards. Cats in soup pots seems to have made their way through novelty photo cards of the 20th century and we’ll assume beyond.

What a scary Melies-esque chef he is, popping out of that faux window. I hardly know what to make of the possible origin of these – frame grabs from some early film Segundo de Chomon films? Melies? 1908 and 1909 would be the territory of de Chomon, a bit on the late side for Melies. (Kim has pointed out that Melies was not given to this sort of close-up however and de Chomon was.) There is no credit or identification for the photographer or the maker. The action seems to be close together – will more eventually turn up from later in the film? I hope so! (I was lucky to be the only taker on these.) Given the Canandian stamps, we might assume Canadian rather than French, or so was my initial thought when I saw them. However, again Kim argues for French import to Canada and I can see the sense in that.

To this point, and for your general entertainment, I am including links to a Segundo de Chomon film and a Melies films. Here is de Chomon’s The Haunted House 1909 and the color version of the much loved Melies A Trip to the Moon, a much earlier 1902 but an irresistibly beautiful print. Enjoy!

Postscript: These came in after posting on Facebook! From Philip Smith, the words to the song and a Youtube link. It is as rollicking as I thought it would be – La mere Michel!

Old Ma Michel

Children’s Song

It’s old ma Michel who lost her cat,
Who’s yelling out the window, who will bring it back?
It’s old man Lustucru who answered her:
“Come on, old ma Michel, your cat is not lost.”
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la.

It’s old ma Michel who asked him:
“My cat’s not lost, you found it then?”
It’s Old man Lustucru who answered her:
“Give a reward, it’ll be returned to you.”
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la.

Then old ma Michel told him: “It’s settled
If you give my cat back, you’ll get a kiss.”
But old man Lustucru who didn’t want one
Said to her: “Your cat will be sold as a rabbit!”
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la.

 

Come Hither Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Post: In honor of the onset of Chinese New Year today – Happy Year of the Rooster! – I decided to focus on this heretofore unsung cat member of Deitch studio. Years ago we spotted and admired one of these lucky “beckoning” kitties at our favorite Mexican restaurant across the street, a splendid hole in the wall establishment run by a Korean family, where we get our Friday night take out every week. I hopped down to Chinatown and picked one up for Kim. I think it was an anniversary gift, but it might have been Valentine’s Day. Our little fellow waved cheerfully until the batteries ran out – then sadly the innards fell out when we tried to change the batteries. Waving or not, we remain fond of him despite this and stubbornly cling to the idea that he is indeed lucky.

My friend, Mr. Google, was ready at hand to tell me that this kitty is Japanese, although popular with Chinese merchants (we will have to assume Koreans as well) and has the official name Maneki-neko – roughly translated as beckoning kitty. Evidently these are modeled specifically on something called a calico Japanese bobtail – and yep, I checked and sure enough he is indeed a bobtail although ours does not indicate calico as some do. His red collar is just that, the kind of collar cats would wear – bibs with little bells to scare off the birds. (I saw a cat wearing such a contraption in Tibet in a monastery once – the cat looked rather aggrieved, although I assume he or she was used to it. Made sense to me that Buddhist monks wouldn’t abide bird catching.)

unnamed-1

From the back, bib bow and bobtail shown

 

The large item in his right paw is said to be a coin – the promise of good fortune. They are available in red, black and pink, as well as gold, and different colors mean different things – good fortune, luring away evil spirits, and love – of course! And they are produced in every medium from porcelain and plastic to metal and plaster. Frankly, we can’t decide exactly what ours is made of, perhaps a pot metal. I read that the calico ones are the luckiest – that’s what they have at the Mexican take-out. I show you one of those below.

 

maneki-neko-happy-cat_1

Calico Lucky Cat, not in my collection

I was the Secret Santa to my boss this year and I gave him a  tiny plastic version of one of these. I figured there was no more appropriate gift than that for a fellow fundraiser, but don’t tell him. Santa should remain a secret.

