In the Night Hours

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Although I am (and always have been) very fond of sleep, when I was a child I assumed that many of the truly interesting things in the world were going on in the middle of the night. Somehow I thought (knew?) that grownups were prowling the nights while I slept. They were watching gently muted television shows which were blue-lighting bedrooms or out at fantasy dinner clubs based on images I formed from early films. I imagined them sitting our suburban backyards, walking the streets and on moonlit ocean beaches. I imagined that somehow their night selves were more interesting and some day I would join them.

When I was very little and couldn’t sleep I would sometimes roll into an empty built-in bookshelf next to my bed and curl up there. The enclosure somehow being more comforting if less comfortable and it freaked my parents out in a mild way. My mother still talks about it and I have a visceral memory of it. (Of course I have no empty shelves in my adult life.)

The current sleep uniform here at Pictorama, shown from the site, The Cat’s Pajama’s. I am partial to cotton pj bottoms both summer and winter.

My older sister, Loren, slept little and would go to bed late and get up early, although once asleep she slept soundly as far as I remember. When we were tiny she would usually be up for a late whisper or even prowl around the house together while our parents thought we were asleep. (During our adolescence we would fall asleep to her violin practice nightly which typically went on until about midnight.)

I always liked a cat on my bed for company if wakeful and from the time I was a small child I would lure them up at night. My first cat here in New York, a tuxie named Otto, slept wrapped around my head on my pillow most nights. She was the very best about sleeping with me and always kept me company.

Blackie is a bit worried and wakeful here.

Blackie heeds my call many nights (Cookie almost never and if she does she prefers Kim) and often sleeps at my feet where I find him snoring softly (he does snore) when I wake between the hours of 2:30 and 3:30 many nights. I like to find him there and give him a few pets and feel a gentle purr in response, but unlike young me I rarely wake him to keep me company. I usually slip out of bed leaving him and Kim sound asleep.

Blackie and Cookie in napful bliss.

I am likely to have fallen gratefully into a deep sleep earlier in the night and wake to find my mind going from a manically busy dream right into a full tilt wakefulness. Sometimes I can lead myself back to sleep, but other nights I cannot and I lay in bed with a parade of thorny worries making maneuvers and marching through my brain until I finally give in and wander to the couch and take another hit of melatonin.

If I am reading a book I will read a bit (my posts about reading Judy Bolton novels can be found here and the Camp Fire Girls helped many a night and the first of those posts can be found here), but sometimes I scroll through my Instagram feed (I have conferred with @missmollystlantiques in the wee hours and bought photos from her) and see new posts from folks in other parts of the country and other parts of the world where their day has started.

This series lulled me back to sleep many a night in 2020.

Of course, sometimes I give into work and during the height of the pandemic unknotting worries about work snarling my brain would wake me so entirely that clearly the only resolution was to get up and do something about it. My colleagues grew used to responses to their inquiries time stamped for these late night hours. If I responded to a text from with my boss it could go on for a long time though as he is a notorious nightbird insomniac as well. (Jazz musician so of course!)

There are nights (many in fact) where I do the calculus of income to date at work and fret about how the gap will get filled before the end of the fiscal year, what needs doing to achieve it; budget is often on my mind one way or another. Other nights I fret over staffing or hiring issues. Recently I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about where a new hire would sit and wondered in the morning why it had so obsessed my mind the night before, the lens of sleeplessness magnifying things in an odd way. In the before times (pre-Covid) it might have been responses to a dinner that were especially slow in coming or thinking about an upcoming trip for work. Sometimes I get good ideas during these hours, other times not.

These days I am likely to be thinking (worrying) about my mom and may find a late night response to an earlier evening email from her. I like to see those, but am careful not to answer her because she will worry about my sleeplessness. She always writes that she hopes I am not seeing the email until morning. When I am in New Jersey with her I turn the television on to put me back to sleep which it often does. Here in New York our apartment is too small and I worry that even turning on a lamp will wake Kim and kitties.

My folk’s cat Red used to sleep with me when I visited in Jersey. He seemed to feel that it was his duty as official concierge kitty.

I am aware that experts say that looking at a computer screen will wake you further. I do not find this and instead often take comfort in my electronic book or a gentle interaction with the evidently not quite sleeping world and find a short interlude distracting enough to soothe me and send me back to sleep successfully.

I do know from my own late nights and early mornings that there are legions of colleagues and friends roaming these same night hours. I see time stamps on other emails that confirm this. I frequently joke that we all know we could schedule a meeting for 3:30 AM. My friend and colleague on the West coast is usually having her sleepless interlude when I am first up and have started my day here in New York. We have email exchanges until she (sometimes) goes back to sleep for a bit once my work day has truly begun.

East River sunrise.

Running has helped me sleep better and in turn my early morning run is one of the reasons I urge myself to get back to sleep. As I generally get up around 6:00 (feeding time for the kits) it makes the timing of taking an actual sleeping pill, even a half, difficult to time. I tend to give into it a few times a month but generally prefer gummies that contain both melatonin and something called Rescue Remedy.

