Chow Time!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The symmetry of this photo appealed to me, not to mention the tidy tabby and nice black cat whose white tummy we can just about see if we look carefully. These two may just want an ear scratch, but I suspect more realistically are involved in the ritual dance of food request.

We have decided to raise Cookie and Blackie more scientifically than our previous cat companions and they get a prescribed amount of wet food early in the morning as early as Blackie can get us up (yes, for some reason it is his job and not Cookie’s, she does observe the process however to make sure he gets it done) which is quite early. Kim and I are early risers (we’re talking around 5:00 AM) during the week. On weekends I tend to burrow deep into pillows and blankets and ignore Blackie stomping stoically over us, back and forth in a food protest march all his own, until Kim gets up. That is Blackie’s method and I will say it is his very own style. Some of his predecessors used the cold wet nose applied to face method, or the kind, but urgent paw tap. My cat Otto was even known to give me a little nip or hair pull if I really was unwilling to move. (When I was younger I really slept long, hard and soundly.)

Weekdays I am rarely home in time for the evening meal which takes place at 6:30 sharp. On weekends I do witness the gathering of the troops as early as 5:00 to remind Mr. Deitch that, although they may not wear watches, they are aware of the time. Poor Kim has to withstand an average of an hour or more under the glare of cat eyes and their tendency to draw ever-closer while he is trying to work! For those of you who think we are hard-hearted and starving the darlings please know that there is a dish of dry food out all the time in case someone grows terribly peckish. Cookie has her own ritual of needing to be assured that dish is full daily.

When I was growing up somehow this was all different enough that my mother actually used to call the cats to come and eat. When I think back on it – what was that all about? It wasn’t like we lived on a farm or something, just a house, but she would call chow time and they would all come running from different parts of the house. When I was a small child our cat Pumpkin got lost we placed an ad in the newspaper to try to find him. I remember asking if we should mention that he answered to that call. (This idea of putting an ad in a local paper seems so quaintly old fashioned that I suddenly feel ancient. A story for another time. However, be assured he was found having been brought to the local SPCA which we had alerted to his disappearance and was reunited with us after several days.) In all fairness, the cats would also come running when they heard the can opener – an electric one in those days, remember those? Before pop top cans. Returning now to the question, I wonder about it because like ours the cats at my parent’s house are the same milling, demanding group about food.

My mother, in charge of cat feeding in their house, makes no pretense at these silly ideas about feeding times and set amounts of food, and her cats have what I refer to as a constant rotating smorgasbord of cat food, both wet and dry. (I may also add that she has never subscribed to high end vet endorsed food, and with all of this she has had cats live into their early 20’s. So much for my high-end food acquired online and carefully controlled portions!) Notably and to my point, her cats also do not need calling these days either. Much like mine they mew and cajole when they are hungry, which makes me wonder – is this a small evolutionary change in cats? One of those tiny steps forward in cat brains that goes largely unnoticed? But a step toward – what? A race of assertive cats who stand up and ask for what they want? Perhaps not what we are looking for in our darlings, but where they are heading nevertheless? Or did cats in days of yore have more important things on their minds? Greater cat business and purpose, perhaps in the form of the occasional high-protein mousie snack caught on the hoof?

Choo choo – the Cat Train

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I had my eye on this postcard on eBay for a long time before I broke down and bought it. More interesting (and certainly odd) than good, but somehow in the end I decided it should be mine. It is a bit hard to imagine how someone came up with the decision that this would be a birthday card, but then again, what else could it really be? (Easter goes off in my head, but for no real reason.) It goes without saying that the cat is greatly perturbed (seriously annoyed) by the ‘reins’ around his neck, a glorious pink though they have been colored, and clearly kitty has no intention of pulling anything or anyone anywhere. He or she isn’t especially well groomed which also makes me wonder how this all came together – no photographer’s studio cat this. As an admirer of toys I would note that the train the little boy is perched on is a nice one.