As Pictorama readers already know – and despite what you might think otherwise – black kitties are actually considered good luck by many and certainly we are of that opinion here at Deitch Studio. In a past post, Lucky Black Cat, I give a look at an early flyer that sold all sorts of lucky black cat paraphernalia. In an earlier post of the same name, Lucky Black Cat refers to a stuffed black cat held by Olympic British swimmer Ruth Moris-Hancock in a photo card circa 1936. Still, we’re secretly relieved that Blackie has that nice white badge on his chest – we wouldn’t want anyone to be scared of him!

 

Cornered

img_2147

Setting up for Christmas, 86th Street and First Ave, NYC

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: If you are going to live in a city like New York you should have a pretty thick skin about change. After all, cities are constantly evolving, building new on top of old and on a relatively small island like Manhattan the land grab means constantly shifting vistas. Having said that, change is somewhat anathema to my nature – I have a catlike love of continuity and routine. Therefore, in some ways, I live in a state of discomfort here. And, until recently, Yorkville the tiny post-German enclave hanging over the edge of the Upper Eastside was somewhat beneath notice. However, it has started to catch up with us.

With some dismay I have been watching and waiting for the dissolution of the southwest corner of 86th and First Avenue in favor of ridiculously expensive condos. (York Avenue is undergoing a similar demolition at 86th, curling around a building housing a diner and a newsagent, 86 on one side, York on the other.) For the handful of you how follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you have seen some of these photos as I started to record it.

When I first moved to the ‘hood, back in about ’88, the diner shown here on the corner was my diner and in many ways it stayed my neighborhood diner. (To be clear, I also have a diner near work and perhaps some day I will outline this complex relationship which is very special. Kim once visited and remarked that it was like I was Mayor of a small town there.) In those early years when I was cooking for a living and this diner was a daily stop for a (large) pre-dawn breakfast before a day of cooking in midtown. In Manhattan (and perhaps elsewhere, but I have never really lived elsewhere as an adult) your diner is the place where they know you on sight and generally know how you like your coffee and your eggs. As a recent grad new to the city this seemed like a miracle of friendliness. The owner once asked me on a date in those early years which took me quite by surprise – I was more easily surprised at that age. I said no thank you. I believe I was already dating the crazed fellow chef as mentioned recently in my post of Catskill remembrance, The Wigwam.

This diner actually moved to Second Avenue as the dissolving of the corner began, taking over an existing lesser diner’s spot and it’s name, and where they are enjoying the long anticipated Second Avenue subway boom. Although I have not needed a local diner for a long time I have fallen into the habit of meeting a friend there on weekends and, low and behold, the waiter remembered our orders this weekend. Nothing short of a miracle. Seems I have a diner in the neighborhood again.

diner.jpeg

Diner in its new incarnation on Second Avenue and 86th Street

 

The corner in question has been where Christmas trees have been sold in recent years. (When I first moved here they were sold on an empty lot on First – can you imagine an empty lot! Highrise there now.) I especially enjoy when the Christmas tree folks set up camp for a few weeks. They come right before or immediately after Thanksgiving. Their fragrant pines create a temporary forest. Part of me objects to the idea of growing these trees just to cut them down and serve them up for a short-term sentence of decoration in someone’s home – but the smell is glorious and our out-of-town guests a nice change of pace.

xmas hut.jpg

Tree seller settled in with his cell phone

 

Beyond that, heading across 86, was what had been our grocery store for years, a Gristedes. I cannot really mourn the loss, it was poorly run, grimy and you always had to watch the register and your change for mistakes. However, there was (and I am so very sorry not to have a photo of it now) a VERY large green pear (we’re talking human-sized) attached to the front of the store which christened it as the Pear Store in the Pam/Kim vernacular of daily life, as in “Yeah, I’ll pick it up from the Pear Store on the way home.” Replaced in our house largely first by Fresh Direct, then Fairway and then the addition of a Whole Foods, we also cling to a Gristedes on York for general grocery needs. However, this store is a wondrous single story – yep, nothing above it, a row of brownstone walk-ups peering over it. We knew we were on borrowed time as Manhattan hates nothing so much as the opportunity to build upward, and I understand the air rights went for a mint. In general, the loss of this corner will mean a loss of light on the ground for us daily denizens of the neighborhood, as what is likely to come will be hulking and light obscuring for sure.