On a particularly bad night nothing will work, even after attempting to bludgeon the sleeplessness out of me with all of the concoctions above. On those nights there is no sense of camaraderie among my sleepless counterparts, just me and my fretting.

I recommend Steven Millhauser – perhaps for a sleepless night?

The author Steven Millhauser (a favorite of mine and gently disliked by Kim) writes about the night and describes it in a way that captures the way I would like to feel about it. If unfettered by place and responsibilities, I could freely roam the night with long neighborhood strolls and fill that time with creative production rather than nattering worries and concerns about early morning meetings and a long exhausting day ahead I might learn to love those odd hours. He devoted a great novella to a single night in a Connecticut neighborhood, Enchanted Night, although it is a short story called The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne that made me realize he was a kindred spirit on the subject.

Thursday night I attended a concert featuring Cécile McLorin Salvant and she talked about being inspired to write a particular song after reading a Colette quote about insomnia, on her phone in the middle of the night; leaving me to wonder if she was googling insomnia at the time, or Colette perhaps? (She also said that it was a New Year’s resolution to keep her phone out of her bedroom which failed almost immediately.) In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge. For me the key word is almost.

And of course I know that some of you, my dear readers, are also reading this very post in the middle of the night and I hope it sends you back to the Land of Nod and so, sweet dreams.

Contained

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a long-standing passion for acquiring those things which might contain others. By this I mean I find it hard to pass up cabinets and boxes. This means I find great comfort in wandering the aisles of a certain kind of home goods store fantasizing about organizing my life (and never taking the time to do it), however it is antique versions that are like catnip to me.

In the past I have written about a large, Krak-R-Jak tin on my home office desk which contains cards awaiting their eventual destination (that oddly popular post can be found here), one that contained Nestle nibbles which moved to my mom’s house (post found here) and finally, on another occasion, I wrote about an antique display case which I purchased locally as part of a vintage haul which I wrote about here in 2019.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection, taken shortly after acquisition in December of ’19.

I recently had to control myself over a Instagram post for a nifty little wood and glass display cabinet, forcing myself to look around the apartment and focus on where exactly I thought such a thing might fit. The joy of the thing that holds other things is that it holds the enticement of greater organization as a bonus. Not only this nifty object, but it will improve your life. (Now you get a real glimpse of how my mind works.)

Of course, not all boxes and containers are created equal and some really do serve said function and others sort of sputter and fail in the attempt. The failures really could produce several posts of their own. I went through a period of thinking that tins (not tin boxes which have worked well actually) were a good storage idea. Turns out they are not – always a bit hard to open they lack the easy access that turns out to be one of the hallmarks of happy and frequently used storage. They tend to look nice scattered around however.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Does it go without saying that one of the reasons storage appeals is because I own so much stuff? And live in a small space?

Recently without really focusing on it I have begun to acquire antique boxes for my jewelry. I own several jewelry boxes (including one wooden one that was my grandmother’s which my mom found and had refinished for me many years ago) and many of my rings and smaller pins live in a nice, but rather common faux leather travel box I would date from the forties I picked up somewhere in a bulk box buy I don’t quite fully remember. I have my sister’s jewelry boxes although I don’t use them regularly and instead store things in them. They do not quite work for me.

Corbin Cat Trays which hold my jewelry! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Rings, necklaces and earrings that came in boxes tend to stay in their boxes, although there are a few exceptions for pieces worn very frequently. (I refer here mostly to the “before time” when I wore and regularly rotated through my rings during the work week. My ring and jewelry wearing has not yet nearly reached pre-pandemic levels. I don’t think I have worn a bracelet in more than two years. My gold bangles languish. The healed broken ring finger still rebels against my wedding band.)

For all of this I have to admit that my most frequently worn jewelry lives in a series of dishes and piles in an unholy mess on my dresser which needs to periodically be set right.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A few months back an amethyst ring (birthstone birthday gift to myself) I bought on Instagram came in a lovely antique box – not its original one but an ancient purple one that it nestles in nicely. I like the way it snaps open with the click of a tiny mother-of-pearl button.

Family engagement ring trying out this vintage box this morning. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Recently, @therubyfoxes (aka Mia) was running an IG sale and I purchased this nice ring box above (I had just missed a group sale of several while I tried to figure out where exactly to find said sale – sometimes I think I am of less than average intelligence about such things!) and a lovely little travel case. I will need to decide which ring in the box and which items will find a home in the case. (Not only did Mia have to send a video instruction on opening said box, but further instruction once it arrived. The good news is that once I get the hang of things I do tend to remember them. I clearly did not inherit the mind of my maternal grandfather the engineer.)

Gabriella Kiss ring on top and two favorites from Muriel Chastanet, a favorite jeweler in Los Angeles, below. Insects flew in yesterday with the boxes!