The ditty, which is a bit hard to read against the background is:

Loving Birthday Wishes
I send you, dear, by this,
A greeting warm and true,
To hope all good luck and joy,
Your Birthday bring to you.

The card was never mailed, but written on the back in thick ink is, My Dear David, Just a card to wish you Every Joy a [something] Your Birthday. Heaps of Love from Mary xxxxxxxx.

While I fantasize about such things as dressing my cats up for photos, not to mention anthropomorphic dreams of all cat bands and chorus lines, in reality I am reluctant to indulge my whim and injure their cat dignity in this fashion. William Wegman may have made his name that way, but somehow his dogs seems less insulted by the proceedings than a cat would. Dogs seem to like having a job, any job. Still, as my birthday approaches each, I skulk around hoping to stumble at long last on signs that Kim is out in the hall with the cats and this year they will be ready to perform!

 

Family Portrait with Pets

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo struck my fancy the other day. It is the sort of photograph which I liked better and better the longer I looked at it. It is, if you will, the sort of bread and butter photograph Pam’s Pictorama is largely made up of – early 20th century photos of people posing with cats. This one, identified on the back as taken in May (with a ? in place of a day) 1936, with nothing else written on the back. It is a photo postcard, but it is printed on a lesser, lighter stock than they usually are and as a result feels and looks more like just a photo – curling a bit with age. It was never mailed and I don’t know how well it would have stood up to those rigors.

I assume this is a portrait of a family, or at least mostly so. There isn’t a strong resemblance amongst them, but enough to convince me when I look closely, especially around those participants in the center. Only a single man and boy show up in this preponderance of women and girls in mostly spring finery. And of course what sold me was that between the dozen people crammed in here, no less than five of the family pets were scooped up for inclusion. While the three cats and the puppy caught my eye initially, it was the little girl holding the rooster that really made it special. I have debated on the possibility of Mr. Rooster actually being stuffed, but I think he is just standing at attention – there’s something about her hand around him that make me think he is alive. The kitten next to him is taking it pretty well if that is the case, but perhaps they know each other well. In general the cats seem to require a certain two fisted clutch in order to be kept a hold of – the puppy is content with being held, as they often seem to be too. I like the idea that when someone said family photo all these critters were scooped up too.

On this spring morning these folks are presented as a neat and well dressed group, boasting Depression era fashion including sporty berets on three of the girls, the toddler among them. Warm enough day that most of them are in short sleeve dresses, although they range from that to coats. I am somewhat undecided about whether that is some old snow stuck on the fence behind rooster-holding girl, although I land of the side of probably when I blow the photo up. I think you could have that on an early day first warm day in May where spring is just beginning to sort itself out.

When I began Pam’s Pictorama it was for the sole purpose of organizing my photos, mostly those of people posing with Felix, so that they could eventually be published in a book and to entertain myself with this project while recovering from foot surgery. Pictorama took on a life of its own expanding almost immediately and, more than 400 posts later, it has covered a lot more territory than that. Still, when I purchase a photo like this, I mentally file it in a future chapter devoted to photos of people and their pets, and oh what a book it will be.

Ferris Wheel

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I went through a period of fascination with these photo paperweights and a corresponding buying jag. I bought up ones made with home photos and also tourist made ones like this one. I wrote about some of these purchases in my early post Photo-weight and I ultimately I gave some of them away. (I was obsessed with getting the best photo of Niagra Falls at one point and I think that ultimately went to my friend Eileen as a birthday gift.) I believed I realized that I did not have the space to continue acquiring them apace and redirected my acquisitive interests.

I remember that my father’s parents had some in their home, photos of my father when he was young and perhaps even one of us grandkids, but sadly those seem to be lost. My memory of the images is scant, but there is something about the weight and tactile nature (so heavy and there was dusty green felt on the bottom) that I remember holding them in my hand and being fascinated by it. I keep one I purchased of a cat on my desk at work where it holds nothing much down, but pleases me greatly. This borrowed cat of the long past occasionally makes me feel like the executive with photos of his non-existent photo-constructed family in his office – although I do of course have my own Cookie and Blackie at home.