longshotJPG.JPG

First and 86th Streets NYC

 

Inching further down the block I will add that there once was a splendid hole-in-the wall Russian restaurant on the far side of the grocery store. It must have housed about eight tables. They made heavenly blini for a bargain price. If you weren’t careful however, they gave you large servings of kasha with your entree and the middle-aged Russian proprietress would yell at you if you didn’t finish it. I didn’t realize that kasha was a smell from my childhood – Russian Jewish grandparents on my father’s side, Sunday lunches – and I hate it. Probably hated it as a child too. No kasha for me. (I had my last date with my ex-boyfriend Kevin there. We ate there frequently and had gone there after returning from a trip to a wedding in Maine where he broke the news that he was calling it quits after seven years.) The storefront has since become a high-end drugstore and I believe is not being torn down.

Zipping back around to the First Avenue side of the block, there was briefly a rather interesting store that sold nothing but pickles and olives. They relocated to Lexington Avenue where frankly they seem to do a better business. Then there was a sort of pop-up dollar store where Kim purchased some dubious readers (eyeglasses I mean, you can still see the sign for it), a fairly traditional barbershop, a bar, and most recently a sort of city-run residential halfway house of some kind. While I do not especially bemoan much along that stretch, I will mention that the apartments above the diner on the corner were long coveted by me. Corner views are always especially nice and look at that top floor – that must have been lovely – there are skylights and a glassed in room at the top. Sigh. Can’t really envy it now because if I lived there I would be looking for a new perch here in Yorkville – and unlikely to afford it!

 

Party Cats

Pam’s Pictorama: This card passed the it made me laugh when I saw it test. Dancing kitties in party hats – what more can you ask for? I used to have a theory that the cats had secret soirees as soon as I left them alone in the house. In fact, the first year we were together I made Kim a valentine of he and I walking in on them in full decadent party regalia.

While they may not have been enjoying cocktails with umbrellas and putting on festive lais around their necks, I do remember discovering that my various cats and the apartment had a lives of their own while I was away at work. This started before I met Kim and when I lived alone with my first cat, Otto. The two incidents that stick in my mind occurred on days when I normally would have been at work – odd holidays I think, like Election Day which I happen to get off from work, but most people don’t. The first one doesn’t really involve the cat, but in the middle of one day while quietly reading a book, I heard someone letting themselves into my apartment! Turned out they were routine exterminators who came periodically and sprayed the place and I never knew. Seems that they also liked to look at the progress on whatever painting I was working on at the time which we then discussed for a bit. Another time, another apartment, I was home again on a weekday, Otto sitting on the window sill, and suddenly I heard a woman talking to her! And Otto (who was a girl cat) was answering her – they chirped back and forth for a several minutes. Turned out it was a woman on a higher floor who could see her on her window perch and evidently they chatted frequently.

Others have commented on this phenomena. I had a boyfriend once who, in order to see if his phone was out of order, set his tape recorder, went around the corner and called his apartment. When he played the tape he realized that each time the phone rang in the empty apartment, his cat would chirp in response – but strangely the cat never did it when he was home. Was he answering the ring? Years later, one night I awoke to a light in the other part of the apartment (we live in a studio and we sleep in a corner carved out as a bedroom so a light any place will wake me) and got up to see both cats, Otto and Zippy, sitting in front of the lit computer screen – I’d say looking a bit guilty. I’ll just say keep an eye on your credit cards folks. Such is the private lives of apartments and cats.

Our cats Cookie and Blackie enjoy a lot more human companionship than previous pets since Kim works at home, and therefore Deitch studio is in rollicking full tilt most of the time. In fact the kits seem a bit incensed if he and I go out for any length of time and leave them alone. I believe they feel we are here for their ongoing entertainment. So whatever hijinks they do get up to on their own – gin fueled cards games and smoking hookah pipes, wearing party gear, must occur instead late in the dark of the night while the human denizens of the apartment are sound asleep.