And because it is nice to buy things to put in the boxes, I also purchased a coterie of insect pins from her which I really love and I can’t wait to decorate myself in the crawling and flying fellows for spring and summer. Some earlier purchases of butterflies and a celluloid dragonfly have been very popular on my lapels this spring already. (The butterflies, purchased from @wassail_antiques were evidently made by British POW’s during WWI and posts about those pins and the dragonfly can be found here and here.) Maybe the new case will be all insects.

Will more boxes lead to greater organization? Hard to say. I’m afraid that my track record implies otherwise, but it can’t hurt to try.

Walkin’

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It is a drizzly Sunday, Mother’s Day, morning after a downright stormy yesterday. Kim and I were out and battling it as he needed a new light board. (Light boards hold a special place in my heart as the first gift Kim ever gave me was a light board – we used it for many years before it passed away.) The one we bought is sort of space age flat and bulb-free; we’ll see how that goes.

I needed to pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses (yep, lost mine recently) in the same part of town, but those required a Saturday pick up so no choice but to fight the elements which were fairly ferocious. Photos below from our adventure to the art supply store and the Ukrainian restaurant where we stopped for lunch and to see if the weather would improve a bit. It did not.

A herd of zebra and some giraffes at Blick’s.
The East Village Ukrainian Restaurant on a very wet day yesterday. Christmas lights appear to be a year round decoration.

However, I digress and now onto the toys!

The motion of toys captivates me – wind-ups most frequently, ones that bounce and roll, battery toys on occasion. For this reason I generally acquire toys that still work – granted, usually simple mechanisms and motions. Toys are designed to entertain however and so they bump and hop and scoot along – we are missing something if they can’t do their thing. They make me laugh. Toys are distilled happiness and joy on demand.

Sometimes though the look of a toy is so great I am reminded of what my friend Mel has said which is, it’s okay if it doesn’t work, after all how often are you really going to play with it? This Felix falls in that category, although I am sad not to see him walk, his striped ball bouncing up and down and rolling in his hands! He’s a rare toy – I don’t remember ever seeing this one before. (However, every time I think that I can usually find a pristine version of the toy tucked away in Mel’s collection.) I purchased him on eBay and I paid a king’s ransom for him in a bit of a dog fight.

Today’s Felix bares some resemblance to this French wind-up toy, shown below, which Kim me for Christmas in 2020 and which was sold under a Krazy Kat listing at auction. (I wrote a Boxing Day post about him that can be read here.) That toy is a wind-up however and this one is a more simple friction walker which would have taken advantage of an incline I think.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Unlike the French toy, this one is much lighter and simpler. The head on the one is made of a heavy plaster material and of a lighter version more like papier-mâché on this one. His feet are broad wooden slats which allows him to stand nicely on the shelf despite his disability. I do feel like if I was about 10% smarter I could repair the leg mechanism which seems to be a wire that has gone missing. As we can see, a wooden and cardboard construction make up his body. Sadly his silk suit has torn where his leg broke.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix’s garb is a sort of jolly clown costume however, a look which is complemented by his big clownish feet. I especially like his big bow. There is a tiny (very hard to read) tag remaining under one foot which reads, made in Germany.

Despite his disabilities, Felix has a place of pride front and center on a shelf devoted to some of the finest cats in my collection. Mel has a point. I enjoy him each day, just looking at him.

Interviewing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is another sub-genre post, musings on my work life. Today I am deeply in thought about the week that was and will share a few thoughts about it as my mulling about it is occupying my brain this morning.

To start I will mention that we are back in our office on a hybrid schedule and because it is early days there is a certain amount of confusion and new patterns to be built. We recently had a staff meeting with half the office on Zoom and only my cell phone to tie them in.

Meanwhile, my office computer chose yesterday to flat out die – only a red flashing light came on. (My liaison in Technology emailed me red=dead in response to my hopeful inquiry about resuscitation.) I guess sadly the long days of disuse still counted against its useful life. I’m glad that my laptop continues to chug along at home, taped together and challenged at charging though it is. The current lean state of the staff is more evident with the new schedule and there are some days when it still feels like when I would go in during the height of the pandemic, largely alone.

Like many folks these days, over the waning days of the extended pandemic period, a number of my colleagues have migrated to other states, different careers and new paths – Etsy businesses were formed and consulting gigs found. Therefore, like so many others, I have been looking to build a new team and in the process start to reimagine who we are and what we will be. I have gone down blind alleys that didn’t pan out and cost me time and energy as my own group becomes understandably impatient with the attenuated process. Ghosts of former colleagues inhabit the space as we forget we won’t see them at those desks any longer.

An ongoing need to test as I spend more time out in the world has made me a regular at the LabQ tent.