There are modern kits for making these, but I wonder about the original process for the production of the non-commercial ones. I assume it was done professionally, but cannot turn up any trace of the process or history of the procedure. Given the number that are available today it was a popular process and must have been widely available and reasonably affordable.

This gem was spewed forth from my collection, somewhat forgotten, to the top of a milling pile of pending photos and small objects in rotation for this blog, located under the computer monitor at the far end of Kim’s desk. I had no idea it was floating around there until somehow it found its way to the top of said pile. I had not seen it for awhile. Now that it is here however, let’s consider how great it is. I remain agape at the Ferris Wheel and how huge it was, how enormous each of the cars were. The experience of the first Ferris Wheel wasn’t about cuddling up with your sweetie in a seat at the fireman’s fair while looking over the tops of trees, these were large viewing platforms way up high where you must have seen for what seemed like forever.

Unfortunately this photo has faded toward the bottom – I can vouch for the fact that at least some of these remain sensitive to light, although in fact not universally. I am not responsible for the fading on this one and I don’t know if it has to do with the original photo or the process of how it is sealed up in glass. Some seem to remain pristine despite being out in the light. When I purchased this I remember being a bit amazed at how easily and inexpensively I obtained this extraordinary little piece of history. At the bottom it reads in tiny print 264 Feet in Diameter The Ferris Wheel * World’s Fair 1893.

Years ago Kim encouraged me to read a great kid’s book he knew of on the making of the Ferris Wheel. I believe it was the young adult chapter book, The Great Wheel, with text and illustration by Robert Lawson. I cannot find my copy, but I remember purchasing it cheaply on Amazon and it is splendid. It’s the story about Ferris’s vision and the trials and tribulations involved in getting this first Ferris Wheel made for the World’s Fair and the construction of it. Those commodious cars were described in loving detail. It was the perfect amount of information and just long enough to fuel my imagination of the journey to that first trip far up, in a car creaking and smelling of recently sawed wood, thinking that the future had arrived and looking further off than you have possibly imagined at the time.

 

Lady Pussy-Cat’s Ball

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Last week’s post about forgotten cartoonist/illustrator Frederick White Good Cats and Bad Cats lead to poking around for other ancient cat books and this one turned up immediately on eBay. I bought it for a song and here it is.

As you can see, this little gem appears to be a hand-stitched book. It is  published by Hildesheimer & Faulkner, London, printed in Germany, but it also has Geo. C. Whitney, New York at the bottom so perhaps that was the American distributor. There is no publication date on it although some research turns up a 1910 date that seems about right. It is nine illustrated pages and I offer some choice examples below. (It is too fragile to scan and I am sorry the photos are not a bit better.)

pigs and text

Interior page, Lady Pussy Cat’s Ball, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

frogs and mice

End page, Lady Pussy Cat’s Ball, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Lady Pussy Cat’s Ball was written by F.E. Weatherly (1848-1929) and illustrated by A.M. Lockyer. The internet of today shows that both author and illustrator enjoyed wide reputations in their own right. Weatherly (born Frederick, but eventually assuming the spelling Frederic, Edward Weatherly) was a lyricist and author. Out of his extensive bio (he evidently wrote the words to more than 3,000 tunes which makes you wonder how he found time for anything else) I would randomly pick his penning of the tune Danny Boy as the highlight. (Here I have provided the link to John McCormack singing it on Youtube if you are in the mood. Kim informs me that there is more than one set of lyrics, but I cannot find information about whether Weatherly wrote all, this version or not.) Interesting to note that while A.M. Lockyer seems to lack an easily accessible bio online, his work proliferates, as do examples of his illustrations. I have already found several other items I must acquire so Pictorama readers will see more of him I hope. He is definitely what gives this book its charm.

This book is so fragile, so much more so that Good Cats and Bad Cats which was published a year later and a sturdy volume still today, I have trouble imaging how it fulfilled its mission of an earlier rough and tumble past as a child’s book. Of course more than a hundred years is bound to wear on a book like this, and it was well read and loved.