 

Catville

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Of course this little fellow and his pun just cracked me up! I’m not entirely sure what exactly he is perched on, but he has a very serious expression and has a very nice striped coat. This card, mailed on August 24, 1914 at 8AM from Oliverea, New York has a slightly primitive look. Despite having spent a fair amount of time in the Catskills, the name Oliverea was not immediately familiar to me. It should have been since it is not far from Big Indian, where I spent a considerable amount of time visiting a long ago boyfriend on weekends. He was cooking at a place called Rudy’s Big Indian – which despite its name was a fairly high-end restaurant in the new cuisine mold of the time, the late 1980’s. In this case it was the kind of food that lead eventually to the farm to table trend of today, local produce and such. My memory was that the owner was a really sweet guy who was very good to the utterly insane guy I was seeing. He was a Buddhist who had been helped by people and was paying it back, but the boyfriend, Andrew, drove us all nuts. I think I heard Rudy died unexpectedly, several years after I had severed ties with Andrew after his post-cocaine sobriety morphed into stage 2 alcoholism. Meanwhile, the restaurant was evidently bought and is now under the name Peekamoose.

Prior to my disasterous, long-distance relationship with Andrew (which briefly turned me into a weekend denizen of Amtrak, staying in nearby Shandaken, and ultimately made me realize that living in the shadow of mountains depresses me terribly) I had grown up visiting cousins in Sullivan county and had a more cheerful opinion of it. The cousins, three of them two girls and a boy, just like the three of us – each Butler a year older than their cousin counterpart. We would run wild in what seemed like endless woods at the back of their house and go swimming in a lake instead of the ocean as we did at home which therefore seemed exotic. They had a huge dog, a Great Dane I think, instead of a German Shepard like ours. It was like a parallel-universe Butler clan located in the Catskills instead of the Jersey shore. It was also the house where my dad had gone for summers as a kid, up fro the City, with this same cousin and his sister – and they would tell us stories of all the bad and interesting things they had done. I only vaguely remember the stories about exploring caves, riding horses and getting yelled at by their aunts. I imagine they were a handful.

As you can see from the back of the card below, this was mailed to Master Paul E. Rooffs (? – I’m open to suggestions on the name) at 890 East 34th Street, Brooklyn, New York. (On a whim I googled this address and found a house that I thought very well might have been there in 1914, but further research showed that it was built in 1920.) To the best I can read the card it says, Aug. 23 – Dear Paul I wish you were here to [sic] with us. I have a good time riding in the Ford and also go swing [or swimming misspelled?] with aunt Will. Expect to go home by the end of the week with lots of love I remain lovingly – it is signed with a name I cannot decode (Suzanna?) and also written at the bottom is Vonderveer Park.

20170114-00002.jpg

Back of Catskill card

 

It goes without saying that a text message will deliver this communication between friends or family more quickly and efficiently today. It will, alas, sadly never have the evocative charm of finding this kitty and message more than a hundred years later. Pity the card collectors of the next century.

The Wigwam

20170108-00003-copy

In my collection Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: In the course of my persistent (some would even say relentless) searching of photographs for my collection, I occasionally stumble on one that is entirely outside of my area of interest and collecting, but thoroughly captures my imagination. If it isn’t too outrageously hard to get I will add it to the Pictorama holdings. This card wins on two counts – there is something shining and glittering about the light in the trees that caught my attention, and I have always had a fascination with the idea of staying in vacation cabins and these wigwams would definitely have won me over. As I sit and write this on a snowy January day in New York City, the mind drifts to hot summer days and fantasy vacations in places like Maine. The reality is that Kim and I do not drive and generally speaking do not vacation away from home, but fantasy is the key word here. For the record, the postcard is unused and The Wigwam was neatly inscribed by hand.