Nonetheless, I am determined to be as thoughtful about each role as I would be if it was the only one I was filling this year and with several to fill, I am working hard to find the right combinations of skills and personalities to complement the existing team. Several months of groundwork is beginning to culminate in a tsunami of finalists and I find myself across the table (quite literally as most of my final in-person interviews are being done in an array of eating establishments across the city), from a long line of great people who are interviewing me as much as I am interviewing them.

If it wasn’t already a period of reflection on where we’ve been and where we want to go their probing questions have me considering it with determined frequency. Frankly these folks have mostly already vetted me, my management style and approach beforehand so our conversations go deeper. How has the team managed during these rough years and how are we pulling out of it? Where will we head now? How much travel do we anticipate?

I have some answers but my crystal ball falls short at others – yes to a hybrid office schedule, no idea on how much travel but probably some whereas it had been a lot. (Some of my tales of work related travel around the country and the world can be found here, here and here.) What are my goals and what keeps me at my job? The conversations focus me and rededicate me in an unexpected way. I am rebuilding and reimagining as we speak. The candidates are all savvy and have researched the organization and its finances online. People are looking to make the right move.

Flowers on my desk back in ’18. It had been my practice to buy new ones each Monday for the week.

Small kindnesses extended to people over the course of my career have come back to me more than tenfold. Perhaps it is where I am in my own career or the comparably large number of people I need to hire, but it is almost overwhelming.

For every informational interview I extended, sympathetic ear I lent, each hand up or a place at the table I might have been able to provide, all these years later candidates tell me that they are sitting across from me now because they or someone they respect remembered it. I am touched by the number of people who are willing to vouch for me in this way and am grateful that my career at the Met gave me the opportunities it did. (I wrote about working at the Metropolitan Museum in a post that can be found here and a recent post dedicated to an early mentor of mine can be found here.)

Our Essentially Ellington competition alumni band performing earlier this week. A stunningly talented group of young musicians who have competed in the 27 years of this educational program.

I am pleased to report that the first senior position was filled yesterday. I am so excited about the new team member and the new partner he will be! Building on his skills gives me a benchmark for the others now as I move forward.

Therefore, as you try to balance long work days against those requests that always seem to come at the wrong moment, I encourage you to take a deep breath and find the time to sit on that panel or committee, or talk to that person. Whatever area you work in I am sure it too has a community with a long memory like mine and, like all aspects of life, what we put out in the world comes back to us in many ways. As I sit across from these talented folks and talk to them about their careers and hopes for the future I am refueled and very grateful for the opportunity to do so.

The Big Butter and Egg Man!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy post represents the culmination of a toy chase which came to fruition in a very satisfying way recently. This really splendid toy was first spotted by Kim and I knew I wanted him – the chase was on.

Kim was the one who introduced me to the term, the big butter and egg man which was so evocative it quickly found a place in my personal lexicon. Big spender salesman traveling and from out of town. One dictionary puts it fairly succinctly as, A prosperous dairy farmer (other wealthy rural citizen), seen as coming into the big city and ostentatiously living it up.

From a film version of the play made in 1928.

The term was coined by George S. Kaufman as the name of a play which debuted in 1925 about a rich man who came to New York with plans to liberally and exuberantly spend his money on wine, women, and song according to Wikipedia. In ’26 Percy Venable cemented the popularity of the term when he penned a jazz tune under this moniker – and which in turn became a Louis Armstrong favorite and it immediately enters the annals of jazz slang. (The Armstrong version can be heard here as of the writing of this post and is a pretty joyful rendition if you have a moment.)

Some of the lyrics are below, talking about a gold digging woman who is looking for that particular sugar daddy:

Now she wants, a butter an egg man
From way out in the west
She wants somebody, who’s workin’ all day
So she’s got money, when she wants to play

Now pretty clothes, they’ll never be mine
But what she told me the other day
I hope she don’t change her mind
Now she wants, a butter an egg man
A great big butter and egg man
From way down south

Having done some justice to the origin of the expression, let’s consider this rather grand toy. He embodies his role perfectly and has a button which declares the butter and egg man on the front and across his back. His case offers, fresh country butter contained within and he has an impossibly large and endearing duck (more on this in a moment) clutched (with white gloves) in his other hand and who offers eggs laid to order.

He sports a bright yellow plaid double-breasted suit and tie, topped off striped trousers and wingtip shoes. His mustachioed expression says it all – he’s up for trouble and he’s got cash to burn. As mentioned above, he is a product of the Marx toy company, manufactured in the 1930’s. When wound his legs move furiously, but with somewhat less forward motion.

Once I spotted it, I held out for the toy complete with box because it too is great. As you can see below, he is faithfully rendered (although he is given a hat in these pics) and makes declarations such as, He walks! and He’s a salesman! I like the top and bottom with somewhat awkwardly drawn hands displaying his wares and assuring us that he is selling, Grade A Butter. He is is leaving the farm behind and is on his traveling route which will lead him to the big city where he’ll get into all kinds of trouble no doubt.