At firsts glance, before reading the story, I thought maybe the frogs and mice were rowdy and disruptive additions to Lady Pussy Cat’s Ball, but no, you will be glad to know that it turns out that they were all very friendly and a good time was had by all.

And the Winner is Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This Felix came up on a Milestone auction and I put a bid on it, and numerous other things, and essentially forgot about it while I got absolutely creamed on a Aesop’s Fable doll that I thought I had in the bag. I am generally pretty philosophical about auctions and you have to be because, much like the rest of life, you are going to win some and lose others. However, as Facebook friends of Kim’s and Pictorama readers may already know, sometimes I howl like a scalded cat about a particularly painful loss. (Or even win – there was the Felix ukulele that I won on eBay and then the seller refused to sell it to me.) Meanwhile, I had completely forgotten that I tossed a bid onto this fellow in the same auction when I received a notice that I won him.

I never buy pieces like this because we have little space for them and they are too fragile to survive easily in the general melee that I think of when I consider our one-room, office to Kim and home to us and the two cats. Stuffed animals survive better than china and while I do make exceptions (such as the plates in my post Living the Felix Life, and the occasionally family heirloom such as featured in Ann’s Glass) even celluloid toys give me the willies, as mentioned in Fear of Celluloid. Still, I like this little fellow and I was pleased to have him show up right before Christmas which made him a gift to myself. He has the early Felix features that are pointy and just a tiny bit crude – toothy and like he might just take a bite out of you. He has found purchase (and hopefully safe haven) on a book shelf near the above mentioned family heirloom.

I show his back below and his markings. Other than Made in England I cannot make out the rest. Please let me know if any of you smart folks out there know more. The listing for him said he may have had restoration, but frankly if he did they did a superb job. I cannot find any. He appears to be seamed along the back which must have something to do with the mold he was cast from.

 

Evidently I come by my ferocious love of auctions genetically. My father’s mother (Grandma Butler to me, Gertie to others) was an auction addict and I often reflect that she would have adored eBay as much as I do if had she lived long enough to see it. Instead, auctions in her day were the kind where you went and sat in dusty rooms and bid in person. In that way, she accumulated large ornate furniture – carved and inlaid cabinets and desks, ornate lamps and side tables, mirrors and outsized Persian carpets (those having once graced hotel lobbies if I understand correctly) all of which I grew up with first in her house and then in our own after her death. This furniture was in stark contrast to my own parent’s taste which ran to the simplicity of early American furniture, but somehow we mashed it all together into coherence.

I could have learned to love visiting auctions and the excitement of bidding in person I am sure. My options of what I collected would have been considerably different however, since virtually all I buy comes from far flung countries, or at least far and wide across this one. Felix items and photos in particular seem to have flourished primarily in Great Britain and Australia as far as I can tell. Additionally I have the convenience of bidding on auctions at all hours of the day and night, often clad in my pj’s. (Full disclosure, I am wearing them now as I write this.) Given my work schedule it does allow me to do more auction perusing than visits to auction houses could possibly allow.

Nonetheless, I am sure that like all things, something was lost – perhaps the other bidders who you get know in a casual way or only by sight, or perhaps the tactile advantage of being able to examine and handle something in person before bidding. Knowing my grandmother she attended those auctions dressed in a brocade suit (she favored pattern and color) make-up done, red lipstick and hair piled high – bright with jewelry both real and costume – she loved both. I will never know the day in and day out of that experience, but I do know that the Butler clan is an auction loving one and this addition to the Pictorama collection is further evidence of it.