Many years ago I did in fact stay in a bungalow (although not of the wigwam variety) in Maine, on my way to attend the wedding of friends. My then boyfriend and I were torn between finding it charming and being faced with a certain musty, buggy reality. It is my only experience in one. It did not dim my theoretical interest in them however. I do not think I ever mentioned that growing up we also did not travel on vacations as a family. From what I hear such trips were mixed bags of great and awful memories, but I really have none. My father was a cameraman for ABC news and traveled constantly so vacation for him (and therefore for us) was spent at home at our house on a river inlet and within walking distance of the beach and the Atlantic ocean, a boat or two moored off a dock in the backyard. Growing up in a beach community we were not deprived in the least. (My childhood summers are an endless string of sparkling days at the beach strung together in my memory.) However, I have few childhood memories of long car rides and family vacation hotel stays of any sort with the exception of visits to family which usually resulted in staying with them. Somehow I don’t see my parents as the types to embrace ancient bungalow holidays anyway, and I have little doubt that my sister, brother and I would have torn each other to shreds trapped in a car together.

Perhaps my apparent adult disinterest in traveling on vacation is rooted in this lack of childhood family vacations. It just wasn’t a habit I formed. I have traveled to far flung places – Tibet twice, Patagonia, much of Europe, but I have never plunked myself down on a beach in another state or country on vacation, and it has been decades since I have been on so much as a random weekend away for the sheer novelty. In reality I travel more on business these days than I manage to for pleasure. Much like my father, vacation has come to mean time with Kim and the kits here in glorious Manhattan, reveling in the novelties that Deitch studio and Pictorama have to offer.

 

Cat Chair Photo Sleuth

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly, there are mysterious things that go on with photo purchases I will never understand, and one stumbling on the weirdness of finding photos that must have started life together, or in some sense hail from the same source, and end up being sold by entirely different entities. I have examined this phenomena once or twice before, most memorably in The Mysteries of Felix where several tiny passport size photos of people wearing a Felix mask came to me via different sellers at very different times. In this case I recently purchased the photo above of this toddler in a cat chair – which I happen to think is remarkable enough with that great cat chair. However, it is also amazing that while I purchased this photo from a seller on eBay, located in Maryland (for less than $10) the other, which went on sale at the same time as mine did (was listed at $35) and is being sold by someone in Indiana. My photo has been slipped out of its stand up cardboard frame, long lost no doubt, while the other one still sports its display frame. While there is nothing about the cat chair that allows us to positively identify it, I think the carpet both are set upon is distinctive enough to tell us it was the same photo studio set. I have put them together below so you can see them side-by-side.

 

If the cryptic writing on the back of my card means what I think it does, my card also originated in Indiana. Here it is below and very hard to read, but look at the bottom, Evansville, Ind.

20170108-00007 copy.jpg

Back of photo, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

For what it’s worth, I think the kid in my photo is the more winning of the two by far, and meanwhile who wouldn’t be charming perched in a nice cat chair like this one? I have never seen a chair like this before – in a photo or as an object. I reminds me in design of the ashtray stand I have below which I have written about in one of my most popular past posts, Wooden Novelty Co.

 

unnamed-17

Blackie with the cat ashtray holder, Pams-Pictorama.com

s-l1600

Pip Chair, sadly not in my collection

The chair also seems to be something of a kissin’ cousin to the chair the Pip (of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fame) chair I was unable to purchase in Close Quarters a few weeks ago. It is my assumption that all of the above were designs that could be purchased and executed by the ambitious lay person – however like the photo in Wooden Novelties, could also be purchased fully finished as well. And yes, space or no space, I would snap this cat chair up in an instant given the opportunity!

I assume we will never know the story of these photos, to what degree they belonged together and wandered away from each other. I imagine that there was some sort of a sale where they were purchased by different dealers and turned over on eBay by coincidence at the same time. What we do not know is if the connection is closer – were these siblings and was it an estate sale they came from? I am a bit regretful that they will part company, but they will at least coexist for awhile longer on this blog post.