Butter and Egg Man Box in the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The predecessor of this toy is a Joe Penner toy made with the exact same mold. For those or you not in the know, Penner was a slapstick comedian who had a meteoric rise from vaudeville to radio. He developed a catch phrase, Wanna buy a duck? for which he became best known. He died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 36 and was therefore saved the ultimately indignity of an inevitable career decline, which was likely where he was headed. (A quick but good sample of his work can be found on a brief Youtube clip here.)

This from Morphy’s auction, but great to really see them side-by-side!

The Penner toy has charm although it is the rare case of my preferring a later version of a toy, another blog post (devoted to Joe Penner collectibles) notes that this earlier version was released in 1934. The Joe Penner version was a part of a line of toys developed by Marx depicting famous folks of the day. (I wrote about my Chaplin one in a post that can be found here.)

The notable difference between the Penner version and mine is that the earlier one sported a hat which bounced along in a jolly way as he walked and Joe also smokes a cigar. As noted above, the duck remained (his duck named Goo Goo) and so my butter and egg man appears to be selling duck eggs.

While the motion of the hat and the addition of the cigar are great, I prefer the Butter and Egg Man version. This Joe Penner version is not in the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Over time the ever resourceful Marx company form morphs slightly to accommodate the likes of others such as this Popeye toy below. The major adjustment is the lost of the duck replaced by cases on both sides.

Popeye is not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Our fellow winds up admirably and we took him for a few runs, one of which is shown below featuring our laundry bag and Kim helping with the action. His action is worth seeing.

On Stage

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Folks in early cat costumes is a sub-genre of the holdings here at the Pam’s Pictorama photo library. (Wow – I just upgraded my shoe boxes to a library.) I have long felt that there is a vintage Felix costume out there that will really scratch that particular itch of mine and actually owning such an item notwithstanding, I am always pleased to own the image and search for those with some vigor. (A few other Felix/cat costume posts can be found here and here.)

While I have to date resisted purchasing garments such as costumes given the storage restrictions of my abode, I have however come woefully close on the purchase of a few truly wild and wonderfully early Felix masks on occasion, but have sadly come up empty handed. Of course I am still on the prowl and I am also sure for the right costume I would make room here somehow, not to mention a place of pride for some extraordinary probably somewhat decaying and terrifying mask. (Kim, bless him, is ever indulgent and didn’t even flinch with I was considering a large drum with Felix painted on it that would have had to more or less be hung from the ceiling.)

Kim in a Felix hat/mask which I, very sadly, do not own! This taken in SF in September, 2015.

On the back of the photo postcard, which was never sent but was pasted into an album, Bethel School Interior is written in penciled script. The seller had the card listed as, from The Black Cat Society Play in Bethel, PA Berks Co. Berks County is evidently in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which in addition to being the dreamland of chocolate production (the name evokes a childhood vision of a town constructed entirely of Hershey bars that I have never quite fully eliminated from my adult brain), is also said to be a great flea market area as well. Sadly I have never had the chance to explore this place of glory on either level so for now it continues to live in imagination on both counts.

While I might have hoped the photographer would have gotten closer to these kiddies in the kitty costumes, the wider shot gives us a look at those in the audience which gives us something of a sense of period. I have no idea what the Black Cat Society of Bethel was (or is?) as the popularity of black cats in Pennsylvania buries that search in an avalanche of cat adoption offerings. Were there black cat plays every year with cat costume clad kids?

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Our six kitties are lined up over a bit of paper facade “brick” indicated below them – like they are on a fence? The set is an interior – lamps, drapes on windows and a striped rug. There is a flowered curtain to one side, which might be more about obscuring a backstage area than a curtain that would draw across – I do not see an indication of a rope. The whole affair seems to be on a wooden stage raised off the floor by sturdy wooden legs below, raising them up and making it more official feeling.

Paw hands of our players are up in a gesture a bit more canine than cat. Each of our kids is in a suit of shiny black with a hood sporting ears and a tail – some tails are perkier than others and some wear their suits sportier and with more éclat. The line up graduates to the tallest participant in the middle and down again. The one second to the end on (our) left seems to embody the role best for me, clearly a future performer there.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Our broad perspective of the room also gives an indication of the covered wall of what appears to be a basketball court behind and the slightest indication of what I think is the bottom portion of an American flag hovering over the peering over the proceedings. The audience is seated in some sort of pew-like connected chairs. The one kid looks back at the camera, jaunty angle to his hat. #4 is written at the bottom and it is too bad if 1-3 are lost now.

I was an enthusiastic participant in junior theatricals as a tot and I would have been in heaven to be on this stage for my turn, suited up in cat garb.

Running By

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As some of my friends from the broader online world know, I keep a photo journal of my runs which I post in Instagram stories. This wasn’t a conscious decision really, just something I started doing.