 

Playing the Black Cat Game

Inside cat game boxJPG

A peak inside the box. Black Cat Fortune Telling Game, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I know it is hard to believe, but I warned you! The huge holiday haul continues today with this late entry purchased days before Christmas, but arriving to Deitch Studio with time to spare. How appropriate for one of the first post of the New Year to be this black cat fortune telling game. Kim found this one on eBay and he snatched it up for me. I have always wanted one of these – devoted readers may remember that I have some of the stray cards which I wrote about previously in the post It’s in the Cards, so I will not spend a lot of time on the history of the game (created by Parker Bros. in 1897), but I will say that I am enjoying having the full set along with the (somewhat complex and confusing) instructions. Oh the joys of having my fortune foretold by this series of black kitties! I have chosen the one card image that was missing from my prior post The Present a nicely beribboned black kitty with mouse catching kitten. I do think it might seem like a somewhat foreboding image (especially if you are a rodent) to represent as The Present.

 

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On the back of each card is a long list of phrases or sentence fragments which I gather you mix and match together with the other cards as you lay them down. They include such phrases as Manners don’t pay the Tailor’s bill and mystically, In the glass whenever opportunity permitted. My personal favorite and most likely to apply to yours truly, Your stubbornness is offending many whom…” Since childhood I have been known for my stubbornness – a family trait I might note I feel I definitely come by honestly. Over time I have tried to learn to not so much deny it, but to mitigate the effects by applying it where it will do the most good. As I dig my heels into making my new job work I have had occasion to reflect on that often.

There is no time better than the beginning of a New Year to take stock of oneself, and this year I am reflecting on the first months of my new job. At the dawn of 2017 my job was not even a twinkle in my eye yet, something I was reminded of constantly in December, first as I traveled with the band (something I really couldn’t have imagined twelve months ago), and then as I finished the calendar year, always a busy time in fundraising. At the Met the final few weeks of the year were often busy to the point of being harrowing, and I would end the holidays and start the New Year a frazzled wreck. For better or worse, the incoming gifts this year never reached nearly the fever pitch, nor the complexity that they did at the Met.

This has left time for some reflection as well as a sense of tooling up for the next leg of this adventure. I knew that there were challenges when I took this job – and solving those problems were (and remain) of interest to me. I have been acquiring a sizable bag of fundraising tricks over the years and applying them to a new set of problems is an interesting challenge. Challenges, of course, are more fun when they are an intellectual exercise than when they are a reality and I have spent my share of nights awake at 3 AM running through the Jazz at Lincoln Center contributed income to date through a back of the envelope calculation in my head. And like a mom with many mouths to feed and feet to shod, I worry about how to make all the ends meet by June 30 fiscal year end.

That aside, there is the larger question of exactly how I raise money for this endeavor. I share below a snippet that I wrote in early December while freezing on a bus somewhere north of Atlanta and on our way to Chapel Hill:

I have written about how I got to be the Vice President for Development at Jazz at Lincoln Center (if you are just tuning into Pictorama that can be found at Leaving the Met) but even that does not fully explain why I am on this bus, far from home, eating vending machine junk food.

I guess what I am really writing about today is how I do my job. Like anything else, there are any number of ways to raise money, areas of specialty, different approaches. After almost 30 years of raising money for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the question of how I will approach this new gig lingers, but for me it all starts with falling in love. This was easy at the Met. I had been in love with it since childhood. After 30 years my approach was more than just a well oiled machine, it was embedded in me. The Met was family – a part of me and fundraising flowed from that naturally.

Having started to ignite my own love affair with this new endeavor, the hard question is how to deliver my experience to others. How to introduce my audience not only to the music and an extraordinary array of educational programs, but the commitment, charm, and ideals – in short, how do I make the magic happen on command when needed? How do I share the love?

Full disclosure, I am writing this on New Year’s Eve, anticipating a trip I need to make next weekend which will cramp my blog posting time, so my mind is much on the turning of the year and the year past. Yesterday was the anniversary of our friend Rich Conaty’s death (memorial post to him at Rich Conaty) and somehow I always think of him when I think of my new job, and the decision to take it, given that he did so much to introduce me to jazz and the early dance band music I love. So as 2018 and the fortune (as told by the black cat cards or not) of the future lays out before me this, is what I am thinking about, and in part I suspect I will depend on that well documented stubbornness to help me succeed.