During the worst months of the pandemic we all seemed pretty desperate for images of the outside world (I was enjoying posts from folks in Britain and Australia in particular) even if it was just daily stuff and I loved my view along the East River so much I thought others might too. So somehow taking some pictures along the way and posting them afterward became part of my running habit. Today’s post is a bit of a tribute to some of the urban history I have plucked along the way.

My early jogging attempts here in Manhattan took me through Carl Schurz Park and down the Eastside Esplanade along the river. I run with the urban scene of the FDR Drive to one side of me and the East River to the other – there are days when you would never know that an endless line of commuter cars is honking and belching along next to me so silvan are the water views.

The pool at 72nd just prior to opening last spring.

At about 72nd Street there is a park with one of the free city pools in it, the John Jay pool and playground there. I watched last spring as it was prepped for summer and then ultimately filled with the first of the throngs of folks that would come and line up during the hot summer days. At the foot of this park is an interesting old stone building and over time I realized that it had Eastside Settlement House etched in stone. As it happened I was reading about the charitable establishment which was located there in one of my books about the Red Cross Girls and I wrote about those books in a post that can be found here. (An excellent article on the history of the Settlement House can be found here and it notes an article from the Times which was called, Girls of Gentle Breeding Enjoy Unaccustomed Dances With Partners Not in Their Set.)

East Side Settlement House, as seen from the river side. Built in 1901.

In those early months of running the Esplanade was open all the way down the Eastside and I thought about someday getting enough miles under my belt to make it down to the Roosevelt Island tram at about 57th. Before my running got me down below 70th Street, the path was closed for repairs (sink holes are a very real problem) and my runs to the south were curtailed.

I continued my route along that part of the river as far as I could (the Esplanade dips down there and you are closer to the water which is nice, river smell for better or worse tends to waft there) which would take me past a ramshackle Con Ed building that appears to be entirely taken over by rats and pigeons. (I tremble to think of what must go on in its interior.)

Rat and pigeon infested Con Ed enclave in the east 70’s.

Over time I worked up to running up a long incline at about 82nd. When I began using an app (Strava) to as a GPS recording of my miles it informed me that this land bridge has a name, Jamie’s Bridge. I am told there is a plaque which I have yet to locate. I will update if I discover more about that.

A post could be devoted to the park itself which I have become very fond of – weekdays are largely given over to my fellow runners, ferry commuters, dog walkers (I give dogs some distance but New York City dogs are generally more interested in each other than me – while suburban dogs seem to be more interested in taking a bite out of me) make up the lion’s share of the denizens and, especially over the past two years, there are a number of people just walking or sitting outside. Some smoke (cigarettes and pot in almost equal measure) and others study their phones, still others just stare off. Weekends, as the weather warms, means the park plays host to a long line of birthday parties for gangs of small children. Shiny balloons staking the spot and declaring the age of the child in question – which seems to be 3 more often than not.

Hard to see here but here is a stationary bike and work out equipment stored here, as well as this tent which seems to serve as occasional home.

More miles and being curtailed to the south mean pushing north and at first I just ran up to the ferry. The New York ferries were one of my great pandemic discoveries and I am sad that in no way can I utilize them on my daily commute to 57th Street because I would enjoy it. Miles underfoot quickly took me a bit further to the waste station up near Asphalt Green recreational center. I was against this garbage facility when it was proposed to be built, but have to admit that they have kept the impact on the neighborhood low. Under this land bridge is a resident tent dweller who keeps a pile of workout equipment there. I have seen him tend it but never work out there.

Asphalt Green Recreational Center in Yorkville, NY.

Asphalt Green declares its history as the site of an asphalt plant from 1944-1968 in its prior life. In the late 70’s an effort was made to rehabilitate this derelict site and in 1984, several years before I became a Yorkville resident, this impressive gym and recreational center and playing fields opened. I ponder its service in the production of asphalt for all those years and what that may have been like and why they stopped as asphalt is still presumably needed.

The 96th Street entrance to the FDR always reminds me of trips to the airport and now the path to and from Jersey when I ride with Cash and Jeff – the human and doggie duo who have transported me during odd hours in recent months. Jeff usually takes us up to the George Washington Bridge so this leg of the run always makes me think about leaving town.

This quote was part of a temporary installation but it stayed with me. It is gone, but I still think about it when I run past this spot.

Eventually I found my way up to the Randall’s Island Bridge. Unlike most of the other bridges (all land bridges) on this route, this pretty blue-green bridge is very neat and tidy, its underbelly in excellent repair which I note each time. For a long time this was the outer reaches of my run as it then climaxed around the four mile mark. I consider eventually adding a run over this bridge to my route. It would be a not insubstantial addition as it has several levels of incline and the span of the bridge is considerable, over the river. I also think about taking Kim there on a walk when it gets a bit warmer. Playing fields, bike and running trails and who knows what else await us there when the time comes. I see kids heading over for early morning practice on weekday mornings.

The underside of the Randall’s Island Bridge.

Running in New Jersey near my mom (some posts have been devoted to that and can be found here and here) expanded my miles to more than five as curiosity encouraged me to further explore her area. That combined with a new closure to the south at 74th Street, has recently pushed me up even further to the area around 107th now. I am fascinated by this pier, Pier 107 CVII according to the sign on its side, which is just beautiful despite its derelict condition. I cannot help but imagine walking out on it and admiring the water views from there, or stopping to sit on one of the benches.

The once again derelict pier.

Built originally back in 1931 it serviced a now long forgotten industrial complex and Harlem Market which defined the area before it became more solidly residential. The Pier was originally converted to pedestrian use in the late 1980’s with an award winning restoration that was completed in 1991. I cannot imagine why it was allowed to deteriorate again. Just beyond it is this odd little dock which seems to have been part of it historically. A place for boats to unload or tie up briefly I assume.

The nearby dock or pier which seems to go along with it.

To the west I note this beautiful Art Deco building which appears to be home to the Department of Sanitation of all things. I wonder if the building is still employed for this purpose or if it has another use now and if all the original beauty has been removed from its interior.

Building is labeled Department of Sanitation in Art Deco writing across the front.

My run tops out here to achieve a total of about 5.5 miles and I head back to the park where I will loop myself past the Mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion. I have toured that (surprisingly intimate) historical wood frame home which has impressive river views from its perch at a high point in the park. Then it is a final check of the Peter Pan statue and surrounding area – one that Kim has been contemplating using in a story – some stretching and home again.

Peter Pan statue in Carl Schurz Park, the terminus point of my runs here in NYC.

Mitten Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These inquiring little fellows caught my eye and I liked how the writing was stenciled into the negative of this very old card. Clearly something entertaining was used to capture their attention just off camera. The tabby in the middle has moved a bit and is a tad blurry as a result. I suspect this handful of kits was used again and again as models at the studio. The feet of the two tuxies are huge and those must have grown up to be some big cats.

Kittens and mittens to back at least as far as the Mother Goose poem which has verses where the kits in turn loose their mittens, find their mittens, soil them and then wash them. The verse ends oddly however with Mama smelling a rat nearby. I suspect ratty was dinner, however the thought is never finished and an odd one to end the poem on. (In its entirely it can be found here.)

My copy of The Fur Person by May Sarton.

The term making mittens refers, as far as I know, to a cat kneading with claw paws. I didn’t grow up with that term however. That action was always starfish paws to us, or mushing when we were very little. I call them claw paws these days especially with my kitties whose claws have grown too long I’m afraid. The term starfish paws came to us via a volume by May Sarton, The Fur Person, a wonderful book chock-a-block with cat love and lore which I have written about previously and that post can be found here. Blackie has a bad habit of doing it while sitting on my lap and my knees are scarred with his ongoing and intense ministrations.

There are many photos of be-mittened cats on the internet, the indignities which I will ignore except to say that folks have hung onto the idea over time.

Although this card has a somewhat homemade look, it is the product of a large professional studio. Stenciled neatly at the bottom is Pesha Photo. This turns out to be Louis James Pesha who owned the eponymous Pesha Postcard Company of Michigan. His work is largely known best for his photos of the Great Lakes region and enjoys some ongoing popularity today. To my knowledge I have not purchased other cat cards made by him previously. A quick Google search reveals mostly the aforementioned landscape and water views.

Pesha Photo not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Mr. Pesha was born in Ontario, Canada in 1868 and moved to the United States in ’01 starting his photo studio then. Evidently at first he specialized in cards like this one, popular subjects and trick photos. He had long photographed the landscapes, railroads and scenes around him and began printing and selling those as postcards later on.

An automobile, seating what are believed to be his wife and son [?], is parked in front of one of Louis Pesha’s photo studios. Dave Burwell Collection, Sarnia Historical Society.

Pesha dies tragically young in a car accident (he owned a luxury steam engined car purchased from the White Automobile company and I wonder if the one shown above is the car in question) in October of 1912 while visiting his parents. He was only 42 and he leaves a young daughter (no mention of a son in his online bio) and widow who continues the business until postcards pass out of fashion in the early ’20’s.

My card has an indicia pressed into the lower right corner which I assume also marks it as a Pesha card but is illegible and I depended on the writing on the bottom, Pesha Photo 1517, etched into the bottom.

This card was sent at 3 PM on January 21, 1911 from an unidentified location to Mr. Elmer Rosbury in Toledo, Ohio under General Delivery no less, and received by the post office at 9 AM the next day. (Much better delivery than we can hope for these days I might add.) The writing is in pencil and it is difficult to read. As far as I can tell it reads, Dear Elmer: – Will write tomorrow had a girl Friend down from Minders (?) and we went to this Farmers Blow Out last night. With love from Ethel.

With my best Caturday wishes to all!

Biker Pic

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Admittedly this seems like an unusual photo for me to have purchased. Like yesterday’s post, it might typically have been one that I would have a look at, but not purchased. Photos with old motorcycles in them tend to be in demand and they largely fall out of my realm of vintage photos of cats and toys. However, it caught my eye, mostly because accidentally or intentionally, it is a very good photo. And in the end, we here at Pictorama are ultimately suckers for a good photo and will follow our nose in any direction really.

There is no information on this photo and no evidence of having been in an album. Like the photos from yesterday’s post of traveling musicians (which can be found here) it came from the Midwest and I would hazard a guess that is where it was taken. (As yesterday a nod to my source, IG seller @MissMollysAntiques, for this purchase.)

I gather that WWII was a major boon to the motorcycle industry and disenchanted former soldiers continued to favor riding them after returning home postwar. Their leather flight jackets ultimately morphing into the biker look as it evolved through the 1940’s into the ’50’s when Marlon Brando takes it centerstage in film and makes it iconic. However, the guy in this photo looks like square one with his open necked shirt with sleeves rolled up, boots, jaunty hat and a whole lot of attitude posing with his bike. Although his face is in shadow, we otherwise get a good look at him.

It has to be said that the car to his right is the other star of this photo. I know nothing about old cars, but the shining grill on this one is great with a certain anthropomorphic charm, grinning genially at us with wide eyes. Someone better versed in cars and bikes could probably date the photo with some accuracy. I put it in the late forties.

I love moving back further into this photo and looking at the row of folks with their backs to us on a park bench in the middle ground. The guy with the suspenders and the straw hat just gets me. They all seem to be looking at or watching something, other benches are scattered around and there seems to be a playground or more likely a pool in front of them. That part of the image, in a puddle of bright sun, cannot be made out entirely. It is a picture of two worlds, the one of the biker and the other where everyone is enjoying the day and whatever it is this park offers.

On the other side, behind the car, we see folks gathered and walking and some concession type signs. The edges of the photo blur and only the center is entirely in focus. The tree behind him and in the center neatly divides the photo into light and dark, but the front wheel of the bike and his leg compose this composition perfectly. The person taking the picture had a great eye for putting it together or it was very lucky shot.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo of my dad, Elliott (a photo I wrote about in an early post which can be found here), was probably taken at least several years later. My father is shown with a broken down old bike which, according to family lore, got him part of the way across the country, but which ended in him hitchhiking back. Dad, a city boy, is exuding somewhat less cool than his Midwest counterpart, shown here in Washington Heights as he starts off on his odyssey. However adventure and the open road awaited him nonetheless.

With the Band

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These photos arrived in the mail last night with another which I will share in a later post. At first I hadn’t realized that there was more than one (it was on Instagram, they are similar and I wasn’t really focused), but the seller (@MissMollysAntiques) suggested I buy all three and I am glad I did as they do belong staying together.

I like to look at old photos of musicians and traveling bands from the early 20th century, but I don’t generally purchase them for the Pictorama library. There is interest in them and they often seem to go for a lot of money, but I like to look at them. After all, until March of 2020 I found myself on the road with our orchestra on a regular basis, although our buses and wardrobe folks and whatnot don’t much resemble this. (I wrote about my first trip with the orchestra in a post that can be found here, and a trip to Shanghai where they were playing a few months after I started and that post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Touring, even now, is a pretty grueling process and for all the late night post-show drinking or pancake sessions, there’s a lot more trying to sleep on a bus and grinding the miles at 5AM. Even the small amount I have dipped into it has convinced me it isn’t what I am built for. I find myself eating more junk food in a matter of days than I usually do in months and keeping up good exercise habits is hard.

I have used my favorite of the three at the top of the post, with the two men holding their mandolins. A drum case and a large drum front and center, a banjo case is on the running board of the car. It would take a better forensic thinker to unpack with precision what year this might have been. The suits, the location behind them and the car could have belonged to a few decades. The printing of the photos and the film is fairly primitive, but those persisted for decades, especially for home use. We can’t quite see the car they are traveling in but it looks like an early roadster complete with running board.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

They seem to have a set order that they pose in, leading up to the tall fellow but a short guy on each end. The instruments are also posed in front of them in a neat pointing pile. This was obviously well thought out. Hats on and hats off being the other variation.

These photos hail from the midwest and I suspect that is their place of origin from looking at them. Nothing is written on them (except inventory numbers) and there is no evidence that they were ever in an album. The nature of the poses, hats on and hats off, suggests that maybe these were taken for a commercial use, but the reproduction of them is too low in quality to imagine them being useful that way.

I would like to hear these guys and I wish there was some identification of who they were. I have a feeling that they would have been right up my ally, small traveling band from the 20’s or 30’s playing roadhouses and restaurants and whatnot. It is the period of music I love most. I can imagine sitting in a roadside establishment in 1931, beer in hand after a long day, hanging with my honey and listening to these fellows and being on top of the world.